FA Cup 1st Qual. Round – Sunday 16th Sept. 1990
Kick 12 noon – Played at Dagenham FC
The pairing of the Tons with Barry Fry’s Barnet side was one of the strangest events of the early rounds of that season’s FA Cup competition. The Tons had defeated Felixstowe 5-2 in the previous round and Barnet, because of their poor showing in the competition the year before, were required to compete amongst the minnows.
Once it became known that the Bees were having to visit the Old Spotted Dog, their chairman, Mr Stan Flashman, contacted the FA to object to his team having to play in such basic surroundings, given that his club had such a following of supporters. The Police were consulted, and made the decision that the Tons had to forfeit ‘home advantage’. With Mr Flashman rubbing his hands at the thought of a match at Underhill, an official ‘declared’ gate of 400 when the place would be heaving, Clapton Secretary Andy Barr, became inundated with offers of help from non-league clubs wishing to ensure ‘fair play’. Hendon FC, Aveley, Leyton Wingate and, inevitably, Met Police FC, were among those who offered their grounds, free of charge as an alternative venue. In the end it was the offer from Norman Sparrow, Secretary of Dagenham FC which was accepted, although this meant playing at noon on the Sunday. Barnet were officially disappointed, Barry Fry extremely kind and diplomatic, and Mr Flashman spitting feathers.
Entrance to the match costs £3.50 and included a 22 page programme. Within the pages was a history of both clubs and pen pictures of both squads. The Clapton team, managed by Mickey Cleaver, included many players who had completed over 100 appearances for the Tons. Iconic keeper Brian Balkwill, local lads Chris (Smike) Driscoll and Dave Fahy and Daren Holding, a cultured and classy centre back who hailed from the Isle of Dogs. The Barnet side, as one would imagine of a club who had finished Conference runners up the previous season, was littered with players who had, or who were about to attain Football League experience. Keeper Gary Phillips (Brentford), Mick Bodley (Chelsea, Edwin Stein (Luton) and Andy Clarke, who a few months later was to sign for Wimbledon for £250,000.
Many expected Clapton’s amateur team to be routed by Barry Fry’s non league pros. However, although Barnet were superior in every department, and only a spirited and determined effort by the Tons kept the score to just 0-2. In fact, Barnet’s second goal only came from the penalty spot after professional diving theatrics that Ashley Young would be proud of today.
The match finished with hand shakes and cheers for Clapton’s gallant effort. Barry Fry, who was kind and had behaved impeccably throughout the events leading up to the game, was extremely complementary to the team and conciliatory. Mr Flashman was absent.
After the game, the Clapton dressing room was filled with singing and laughter, whereas through the walls of Victoria Road, one could hear Barry Fry having a good old ‘tear up’ on his squad (no hair dryer available at Victoria Road) which only served to heighted the volume of jollity amongst the Tons players next door.
It was left for the Clapton lads to return to the Old Spotted Dog for a ‘Sunday session’ in the bar and a good time was had by all. The Tons may not have carried off a giant killing act and no one expected them to do so. However, they had shown one of the non- league big boys of the day that the spirit of Clapton FC survives and that, not only did we have friends in the game who would help us in times of need, we knew how to enjoy our football.
That season, Barnet progressed to the 3rd round of the FA Cup where they were beaten by Portsmouth. At the end of the campaign they were promoted to the Football League.
Following the game Mr Flashman contacted the club and demanded half of the remaining programmes as these formed part of the gate money. He was told that he could collect them from the Old Spotted Dog. He never did.