So we finally got to play Cambridge away on a Saturday afternoon which means the Morris Minor can make the trip up the M11 to the Abbey Stadium for the first time. Those Friday nights are a non-starter for those of us who have to earn a crust (and can't blag a meeting in the general direction of the fixture) so it was my first visit to the Varsity city since the league days of the old club. I had no great expectations one way or the other apart from dire warnings about the traffic at the end of the
Cambridge is one of those places at which we have played many times but none of my visits in the halcyon days of the promised land were memorable enough to stir anything in the old grey matter. As we drove up the M11 I wondered if that particular motorway was even there when I last visited the ground. Speaking of which I took the decision to follow the directions as published by Cambridge United rather than all the alternatives that had been suggested during the week and it proved to be a good decision too. The total time taken from my last pick up at Tonbridge to arriving in the Cambridge United Social Club was just over an hour and a half. Had I trusted the various alternatives - including these satellite navigation contraptions - it would have been considerably longer. Admittedly I would have missed all the sights of Cambridge City centre but I think I preferred the quick way in to the pretty way. (You know who you are!)
Having established that we Shots fans were indeed allowed into the social club, despite rumours to the contrary, that was where we headed. How many of my fellow travelling Shots can say that, as they approached the entrance, they received a telephone call to take their order for drinks? Having a system of minions is such a good idea you know! Thanks to the system we made our way to our seat in the club to find a refreshing drink already on the table. We were sharing the table with a few Cambridge fans who were convinced that we were going to batter them on the day. The natives were all very friendly; it's such a pity that the camaraderie evident in that clubhouse doesn't get the publicity afforded to certain alleged incidents after the game, but that's the way of the world sadly. Yet again the opposition supporters thought we were the best team they had played so far this season. That's a very comforting thought; especially given the creeping negativity that seems to inevitably invade our message board, even when we are top of the league. I mentioned that it is a good job our manager and players have more belief in themselves than some of our supporters appear to.
|Welcome to the|
The Abbey Stadium turned out to be a "proper" football ground - with the possible exception of the all seater stand in which we were situated. It's my personal preference to stand while watching football so the day will be marked down for that reason only - why no choice for away fans? The slightly ramshackle appearance with gaps between various structures is how I remember grounds from my younger days. We call it character at the Rec and I dare say Cambridge fans are of a similar opinion. I wonder what their ground would look like now if they had won that play off back in 1992?
|A minute to show some respect|
The game turned out to be very entertaining and the Shots certainly rode their luck until the last ten minutes. With Nikki and Joel both making their mark on the game for the wrong reasons we came away disappointed, but I would imagine Cambridge fans would have been more than disappointed if they hadn't won a game they thoroughly deserved to win. "Concentrate on the league" is the phrase used but I am personally "gutted" (to use the football terminology) that our cup dream is over for another year. Not just for the "dream" of a visit to Old Trafford or the like, but also for the financial bonus it brings - and by all accounts we need it.
What makes our exit just that little bit worse is that we have had such an uninteresting cup experience this year. Even losing to a lower ranked team would have a certain amount of "romance" about it - albeit very embarrassing - but our cup run this year has been the equivalent of two league games. Even Sunday's draw would have given us a third consecutive BSP opponent. The cup is, for me, having the chance to visit other places - such as Haverhill last year - on the way to the (hopeful) excitement of the third round draw. Crawley and Cambridge just don't do it for me in this context.
It was a first visit to the Abbey for Morris Minor and me and, despite the disappointment; we did have a lovely day the day we went to Cambridge.