The last big Bracknell Town FA Cup tie brought Barnet to Larges Lane

Bracknell Town supporters at the FA Cup tie with Barnet.
Bracknell Town supporters at the FA Cup tie with Barnet.

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The televised FA Cup tie between The Robins and Ipswich Town on Monday night has FA Cup fever returning to Bracknell Forest for the first time in half a generation. The run to Round 1 in 2000 saw Town face EFL opposition – Lincoln City – for the first time in the Cup. Three seasons later they were at it again, seeing off Hastings, Hartley Wintney and Tilbury to set up a 3rd Qualifying Round tie with Basingstoke Town.

A goalless draw at The Camrose in front of 420 spectators meant that Ryman Premier League side had to travel to Division 1 South Bracknell for a replay and the winning goal for a Robins side which included current Slough Town joint managers Neil Baker and Jon Underwood that night was scored by former Wokingham Town favourite Adam Crittenden.

Bracknell Town's Adam Crittenden against Barnet in the FA Cup.
Bracknell Town’s Adam Crittenden against Barnet in the FA Cup.

Next up in the final qualifying round was a former EFL club with great Cup pedigree, Barnet. Alan Taylor’s side lined up against Barnet in front of 1,069 spectators in RG12 on Saturday 25th October 2003. This ‘Birds and The Bees’ tie saw the hosts bang in form, unbeaten in six. Barnet were readjusting to life back outside of the EFL after a decade-long spell as part of the ’92 Club’ and they had won eight of their last six Nationwide Conference games.

Taylor’s team did themselves credit on the day against a star-studded side. Managed by mad-cap former Reading assistant manager and ex-West Ham and QPR midfielder Martin Allen, the Londoners took the lead midway through the first half through prolific forward and future Eastleigh manager Ben Strevens, and it was only an unfortunate own goal at the start of the second period which made the tie somewhat more comfortable for Allen and Co. Former Reading and Republic of Ireland Under 21 man Joe Gamble scored the final goal with ten minutes left which meant that top-scorer Giuliano Grazioli – the man who upstaged Alan Shearer and Newcastle in the Cup five years earlier – remained uncalled upon from the bench.

Gavin Smith and James Glynn take on Barnet for Bracknell Town in the FA Cup 2003.
Gavin Smith and James Glynn (right) take on Barnet for Bracknell Town in the FA Cup 2003/04.

What happened next? Allen’s side disposed of Northern League outfit Stalybridge via a replay in Round 1. They lost to EFL side Yeovil Town in Round 2 but reached the Conference play-offs, despite Allen’s departure to manage Brentford in March 2004. They came up short in that play-off semi-final but were promoted back to the EFL under Paul Fairclough the following season. They have yo-yoed between Tier 4 and 5 since.

For Bracknell, this was to be their final season in the Isthmian League for 14 years. They finished midtable but were transferred across to the Southern League. Six seasons of struggle followed before eventual demotion to the Hellenic League, falling to Step 6 at the end of 2011/12 where they were to face the likes of Didcot Town Reserves and Maidenhead United Reserves in league fixtures played in front of crowds numbering double figures. A decade on and Bracknell Town will squeeze 2,000 spectators in at their Bottom Meadow home as they prepare to take on former FA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners Ipswich Town.

Bracknell Town vs Barnet: Martin Hutt, Stuart Hammonds, Ben Edwards, Neil Baker, Jon Underwood, James Glynn, Adam Crittenden, Danny Hayward, Neil Selby, Gavin Smith, Jon Palmer. Subs: Giles Marchant (for James Glynn), Garry Sargeant (for Adam Crittenden)

“It’ll be great to go back on Monday night and see the boys. I am looking forward to it.”

Bracknell Town in the FA Cup

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