NATIONWIDE CONFERENCE | Att: 1097
Sutton United – 1 [Watson 20] Doncaster Rovers – 0
After the mildly pleasing denial of 3 points to the annoyingly smug mob from Kingston on Tuesday evening thanks to Sammy’s late intervention, we follow up this weekend by facing the invasion of ex-League club Doncaster, the side with arguably the biggest support in the Conference. As such, it’s no surprise that the Fielder is full of broad Yorkshire shoulders and accents when I arrive around 1 on the Saturday afternoon for the pre-match pint. The place has never been so busy on a match day!
The Donny boys have been on the gas from early doors it seems (good effort chaps, approved) and have apparently visited some 21 boozers along the way to their destination, which is quite some going even by our standards! Although they do admit to not having had a drink in all of those as some were described as “Fookin’ shite” (That’ll be the Isobar and All Bar One then lads?) and not worthy of their patronage. It’s good to have standards!
A few of the travelling horde are also big England regulars and of course a couple recognise Colin and also Bob fairly quickly from the boozers at Great Portland Street, with one also reckoning he’d bumped into Col in Italy at the World Cup back in 1990! This keeps everyone honest and gives us some common ground to natter about that isn’t pubs or shit football. It also keeps the guv of the pub’s blood pressure in check as he’s apparently a bit nervy having so many away ‘lads’ in the gaff at one time! I guess just having a handful of us dickheads in the corner most Saturdays is more his speed. A few swift pints down and it’s soon time to make the quick zip to the ground and we’re soon on the Shoebox ready for the action out on the pitch.
Mackie’s knee is still dodgy it seems, so he’s replaced by Andy Riley today and with Dacky suspended, Sears comes in for him as a direct swap. We also discover today that we’ve made a new signing!! Some fella called Joe Baker, apparently released by Leyton Orient recently, is sitting on the bench. It’s also confirmed that Mr Clive Walker most probably won’t be joining us due to us not being able to meet his personal terms. Now there’s a shocker! Still, I’m guessing that despite being older than my gran, his admittedly still rather impressive goal scoring abilities don’t come cheap on today’s market. Thankfully there’s no sign of Mike Newell or recently signed Peter Beardsley (yes, that one!) for the visitors.
The U’s start brightly and it’s also soon apparent that our visitors really are rather poor, which is surprising give it’s their second season down here after a calamitous arrival from the Football League, so you’d think they’d be more at it this early in the campaign & looking to regain their former status. They’re allegedly missing a few players today, but that’s really not much of an excuse for a side of full time professionals if I’m honest. We have a couple of half chances whilst Donny toil away, vainly trying to get organised. Then after 20 minutes, the best move of the match so far gives us the lead. A trademark barrelling Sammy Winston run sees him pull the ball back to Mark Watson some 6-7 yards out. Thankfully his shovel connects sweetly with the cows arse on this occasion as he picks his spot and finishes into the corner. Lovely stuff!
To be fair, Mark’s having a decent all round game so far. His touch, for once, is not failing him and he’s actually holding the ball up well and bringing other people around him into the game. He’s also managing to run with the ball without falling over like a new born baby deer after a few yards, which is nice. It’s a reminder he’s actually not a half bad footballer at all when everything works in sync like it is today. More days like this please Watso! Elsewhere, the back four is coping admirably with the few attacks the visitors can muster with Riley and Laker standing out in particular. Headers won, no stupid errors.
After a few more nervy moments around their goal, the visitors hold on until the break and go in just the 1 behind. At the break, news reaches me that apparently Oldham are winning at Chesterfield. Bloody hell, has Christmas come early? A cuppa from Rose and a hot dog sets me up a treat and when the second half starts is sees Donny come out with a bit more purpose (they couldn’t be that shit again, clearly), whilst we go in search of a (hopefully) killer second goal.
The visitors threaten our goal a lot more in the second period. The closest they come to registering though is a Barry Laker hook off the line with Howells beaten and a good last ditch challenge by Berry allows Howells to gather after a good run by the impressive No.3 has him bearing down on goal. In time, Watson and Winston are replaced by Forrester and Ekoku, both having given their all grafting for the team up top. This gives us a little more pace in attack if not a steadier frontline. One break sees Forrester take up a good position only for the pass to be delayed and the youngster flagged offside. Nko’s powerful running meanwhile is causing concern as the last thing you want after a tough afternoon as a defender is a 6ft 4 brick shithouse running at you at great speed. One last ditch challenge in particular prevents the big man getting a strike on goal in the box when well placed.
The visitors meanwhile bring on Ian Snodin, brother of manager Glyn, who’s main contribution before the end is to immediately get himself booked for a clumsy lunge on Nko. As a spectacle the game dies a death before the end as they run out of ideas and we kind of run out of steam a little, much as expected. And despite a nervy last 10 minutes where Doncaster’s professional fitness levels start to show more, the U’s hang on for a vital and well earned win. Three big points that.
It wasn’t a classic, but a it was at least a good team performance with only Sears and Harlow really not giving us much generally over the 90. Still, 3 points is 3 points and as it turns out it gets us back out of the bottom 3. Whoopee! Time to celebrate and with a spring in our step that only a win can provide, we soon find ourselves back in the Fielder in short order for a couple of refreshments again surrounded by Donny’s finest, most of whom are pretty decent and magnanimous about the result generally, with Mark Watson’s shift up top coming in for particular praise.
Later that evening with our visitors long departed, it comes to light that apparently the landlord has been somewhat put out by our fraternising with the foreigners with the funny accents and seems under the impression we were the reason that all these very large hoolie looking lads were in his establishment before and after the game, as if we’d sent out fucking invitations or summat. The dopey sod. We largely ignore the sulk and despite this continue putting money over the bar for his ale.
We’ve a win to celebrate after all.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Errrr, oh go on then. Mark Watson. For the goal!
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. By no means a classic, but we did enough for the 3 points.
TEAM : Howells, Brooker, Riley, Laker, Berry, Skelly, Sears, Harlow, Harford, Winston, Watson
SUBS : Rowlands, Baker, Little, Ekoku, Forrester