The inhabitants of Arlesey reckon they live in the longest village in Britain and that will remain its rather peculiar claim to fame after their footballers failed to deliver an FA Cup upset against Coventry City.
Admittedly this team is not the Coventry that fell victim to one of the great Cup giantkilling feats when, as a top-flight side and Wembley winners only 20 months earlier, they lost to non-league Sutton United in the third round in 1989. Today's City, by contrast, sit 21st in League One but it was still a big day for their visitors from the Evo-Stick Southern League Premier Division, four tiers below – "the biggest game in the club's history" in the words of their player-manager Zema Abbey.
The Bedfordshire team brought four coachloads of travelling fans – considerably more than the 100 who had watched their last fixture – but they saw their team's first-ever encounter with league opponents end in a 3-0 defeat.
All the same, for Abbey, once a striker at Norwich City who combines his role with running a clothes shop in Luton, there was pride in the performance of his part-timers. "We showed bravery as a side, we showed that step-three football isn't a bad level," said Abbey, a late substitute. "Their finishing was the difference between the sides. We had a number of openings but didn't make the keeper make a save."
The closest Arlesey came was early on when Chris Marsh lifted a shot on to the roof of the net with goalkeeper Joe Murphy beaten. At that stage there were boos echoing around the Ricoh Arena as home passes went astray but Coventry stirred and Calum Ball gave them a 28th-minute lead after being put through by Franck Moussa.
Marsh went close again early in the second half but Coventry ensured there would be no surprise when marauding full-back Cyrus Christie cut in from the right and sent a low left-foot shot past Nathan Abbey – brother of the manager, his assistant coach and still a decent keeper on this showing. With the game now wide open, Jamie Reckford and Moussa each hit the bar before Steve Jennings bundled in a late third.
"Sorry to disappoint you," quipped Coventry manager Mark Robins afterwards. He knows all about this competition having won it with Manchester United in 1990 and it was hard to disagree with his verdict: "It wasn't so handsome to watch in the first half, [but] better in the second."
Coventry City (4-4-1-1): Murphy; Christie, Clarke, Edjenguele, Reckord (Willis, 72); Baker, Moussa, Jennings, Fleck; McSheffrey (McDonald, 55); Ball (O'Donovan, 78).
Arlesey Town (4-4-2): Abbey; Thurlbourne, Frater, Blackett, Davis (Patrick, 87); Goss, Hatch, Farrell (Abbey, 78), Marsh (Prosper, 55); Roberts, Dillon.
Referee Kevin Wright.
Man of the match Christie (Coventry).
Match rating 5/10.
Attendance 6,594.Reuse content