Byline: ANDY DUNN
THE ALAN Partridge bloke from Farnborough FM radio was a hoot.
"That," he intoned gravely as Christian Lee trudged away from referee Alan Wiley's red card, "could be the turning point."
Yeah, of course. Because at 2-0 up with 29 minutes gone and hardly a bead of perspiration on their brows, Arsenal were there for the taking.
The Premiership champions and FA Cup holders were so nervous, I swear I saw some of them reaching for cigars.
Their fears eased by the reduction in Farnborough personnel, Arsenal did what a fair portion of the population hoped they would do... dismiss the non-Leaguers with disdain if not the deluge of goals that most expected.
They had to make do with efforts from Sol Campbell, Dennis Bergkamp, Lauren and a couple from Francis Jeffers.
A lot of tosh had been talked prior to this tie - the FA spinning a line that Farnborough, who had agreed to switch the tie from their home patch to Highbury, had effectively betrayed the traditions of the competition. Would this be the same FA who virtually sold the Cup's birthright to television and sponsors and are now desperately trying to repair the damage?
Granted, Farnborough boss Graham Westley played truant from charm school but his role models, quite rightly, exist on the top rung of the football ladder. And what signals does he get from the Premiership? That greed is not good...it's great.
Clubs would sell the dirty bath-water if they could get away with it so it's hardly surprising that Westley buys into the game's rampant commercialism. And only the most mean-spirited would begrudge his lads the chance to be well and truly patronised.
Farnborough are no mugs. The days when non-League sides had to drag their players - stomachs like sand dunes - out of the boozer just before kick-off are long gone.
They used to think diet was what you did to your barnet, but now they eat the right stuff and are made of it.
Physically, they were a match. Technically, it was Mr Magoo facing Brett Lee. Boro defender Nathan Bunce - legs like the trunks he hacks down for a living - is a tree surgeon and once had 458 stitches in his arm. This was death by a thousand cuts. And he had the embarrassment of seeing Campbell barge in to butt Gio Van Bronckhorst's corner in from close range.
After a dizzying 10-pass move, Jeffers' sidefoot dotted the 'i' and crossed the 't' in the word that was writ large long before the kick-off... FORMALITY.
In a way, this no-contest showed just why Jeffers must take his leave. Signed for pounds 10m, the ex-Everton striker once …