Saturday, 25 February 2017

25/02/17 Review: Dulwich Hamlet vs Macclesfield Town

Dulwich Hamlet 2-2 Macclesfield Town (FA Trophy Quarter-Final)
Champion Hill

For a ground-hopping Macclesfield Town fan, an FA Trophy Quarter-Final away day at Champion Hill is basically unmissable. With this weekend being mine off from work, I was London-bound again in search of another great ground- and hopefully safe progression for the Silkmen into the Semi-Final. As I've done when making trips to Wembley and the Old Spotted Dog in the past, I made use of taking an opportunity to visit family in Southend so that I could make a proper weekend of it.

Made it with plenty of time to spare
Arriving in the South-East of London after driving through the dreaded traffic of our country's capital city, I was surprisingly chuffed to see a Sainsbury's located right next to ground- meaning that free parking and post-match snacks would be in store. With this being a big-tie for both sides, this match was one of the rare occasions that the Hamlet had to make tickets available before the fixture date. Knowing that they'd be popular, I purchased mine so that I could be guaranteed to join almost 3,000 others at the home of the Isthmian Premier side as their National League opponents came to see what all the fuss was about.

Hamlet vs Silkmen
Sitting in 9th place in the fifth and seventh steps on the English Leagues ladder respectively, this Quarter-Final fixture came about after the visitors had so far eliminated Altrincham, Sudbury and Forest Green Rovers, meanwhile Dulwich started their campaign back in October and since beating Lowestoft Town, they have gone on to sweep aside Chesham United, Winchester City, Royston Town, Whitehawk and most impressively Braintree Town. That famous 5-2 Replay win for Dulwich is what set-up today's match and as I entered the ground I could feel the anticipation of the home crowd for another "giant" killing against John Askey's men. Since the start of 2017, Dulwich have only lost one game- against strugglers Canvey Island- and in February they have won one League game as well as games in the London County's Cup, Alan Turvey Trophy and FA Trophy. Yup- they've been busy! In the meantime, the Silkmen have been making steady progress in the National Premier and with good back-to-back victories against Eastleigh and Braintree, they would be hoping to dump a second Isthmian side out of the competition.

Not if these lot have anything to say about it
Macc were lining-up with a strong starting eleven and from the kick-off you could tell that the away side weren't willing to let the home support and their underdog side get the better of them in the early knockings. By far looking the strongest side, Macc had an early corner which didn't test, but on eight minutes they made the most of a long-range free-kick. From my view it looked like it was 25 or so yards out and with a central position Luke Summerfield, on loan from Grimsby, pelted his drive goal-wards and surely enough it found the back of the Dulwich net. Hamlet 0-1 Macc. At this stage the home-side looked rattled and the Silkmen continued to press for a second. Summerfield hit a second free-kick into the wall on 12 minutes and Holroyd hit over from close-range on 17 minutes. The following goal-kick from Preston Edwards in the Hamlet goal went straight into the path of Summerfield and he reacted with a pinpoint chip that went into the goal again and seemingly give the away boys a big early advantage- and also causing one away fan to shout out "you're so shit, they didn't even put your name on your back!". Hamlet 0-2 Macc. With Macc threatening to run away with it against they're part-time opponents, Dulwich managed to sort themselves out and start to play a bit of football with just under half-an-hour played. The Hamlet number 11- sorry, didn't catch his name- looked to be the man pulling the strings for the hosts and with 25 minutes on the clock they won a corner. A mixture of determination from the side in pink and blue and a poor defensive clearance from the white-shirted Silkmen eventually meant that a third set-piece would be scored from in the game, as Quade Taylor prodded a goal in to send the majority of the crowd into cheers as the deficit was halved. Hamlet 1-2 Macc. From then on, it is fair to say that Dulwich Hamlet believed in themselves and they were well up for this game now. As the half went on, the home team came close again as one of the strikers had a dig, and they almost notched again from a corner just before half-time. The away gathering certainly looked ready for the break and we all hoped that Askey would give the lads a pick-up in time for a big battle in the second-half.
2-1 at HT, which was my pre-match prediction for the result
As the whistle blew I looked over to the away fans and spotted the Macclesfield Town announcer shouting loud and proud for the side- obviously enjoying his time off from Moss Rose and telling the Cheshire locals where they can purchase their pies. During half-time I spent the whole 15 minutes in a queue for the clubhouse, not necessarily for a drink either, but just to see what it was like as I continued my usual scout around the ground. As 14 of the 15 minutes passed, I finally made it to the end of the queue to enter the bar, only to then see a giant hoard of people waiting for a drink. I quickly exited and was just in time for the restart.

