So, the FA Cup has begun. In truth the tournament started two weeks ago with the pre-preliminary round. A round that saw Imperial Fields new tenants Tooting Bec FC play in their first ever FA Cup match versus Guilford City. Unfortunately for the Bec narrowly lost, the match ending 3-2. Bec did well to rally after being 3-1 down with 4 minutes of the game remaining to create a tense end to the encounter after Ali Wiltshire capitalised on an error by the Guilford defence. There was a bumper crowd at the neutral venue of Woking Park, with the vast majority of fans travelling Bec support.
Tooting & Mitcham’s first appearance in the FA Cup happened many years ago. According to Roger Ramone, one of the clubs many dedicated historians of the club, Tooting played their first FA cup tie against the Post Office Engineers (Beddington) during their inaugural season in 1932. The game ended 2-2, the posties stamp their authority over the tie during the replay with a 5-1 victory.
The club has had some great memories in the cup, including two visits to the third round proper, once in 1959 (not sure what happened, no one ever mentions it) and once in 1976 were Tooting put Swindon Town to the sword leading to our best effort, a defeat to Bradford City in the fourth round.
This year Tooting’s FA Cup journey started at home against Faversham Town in the preliminary round. A proper Bank holiday fixture, with proper August Bank holiday weather. It was hot, or rather it was fucking hot. Many fans might have seen the match as an early distraction from the league. With two wins already in the bag, a chance for the fans and players to enjoy a game without the pressure of promotion hopes overbearing them.
However, this attitude wasn’t echoed within the playing squad or by the club’s management. The cup tie was seen as another game that needed to be won. Not only because it would secure the teams progression in this historic competition, but because winning can become a habit and the teams winning momentum had to be continued. Before the game the players were focused and in positive spirits. There is a great atmosphere amongst the players at the moment. Winning football matches contributes to this. Faversham Town offered a challenge that the team were adamant they could overcome if they played to their potential. The management team reiterated in the pre-match team talk that this was not a day off, it was not an opportunity to take our foot off the pedal, in fact it was essential that the players went out and secured the win so the team’s attention could switch to Mondays game v Chipstead as soon as possible.
The players were reminded of how important the competition it to the fanbase and that Tooting’s fanbase deserved another run unto the later rounds and that it was on the players selected to ensure that the team progressed beyond the first outing.
The game itself started positively with Ghandour and Bassett linking up in the 8th minute to achieve an early lead. The heat played its part, the referee instigating much needed water breaks every 15 minutes, in the rest of the game. Faversham in truth didn’t offer much going forward and Tooting should have put the game to bed. The second half saw Tooting create a slew of chances, some saved well by the opposition keeper, some skewed wide and over by some way ward shooting.
The game ended 1-0. A score that neither flattered or deceived. Tooting were good value for the win, but didn’t do enough to earn a more bloated score line. Regardless of score line the all-important victory was secured. Not three points this time, but rather advancement into the first qualifying round.
If winning is a habit Tooting & Mitcham are dabbling at the moment. Three in three, added to the positive preseason, is a great start. Chipstead away is the next challenge. I believe the club is ready for it.
(I would like to say a massive thank you to Roger Ramone for his help with all the historical detail he supplied for todays piece. Like many long term fans at the club Roger has an incredible knowledge of the clubs history. We at SouthLondonisBlackandWhite.com are very grateful for his support)