THEY started their journey months ahead of schedule – but a pair of dedicated football fans on an epic FA Cup quest were left playing catch-up as the competition reached the milestone third round at the weekend.
Comedian Andy Fury, 31 and pal Mark Tearney, 34, vowed to take in every round of the world famous trophy, starting back in August with the first qualifying round, all the way through to the showpiece final at Wembley in May.
But as the Premier League big boys entered the fray on Saturday and Sunday, the duo must wait until Wednesday for their latest cup fix as Crawley Town take on Bristol Rovers in a re-arranged second round clash – the third time they will have met for the right to face Birmingham City.
Their 12th game of the marathon mission was abandoned after 74 minutes due to torrential rain on a wet and windy Wednesday in December.
It came after the two sides had already played out a 0-0 draw hosted by Bristol Rovers in their opening bid to reach the third round.
Now Andy and Mark must make the 600-mile round trip again.
The duo could be forgiven for having the fight knocked out of them as they bid to go all 14 rounds with the cup – but they aren’t ready to be counted out yet.
Mr Fury said: “It is strange that as the competition reaches one of its most momentous rounds, we won’t be there, having started the tournament so early.
“We’re starting to think it will get to the FA Cup semi-final draw and this game between Crawley and Bristol Rovers will still need to be completed.
“I have checked the weather app on my phone for Crawley and it has said non-stop rain.
“The challenge has gone from being a nice folly to an exercise in endurance.”
But while Andy wasn’t watching the FA Cup on Saturday, he was still enjoying the beautiful game.
“I was at Alnwick Town on Saturday.
“They have season tickets for the rest of the season for just £20.”
Mr Fury will again make the trip in his trusty car, which needs some care and attention after a bumpy road to Wembley.
“The tyres are beginning to wear down a bit.
“I’m planning on spending Christmas money on some new ones – which is utterly depressing.”
Their quest – dubbed Cup Runnings – was sparked after the pair watched Hebburn take on Gateshead in a qualifying round two years ago. The marathon mission is being recorded in a podcast and photo-blog on their website, www.cuprunnings.com, with a book, called Pies, Peas and Dreams, to follow later this year.
The pals will follow the winner of each tie they attend, until the 737 teams who started out are whittled down to just two in front of a 90,000 crowd at Wembley in May.
The winners of the Crawley v Bristol Rovers tie will face Birmingham in the delayed third round tie on either January 14 or 15.
After that, the boys will have a fourth round tie of Birmingham or Bristol Rovers or Crawley versus Swansea to attend on the weekend of January 25/26.