On Saturday, we were dumped out of the FA Cup by South Shields, 3-0, a side who are two divisions below ourselves.
Even before the game had finished the inquest had started and myself along with a huge number of fans vented their frustration on Twitter. A few days later and it doesn’t feel much better.
Fundraising has been the heartbeat of finances for the club over the last five years and apart from funds raised directly from the fans, income has been hard to come by. Ultimately it ends up being the same fans having to go back to their pockets time and time again.
I like us being fan owned, but going forward I think investment has to happen, over a period longer than a few years, the same fans cannot keep stumping up time and time again. How does this link to Saturday? Prize money. The money for winning one round of FA Cup qualifying or in the FA trophy is not particularly huge, but, it can make a big difference.
It is the potential as well, not just this round, but future rounds. Even if it is a long shot the opportunity of winning three ties and having a game live on BBC would provide funding that the fans simply don’t have. A run in the FA Cup can also provide much needed publicity to promote us for potential sponsors and fans.
Considering how important the prize money is to have another year without any is beyond disappointing. In the last four seasons, we have won one FA Cup tie. Losing to Blyth I could accept given at the time they were a division higher than ourselves, but Hyde who were in the same division and Lancaster/South Shields both two divisions below is hard to take.
The performance itself was like many this season, dissapointing. Despite investment did South Shields have better players than us? No, I think on paper only two or three would get into our team, Arca being one.
Once again there was too many players who had an off day all. In goal for Shields was Jack Norton a player who we deemed not good enough for us in the Northern League, due to several clangers, yet we didn’t test him. They also had Anthony Callaghan at left back, who had played six games for us two seasons ago in the Evo-Stik Premier, again he was released and again we barely tested him. Steven Thompson had a couple of runs at him in the second half, but he also was untroubled.
As bad as the first half performance was, the score could easily have been different at half time. We missed a couple of golden opportunities through Dave Syers and James Caton. At the other end while both were well worked goals, both were simple errors from our defenders. Their first goal a Shields player lost Kev Burgess too easily to flick it on and the second Liam Marrs went in for a tackle he never should have gone for leaving their left winger completely open.
If the first half was bad the second was much worse, it was similar to the Leamington match where we didn’t seem to know how to break through, or even create a sight of goal. The difference was South Shields had the extra quality that Leamington did not and carved us open at will on the break, it could have easily finished 6/7.
Within the squad, we have several players that have come up with us from lower levels of the pyramid, but simply are now out of their depth.
Others fall into the luxury player category, when they are good they can produce moments of brilliance, but these are not coming often enough considering how much they are bringing to the table as a whole.
Not everyone falls into one of these two categories, but a large chunk of the squad do. I actually felt sorry for Beck on Saturday, I’m not always his biggest fan, but in the first half he held the ball up well and I don’t think he should be the scapegoat. He looks like he needs a couple of games rest, he wasn’t fully fit before the season started and has since played virtually every minute.
The final straw for me was Gray’s interview, yes he did take some responsibility for the defeat. However, the main point he had was that we need further investment to compete. While I do agree to some extent, I think investment first needs to be off the field on the infrastructure of the club and Blackwell Meadows rather than the team. Budget wise we may not be able to compete with Salford, York and Harrogate etc, but we certainly have a bigger budget than a lot of sides in our division. Gray needs to manage the players he has including the ones he has chosen to bring in rather than asking for more money.
It is far from the season over, we are two points off from the playoffs, but since 1996 I have been going to watch us and Saturday was one of the most dissappointed I felt leaving the ground.
Finally, though it was sad to see that Wayne Raper has stepped down from his position as chair of DFCSG. Wayne has done a fantastic job with only ever with the club’s interests at heart in very difficult circumstances and it is sad to see him go. Hopefully, someone else is able to step up and carry on the great work he has done. However, it is hard not to see the coming weeks and months as challenging for everyone involved with the club.