by John Mead
The eight year wait is over for Wood fans as we find ourselves back in the big time with our First Round Proper F.A. Challenge Cup tie with Brentford. The only “London” derby of the Round and therefore sure to be overlooked by The Evening Standard, although I hope I have been proved wrong!
Everybody loves an underdog and therefore the only banana skin we can fall foul of is not turning up on the day and getting trounced!
Our visitors have to look back to the 1998/89 Season for their last big run in the Competition, which ended at Anfield with a 4 – 0 defeat in the Quarter Finals. Since then their two notable runs in the Competition were in 2004/05 when they took Premiership Southampton to a Fifth Round Replay, losing 1 – 3 at home. It was a fine Season for The Bees who made it to the Division One Play-off Finals, whilst The Saints dropped down to the Championship.
The following Season and a Premiership scalp in the shape of Sunderland who were beaten 2 – 1 sent Brentford through to the Fifth Round, where Charlton Athletic ended their fine run with a 3 – 1 victory at The Valley.
It has not all been plain sailing for our visitors in the Competition however. Last Season The Bees had a taste of Blue Square Bet South football when they drew Basingstoke Town in the First Round. A 1 – 0 win at home saw them safely through to the Second Round only to go down 0 – 1 to Conference side Wrexham.
In fact Brentford have gone out to lower League opposition in three of the last five Seasons. Other notable bad days at the office include Second Round defeats to Telford United of The Conference in the 2003/04 Season and our good friends Kingstonian eleven Seasons ago, who were also in The Conference at the time. They won 1 – 3 at Griffin Park in the First Round before getting relegated!
However The Bees had their appetite for Cup football whetted two Seasons ago when over 40,000 fans turned up to see them lose by the odd goal to Carlisle United at Wembley in the LDV Trophy Final.
Our highs in the Cup have been thin on the ground in recent Seasons. In 2003/04 we visited Blackpool playing a side five Divisions higher than ourselves, losing 4 – 0 in The First Round Proper.
The Season before that we also made it to the First Round Proper when we lost 5 – 0 at Torquay United and got relegated at the end of the Season to boot.
Our greatest success in this great Competition came in 1996/97 when we made it through to the Second Round Proper winning through five rounds to go out 2 – 1 at Luton Town, who were playing their football in the equivalent of today’s First Division at the time.
This is the eighth time we have made an appearance at this level, reaching the Second Round Proper on one other occasion, when we went out to the then Conference side Cheltenham Town in a Replay, back in the 1997/98 Season. Incidentally that Season we actually got further than our opponents today, who need no reminding of their early exit to Colchester United in a Replay on penalties, a year that also saw the Bees drop down to the Second Division.
We have also failed dismally on several occasions, going out to lower League opposition last Season at Slough Town, losing 3 – 2 at the first hurdle, whilst in 2007/08 we lost at Leighton Town in the Third Qualifying Round. Our worst ever recent F.A. Challenge Cup effort has to be the 2000/01 Season. Drawn away against Spartan South Midlands Football League St. Margaretsbury, who were playing in the Competition for the first time ever we lost 1 – 0, the team bus got stuck in a lane en route to the ground, yet we thankfully went on to be crowned Ryman Football League Division One Champions!
Back to today and our boys are well up for the occasion. Both teams are enjoying successful League campaigns, the pitch will definitely not be a factor as it is as good as any that our visitors play on week in week out. The facilities here at Meadow Park especially back of house will also make our visitors feel welcome, which means the outcome of today’s contest will be all about the football!
I for one cannot wait!
Enjoy the game and Come On The Wood!