It’s been a weekend of sporting contrasts. In motor sport, on four wheels and two, titles have been decided. In the FA Cup, teams have been playing for a right to play a Football League club in the 1st round. Gloucestershire had a hand in events from Motegi, a small town in Japan, to Shortwood, where the Nailsworth road network is more suited to bikes than cars.
For Sebastian Vettel, it was a time to celebrate his fourth successive Formula 1 title after his win in India.His mood will be euphoric, and competely opposed to that of Quedgeley Moto 2 rider Scott Redding, who was left cursing his luck as long time championship rival Pol Espargaro wrapped up the 2013 title in Japan.
The 20 year old has done little wrong on the track this year. 12 months ago, he finished fifth but began this season strongly and secured his first Moto 2 win at Le Mans in May. Further successes followed, notably at Silverstone at the beginning of September, by which time he had built a 34 point lead at the top of the riders championship with six races remaining.
With two of the top riders in 2012 moving up to Moto GP, Redding and the Spaniard Pol Espargaro were thought to be the title favourites and as steadily as Redding accumlated points, Espargaro remained in his mirrors. He could not grow the lead to a significant level and three podium finishes for the Spaniard cut Redding’s advantage to only nine points before the British rider broke his wrist in qualifying for round 16 in Australia. He sat out the race and Espargaro won. The lead had evaporated.
Redding, however, was not about to give up on a year’s work. Passed fit to race in Motegi only a week after the break, fate then played Redding the most sickening of cards as a rider in front of him went down on the first lap in front of the British rider. Redding, and the Gloucestershire rider’s hopes, went with him. Espargaro went on to record his sixth victory of the season and with it the title.
Difficult as it may seem at the moment, Redding has to assess the bigger picture as he leaves Moto 2 for Moto GP in 2014. He has matured as a rider, won three Grand Prix and had four other podium finishes this year. To score points in 14 races is no mean achievement and having not been champion, the focus may be on him a little less when he rides for Honda next year. Espargaro is going to Yamaha, also in Moto GP. Their respectful rivalry will continue as they try to mix it with the likes of Marquez and Lorenzo.
As Redding’s year draws to a close, one of the famous sporting competitions in the world is moving through the gears. Non league teams have been playing in the FA Cup since August, but Saturday’s ties represented the last 90 minutes, potentially, from a money spinning tie in the first round.
Funds at this level can keep clubs afloat for the season, so imagine the scenes at Shortwood when substitute Shaun Lawson scored with only three minutes remaining to force a replay against Aldershot. Already the Nailsworth club has won nearly £17,000 in prize money. Saturday’s crowd was over 600, six times the average, and there’s additional revenue to come from a replay with the chance still there to progress. A win in the return match, and a tie against Port Vale, would be akin to winning the lottery.
Gloucester City, after two decades in the FA Cup wilderness, can also reflect on a good campaign with at least one tie to come. Their clinching goal against Hampton and Richmond was also a late one from Tom Webb, but with over 500 games behind him, the midfielder deserved a second game in the first round in successive seasons.
The Tigers are still tenants at Cheltenham, so their £20,000 in prize money will be more than handy. A home tie against League 2 side Fleetwood on November the 9th is fair reward even if progress would be a surprise, but that’s why live sport is such a draw. It’s all about the tales of the unexpected.
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