Monday 27 October 2014

Up for the Cup

The magic of the FA Cup is its unpredictability. It's nerve-wracking, can take you to unexpected places but ultimately ends in frustration and heart-break. Just like Britain's motorway network.

It's 10am Saturday morning and already the decision to leave West Sussex at the crack of dawn is looking justified. The Driver is an old-hand and has predicted, wisely as it turns out, that the first Saturday of half-term means only one thing - carnage on the roads.

A snappy detour after a pick-up near Daventry and we've avoided the first gridlock, on the M1, but now we're snarled up on the M6. The plan to stop for lunch at a Times Top 30 chippy in Didsbury, en-route to Stockport, has gone out of the window and The Driver isn't happy. Forking out for the M6 toll doesn't improve his mood and even the offer of a whip-round doesn't raise the spirits.

"This is f-ing shit. I've got to find a better hobby than supporting Chester," he remarks mournfully.

"What, like dogging?" comes the reply from The Back Seat.

The motorway signs warn of congestion all the way and it's a trigger for heated discussion. Stay on and take our chances on the autobahn, or divert through Stoke?  We're neck-and-neck with the AFC Leamington team coach heading to Hyde and they're showing no signs of cracking.

It's a massive call but cabin fever and starvation are setting in after so long in the car. The banter dried up 40 miles ago and we're desperate to keep moving, so A-roads it is.

There's half-hearted talk of stopping at Leek, where the home team is playing Blyth Spartans (a 3-4 thriller as it transpires), then we're driving down memory lane as the route takes us past Moss Rose in Macc. There's a chippy stop but it's not Top 30 material.

We eventually roll into Stockport in time for a couple of beers at the designated Chester supporters pub, the Nelson. It's Jurassic Park in there - all dodgy Stone Island circa 1990 and plastic glasses. The Cup certainly brings out Chester's finest and there's a good old-fashioned tear up on the way to the ground.

On the terrace there's more than 1200 from Chester but the open seating (and all morning on the piss for many of the Blues) doesn't help the atmosphere. 2-0 and we're cruising as the hang-overs kick in. What can possibly go wrong?

A long ball over the top and a worldie supply the answer (note to Steve Burr - that Scott Spencer looks a good player) and suddenly it's heart-in-mouth time again. At least it makes for a rip-roaring Cup tie and there's mayhem when McConville scores the third. It's 4-2 a few minutes later. Some people want to go on the pitch...they think it's all over.

We've made hard work of a game we controlled for 80 minutes but we're in the hat for the 1st Round for the first time since 2008.  In my book that's a Cup run. Wemberleee, Wemberleee, we're the famous Chester FC and we're off to Wemberleee! Dogging can't be any better than this surely?

In the end it's been a great day and all that remains is the small matter of getting home....via Didsbury for more refuelling.