That's a lot of people wanting a pint!
I made it around to the opposite goal-side alongside the rest of the away support, who had swapped over with the home fans, just in time for Macc's first chance of the half. Some great work by stand-in captain Kingsley James, who I'd seen win this competition back in May 2016 with Halifax Town, led to a pass into the box which fell to Chris Holroyd. Unfortunately the Silkmen top-scorer could not get the ball from out of his feet to hit home and the ball was easily defended. We continued to see Dulwich turn the game in their favour possession-wise and they almost grabbed an equaliser from yet another set-piece as Holroyd this time came back to defend and ended up thrusting a header towards his own goal. The pressure continued and for me, Neil Byrne was having the best game for the visitors as he cleared and dealt with all that came his way. With just ten minutes left to go, there was a stoppage in play as Summerfield was bundled to the ground and this led the home fans to pick out the bald, pasty figure of Macc veteran Danny Whitaker. As Summerfield received treatment, the home fans shouted out "you're just a shit Jonjo Shelvey, shit Jonjo Shelvey!" and the away fans raised a smile amongst their concern for the man who'd scored a brace earlier in the game.

Thinking back to the good times- the goals and the pre-match Bratwurst
The clock ran down and with just three minutes of the ninety left, there was to be a deserved late twist in the tale for the home-side. In a truly magical fashion, Ash Carew hit a wonder-strike and surely enough it went straight past Flinders and the fans were in dreamland once again. Hamlet 2-2 Macc. Although I was gutted for Macc, who now have to host a replay against the Hamlet, I also felt somewhat happy for the over 2,000 fans who would at least get to see their side in the hat for the semi-finals. In truth, the hosts could have nicked it late as Carew fired a 30-yard strike towards goal again in the 94th minute, but this time the shot was saved and the resulting corner came to nothing.
Let's hope they don't make this sort of mess at Moss Rose
I left the game and headed back through the traffic-ridden streets as the rest of the Macc fans went their separate ways. Some of them were going to stay the night and head to Wembley tomorrow for the League Cup Final, whereas others had to long trip home to make. I am yet to decide if I'll be able to make it to the Replay on Tuesday night, due to a late finish at work, but if not then I am hoping to at least make a trip to see Sutton Coldfield Town versus Marine. Either way, I'll be back on Tuesday!

Monday, 20 February 2017

19/02/17 Review: Stoke City Ladies vs Stoke City Ladies Reserves

Stoke City Ladies 6-0 Stoke City Ladies Reserves (Staffordshire Ladies Challenge Cup, Semi-Final)
Community Drive

Another 'Pint Of Football' first today for me as I would finally take the plunge and attend my first Ladies football match. Following a rough afternoon out in Burslem yesterday the plan for myself and Tom (Partizan Bristle) today was to drag our hungover carcasses over to Birmingham for the massive FA Vase Quarter-Final match between Sporting Bromsgrove and Buckland Athletic. As our departure time arrived at 1pm we took to Twitter to grab the postcode for the ground, only to discover that the match was sold out! Never had we even considered that attending a Midland League Division One team would require pre-booking tickets, so we hopped around on the internet in search of another match we could attend. With time against us, we settled with a trip across town to Community Drive in search of the Semi-Final Staffs Challenge Cup match between Stoke City Ladies and their Reserves.

The Valiants yesterday, the Potters today. That's how we roll
Tom has visited many a Ladies match before and has even seen the National side, so in this case I was the proverbial newbie as we pulled-up at the ground in Smallthorne. Despite this trip being a last-minute thing, I am very glad that I was able to go down to the old home of Norton United as it allowed me to tick off another ground and one that I probably wouldn't have gone to under normal circumstances. Norton Cricket Club & Miners Welfare Institute has become the home of the Potters Ladies side since Norton folded, and my first impression of the ground was that it would be a good one to have a snoop around. Whilst Tom ran off to find a cash point, I headed straight in and managed to make it to pitch-side in time for kick-off. With no idea what to expect and no knowledge of the set-up of Stoke's Ladies team, I perused the programme to find that the Potters lasses are currently sitting pretty in 4th in their domestic league, and with this regional cup being against their own reserves, it was destined to be a win for the side labelled as the "home" side today.
All ready for me second game of the weekend
Even from the early knockings of the bout, the side playing in Stoke's away kit- which I'd presumed to be the Reserves- looked very good and we both found ourselves spending time questioning why the second team were playing so well compared to their red and white opponents. The side playing in the home kit had the first chance, but other than that they were being outplayed from the off. Thankfully a fan nearby overheard us discussing this and explained that the side playing in the away kit was the home side and the reserves were the away team playing in the home strip.

