Thurnby Nirvana 1 Barrow Town 1

Saturday 17th September 2011
Thurnby Nirvana 1 Barrow Town 1
FA Cup with Budweiser First Qualifying Round
At: Daykn Road, Leicester
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (12 pages)
Attendance: 87
Weather: sunny, occasional rain
Duration: first-half: 46:17; second-half: 48:50

My own FA Cup trail continued today in Leicester with an interesting tie between two league rivals, separated by just goal difference in the East Midlands Counties League table. The prize was huge for the winners – £3000 prize money and the chance of drawing a Blue Square North side in the next round.

Visitors Barrow Town took the lead just after the hour mark through Dan Stabik and looked to be heading into the next round until a stunning late strike from Ryan Walker earned Thurnby a replay on Tuesday evening.

One of the many enjoyable parts of the day was meeting a group of six predominately Kettering fans, most of whom are embarking on a ‘Road to Wembley’ this season. They started off at Rothwell Town in the Extra Preliminary Round tie then switched allegiance to Barrow Town who defeated Rothwell in the Premliminary Round two weeks ago. They’ll stick with Barrow until they are knocked out then follow the team that beat them, and so on, hopefully getting to watch the Final next May. One member of the group, from Northampton, was simply trying to watch as many FA Cup ties as possible this season. Good to meet you and best of luck on your journey to Wembley!

Once again Andy of Kent’s website ( provided all I needed to get to the ground from Leicester station by bus – 3.5 miles was a bit too far to walk even without a right thigh strain. I followed his advice and, after a short walk from the station along St Georges Way to Humberstone Road, caught the 38A bus to within a few hundred yards of the entrance on Dakyn Road.

The home side was formed as recently as 2008 following the merger of two clubs – Thurnby Rangers and Leicester Nirvana – playing senior home games at Rangers’s Dakyn Road ground.

In the middle of a large and spacious field was a fully railed-off pitch with two stands at the top of the grass bank behind the near goal – one covered standing and the other containing 60 seats. The two sides of the pitch without hardstanding were ‘out of bounds’.

Back to that league table and both Thurnby (8th GD +8) and Barrow (9th GD +2) had an identical record of played 4 won 2 drawn 1 and lost 1. Neither had played a league game since they met at Barrow on August Bank Holiday Monday – Barrow won 2-1.

Barrow (wearing red and black stripes, black shorts and red socks) got the game underway attacking the stand end in the first half though Thurnby (in all green) created several chances during the opening 10 minutes and Ryan Amoo saw a shot cleared off the line.

The visitors almost took the lead just after the half-hour mark when Jamie McKay lobbed the advancing keeper Wayne Connolly only to see the ball drop just over the bar. Connolly's opposite number Adam Wilcox produced a smart save in the 40th minute to keep out Pearson Mwanyongo’s angled shot at the end of a run into the area past several defenders.

Not long before half-time, I liked the comment of the referee when attempting to book a Thurnby midfielder – “I’ll double it if you don’t walk [to me]”, was clearly heard. The player did as he was ordered and escaped with just a yellow card! Also, in a separate incident, I think the official was correct in asking for a defensive free-kick to be retaken as it didn’t leave the penalty area.

On to the second half and eight minutes after restart, Connolly kept out Jon Coppard’s close-range header. Soon after, Carl Adams thought he had headed Barrow in front only to be disappointed to see a raised offside flag.

Barrow broke the deadlock in the 61st minute. Cameron Gray crossed from the right and defender Dan Stabik, Still up in the area following a free-kick, fired low into the bottom right corner of the net.

With Thurnby attacking with some urgency, Barrow should have wrapped up the win in the 82nd minute. With just one defender and keeper to beat, Adams squared a pass to unmarked Michael Paparozzi who saw his shot saved.

By this time I’d decided to watch the latter stages from the stand on the top of the bank, where the ‘Road to Wembley’ group had sat all game.

Paparozzi’s was almost immediately been punished as substitute Reece Morris fired against the right-hand post from 10 yards out. The ball rebounded across the face of goal and stayed out.

After Adams fired into the side netting from a narrow angle, Thurnby got the equaliser they wanted in the 88th minute. Ryan Walker sent an unstoppable right-foot drive from the edge of the area flying into the top-right corner of the net. Cue the celebrations (see photo).

Plans for Tuesday changed for the ‘Road to Wembley’ group with a replay in prospect though Thurnby could well have been awarded an injury-time penalty. The referee blew his whistle when Amoo went down under Niall Prenderville’s and look as if he was pointing towards the spot, only to award a free-kick to Barrow and book Amoo for diving.

Footnote: With this trip to Thurnby, I have now visited 17 of the current 19 East Midlands Counties League grounds – the two remaining are also Leicester-based clubs in Blaby & Whetstone Athletic and St Andrews.

0-1 Dan Stabik (61)
1-1 Ryan Walker (88)