The magic of the FA cup is still alive for non-league clubs

Great Yarmouth fans celebrate a goal at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DE

Great Yarmouth fans celebrate a goal at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

The sense of excitement was palpable as fans leant against metal barriers, mugs of tea in hand, at the historic Wellesley ground.

The FA cup trophy during the Emirates FA Cup first round match at Silverlake Stadium, Eastleigh.

The FA cup trophy during the Emirates FA Cup first round match at Silverlake Stadium, Eastleigh. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Great Yarmouth Town's home boasts the world's oldest continuously-used stand in football, making it a fitting venue to watch the earliest stage of the world's oldest knockout competition.

More than 170 people turned out on Saturday afternoon to watch the FA Cup extra preliminary round fixture between Yarmouth Town and Diss Town.

According to a Bloaters club official, this was nearly twice last season's average of around 100.

Those in the crowd, young and old, club stalwarts and casual observers, mixed, mingled and moaned about the brooding black clouds, with some sharing a polystyrene bowl of chips.

Nita and Trevor Girling who dished out the tea at half time and after the FA cup game between Great

Nita and Trevor Girling who dished out the tea at half time and after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

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Tea is served in an eclectic mix of colourful mugs by Trevor and Nita Girling, who have run the Wellesley's Tea Hut for eight years and have never missed a game in that time.

It is that loyalty from supporters of the beautiful game that helps gives this old trophy its gleam.

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Shortly after the referee blew the whistle to start the game, Yarmouth newcomer, and eventual man of the match, Aaron Sanders scored an early third minute goal.

Eddie Hanton, who has been watching Great Yarmouth play since 1947, stays in the dry of the Tea Hut

Eddie Hanton, who has been watching Great Yarmouth play since 1947, stays in the dry of the Tea Hut as he watches the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

A cheering spectator turned to his friend with, perhaps, a sense of irony, saying 'Wembley here we come.'

But it is that romantic notion that makes the FA cup still one of the most sought after and thrilling prizes in English football.

The annual tournament began in 1871 and has thrown up countless surprises over the years.

Even just last year, against all the odds non-league Sutton United knocked out Leeds United, a club 83 places above them, in a fourth round qualifier.

John Mason, a big Yarmouth fan, at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise

John Mason, a big Yarmouth fan, at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

This led to the eventual champions Arsenal playing Sutton at their home. The Gunners had a change of scene to compared to the Emirates when they got ready in the tiny dressing room of the Conference level club.

Smaller teams sometimes achieve a giant-killing victory but only one non-league club has ever gone on to win.

So for clubs in the lower leagues, even getting to the first round is an incredible achievement.

There is some history in this for the Bloaters, who reached the second round proper in the 1953-54 season, after a famous first-round victory over Crystal Palace.

Great Yarmouth fans at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Great Yarmouth fans at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Bloaters president, Arthur Fisk, said the FA cup always provides at least a little bit of magic.

He added: 'There's something mystical about it because of Wembley, but you're lucky to progress. The furthest we've got was back in '54. So if we could do that again that would be lovely.'

The secretary of Diss FC, Steve Flatman agreed with his challengers' sentiments, adding: 'It's still the best competition that the FA runs, forget what the Premier League says.

'We all dare to dream but know full well at the end of the day that the furthest we would get would be the first or second round.'

Nuno Nogueira was involved in Diss Town's equaliser. Picture: Denise Bradley

Nuno Nogueira was involved in Diss Town's equaliser. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Last season the Bloaters finished fifth in the Premier Division of the Thurlow Nunn League, while Diss were sixth in Division One. In both club's first competitive game of the season, the Tangerines were hoping for their own giant killing.

Despite the forecast for rain, fans still sat outside the stand to be closer to the action.

Sanders made it a debut to remember scoring his second goal 15 minutes in, before the heavens opened and only the hardiest shunned the shelter of the stand.