Decent turnout
Naturally, the atmosphere here was very pleasant as it was a very familiar fixture for the two sides, and the opening goal was soon to come. As we were walking around to the opposite side of the ground towards the dugout the Firsts number 9, Kate Asher, took advantage of a ball in the box and slid in amongst a Reserves defender to notch the opening goal on the quarter-hour mark. Firsts 1-0 Reserves. Even though we'd already seen an early goal my opening impression of the game was that the number 4 for Stoke Firsts, Summer Holmes, was a class-act in the centre of the midfield. I have since found out that Summer was making her debut for the Potters today and I found her dominance early-on to be a real eye-opener as to the level of the Ladies game. It is no secret that Women's Football is becoming very popular at the moment and with players like Holmes pinging the ball about like a female-version of Andres Iniesta, it was clear to see why about a hundred or so had come out for this match. Incidentally, it would be the former Baggies lass who would net the second goal of the day on her first outing. She found herself clear in the box and despite almost fluffing her lines, she regained composure to hit home a well-deserved goal with just under half-an-hour gone. Firsts 2-0 Reserves. With the tie seeming all but over at this point, the game remained competitive and some feisty challenges were being put in. Just because this was an intra-squad game, it certainly wasn't a friendly.

The lino's certainly got a good workout 
As Jamilla Palmer's long legs flew in on a short Reserves defender, she quickly apologised as the game came to a temporary stop. Meanwhile Kate Asher, who I named the Mario Balotelli of the Women's League, was playing an assertive game up-front and was proving to be a real handful for the opponent's defence. She played with an intimidating look on her face and used her strength well to bully defenders off the ball on more than one occasion. In terms of goalmouth action, there was a couple of long-range efforts to come and just before half-time we were treated to one more goal. Harriet Wellings had hit the side-netting earlier in the game, but when she cut in from the right-hand side in injury time her cross-cum-shot looped over the Reserves keeper and nestled firmly into the net for a third time in the match. Firsts 3-0 Reserves. With that, it was half-time and therefore the moment to visit the ground's facilities. After an awkward encounter in the world's smallest toilet in which I opened the door and almost knocked a man using the urinal out, me and Tom head into the clubhouse/bar and spent the remains of the break chatting with the lovely gal on the bar. After giving me a Worthington's instead of a Lager amongst our bickering, she kindly swapped it for me and stated that the Worthy's would certainly not go to waste- got to love a happy accident. We then peeked outside to see that there was another Women's team training or warming-up in an orange kit, and watched them for a moment before heading back out to the game we were here to see.

We just love the footy- wherever, whoever, whenever
The second 45 had a similar flow to the first. Despite making a bunch of substitutions at half-time, the First team continued to dominate and when one of the subs, Ashleigh Hayes, took a shot from 25-yards the keeper could do nothing but palm it into the net and with 40 minutes still to play, it was game over now. Firsts 4-0 Reserves. After netting her first goal within four minutes of coming on, Hayes then doubled her tally on the hour-mark with a tidy finish. Firsts 5-0 Reserves. Amongst some great moments of play from the Firsts and some good on-the-ball moves from the Reserves, there was also a stand-out moment of comedy as Jamilla Palmer took a ball to the head. With a frown on her face, she simply shouted out "ooh, me head" as many from the crowd raised a smile knowing that her comical remark signalled that she was okay.

