South Park FC vs Metropolitan Police FC
FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round
Saturday 20th October 2012
King George Fields
Final Score: 0-3
Just one week after my trip to Dorset for the FA Vase tie between Swanage and Newport (IOW), it was the turn of the FA Cup and an intriguing match between two teams who had avoided a plethora of bigger clubs to get to the 4th qualifying round. The prize for winning this match? A ball in the bag at Wembley and a place in the first round proper.
South Park (founded long before that South Park) were the lowest ranked club left in the competition. Playing their football in the Combined Counties Premier Division – a full eight divisions below Messer’s Rooney, Torres and Tevez, The Sparks had already disposed of Cobham, Lancing, Walton and Hersham, Harefield United and Brentwood Town… playing no less than eight games in the competition before mid-October.
Standing between South Park and a potential lucrative tie with a league club was the Metropolitan Police – a works-based team playing two divisions higher. The Met no longer have to field serving police officers and since this rule change, have improved dramatically. Despite the relaxation of playing policy, there are still a few policemen in the first team as well as the management and committee.
The Met are often given serious stick by fans of other non-league clubs as not being a ‘proper team’ and are wrongly accused of using taxpayer’s money to fund the club – an untrue statement as the Blues are funded solely by the five and a half thousand members of the Metropolitan Police Sports Club, based at Imber Court, Surrey (where Met play their home games). However, support is thin for the club.
As with the Swanage game the previous week, a partisan crowd of 643 (a record for King George Fields) turned out to play the part of South Park’s twelfth man. Only a handful of Blues supporters were in attendance, including John and Joyce – an elderly couple who are the Met’s first and only season ticket holders. More surprisingly, for a club with such a small fan base, the Met unveiled a new mascot – PCSO Steve – to cause torment amongst the crowd, as well as the dozen or so chaps who decided to come to the game dressed as comedic burglars. FA Cup broadcasters ITV were also in attendance, capturing highlights of the match for the live 1st round draw programme the following day.
If the Blues were the pre-match favourites, no one told the Sparks. Within the first few minutes, the home team had struck the post with a wicked shot from Chris Smith. South Park had an extra yard of pace in them and was causing their Ryman Premier opponents some discomfort.
By the 17th minute, things had swung in the Met’s favour. Jay Lovett headed against the crossbar and the rebound was put away by the fast-reacting Howard Newton. The Blues had scored a crucial early goal to dampen the spirits of the locals.
It seemed to dampen the spirits of the players too; South Park were unable to muster up anything of note and only Met’s inability to put the ball away (along with James Wastell’s fine saves) were keeping the home side in the game.
The Blues quashed any South Park fight back after the break with a well taken goal from Jonte Smith in the 48th minute. From here it was game over. Smith went on to add another near the end (and make it ten goals in the FA Cup this season already) to give the Police a comfortable place in the 1st round draw. After the match, the players raucously celebrated with PCSO Steve being mobbed on the pitch.
South Park had their day, and a decent windfall for the CoCo club but it was Met Police who would draw League One highflyers Crawley Town out of the hat the next day. The draw was somewhat bittersweet for Jonte Smith… pleasing to be in the first round but the striker is currently on loan from Crawley, and as such with loan deals, will not be able to play against his parent club – a real shame.
The full set of pictures from the match can be seen here.
Author – Stuart Tree