Brentham 1 – 3 FC Romania
Saturday 12th May 2012
Played at Uxbridge FC
Cup finals are always on my photography agenda come the end of the football season. On the radar this year was the prestigious Surrey Senior Cup final played between Blue Square Conference high-flyers Sutton United and Woking. However, a posting of a photo on Facebook by fellow non-league snapper Andy Nunn confirmed that I had completely mixed up my dates and I had missed the final altogether. Annoyed at myself, I felt that my football season was incomplete and only by attending one last game would I be able to have full closure. Problem was, I was running out of matches to attend.
Thankfully, a rearranged game due to a previous postponement in the Middlesex County League’s Senior Open Cup final gave me that one last opportunity. The enticement of photographing two teams I hadn’t witnessed before, competing for a trophy at a ground not previously visited, was enough for me to jump in the car and make one last journey.
I’ll openly admit, I hadn’t heard of Brentham FC before. However, their opponents were slightly more recognisable by the very distinction that they are a team entirely comprised of Romanian expats. I suppose the clue is in the name (though this fact was lost on the PA announcer who continually referred to them as FC Romana).
Both teams compete in the Cherry Red Records Middlesex County League Division One (doesn’t it just roll off the tongue?) at Step 8 of the National game. It’s some way lower than the semi-professional Step 2 that Sutton and Woking play at, but as long as the game is competitive, it’s usually a tasty affair.
The venue for the final was Honeycroft – home of Evo-Stik Southern League outfit Uxbridge FC. The pitch is in immaculate condition considering it’s had a whole season of battle scars behind it. The weather couldn’t be better too. Perfect to grab a couple of ‘bracketed’ shots of the ground in its resplendent glory.
In attendance were a wealth of Romanian expats in full voice and national colour, giving the occasion an international flavour. I always find continental supporters to be more passionate and vocal than us reserved Brits. The official attendance was 156 (still fantastic for what isn’t even regarded as ‘senior’ football), but with the horns, flutes and chants, the Romanian presence could have been mistaken as being tripled.
The game started in pretty even fashion with both teams evenly trading blows. In between the sticks for Romania was a giant of a man – Teodor Ursachi, at 6’10” (and I can verify this, as at 6’8” myself and stood next to him after the final whistle, I felt dwarfed). He had a look and presence reminiscent of one of the Klitchko brothers. Though it was Ursachi who was first to concede. Some slick play from Brentham led to Rob Aitkin pulling back a cross to find teammate Luke Budden who promptly crashed one home past the ailing Romanian number one.
It didn’t take long for FC Romania to find parity. Sergiu Pitaru, with his hair a throwback to the Romanian national team’s 1998 World Cup mass bleaching – broke the Brentham back line to calmly slot home past the impressive Fraser Coxhill.
I had camped on the halfway line underneath the main stand, but with Romania starting to take a hold of the game, I decided to move behind Brentham’s goal to capture the action from a different angle… though I almost paid the price for not concentrating on the game.
A cross from a Romanian advance was spectacularly met by the forward who produced an almost inch-perfect overhead scissor kick. I thought I had caught it on camera, only to review it and realise I had not focussed correctly on the player. I was incredibly relieved that the shot went inches over the bar. To miss a goal scored like that would have ruined the afternoon. The Romanian bench were sympathetic… upon telling them I had missed the shot, they replied that they would reproduce the same acrobatic shot for me when they came on as a substitute. They didn’t.
My gamble to move behind Fraser Coxhill’s goal paid off. Even though Brentham had come close down the other end, it was Romania who took the lead. The Brentham stopper’s best attempts went in vain after Ovidin Copcioae found the net after Coxhill could only parry Romania’s previous efforts. Brentham had a couple of golden opportunities to level but composure in front of goal went lacking and the Eastern Europeans went into the interval 2-1 up.
Half time came and went and a chat with fellow photographer Colin Evans and blogger extraordinaire with Putajumperon passed away the time.
The second half saw the Romanians put the game to bed with some slick movements and skilful play on the ball. Romania made it three when Sirbu deftly flicked the ball with the back of his boot and sprinted away from his marker. Coxhill tried to make himself as big as possible but the Romanian slotted the ball out of his reach and into the corner.
After this point the game’s high tempo started to wane as tiredness and the inevitability of a Romanian win set in. One young fan behind me astounded both myself and his father by reeling off the name of Romanian professionals in Europe, with such knowledge as “Daddy, do they come from the same place as Cristian Săpunaru who plays for FC Porto?”. He was only about six years old! His footballing tastes did come into question with me however as he was wearing a Fulham replica shirt with Man Utd shorts. Hmmm.
It has to be noted that the game was played in incredibly good spirits with almost an air of a pre-season friendly, what with the good nature and sportsmanship of both sides.
At the full time whistle, the Romanians were deservedly crowned champions with Brentham playing their part in a cracking final. Celebrations went on long after the match had finished and I soon headed home with the taste and smell of champagne… one of the perils of getting too close to the celebrations as the fizzy plonk showered me and my camera.
Post-match, I had the pleasure of speaking to Jamie Cuttica – the Brentham manager, who echoes my sentiments by stating “Regardless of the result, it was a really enjoyable experience for myself and our players and contested in a good natured way by both teams.” I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out on both teams’ results in forthcoming campaigns.
I can now sleep easy with having my own personal closure on the football season. Roll on 2012/13.
Author – Stuart Tree