Everyone's having a good time
There was one final goal to come and it was the lass who scored the opener that would grab the closing strike and put a cap on a very comfortable progression to the Final. Asher had the ball fed into her on 82 minutes and she smashed the ball into the net from close-range. Firsts 6-0 Reserves. Three goals in both halves meant that Stoke City Ladies would be in the final yet again- they have won every Staffordshire Challenge Cup since 2008/09 and they will surely be the favourites to win a ninth consecutive Trophy following last season's triumph over Sporting Khalsa Women. My first outing to a Ladies football match was great, and I'll definitely be visiting more in the future. Having seen some decent games on TV during the 2015 World Cup and at the Rio Olympics in 2016, I would urge any football fan to go and see a live match. For me, my next outing will be at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday as I travel down to South-East London to watch the mighty Silkmen take on their part-time opponents in the quarter-final of the FA Trophy. Cheers again to Tom who accompanied me on another fantastic football weekend- I'll be through at his again towards the end of the season to hopefully see Bristol Manor Farm lift the Western League crown at The Creek.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

18/02/17 Review: Port Vale vs Bristol Rovers

Port Vale 1-1 Bristol Rovers (League One)
Vale Park

A second write-up from 'Pint Of Football' Reviews would come from a follow-up visit to Vale Park. Having visited the Burslem ground at the start of last season for a friendly with Bolton Wanderers, I was now back at one of my local grounds with two of greatest chums, Will and Tom (Partizan Bristle), as well as another Rovers fan Jack.

Away days
With time on our sides, we headed through to Burslem with well over an hour of drinking time before the game, and our pre-match pit-stop would take place at the Bulls Head pub. We had a great time here and I would highly recommend this pub to home or away fans visiting Vale Park- a rough-and-ready kind of place, Bulls Head served up a refreshing beer to locals and travellers alike as well as offering up a BBQ in the back yard to quench the appetite of footy fans before they shoot off to the ground for some League One action. With fifteen minutes to spare before the match kicked-off, me and Will made a late dash for the ground knowing that we may well miss a couple of minutes of game time. Jack and Tom had already headed over- as Rovers fans they weren't as blasé in their approach to getting there as we were. In an afternoon of highs and lows, one great moment for me and my fellow Yorkshireman was when the away supporters decided to get us involved in the big away day and just before leaving the Bull we were honoured for our temporary allegiance to the Gas by being surrounded for a chant of "Yorkshire Gas, they're avin a laugh. They're Yorkshire Gas and they're avin a laugh". It is true, at this point we were almost definitely having a laugh.
Come on yoooooou Rooooooooovers
Unfortunately for us the afternoon did not carry on this friendly-spirited manor and as we walked to the ground, things would take a dramatic turn for the worse on Jenkins Street. Whilst merrily walking down the street, a bald man appeared from amongst a ramble of Vale fans and started shouting at the two of us. In an attempt to defuse the situation, we told the Burslem-bred barbarian that we were neutrals. His response was to walk into me and kick me in the shin, sending my shoe off down the street and therefore knocking me to the floor. By the time I'd stood up and collected my shoe, I looked up and the lads had gone and the only person in-sight was my shocked pal rushing to comfort me having just been assaulted by a 40+ year-old Port Vale gangster! It's safe to say that from now on I would certainly not be a neutral and we were delighted to be taking up our seats in the away end and cheering on Darrell Clarke's barmy army.

Here we go then
The away side today were sitting in 10th place at the start of the day, but after losing leading scorer Matty Taylor in the worst possible way to bitter rivals Bristol City they were in slightly lacklustre form. They have drawn the last three matches prior to this one and have managed just three away wins on the road all season, meaning that newly-promoted Bristol Rovers would need to pick up the pace again if they are to chase a third successive promotion. The Valiants on the other-hand have had a terrible season so far, sitting just above the drop-zone before kick-off and without a win in the league in 2017. The home side have, believe it or not, got a better defensive record this season than their opponents and since Rovers have no staring striker to boast at present I'd predicted a tight-affair. 0-0 was my pre-match guess. The game had just started as we took our seats in the ground, but it was apparent that we hadn't missed much. The atmosphere from the away support was nothing short of great from the off and chants were spewing out left, right and centre amongst the blue and white dressed Bristolians. Despite this though, the match remained goalless and half-time came around with the odds remaining likely for me to achieve my scoreline prediction. I used the majority of half-time to seek first aid attention for me knee which was still pouring with blood after taking a kick from the Burslem-bully. I was consoled my the St John Ambulance team before heading back over to the away stand to collect a beer that the lads had kindly purchased for me. And surprise, surprise, whilst I was stood in the back I missed the opening goal- an own-goal from the Gas left-back Bob Harris. Vale 1-0 Rovers.