By half-time the visitors looked worried after a goal from Haydn Davis in the 34th minute left the score at 3-0. The torrential downpour had turned to a persistent drizzle and fans poured out for another brew, while officials went round selling raffle tickets for £1 a strip.

Great Yarmouth's big moment in the cup, when they beat Crystal Palace in the first round in 1953. P

Great Yarmouth's big moment in the cup, when they beat Crystal Palace in the first round in 1953. Picture: Great Yarmouth Town FC - Credit: Great Yarmouth Town FC

For one family, holidaymakers from the North East, the drama of this earliest of FA cup fixtures brought them to the game, while they kept an eye on their home team on their mobiles.

Steward and fan John Mason stood dutifully by the stand's wooden gate, propping it open with his cane for the stragglers after half time, while keeping his eye on what was turning into quite the game for his side.

Joel Glover, another debutant for the Bloaters, scored in the 67th minute and after getting past two defenders, Kyle Gallant fired a cross that was turned into an own goal by a Diss defender in 83rd minute.

The sun was out as the ref blew the final whistle, and despite a 5-0 result, the reverie of the 146-year-old contest won the day.

Spectators enjoy a cuppa while watching the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: De

Spectators enjoy a cuppa while watching the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Memorable FA cup upsets

There have been plenty of FA cup upsets over the years.

Great Yarmouth football club president, Arthur Fisk, after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth an

Great Yarmouth football club president, Arthur Fisk, after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

• Sutton Utd 2-1 Coventry City (1989) - the South London side certainly have form when it comes to giant killing, with victory over Coventry in the third round of the FA Cup considered one of the most famous upsets in the competition's history, with the Sky Blues having won the FA Cup just 19 months before.

• Wrexham 2-1 Arsenal (1992) - Arsenal were First Division champions at the time while Wrexham were battling to avoid relegation to the Fourth Division.

• Bournemouth 2-0 Manchester United (1984) - FA Cup holders Manchester United, with a star-studded lineup including England captain Bryan Robson were unable to prevent a humiliating exit at the hands of a young Harry Redknapp's Third Division Bournemouth.

• Chelsea 2-4 Bradford (2015) - Coming back from 2-0 down against Premier League topping Chelsea, Third Division Bradford City beat a team 49 places above them.

Steve Flatman, secretary of Diss Town Football Club, after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth an

Steve Flatman, secretary of Diss Town Football Club, after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Great Yarmouth Town joint bosses Adam Mason and Martyn Sinclair are determined to build on an impres

Great Yarmouth Town joint bosses Adam Mason and Martyn Sinclair are determined to build on an impressive 2016/17 campaign. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth football club staff enjoy the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. From left,

Great Yarmouth football club staff enjoy the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. From left, Alan Smith, coach co-ordinator; John Lewsley, secretary and treasurer; and Paul Hubbard, fixture secretary. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Diss manager, Jason Cook, right, and assistant manager, Justin King at the FA cup game between Great

Diss manager, Jason Cook, right, and assistant manager, Justin King at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Fans at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Fans at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Clearing up after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Clearing up after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Clearing up after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Clearing up after the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Great Yarmouth joint managers, Adam Mason, front, and Martyn Sinclair, at the FA cup game between Gr

Great Yarmouth joint managers, Adam Mason, front, and Martyn Sinclair, at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Great Yarmouth joint managers, Adam Mason, front, and Martyn Sinclair, will need to lift their playe

Great Yarmouth joint managers, Adam Mason, front, and Martyn Sinclair, will need to lift their players for a big cup game after a disappointing midweek defeat. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Diss Town manager, Jason Cook, at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise B

Diss Town manager, Jason Cook, at the FA cup game between Great Yarmouth and Diss. PICTURE: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Diss Town manager Jason Cook, right, and assistant Justin King have only lost one of their opening

Diss Town manager Jason Cook, right, and assistant Justin King have only lost one of their opening four league games. PICTURE: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

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