Kettering Town – 1 [Abrahams 40]
Sutton United – 0
In the first few games of this Conference Campaign, one thing above all else has become apparent. Scoring is an proving to be something of an issue. For us that is, not the oppo. They seem to be managing just fine. In fact, it may have been said that we couldn’t score in a brothel with a 50 pound note attached to our genitalia. But all that did was start a debate about HOW it would be attached and how relatively painfulpain free each of those methods would be when it came to removal.
But I digress, despite the tireless running of Sammy Winston up front, we clearly lack a goalscorer and with our board’s notorious attitude to keeping the purse strings tight, the chances of JR getting even 5 grand to spend are about as likely as U’s drawing Man Utd in this years FA Cup. And having witnessed todays display, if JR doesn’t get those funds or even bang lucky with a quality freebie, we’ll probably be back in the Ryman playing the likes of Canvey Island et al before you can say ‘Carshalton are skint again’.
Our trip began with an opening time visit to Luton for a quick starter bevvie, where the barman recognises us from a pub in London where we were on one of our England game piss-ups a while back. It also transpires following a chat that he’s good mates with the Guv at our local. That’ll be us barred when we get home then! Oh well, onwards! Next stop Northampton. Here there’s more than another couple of beers, some grub and a sound thrashing on the pool table for Me & Col at the hands of a cold blooded Bone/Chalmers partnership. Our performance is very Sutton United next to their own Rushden & Diamonds efforts.
Our arrival at Kettering’s Rockingham Road home reveals that some things don’t change much over the course of eight years. The ground is pretty much as I remember it, with the only change being the removal of the covered terracing behind one of the goals to be replaced with a small patch of wasteland. Quite how this stays within Conference ground regs after such an ‘improvement’ is beyond me, but there ya go. Each to their own.
On the pitch, we start the game about as lively as an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping with the home side attacking from the word go, clearly looking to get us done early doors. A couple of smart stops from Howell’s, including one at his far post when a goal seemed certain keeps the scores level. It don’t look good. Every time we go remotely anywhere near their half, a poor pass or awful control screws it up. (Come on lads, you’ve had a month to acclimatise, let’s get it sorted eh?) A few more nervous moments pass before a rare Sammy Winston surge results in a corner. We cheer loudly. The corner, our first, causes havoc in the home penalty area before being finally hoofed clear. Hmmm, our hosts don’t actually look that good if I’m honest. This is how most of the half is played out. They attack, don’t score, we get the odd set peice which looks like it’s upsetting them, but still comes to sod all.
Then, just as we start to think we’ll go in level at the break and have something to build on second half, we follow standard fuck up procedure 14G. Which is we gift the oppo a really soft goal. A long ball over Gwynne sees him struggling to keep pace with the forward. As they enter the box, our aging defender stops the ball dead and spins away from the attacker, great tackle!! Sadly, as he turns, his forward momentum causes him to slip. All he can do is watch (just like the rest of the back 4 do) as a supporting player following in plays the ball into the near post where the inevitably unmarked Abrahams beats our comatose rearguard and slips the ball under Howells. 1-0. That’s us in trouble then!
Half time reveals that England are spanking the living daylights out of a Luxembourg side apparently showing even less punch in attack than our good selves (if this is possible) and that fellow early strugglers FGR are winning. Bollocks. That means we’ll inevitably get to prop up the elite of English semi-professional football for at least another 7 days at this rate. Those bastards and their floodlights have a fuckload to answer for!
Our second half perfomance largely matches the first. We’re second to pretty much everything, Harlow and Harford’s passing is finding everything in a red shirt. Which is a terrible shame seeing as we’re playing in green & white and Mark Watson is ambling around doing precisely fuck all and looking like he’d rather be elsewhere. He’s deservedly dragged off after about 75 minutes & is replaced by Colin Simpson. People behind the goal groan and start talking about donkeys. What?? You’d rather have someone ambling about out there than a bloke who’s at least gonna try his heart out? Rather you than me. Naturally it goes without saying that the ‘Donkey’ Simpson does more in 75 seconds than Watson did in as many minutes and we start to look at least a tadge threatening. Which isn’t saying much. Score? Oh don’t be daft.
We throw caution to the wind and chuck Nko and Sal into the fray in place of Brooker and the again very impressive Skelly. It gives us a few more options and Nko’s characteristic surges at least make the Ketting defenders look a bit more concerned than they have earlier. As the last few minutes tick away the home rearguard visibly tires thanks to this and Sammy’s pace starts to come into effect more. Then 4 minutes into stoppage time he bursts out of our half as a home raid falls apart and races towards goal. A chasing defender does enough to force him wide and Sammy delivers a low ball right across the the six yard line, but no one in a quartered shirt can get a touch and a defender tucks it to safety over the bar for a corner. A few more anxious moments for the home side follow before the ref blows his whistle and condemns us to the basement once more until at least next Saturday.
On reflection it was a poor performance against a side who frankly look about the worst we’ve met so far, which is pretty worrying really. As I mentioned at the start of this nonsense, we need a goalscorer and quick. As for the people who reckon Mark Watson is the answer, I suggest you get treatment immediately. His ‘performance’ today was frankly awful. If we’d just laid his number 10 shirt out on the pitch for the 70 odd minutes he was out there, it’d have contributed a damn sight more. No wonder the guy never made it as a pro. Farm him out to Banstead and give Joel Rogers a try. Can’t be any worse.
We’ve got sod all to lose…….
MAN OF THE MATCH : Richard Skelly. Superb on the ball.
ENTERTAINMENT : 4. A poor game between 2 poor sides.
TEAM : Howells, Berry, Skelly, Laker, Brooker, Mackie, Harlow, Harford, Dack, Winston, Watson. SUBS : Little, Riley, Simpson, Salako, Ekoku