The noisy away end from afar
This was my third time watching Rovers and on the previous two occasions I had seen them labour to a 0-0 draw against my beloved Macclesfield Town and just about overcome Grimsby Town at Wembley after winning on penalties from a 1-1 draw in the Conference Play-off Final. Ellis Harrison, who was playing up-top today too, was so far the only Rovers player I'd seen score a live goal in two and a half matches and after he was replaced just after the hour mark I wouldn't be seeing him chip-in again. The away side did rally though and as we clocked in to the 78th minute Billy Bodin decided he was going to do something to rectify his side's poor showing. He took the ball in his grasp, ran towards the Valiants penalty-area before unleashing a powerful strike past Leonardo Fasan and therefore sent the travelling support into instant joy. Vale 1-1 Rovers. By this stage, more off-the-pitch ugliness had seen several stewards evacuate a selection of Rovers fans from the ground and I'd also seen police start to form and take on Rovers fans as the match drew to a close. I was rather disappointed to see all of this violence from fans, stewards and police across my trip to Vale Park, as I am usually used to enjoying the match in a much different atmosphere. Having travelled to the rough-end of Belfast to watch Cliftonville back in October, this was by far the most hostile game I'd been to.

Full-time, 1-1
As we left the ground at the end of the match, we witnessed some truly horrific scenes and I felt that the afternoon's sour undertone had completely changed my opinion on certain aspects of the game. Granted, I am primarily a visitor of non-league football clubs and I am more at home at the likes of Kidsgrove Athletic than Port Vale, but to see images like we saw today brought to light one of the many reasons why I actually enjoyed the game I witnessed a day later at ex-Evo-Stik club Norton United's ground (Blog entry to follow) more than this one. We eventually pulled ourselves away from the skirmishes and headed back to the Bulls Head, wading past aggressive post-match fans from both sides, people wiping pepper-spray out of their eyes and even a bunch of policemen piled on top of a middle-aged man covered in blood on his head. Truly awful sights.

There are no words
It is safe to say that the presence of such an assertive police force made the situation far worse than it could have been, as some innocent Rovers fans laid in need of medical attention aside from the action. Despite this negativity and the poor game though, we did get chatting to some friendly Vale fans on the walk back to the pub and once we were there I even met up with my mate Ian, another Rovers fan, for a beer and a catch-up. As I've said it was definitely an afternoon of good moments and horrible ones, but it certainly wasn't a boring afternoon out and about with a couple of my best chums!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

08/02/17 Review: Leicester City vs Derby County

Leicester City 3-1 Derby County [After Extra Time] (FA Cup Fourth Round Replay)
King Power Stadium

Right then, I suppose it's about time I told the tale of the time that 'Pint of Football' went to see the champions. After the phenomenal achievement of lifting the 2015/16 Premier League title, Leicester City certainly don't need the usual introduction I give in my write-ups. Basically, if you don't know about them, literally go on to Google and type in "footballing miracle".

Told ya!
This season though was something slightly different. Despite being into the last 16 of the Champions League and still competing in the FA Cup, the Foxes sit just one point outside of the Premier League's relegation zone and two points off the foot of the table. With zero league goals scored so far in 2017 and three 0-3 defeats suffered so far, the FA Cup was currently a welcome distraction as they have so far swept Everton out of the Cup and now they would be welcoming geographical rivals Derby County to the King Power for a replay, just two weeks before the club's biggest game in history at Sevilla in the Champions League. The Rams were unlucky not to have won the original game at Pride Park a couple of weeks back, after a late Wes Morgan goal saved the day and earned this rematch tonight. I managed to grab myself a ticket and get cover at work for the evening (ironically from a Leicester City fan, cheers Jez!), and so my destiny was set to take me from Stafford to Leicester for some cup magic!

