In the second round

Well, sort of.

Ah, the Magic of the Cup™. Images of plucky non league sides having the game of their lives against the big boys of League football. Honest endeavour, wonder strikes, heroes, villains and the time of the season where legends are born.

Then there’s games like Dons 1 Dons 1.

Actually, that’s a tad harsh. It wasn’t that bad a contest, considering how many of our players were missing. Nine, I believe. Not to mention the utterly foul weather that was only matched by last season’s grimfest at Harringey.

If this was a league fixture, I think I would have been content enough with the point, though a bit disappointed we didn’t hold onto the lead. As it’s the FAC, and as the headline suggests, we’ve still got an interest in Monday’s draw.

Plenty of others can’t say that right now. Franchise, for example.

Had we gone out today, I would have been more than a bit miffed. On the flip side, I don’t think we did quite enough to avoid the replay by winning.

We needed that second goal, played with enough attacking intent to get it but never quite got there in the end. I’d like to see their equaliser again, mind you…

So, what? Well, this was your editor’s fourth game of the season and for once we didn’t manage to lose in the 95th minute.

This was my first fixture attended since Walter’s last one, against Brizzle Rovers, and I think we’ve got more of an attacking prowess about us now. At the very least today, we did try for the winner.

It didn’t come, and the lack of quality where we need it most was blindingly obvious. Forss getting pulled today because Brentford don’t want him cup-tied** could be ominous…

** – I haven’t been back to Griffin Park for a couple of months, so don’t know what their latest thinking is, but there’s always a caveat with loanees that they can return to their parent club.

We do need Piggy to find the net again, and to be fair that’s exactly what he did. He’s gone off the boil this season, and there’s long been a danger he could become a one-season wonder.

Appiah we all know about, but he did force their keeper to make a good save.

I don’t think anyone played badly, in truth. Obviously, we’re not a good side, although I was impressed in how we got stuck in on more than the odd occasion.

Whether us recalling the youngsters then not putting them on was a good move or not, we’ll never know. It was probably the wrong type of game to give them a run out, though, and I think they were there so we could fill the bench rather than actually play them.

And no, I won’t miss anyone of this squad who leaves in the summer (or January).

But we’ve got a second bite of the proverbial cherry, and I’m not going to be too upset by that. Yes, it’s another game but I’d rather have a replay than a loss.

Which is how we’ve got to treat it. When we go to the Keepmoat, I expect we’ll have a few more bodies back, and if we can get that win…

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Still in the cup. Piggy scoring. Looking for the win throughout the game.

Minus points: We didn’t win. Their goal. Not finding a second strike.

The referee’s a…: Was OK up until about 75 minutes, then perhaps he started malfunctioning in the downpour. Then I remembered it was Darren Drysdale…

Them: Will be happy enough with the replay, I guess. Doncaster might have finally stopped being a newly formed coastal town by then.

Don’t think they did enough to win it either, although thank fuck that Trott did have a couple of good moments.

Liked to fall over a little bit, it had to be said. As they liked to rise en masse from the bench when one of their players got tacked…

Point to ponder: Do the players know they’re now under a lot more scrutiny?

There was plenty of putting the foot in (no, not dodgy tackling), and dare I say it a bit more application that I’ve seen in other games this campaign.

Sure, there were a few playing to keep their spot having been previously frozen out (McLaughlin for instance), but one wonders if the squad know the spotlight is back on them.

Some were here for the departure of Ardley, which was round about this time last year. We all know about the recent managerial departure, which likely came in part because Walter couldn’t get much out of them any more.

With a third permanent manager in the space of twelve months for more than a couple, and one where the boss and his assistant prefers a more attacking approach, they’ve run out of excuses.

I don’t know who’s out of contract at the end of this season, but I would guess many of them are. And collectively, how many of them can you say you’d truly miss?

Anyone in that boat isn’t likely to go out on loan this January, unless we find a mug or two (and of course if we can find replacements). And if we go down, they’ll be struggling to find a team next season.

It’s apparently true that a few senior players went to the powers-that-be to voice their concerns about Walter. Next time, they probably won’t get an audience so willing to listen…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The weather. Almost as bad as the traffic coming back. 2) The applause when there was supposed to be the minute’s silence. It looked like that kind of day.

Anything else? Whilst stuck in my car with the rain pouring down, it’s strange to think this could be the last FA Cup tie I ever watch at KM.

I’m not going to be particularly reminiscent of the place we’ve called home since 2002, although there’s undeniably been some good moments there. But I was thinking more of how I’ll be able to get on a train at Haydons Road and alight at South Merton fifteen minutes later.

I know the traffic after NPL games might not be too good, but at least you can go in the direction of Tooting, Earlsfield/Wandsworth, South Wimbledon and Wimbledon itself afterwards.

Indeed, we might be pleasantly surprised with access to/from our new home, especially given the hysteria of some of the NIMBYs previously.

Because it’s times like today that remind you how awful KM is to get to as well as being at the venue.

Admittedly, I don’t go to too many “home” games these days, so maybe I’m a little more sensitive to the whole matchday experience in KT1, but today I found myself wondering what this game would have been like next year at NPL.

More precisely, what it would have felt like meeting in a decent bar area beforehand, before watching the game in something that resembles a Football League stadium.

It might not have made the game better, or made us somehow score that second elusive goal, but today re-confirmed how badly we need to literally move on.

Today was a crowd of around 2700 and it was just about suitable. Didn’t stop the queues at the back bar stretching out of the door even at half time, or make the views on the Chemflow better though.

Maybe it’s me just being impatient about this (bar a disaster) final full season here, but I don’t think I’m alone thinking that. Especially considering at least one person I know has given up home games and is just waiting for 2020/21.

And there’s not much anyone can do about that now, bar lumping it for this season and find out if the Chinese whispers about a groundshare if NPL isn’t open on time are true.

Maybe as the day we move out becomes closer there will be a more demob-happy attitude towards being there. It’s served its purpose and it’s probably unfair that I’m continuing to hate on it.

And if one of our last acts at KM becomes relegating Franchise…

So, was it worth it? We live to fight another day.

In a nutshell: The FA Cup is supposed to be magic, right?