This match was a first for me. A second qualifying round FA Cup tie involving two non league teams, which the BBC had chosen to broadcast live.
Walton & Hersham FC play at the Elmbridge Excel Sports Hub, a £20 million complex which was opened in 2017, after the club moved from their previous Stompond Lane ground. The stadium has an impressive grandstand and high quality facilities. There was a huge crowd in for the game today, of 1020, for this televised FA Cup-tie, between two attack minded and ambitious clubs.
As regular readers of this blog, will know, over the past two years, I have been a regular visitor to the Bauvill Stadium, home of Chatham Town. Chatham were promoted to the Isthmian League (South East) for the start of the 2022/23 season and have made a positive start, sitting in fourth place after four games, with three wins and one defeat thus far. Jack Evans has top scored for Chatham with five goals this season. Chatham made this round after wins away at Little Common (1-2), Colliers Wood United (0-2) and Midgurst & Easebourne (0-6).
Walton and Hersham sit in an identical place in the Isthmian South Central League, also with three wins and a defeat from four games. Max Blackmore has top scored for Walton & Hersham with six goals thus far this season. Walton & Hersham progressed by beating Kennington 0-4 away, Littlehampton Town, 3-2 and away 0-1 at Beaconsfield Town. Some readers will remember Walton & Hersham famously reaching the 2nd round of the FA Cup back in 1973-74.
The game opened with Walton & Hersham in the ascendency. Their passing play was short and fast and the Chatham Town midfield seems to find it hard to retain the ball when they were able to reclaim it. In the 17th minute Jordan Adeyemi pounced upon the ball and fired the home side 1-0 ahead.
Chatham Town’s players seemed at a loss and the domination of the midfield by Walton & Hersham continued, so it was no surprise when just seven minutes later, in the 24th minute, the home team went into a 2-0 lead when Arsen Ujkaj found himself with space in Chatham’s area and was able to place the ball into the net.
A 2-0 lead in a cup tie, early on in the game, can sometimes be a curse and so it proved today. The second goal seemed to kickstart Kevin Hake’s Chatham Town side and Evans, Ogunseye and Oloyede all seemed to find their touch and began to create good chances. Bradshaw found space too and the pressure really built from nowhere onto the home team’s defence.
In the 42nd minute, just as Walton & Hersham’s manager Scott Harris, was hoping his side would go into the break with a two goal cushion, Chatham Town’s Jack Evans found himself free, in front of goal. Evans neatly half-volleyed the ball home, to put the scores back to 2-1 at the break.
After the interval, the game was controlled by Chatham Town. The equaliser felt inevitable and the loud and loyal Chatham following behind the goal were sent into rapture, on 77 minutes, when Fabio Saraiva acrobatically headed the ball home, to tie the scores at 2-2.
The game still had surprises with Chatham Town’s Emmanuel Oloyede missing an open goal and Walton & Hersham having a clear cut chance blocked, on the goal line. However at full time the scores remained locked at 2-2, requiring the teams to replay again at Chatham’s Bauvill Stadium on Tuesday night.