Next stop- King Power
I left Stafford at 5:40pm, which would give me just over two hours to make the 90 minute cross-country journey, find somewhere to park, walk to the ground, collect my ticket, and enter. The odds were against me from the start. As I drove down the M1 after cutting across A50, I sat and pondered my pre-match prediction. Derby currently lie in their very familiar place of hovering around the Championship Playoffs and with a steady pace of form they would be hoping to give Leicester a game and maybe even topple them to go through to face Milwall in the Fifth Round. Personally, I expected Leicester to nick it by the odd goal and despite them firing blanks at the moment, I went for 1-0 to the home side knowing that they were likely to rest a few of the underachieving big guns. Continuing on with the journey, I came off the motorway and drove into that wonderfully joyful feeling of being caught in between football traffic and rush-hour near the city centre. For the record, this is the one and only reason why I have no official ambition to do the 92 League grounds- I much prefer arriving at a Midlands Premier League ground where I can park up right outside some muddy old field, grab a beer and enjoy it with time to burn. Today would prove to be a 400 meter sprint to avoid missing the First-Half.

To make matters worse, just as I got into the area near the ground my phone which I was using as a Sat/Nav died of battery. Great start. On the plus side, I do have two phones which I carry around, but on the down side this phone had no data and therefore was useless for giving directions. Because of this unfortunate circumstance, I just drove in the direction of people wearing blue clothing, up until the point that I was right outside the ground amongst thousands of people. The time at this point was 7:30pm and with just 15 minutes to go I quickly made a U-turn amongst taxis, busses and parents dropping kids off to head back out to find a parking space. Sometimes when ground-hopping, the Footballing Gods shine down on you and luckily today was one of those days. I passed signage for "Parking £10" and others for "Park here- £8" and on the first possible turning on to a one-way street I was amazed to find a side of the road parking spot. This spot was one of two that weren't for permit holders, and so I quickly dumped my car in it and ran back to the ground. The time now, 7:40pm.

The queues for ticket collections
I would at this point by struck by a second part of good luck which would ultimately mean that I missed just 4 minutes of the game. I queued anxiously in a line labelled "D-I", which I assumed meant which Tier your ticket was in. As the shortest of the lines diminished quickly I got to the front within minutes before being faced with the man at the counter. As I read out "Tier H" to him, he informed me that the queues were labelled alphabetically in surname, not tier letter. Thankfully he took pity on my lack of knowledge and reached across to grab my ticket. Top lad! I then made a sprint to the gate after passing a load of Derby fans stood outside shouting "Sheep Shag Army" and then made it inside. Phew.

7:49pm, I'm in!
As I took my seat I couldn't help but notice that the fans were already in full-swing chanting their support out to the main man, Claudio Ranieri. I'll be honest, I've always loved the Italian manager and when I think of Chelsea I don't think of Eden Hazard and the Roman billions, I think of Claudio "Tinker Man" Ranieri and the likes of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Mario Melchiot and Carlo Cudicini. They were the best days of football for me and I am so glad that Ranieri managed to lift the Premier League and have a bit of that glory that his previous employers have had. On the pitch the game had started in a tense and slow manner, with the main source of attacking play coming from Ikechi Anya out on the wing for the visitors. He freely took on Leicester's Ghana International right-back Daniel Amartey who only arrived back from the African Cup of Nations at 5:30am today. For Leicester, the main threat in the early stages was from the club's stalwart midfield maestro Andy King who pulled out a couple of good passes out-wide to Marc Albrighton and up towards Ahmed Musa. Neither of them started the game well and it seemed apparent to me from the off that Musa was lacking in confidence, even more so than the rest of the squad. Despite this, the fans were not showing their frustration and they tried every chant in the book to get behind the lads. Never did I think I would be standing up in a football ground in Leicester and singing out loud "we know what we are, we know what we arrrrrre. Champions of England, we know what we are."

