For the second stage of my ‘road to Wembley’ in the newly sponsored, Vitality Women’s FA Cup, I decided to head to Hackney Marshes to watch Hackney v Dulwich Hamlet in the Preliminary Round. I had never watched a football match on Hackney Marshes, famous for Sunday league and grassroots football, before so this was going to be a new experience.
After getting the train to Stratford, I survived walking through the Westfield shopping centre and then headed to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (one of my fave areas in London) and had a walk through there on the way to Hackney Marshes. Being a sunny and warm afternoon, there were a lot of people out enjoying the park. I finished walking by one of the rivers that runs through the park, under a couple of bridges and crossed over a road junction to reach the Marshes.
Now, if you don’t know Hackney Marshes then let me quickly explain. It is a large open area in east London with roughly 80 football pitches lined out (apparently the greatest concentration of football pitches in Europe) as well as some cricket, rugby and even an aussie rules pitch. There is a main building that has some dressing rooms in next to the car park but the rest is a public area. Being a Sunday, there were some other matches taking place so I had a wander around watching a bit of a few of those whilst trying to find the pitch that the match I was going to watch was being played on. As well as the Hackney v Dulwich match, there were at least another 3 women’s matches taking place.
I found the pitch the match was taking place on largely due to the group of Dulwich Hamlet supporters stood next to it. Normally at this stage I might do a brief description of the ground! Now at Hackney Marshes there are no seats (unless you bring your own), terracing, concrete, turnstiles any of the other normal things you get at a football ground. Instead it was uncovered, totally surround by grass with no barrier around the pitch and other pitches around it. Being a gorgeous afternoon, I sat on the grass to watch the match. All a bit different to Wembley where the final of the FA Cup is played.
Hackney had beaten Hastings away 2-0 in the previous round whilst Dulwich had won 6-1 at home against Margate. Dulwich play in the London & South East Regional Women’s League Premier Division (step 5 in women’s football), a level above Hackney who play in the Division One North of the same league. Both sides had also won their only league matches of the season so far too. Being in a public area, there wasn’t any charge to watch the match nor were there any programmes/team sheets.
Dulwich took the lead but Hackney quickly equalised. Dulwich retook the lead with a goal from a corner and then had a low shot saved. They added a third before Hackney had a chance to get a goal back with a lobbed effort that went over. Dulwich went into the break leading 3-1. Dulwich made it 4-1 and were then given a penalty after a player was brought down in the area. Dulwich scored the penalty to increase their lead. Hackney did get a goal back but Dulwich completed the scoring with a sixth and the match ended 6-2 to them.
The draw for the 1st qualifying round was made earlier today and Dulwich have been drawn away to Lancing. Hopefully football at this level will still be continuing once we get around to that round on the 4th October and supporters will still be able to attend. For me after the match, it was the nice walk back through the Olympic Park to the busy Westfield!
Draw for next round- https://www.thefa.com/competitions/womens/the-womens-fa-cup/fixtures
Twitter accounts- @Hackney WFC @dulwichhamfc_w