Sutton Common Rovers’ historic FA Cup run reached a disappointing conclusion in the second qualifying round on Tuesday, following a 3-2 defeat to Jersey Bulls.
The replay, which succeeded Rovers’ 2-2 draw at home with the Bulls the previous Saturday, was initially scheduled in Jersey, before logistical complications forced the offshore club to concede their home advantage and play at Gander Green Lane, also home to Sutton United once again.
According to the FA Cup rulebook, island clubs are only able to host midweek replays if both sides consent.
Due to work commitments, Sutton Common Rovers would have only been able to send a fringe squad to Jersey at such late notice, which would have visibly jeopardised the integrity of the competition.
Although the rearrangement generated some negative publicity, SCR president Gary Brigden stands by his club’s choices throughout the process.
He said: “The publicity and backlash was disappointing. However, our conscience over all that happened is clear.
‘Those within the Jersey committee know the full details and were perfectly happy with the situation, so much so their chairman was on BBC Radio Jersey and actually said how brilliant we had been in the organisation of the games.”
Despite the off-pitch distractions, Brigden made no excuses for the manner of the defeat.
He added: “There was a fair amount of unwarranted negative publicity, but the management did their best to protect the players as much as possible.
“We were just beaten by a better side on the day, it’s as simple as that.”
Although the two fixtures against Jersey brought controversy, they also handed Sutton Common Rovers exposure, publicity and income.
By climbing the FA Cup ladder, the Commoners were able to earn some extra revenue to help replenish their inevitable loss of funds caused by the pandemic.
The club not only benefitted from the competition’s prize money but also from the BBC’s coverage of the first game at Gander Green Lane.
Supposedly, the BBC were eager to track the Bulls’ debut season in the FA Cup, after becoming the first male team from Jersey to play in the competition.
Rovers were also thankful for the added publicity brought in by the BBC.
Brigden said: “We were under no illusions that we were the makeweights in the Jersey game, and they were the real story, however we benefitted well from the publicity.
“We’ve picked up a small amount from this run which has been our best progress to date.”
Whilst the atmosphere in camp is undoubtedly one of deflation following the FA Cup exit, Sutton Common Rovers have grown considerably in experience, publicity and financial security throughout the competition.