The wrap: Braintree Town 1 Oxford United 1
Nothing to see here. It's a mark of the state of the FA Cup that almost all the talk on TV is about the amount of prize and TV money available the featured teams. Of course money is important to the club, but we don't support clubs in the hope that they'll get rich, we do it for the glory. Prize money should be part of the narrative.
The shift of our 1st round tie for TV (compensation: £12,500) seemed to take the wind out of our campaign even before it started. If playing Braintree away wasn't enough of a dampener, doing it on a Sunday at 2pm just felt wrong. Nobody wants the humiliation of a giant killing, but nor was there any real expectation that we'd blow them away with our quality.
The draw is not disappointing because of who we were playing, it's disappointing because of the inconvenience (if it's not money punctuating FA Cup talk, then it's the issue of priorities). Maybe it's because of our time in the Conference that even we know that teams from the non-league have arms and legs and a will to win.
So, the draw has been greeted, rightly, philosophically. We wanted the win, we didn't want a defeat, the draw is irritating, but nobody is using it as a sign that things are wrong. It was just a game of football.
Coming Up: Dagenham and Redbridge
Maybe the Yellow Army are planning an elaborate display recognising Yemi Odubade's 30 yard lob in 2007. I suspect, however, there will be no huge flags dedicated to a lifetime's animosity towards Dagenham, we will not celebrate as if we have been morally, ethically and ideologically vindicated. This is the curiosity of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy; if a tie does gain any particular meaning, that is if we find ourselves playing a tie we actually want to win, the reward is barely worth the effort.
Presumably the JPT exists for one thing; a day at Wembley. It doesn't appear to have any TV support anymore and even when it did, it is difficult to imagine more than a handful of people - beyond the fans of the teams involved - bothering to tune in. So for sponsors, organisers and teams, it's an elaborate way of selecting people for a day out. Ah, that and a convenient platform for betting, which I've come to learn is one of the real reasons that marginal sport gets the coverage it does. When your betting on something, the context, thrill of competition or glory are irrelevant. What is important is that things happen that can be vaguely predicted.
This season I find myself describing each game as something which is pivotal and important in the context of the whole season. This isn't one of those games.
I'd quite like to go to Wembley; and I'd quite like to go to Wembley for a game which I probably wouldn't be bothered about losing because, in a sense, I wouldn't be able to lose. So, yes, I want to win, but not at the expense of other priorities. That's fine for me, but creates a curious challenge for the players. Perhaps that's a reason for playing fringe players - if they've got an additional reason to perform then maybe they'll be motivated in a way others won't.