Ground #: 124
Ground: Wembley Stadium
Competition: FA Vase Final
Kick Off: 3pm
Dunston UTS 2
Bulford 32’, 79’
West Auckland Town 0
234 days previously, mine and 539 other clubs had started their Vase journey. While I was less than 20 miles away at Croydon, I was always intending to finish the journey where the last two clubs would as well, at the National Stadium, Wembley. 537 clubs had been vanquished, hammered or even just pulled out, but now only two remained, two from just about as far away as you could get as it was a Northern League special for the 2012 FA Vase Final.
There isn’t really much to say about Wembley Stadium that isn’t available on other sites across t’web. A grand structure that holds 90,000 and since it’s opening in 2007 has not only hosted football but rugby league, American “football” and some sing-a-long concerts. Easy to get to thanks to the fantastic transport available in London (*wink*), it has been a venue I’ve wanted to see a game at for some time. Had I attended every Vase game this season on my journey (I only got to 5 out of the 12 games before this) I would have racked up a nice 1,939 miles before the final taking in such delights as Southend, Church Gresley, St Ives and even Staveley. In the end, it was Northern League boys Dunston UTS who were “my boys” for the game after their Semi-Final win over Staveley Miners Welfare.
When I saw Dunston last for the first leg of their Semi-Final, they still had a good chance of winning the Northern League and gaining promotion to the Evo-Stik. However, their backlog of fixtures late in the season meant that they lost out on the Northern League title to Spennymoor Town as Dunston came 3rd and their promotion hopes gone. Their opponents from way up North East were West Auckland Town, where I will get round to visiting one day at their Darlington Road ground. Their Semi-Final win over Herne Bay had prompted fears about this all Northern game being played in front of one man and his canny dog, but both teams had brought some coaches down and I met up with Andy H (Gannin’ Away), James W (Football Ramblings) who had come down from the NE as well as Damon T (The Real FA Cup) who were all in the Dunston end for the game. What should have been a normal pre-drinking session beforehand turned quite bizarre as fighting between the sets of the fans at The Green Man meant the four of us had to drink at a Social Club near Wembley. No drama there but the smoking “area” we ended up drinking in what felt like a drug den but the pint was not bad.
As for Wembley itself, there are some good points (and bad). The seating is really good and the sightlines I had were excellent as I’m sure they would be throughout the stadium. The leg room is also good as I am fed up of my long legs getting caught sat in some shite new build or in temporary seating so the space for them was excellent. The bad points are you need a mortgage to afford anything here, with a programme priced at £4 (which was scandalous considering the content), pints at £4.70 and some some meal “deals” starting at £9, good luck if you are hungry and/or thirsty here. Don’t know if they accept cheques. The game build up was good though as just over 5,000 (4,000 more than expected by some) were in attendance and mainly in good spirits. Dunston had brought more (I’ll avoid a “bigger club” comment) fans and it was great to hear so many Geordie (I can call them that?) accents around.
I’ve still not seen a Northern League fixture and only Dunston once before (when they played quite poorly) so I know both sides can perform better. West Auckland did start well however as Michael Rae fired over the bar from outside the area with just 10 seconds played. WA carried on the good spell by having lots of possession but didn’t really produce anything outstanding as Mattie Moffat, Rae and Stuart Banks all had chances that went wide. I was interested to see how their defence would cope the first time under pressure and on 20 minutes we found out – not well. A Steven Shaw free kick for Dunston was whipped in and Michael Dixon headed off the bar completely unchallenged. Chris Swailes hammered in the rebound but was called offside. On 27 minutes, WA countered following a good Dunston move and Moffat broke clear in the box only to be denied by a fantastic save from Liam Connell. While the game was now getting slightly better, WA let themselves down on 31 minutes by completely falling asleep. A long ball from Connell caught out the whole WA defence and goal machine Andrew Bulford lobbed Mark Bell from outside the area to give UTS the lead. West Auckland did huff and puff before HT but never fully troubled Connell again.
West Auckland came out for the 2nd half and again they dominated in possession but rarely created any chances of note. They thought they had equalized on 52 minutes when Moffat poked home from close range but was called offside. Mark Hudson and Martin Young both had 2nd half chances as well but the rock solid Dunston defence cleared up both times. With that, it looked like WA seemed to lose confidence to get back into the game as the final spells were all Dunston. They hit the bar twice in 5 minutes as Bulford hammered a shot from 20 yards out and Stephen Goddard lobbed Bell only to see both shots come back. Dunston were going to get their 2nd however and they killed the game off on 79 minutes when a long ball into the box didn’t have time to be cleared as Bulford again hammered home to ensure the FA Vase would be heading to the UTS Stadium. The last 10 minutes were a non event as Dunston controlled the game and ran down time to win their 1st ever FA Vase.
A massive well done to Dunston! It was good to see the club enjoy their big day out and who knows, it may be the start of many great successes? As for West Auckland, they didn’t really show up and deserved to lose but their 2nd place in the Northern League shows the signs of a good team and reasonable season. On a personal level, I fully enjoyed the FA Vase run this season, going to some excellent and some not so excellent places! The cup ties (especially in the National stage) were really tense and enjoyable so I will be repeating this Road next season. I really can’t wait for the early rounds to be released for 2012/13 and I will try to have a better attendance record than the 46.1% I achieved this season.
And that is that. 2011/12 over. A season I really didn’t know what to expect as I started a whole new life essentially with my job in London. I’ll do the normal stats posts in the next few weeks once these blasted exams are out of the way! From sitting in the sun at Truro to sitting in the sun at Wembley, some 38 great, ok and damn right dreadful games of football have been seen. Lets aim for more next time out! Have a great summer.
- Match: 6/10 (fairly average for the neutral)
- Value for money: 5/10 (probably the most I would pay before really questioning it)
- Ground: 6.5/10 (not bad, didn’t go “wow” when I walked in however)
- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good noise from the 5,000)
- Food: N/A – please.
- Programme: 2/10 (content not bad but £4 is a piss take)
- Referee: Roger East – 7/10 (not a lot to do, got on with it fine)
ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2011/2012:
FINAL: Dunston UTS 2-0 West Auckland Town (Wembley Stadium, Att: 5,126)