Now, who doesn’t like a high-scoring draw? It’s not a win – but you’ll get your money’s worth. Just like in this in FA Cup tie. The 1992-3 campaign ended up being our first in three that did not bring title success. As we know now, it was just a blip. But we did break new boundaries in the FA Cup; reaching the Third Qualifying Round for the first time. Well, second time. We did, of course, beat Burnham in our 1988-9 Second Qualifying Round tie – only to be thrown out for fielding an ineligible player. No such hard luck in 1992, though.
Unless being being against St Albans City counts as a stroke of misfortune?
Up until that point, we’d met the Saints four times. Each one had ended 2-1; once to us in the 1990-1 Herts Senior Cup and three times to them. In fact, we’d already played our Diadora League Premier Division match at Clarence Park by the time this cup clash came around. The 1992-3 season was the first that we’d competed as equals. But it was also a season in which they’d ultimately prove to be one of the league’s strongest sides. So, what did that mean for our cup hopes. Could we keep our promising run going even further?
Stevenage Borough 3-3 St Albans City
10 October 1992, FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
Our preparations for this match weren’t ideal. After beating Ruislip Manor in the previous round, we lost two on the spin in the league. Stalebuns came into the game with just two defeats so far that season; one in the Diadora League Cup and the other against Staines Town in their recent league outing. The point here is that neither of us were coming into this cup clash in fine fettle. And more than 1,500 turned up at Broadhall Way on the day. So, it’s not like there was any pressure on the two sides. Right?
As far as the game itself is concerned, the guests had the best of the first half. That’s, at least, what we’re taking from the video. But it’s rude to make yourself at home when you aren’t invited to. So, Steve Graham putting Boro’ one up on 43 minutes was a right treat. Now, pay attention as this is a common theme. With us going into the interval ahead, we somehow managed to let Steve Clark equalise from a corner bang on half time.
And here’s a useless fact for you. Clarkey was our Ed’s PE teacher at school. He’s also a legendary Snorbans goalscorer. He’s no Gitts, however.
Into the second half and we came out fighting; getting back in front three minutes in with the man himself, Gitts, scoring our second. As we suggested, there’s a common theme – and that theme is the Saints coming back strong after going behind. We held out for half an hour or so before Allan Cockram got the equaliser; Stalebuns arguably good for their leveller. And a scramble in front of the Boro’ goal nearly saw them go ahead.
With four minutes left, Boro’ grabbed the lead for the third time. Neil Trebble was the man of the moment and it looked as if we’d actually done it. The Fourth Qualifying Round draw had a ball with our number on it. But – oh no! Disaster! Our guests pushed back hard and got themselves a penalty at the death; Martin Duffield slotting past Richard Wilmot to earn a replay. It was in our grasp and we couldn’t hold onto it.
Stevenage Borough 3-3 St Albans City: Epilogue
Three days later, we were out of the FA Cup after a 2-1 defeat at Clarence Park. You can feel even more irritated if you see how Stalebuns progressed. They beat Telford United in the Fourth Qualifying Round, which may well have been a winnable game for us too. But they ballsed it up in the First Round; losing indoors to Cheltenham Town of the Southern League. The Robins finished second in the Southern League that term. Stalebuns came second in the Isthmian. For inter-Conference-feeder-league rivalry, it wasn’t good for us.
In the end, the Saints racked up 103 goals in the Diadora League Premier Division. But this didn’t count for that much; ending up five points shy of champions Chesham United. Neither the Generals – nor the Saints as back-up – could go up to the Conference as a result of their grounds not being up to scratch. One year on, it was us who were named champions. We did get let into the Conference, however. So, you can claim a win when you look at the bigger picture. You wouldn’t say no to holding onto that 3-2 win, though.