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Saturday was the biggest occasion in the history of Stourbridge FC when they played Walsall in the FA Cup. Last night, it was back to normal, as Dave Woodhall reports.

It was back to reality for Stourbridge on Tuesday as they entertained Evesham in the first round of the Worcestershire Senior Cup. The 2,000 + that had crammed into the War Memorial ground three days earlier were replaced by 150-odd regulars, bolstered by a couple of dozen away supporters on a cold, damp November evening.

All that remained of the historic FA Cup tie with Walsall was a line of portaloos waiting to be returned to their rightful owners and some fencing (“That could be useful. Let’s hope they’ve forgot about it” was the comment from one supporter) that had also been brought in for the biggest day in the club’s 133 year existence. And those newsworthy turnstiles, pressed into service for the first time in three decades, stood gleaming and ready for their next tour of duty.

As Stour understandably struggled to raise their game against a weakened Evesham side, there were plenty of rueful comments about the events of days past. There was appreciation of the sterling and largely unseen work done by volunteers who had turned up for days to ensure the game could go ahead, and of chairman Ian Pickering who, as usual, had forgone his seat in the directors box to stand on the terrace with the crowd.

There was talk of unofficial souvenir sellers with t-shirts proclaiming some unknown football club called Stourbridge Town, of the first recorded instance of touts being seen on the streets of Amblecote and of how a preliminary tour of the ground prior to the turnstiles being opened, to ascertain any unauthorised access points, had unveiled a gap in the fence from which it was reckoned a couple of supporters had been gaining entry for years.

It seemed there were no complaints about the way tickets were sold; just about anyone who deserved to watch the match had been able to do so.

The amount of police on duty raised a more than the odd eyebrow but the only real cause for complaint, and this was more an observation than the type of moaning non-league supporters do so well, was the peculiar nature of the event. “It wasn’t like a proper Stour match” was heard more than once.

Paul Smart, a behind-the-goal regular of many years standing, said of the casual fans, “They didn’t really know how to get behind the team.” And as one of the three stewards on duty remarked, “I forgot myself and started singing. I got a right dirty look from the Walsall stewards.”

But the extras in the crowd helped boost the Stourbridge coffers, and while no-one is expecting them all to become regulars, an extra 30 or so added to the average gate for the rest of the season could help the club maintain the Southern League premier division status they have fought so hard to achieve.

Stour played well enough in the second half to win the tie against Evesham with a 52nd minute goal from Leon Broadhurst, which puts them into the semi-finals. A clash with neighbours Halesowen or Kidderminster would see another decent gate. As I left the ground I spoke to club secretary, Nick Pratt, who was open enough to admit

“Yes, we did make a bit of money from the Walsall game. But it’s how we use it that’s the main thing. It won’t last for ever.”

Maybe the most profound comment of the night came from another of the regulars. “It was alright for a one-off and the money will come in handy. But segregation, not being able to have a drink and not being able to talk to the other team’s fans. If I wanted that I could watch the Albion."



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