By ‘Blue tinted specs’
It’s not often a non-league club gets to play at White Hart Lane, is it? Well, yes, actually, as we’re not talking about *that* stadium.
Haringey Borough play at the western end of this famous highway, about two miles from their Premier League neighbours. Coles Park is slightly less palatial than the new Spurs stadium – for a start bar staff have to pour pints themselves rather than them magically refilling on their own – but it was the setting for Margate’s semi-final in the Velocity Trophy, which is the league cup competition of the Isthmian League. The prize was a spot in the final to be held at Aveley’s ground in Essex on 13 April.
The two teams had met at Hartsdown Park in a league fixture three days earlier. A Margate team, missing several first-choice players due to injury and suspension, and with four teenagers in the starting XI, beat a similarly depleted Haringey team 3-1.
So the large contingent of Margate supporters were full of expectation as they arrived at Coles Park.
Before I describe the match itself can we please have a minute’s silence for the fact our opponents defeated Cheshunt in the previous round. Not because I have any warm feelings for Cheshunt, but for the fact they have a player called Isaac Newton. So many puns that I wasn’t able to use for this article.
Margate started the game in determined mood, maybe sensing an early goal would break their opponents’ resistance. But Haringey battled hard and clear-cut chances for the away side, despite dominating possession, proved elusive.
VAR is thankfully not a thing at this level of the game but there was a real ‘VAR moment’ after half an hour when a chipped cross/shot from Margate defender Joe Anderson floated over the keeper into the far corner of the goal.
The away fans cheered but the linesman intervened. Offside seemed to be the decision. 0-0 at half-time and the disallowed goal was the main talking point.
It is always a worry to me when a team dominates a half of football but has no goals to show for it. It was imperative, therefore, that Margate scored early in the second period.
We got closer and closer after the restart. Most notably in a crazy goalmouth scramble where Margate hit the woodwork and the ball was somehow kept out of the net by the frenzied efforts of Haringey players. There was no questioning the commitment from both sides here.
Finally – hallelujah – a goal came on the hour mark. It was another ‘VAR moment’ with Margate awarded a penalty that the hosts seemed unconvinced by. No matter, Margate’s dead ball expert Ben Greenhalgh stepped up to clip the ball to the keeper’s left, 1-0! Phew!
Little did we know that the drama was only just beginning. A few minutes later, Haringey’s Adam Morgan sprinted clear of Margate’s back line, rounded keeper Ben Bridle-Card and scored. Game very much back on.
Margate, undeterred, bounced back within five minutes, Sam Blackman slotting home in the box.
Jubilation among the away fans. That would be it, surely? No. The lead lasted just seven minutes; a Haringey corner was met with a bullet header by Scott Mitchell – 2-2, a dreaded penalty shoot-out loomed (no extra time in this competition).
One of the features of this Margate team is the number of young players who have made their mark once given the opportunity. Among those is Benas Vaivada, signed earlier this season from Tower Hamlets FC.
It was he who settled this contest in the 79th minute – a minute after Haringey had levelled. Played in by Sam Blackman, he coolly finished to spark wild celebrations behind the goal.
Haringey, of course, roused themselves once again in the search for a third equaliser. But resolute Margate defending from some late corners and some smart work by Bridle-Card was enough to see Margate over the line. A great contest from beginning to end.
So, in the words of the song ‘we’re on our way to Aveley’ for the final against Horsham on Wednesday 13 April.