Radcliffe Olympic 3

Tipton Town 3

FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round

Confucious say: "sometimes in life you get what you deserve. Sometimes in life you are spoiled. And sometimes you are robbed."

As the lowest ranked team left in this year's FA Cup, Radcliffe Olympic were always going to be the underdogs no matter who they got drawn against. Make no mistake, there were much tougher teams in the hat than Tipton Town, but equally any table-topping team is going to rock up to your gaff brim full of confidence.

Pete Soaks Up The Pre-Match Atmosphere
After a relaxing pint in the Manvers Arms (another decent pub. Two in two weeks. Things are looking up), I strolled down Wharf Lane, handed over my £5 and joined the slowly burgeoning ranks of intrigued locals and visitors.

Having visited Radcliffe Olympic only a few weeks ago, the layout was still familiar. The two-deep stand on the far side provides the only cover, but hard standing around all sides provides a good starting point for further improvements which will hopefully come from some of the proceeds of this cup run.

I didn't blog the last trip, so didn't get an opportunity to eulogise about the dugouts-on-wheels. But the entire set up of Radcliffe is flat pack. No sooner does the final whistle go, than the goals are dismantled, the partitioning on the near side taken up, and the dugouts are literally wheeled off. Ten minutes from the climax of the game, you wouldn't know there had been anything other than a kids kick about going on.

But enough of this idle tittle tattle. You are here for hard-nosed reportage, I know this. So hard-nosed reportage ye shall have.

Radcliffe came out of the blocks all guns blazing, and clearly fancied their chances of causing an upset. One of the many misapprehensions about football at this level is that it is just hit and hope. Thankfully, in front of the bumper crowd, both sides put the lie to this. Eager to use their flanks whenever they could, Radcliffe attacked frequently and effectively, whilst Tipton were more direct, but equally adventurous. It made for a cracking game, and one which hopefully will have converted a few of the no doubt Forest-leaning locals to pop down again.

After about 15 minutes, Radcliffe went one up. Three minutes later they were two up. Both coming from defensive mix ups, and being shared between the lively front two. It lead, inevitably, to Radcliffe sitting back a bit, and allowing Tipton to come on to them. Where once the defence looked calm and assured, they were now eager to repell the ball at the first opportunity. But Radcliffe still posed a threat, and coukd, possibly have should, have gone three up moments before Tipton finally broke down their resolve. On 33 minutes, a shot across the keeper left him wrong-footed, and the game was back on.

If I'd filmed this, you'd be seeing a goal
Tipton continued to press, now believing they had a hope after all. A needless free kick was launched in to the box as the ref checked his watch fr half time. Radcliffe didn't deal with it, and the ball finally found it's way in to the back of the net. A cruel blow, but Tipton deserved it for not letting their heads drop.

The second half couldn't possibly live up to this, could it? Well, yes. And no.

Both sides continued to attack. Radcliffe believed they could score again. Tipton believed they would score again. But the goals didn't come for either side. The clock ticked on. Talk started to move to planning trips to the Black Country on Wednesday night. Substitutions came and went. One of Radcliffe's was dismissed for, well, your guess is as good as mine. Or anyone else's at the match. A truly inexplicable decision that even the youthful lino was at a loss to explain.

It got busier
Seeing their opponents down to ten men, Tipton got another wind, and pushed on again. As we moved in to injury tim, a free kick from the right was floated over the near post, Radcliffe didn't deal with it, and the ball was bundled over the line to the jubilation of players and travelling supporters. Radcliffe players slumped to the floor, their valiant efforts all seemingly for nought. They trudged back to the centre circle, and kicked off. The ref looked at his watch. The ball was punted forwards in desperation as much as hope. The ref checked his watch for a second time. The number 10, "Westy", a player who promised much, but had delivered painfully little throughout the previous 94 minutes, had his back to goal, level with the penalty spot. And then, inexplicably, he has hauled to the floor. A penalty!!! With literally seconds to go. You can see the drama unfold below.

And with that, the ref blew for full time. 3-3. A proper cup tie, and a scoreline which flattered no-one. Radcliffe could have won it, they had enough chances. But Tipton kept on believing, and for that alone they deserve a second bite at the cherry.

This is Radcliffe Olympic's first ever experience of the FA Cup. Someone should probably tell them that not all cup campaigns are this much fun.

(more photos here)
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