Honours even after 1-1 draw following extra time between impressive Biggleswade United and visitors Sun Sports in today's FA Vase second round tie at Second Meadow
PUBLISHED: 17:46 12 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:46 12 November 2016
It was honours even at Second Meadow as Biggleswade United and Sun Sports played out an entertaining and hard-fought draw 1-1 after extra time in the second round of the FA Vase this afternoon.
The visitors from Watford went ahead on 39 minutes with dispute still ongoing as to whether it was Chris Blunden or Carl Penny who put them ahead on 39 minutes.
But a resolute and largely impressive home team refused to buckle under the shock of conceding a goal very much against the run of play – and gamely battled to restore parity on 63 minutes through Jordan Wright.
A further 30 minutes of extra time couldn’t separate the teams as both sides deserve credit for continuing to press for a winner, despite the sapping pitch. It must also be noted the atmosphere was played in a hugely competitive – and fair – spirit.
Maradona and Messi were in the hospitable Biggleswade United clubhouse before today’s game with Sun Sports in the FA Vase today, at a wet and misty Second Meadow this afternoon.
It wasn’t the real thing but it was a slice of two of the three best footballers on the planet in the form of their signatures on Biggleswade shirt, that club patron Guillem Balague had asked them to sign on his travels.
This homely club is in the early stages of a big project to progress as far as they can in non-league football. But not by treading on anyone’s toes or by throwing money around – but by putting deep roots in the community through a number of schemes encouraging participation from the town and Bedforshire including women’s and youth football.
Through his connections the passionate Balague – who incidentally is as personable and knowledgeable in real life as he is on our screen on Sky Sports – has managed to lure the talented and forward thinking Christian Collas as head coach. Suplemented by the teak tough streetwise nous of his number two Stuart Bimson.
Such is his reputation this correspondent found himself having a conversation with a Finnish journalist in the Wembley press box at the England v Scotland game at half time – not about the Three Lions dominance, but Collas’ progressive footballing ideals.
It was clear from the start of this hard fought game that the ethos of playing from the back, pressing and employing good touch and technique is far more important than simply hoofing the ball to the big man up front. It is a refreshing change at this level and one that should be applauded.
United approached the game after a 1-0 defeat by Cockfosters last weekend, and a battling if ultimately disappointing 2-2 draw against Hertford the week before.
However, what is clear is that this team has talent. It was also instructive to see the big number six Nick Elliot and his silky right foot attempt to play the ball out from the back and supplement his teams attacking options when he could. And unlike John Stones and Joe Hart’s clashing of styles at Wembley last night in terms of how they played the ball forward, it was nice to see keeper Tom Wyant and his back four singing from the same songsheet.
Biggleswade received a boost when the visitors leading scorer Dom David hobbled off with what looked like an ankle injury, only to make a Lazarus-like return.
As the game wore on it was genuinely pleasing to see every player bar none attempt to play football on the deck – even if the difficult greasy conditions may not have been entirely conducive to such efforts.
On the half hour mark the big number nine David Iwedino fired a powerful shot that Matty Evans did well to parry as Elliot followed up with an accurate low drive that took a deflection for a corner. The subsequent corner was narrowly headed over in a crowded box peopled by many more offensive players than you would expect at this level.
However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic. Sun Sports busy number nine Bertie Squire-Adams found himself free on the left flank but keeper Wyant proved equal to the task, narrowing the angle and the target as he blocked a fierce shot.
It was a warning the home side failed to heed as they conceded on 39 minutes, even if it could be argued that it was very much against the run of play. There was heated debate from the Sun Sport officials and their handful of travelling fans who got the final touch between forwards Chris Blunden and Karl Penny - but 1-0 it was.
Pacy right back Jamie Speer almost added a second with a strong run into the box, but fired across the face of goal.
But as the gloom encroached and the referee blew for half time it was clear Biggleswade – just like Pep Guardiola weren’t going to change their principles for anything or anyone.
As the second half started the impressive Elliot saw a free kick saved by keeper Evans.
As darkness fell the pitch was illuminated by floodlights in the gloom. The sight of this evocative, through the ages, event marks the onset of winter.
It can bring feelings of melancholy at the thought of the dark, cold months that lie ahead. But there was no depression here at Second Meadow as the good-natured but vocal and passionate crowd - including Guillem and his Sky Sports friend and colleague David Garrido who kicked every ball along with the rest of the supporters - enjoyed a deserved equaliser on 63 minutes. Jordan Wright being the hero as Biggleswade thoroughly deserved their equaliser.
Time and again it was refreshing to see home players show their touch, technique and awareness – not in a flashy or ineffective way, but efficiently, in aid of the team cause – not least by to move the ball away from tight, tricky situations, most notably by the cultured Farell and his equally cultured left foot.
The pressure was incessant as the 90 minutes drew to a close but a hard fought game was to extra time. Given the intensity and passion shown by both sets of players and the supporters in this unprepossessing ground no-one was complaining.
With the sapping pitch testing stamina both sides continued to look for a second goal. It was testament to both teams that no quarter was asked for – or given.
Deep into the first period of extra time the hard working Carles Balboa saw his header narrowly fly over the bar after an exquisitely delivered free kick from the creative Elliot.
As the teams switched over for the final fifteen minutes wags in the crowd joked the players receiving energy drinks needed liquid refreshment that was a tad stronger. If, in the unlikely event they did have a tot of brandy on this cold afternoon it was the least their endeavours deserved.
And as the players tired in energy if not intent it was honours even after two hours of full-blooded English football as the teams played out a 1-1 draw.
It was an afternoon well spent at this wonderful little institution with a big heart, not least to sample the passion of the players, Guillem and David, and every single supporter in the impressive 160 crowd – double the normal attendance – including the heartbeat of the club, the much-loved and hugely knowledgeable Tracey James.
As Tracey said at the end,’it’s no wonder more and more people are watching us – as we try to play football in the right manner.”
Like much to commend at this superb little cub, the hard-working and likeable Tracey got it spot on.
Wyant, Cooper, Farrell, Wright, Balboa, Elliot, Sturniolo, Hunt, Iwediuno, Mitiri, Joy
Cruickshank, Gibson, Brennan, Horwood, Wallace, Drakulic, Hobson, Blunden, Walsh, David