London Bari 1-3 Clapton (FA Cup Qualifying Extra Preliminary Round)
An FA Cup match on the 6th August- yup, you are reading right! Today marked the start of the World's greatest Cup and for teams like Jarrow Roofing Boldon CA, Cockfosters FC and Billingham Synthonia (they're all in there!) it was time to begin the road to Wembley. For many, the thought of a big draw against Manchester United or an away day at Stamford Bridge would be an ultimate dream for fans and for some club owners it could mean the difference between paying the gas bill and having a whip-round amongst the fans. However, those who know the FA Cup know that to even get to the Third Round to have a chance to face the "big boys" means the clubs from today playing at least 8 rounds. Does it stop them dreaming though? I dare you to ask any Biggleswade United supporter.
|The Clapton Ultras were, of course, hit by FA Cup fever|
I was starting my FA Cup adventure too, and after hearing of this tie being on whilst I was in Essex for a family wedding, I grabbed my keys and jumped in the car to head out to the almighty London. With a surprisingly clear route from Southend, I made it to Clapton and began my search for the Spotted Dog Ground. Despite this being Clapton FC's home, today they were the away side as London Bari hosted the tie in the ground that they share. Think of it like the San Siro derby, minus about 79,900 of the seats and fans!
|I heard rumours that this section of the 1878 build was used to form the model of the San Siro|
Since London's oldest ground was opened in the 19th century, Clapton have played their football here and have no doubt seen some great moments and some poor one's too. London Bari, however, have only been moved in to "the Dog" as of 2012 and are a fairly new club in the Essex Senior League too. Still, that wouldn't stop both teams wanting the win in this rivalry match and with a potential tie in the next round against Ipswich Wanderers or Sporting Bengal United on the cards, all guns were blazing from the off in this one.
|You could cut the pre-match tension with a butter knife|
With what I can only assume are some of the ground's original features on display, I made my way around the ground and in certain areas I felt like I should've asked for a shovel to give them a hand to sort out the rubble! I appreciated the ground as being a relic within East London's suburbs, but it was just a bit unnecessarily messy. The stand, taken today largely by Bari fans, was decent and the sun was pure glory- meanwhile the rustic "Tons End" bar did the trick and was well stocked with reasonably prices beverages. But it was the "Scaffold" stand, home to the nationwide famous Clapton Ultras, that was the draw for me, and any other ground-hopper. Even before getting settled in, I was approached by a chap who was telling me that most ground-hoppers don't consider themselves true until they have visited the Old Spotted Dog, and I can understand why. Not only is the ground a classic, but it is known for having outrageous fans who sing ALL OF THE TIME.
|20 mins until KO, the tunes were blasting out of the Scaffold|
|In fairness, this is more my scene anyway|
|Not a great start for London Bari|
|Time to wake up, Bari!|
|Lovely afternoon in the Capital|
|That'll probably be me in 40 years time|
|This is what they call "the life"|
|All still to play for, including the prime spot on MOTD|
|Strangely enough- no mention of players with missing limbs in the Ground Rules|
|A Macc fan, an Orient supporter and a Sydney lad having a great chat|