Loud and proud- sing your hearts out for the Champs
Amongst the loudest fans in the corner to the left of me, I looked up and spotted my favourite flag of the evening- a big Austrian flag had written on the middle "NO FUCHS GIVEN". On the field the much-rotated Foxes side were struggling with 25 minutes gone. Today's centre-back pairing of debutant Yohan Benalouane and old boy Marcin Wasilewski seemed sturdy enough at defending, but for me they were just trying too hard to be the play-makers. So many times a long ball was hit up to 5ft 5in striker Musa, and they were always gobbled up by Shackell and Keogh. Before half-time, the Foxes changed their approach and managed to utilise the pace of their attackers. Demarai Gray got the ball and whipped in an almost perfect ball in to Musa who out-stretched his foot to be millimetres away from knocking the ball into the net. Unlucky for the hosts, but it was to be 0-0 at half-time.
Time for a beer then
With no goals to boast about as of yet half-time would be a sour place again for Ranieri and his men, but he would undoubtedly be using his Italian passion to gee up his team for the rest of the game. It certainly seemed to work, too, and within just a minute of the second 45 the first goal of the game would be scored by the man himself- the King, the King, Andy, Andy King. The headed effort settled in the goal just as my head appeared from the stairwell into the stands, meaning that I could just about join in with the crowd going wild at the early second-half opener. Leicester 1-0 Derby. That would prove to remain the scoreline until the hour-mark, as a pressing Derby looked to ram their way back into it. With free-kick after free-kick being awarded to the visitors, Derby eventually bagged themselves a goal after Abdoul Camara's set-piece was deflected into the net, sending the away corner into a frenzy of joy. Leicester 1-1 Derby.

It had been all County since the opener
With an upset seemingly on the cards now, County fans broke into the "you're going down" chant, which was quickly responded to be the whole stadium shouting back "you're staying down" and thus silencing the noisy neighbours. As the game started to close-in on Extra Time, both sides looked likely at times to score a winner. At one end, a Derby attacker attempted a scorpion kick which ended up smacking Benalouane on the head- meanwhile the Foxes made a first change of the night and brought Riyad Mahrez on, which perhaps showed Claudio's interest in avoiding extra-time. By this point, Derby were preparing their final change of the night and Steve McClaren threw David Nugent on against the club who he had helped win the Championship back in 2014. Safe to say that he received a standing ovation from the supporters of his former employers and with some big names now on the field we looked set for an entertaining fight to the death during Extra Time. The match could have so easily ended in the last 5 minutes without the need for the added 30 minutes, but Derby were riding out a good final Leicester spell with the help of everyone from the Referee to the goalpost. On 85 minutes, Musa was let free of the County defence and as the ball bobbled outside the area he was met my an on-rushing Jonathan Mitchell in the away goal. Not only did he lose the race to the ball, but he also handled Musa's attempt to chip the ball round him and thankfully for the Keeper he survived without the Ref seeing it. In Musa's outrage he ran over to Mike Jones and vented his anger, to which he was promptly booked for his rightful grievance. Just a minute or so later a Derby defender calmly chested the ball against his own post from 4-yards out and before we knew it, the Ref called a halt ready for Extra Time.

Thankfully I had an aisle seat- getting a bit uncomfortable
Not many of the 29,648 in attendance left for good at this point, and with Islam Slimani and Wilfred Ndidi coming on I could see why. With just four minutes gone in Extra Time, Mahrez played an assertive ball in to Ndidi and he took a couple of touches before releasing a great strike from 20-yards which pelted into the goal via the post. Leicester 2-1 Derby. The chap sat next to me, who hadn't spoken a word all game, turned to me after the kick-off and asked me "why'd they have to get rid of Golden Goal?" to which I just shrugged. With the hosts well and truly in control now, Mahrez and Albrighton started to control things well on the wings and Ndidi in the middle seemed to be a breath of fresh air. Gray continued to be Leicester's best attacking outlet until he provided what would ultimately be the greatest piece of football in the match. Well into the second-half of Extra Time, he turned Keogh inside-out with a twisting run, before out-powering a tracking midfielder and whipping a curled finish into the goal to seal the game for the Premier League Champions. Leicester 3-1 Derby. In truth it could've been four as both Gray and King went close again, as well as Mahrez having a dig from range, but that was to be that and the game would finish after 120+ minutes of FA Cup football. Game over and what an amazing 30 minutes we were treated to in Extra Time.

Why'd you have to leave it that late, Demarai?
With a long drive back to Stoke on my mind, I quickly left the ground after the final whistle and did my best to overtake the slow-moving crowds as they headed down Raw Dykes Road. I soon made it back to my car at the miracle space on Wilberforce Road (hint to any ground-hoppers looking for free evening parking close to the ground). My next encounter is possibly going to be on Monday, as I aim to head up to Manchester to visit Atherton Collieries vs Bootle, which will be followed by a trip to Vale Park on the 18th to see Bristol Rovers visit Port Vale with a couple of my football loving mates. Yes- my schedule is varied.

Check out the official BBC highlights for those two Extra Time wonder goals!