The sign outside the pub coming into Accrington ignored the fact that this game was not on television. "Enjoy yourself before, during and after the match," it read, but then when were details allowed to get in the way of FA Cup legend?
Certainly not at Accrington Stanley, the Conference club whose name alone ensures the magic of the Cup cannot be entirely discounted. They will be in tomorrow's fourth-round draw, too, having held Second Division Colchester to a scoreless draw.
And they did enjoy themselves. The current incarnation of the club who went out of existence in 1962 did not just cling on to their more illustrious opponents but gave them a thorough scare. Accrington hit the bar and in stoppage-time they were denied only by Simon Brown's point-blank save from Paul Cook's header.
"We're disappointed," said the Accrington manager, John Coleman. "Their goalkeeper made some wonderful saves, including one in injury-time. One day they go in and we're all heroes, but we live to fight another day."
That day is a week on Tuesday and Coleman would be more than happy if the conditions for the replay mirror yesterday's. A heavy mist hung gloomily over the Pennines and the moisture in the heavy air soaked you almost without your noticing. The elements whispered Cup shock even if the positions of the clubs suggested it was unlikely.
Not that Accrington had any reason for disbelief. In previous rounds they had disposed of League clubs Huddersfield and Bournemouth, and Colchester arrived with their confidence sapped by getting only two points from their previous three matches. Add sendings-off in each of their last three away League games and they had reason for concern.
Nevertheless, it was Colchester who settled first and they should have taken the lead after eight minutes. Craig Fagan rode a tackle on the right and was looking for a one-two when he passed to Scott McGleish on the edge of the area. So were the Accrington defence and, when the striker went the other way, the home back four were flat-footed, Karl Duguid's shot hitting the post before bouncing clear.
Despite this move, Accrington shaded the first half and then accelerated away in the second. After 51 minutes Stephen Flitcroft, brother of Blackburn's Garry, had a shot blocked by Brown's legs. However, Stanley went even closer three minutes later when Lutel James won the race to Stephen Halford's long pass only for his flick to bounce against the bar.
If that was unlucky, there was a sense of disbelief when Dean Calcutt crossed and Rory Prendergast was barely a yard out at the far post. Somehow Brown got the ball away. Colchester looked rattled and even though McGleish hit the bar in the last 10 minutes, they know this is far from over. A shock may still be on the agenda.Reuse content