The Gore and Burnham FC logo

The Gore, Burnham

Burnham FC vs. Tiverton Town FC
The Emirates FA Cup 1st Round Qualifying

The (Emirates) FA Cup. The world's oldest football competition, sponsored by the world's fourth largest airline. Known all around the world as a nine month romantic feast of cupsets, giant killings and god-awful replays. Where 736 teams all have eyes on lifting the historic cup at Wembley.

Sign outside The Gore, Burnham
They really make you work to find out who they're playing. The website also doesn't have the fixtures on it...

As football fans, we all like to think our team has a shot, even if we know that Arsenal or Chelsea are pretty much going to win the competition anyway. I'm still convinced Reading had a real shot at winning the 2015 FA Cup were it not for the buttered gloves of Adam Federici. But ah well.

Grammatically incorrect sign at The Gore in Burnham

So here I was at the third hurdle of this season's competition, still a million rounds away from the big boys (and Reading) joining. The latest stop on my journey led me to the fantastically named 'The Gore', presumably not named after everyone's favourite environmental activist, in Burnham, which I didn't even realise wasn't in Berkshire. We're off to a good start here.

A quick glance at Wikipedia (since people have pointed I have shown an ability to be able to read Wikipedia) showed me that everyone's favourite sports owner, Mike Ashley, grew up here, as did patient zero of why we have 30,000 seasons of The Simpsons, Tracey Ullman. So there we go.

Kick-off before Burnham vs. Tiverton Town
Obligatory kick-off photograph.

Burnham and Tiverton Town fans are slightly more realistic. I'm sure they don't dream of a day out at Wembley (at least in this competition anyway), but instead of getting far enough to see their side have the chance of being beaten by Arsenal and Chelsea. Progress through the competition will also stave off the threat of death for a few more years, at least.

I picked this fixture because there was a big gulf between the two teams on paper and this is what the competition is about. Tiverton Town, at the top of the Southern Premier Division South (in case you weren't sure what region that league covered), playing Burnham, basement dwellers of the Hellenic League Premier Division, two levels below.

A contested header between Burnham and Tiverton Town
Two players leap for the honour of seeing who can head the ball into the car park behind the goal.

Big boys playing the little boys happens even in all non league ties. As Burnham had already knocked out a team in the league above in the previous round, I smelled upset. The short drive up the M4 may also have had something to do with the choice too.

Some of my favourite memories as an attending sports fan have come in upsets during cup competitions. There was Reading knocking out Matt Le Tissier's Southampton in the 3rd Round of The FA Cup in 1997. I was there when Reading beat West Ham United on penalties in the League Cup back in September 2001, on a day memorable for literally nothing else important happening in the world. And of course there was the cup run to the semi-finals, where I attended none of the games except said semi-final. Glory hunter.

River Allen scores a penalty for Tiverton Town
Burnham took the lead. All set for a cupset, until they gave away a penalty. Nevermind.

Admittedly, I wasn't really expecting anything out of this game. I just wanted a close game and some drama. Plus the ground is pretty nice for a Hellenic League ground, so I was more than happy to go back.

What I always love about sports, especially football in this country, is that you can always guarantee there's at least some group of fans who will follow their team everywhere. And the West Country accents I heard hinted that there were either away fans in attendance, or I'd stumbled into an Ambrosia commercial.

Looking towards the main stand at The Gore in Burnham
Looking on towards the main stand, which is a lot nicer than many stands at league grounds.

For much of the day they were to be disappointed. Burnham, a team that was in total free fall last time I was here and now made up of teenagers, were the much better side. When they retook the lead in the second half, I was starting to really get behind the idea of an upset.

But hope is a cruel mistress in any sport. Just when you start to believe in the impossible, things start to go wrong in such a, usually spectacular, way (I've barely got over the 1995 Division 1 playoff final or Green Bay Packers's spectacular and incredibly predictable meltdown in the 2014 NFC Championship Game).

Covered stand at The Gore in Burnham
The covered terrace offer views of nothing but the back of the visitor's dugout.

And so it would be the case for Burnham. Two quick goals towards the end ensured that the away fans could enjoy their two and a half hour drive home and not think it was a complete waste of time coming all that way.

It was really not helped by Burnham's keeper being more indecisive than I am, when choosing somewhere to go on holiday, and pretty much punching the ball into his own goal for the equaliser. Who doesn't want to lose a game in the cruellest way possible? That was the difference between losing or having a plum 2nd Round Qualifying tie at home to Bristol Manor Farm. Oh.

Useless information about The Gore

Address: Wymers Wood Road, Burnham, Buckinghamshire, SL1 8JG
Capacity: 2,500
Pitch Type: Grass
Ticket Price: £8
Programme: £2, 20 pages