TELFORD UNITED – 2 [Martindale 34p, 69]
SUTTON UNITED – 0
Well, where do you start? At the beginning I s’pose. Sutton United all but surrendered their Nationwide Conference status at Telford’s Bucks Head ground on Saturday, turning in quite possibly one of the most toothless performances I can remember for some time.
It was even worse than the showing at Croydon in the county cup just after Christmas and that was pretty bad. Unable to pass or tackle, bereft of any kind of attacking nous and dodgy defending. Watching this rubbish, it’s easy to see just why we’re heading back to the drudgery and boredom of the Ryman league. We’re a poor team, lacking quality. That simple.
After the team had raised our hopes a little with their first win of 2000 at Woking and a promising yet ultimately disappointing 0-0 at home to Hednesford we returned to form with a poor display in the return against the ‘Cards’. So we naturally headed off to Telford on Saturday morning, a little unsure of what to expect. The 2 sides hardly served up a classic at GGL, in fact it was probably one of the most appalling games I’d seen in ages. Which is saying summat in this season! The only bright spot was the fact we actually won that one. A repeat today would close up the battle at the bottom a bit and give us a renewed lifeline, some hope. A defeat would cut us adrift at the bottom and all but send us down.
Chalmers brother decided to tag along for a day out and Paul managed to talk him into driving. Which was nice. It certainly meant that the train up was avoided. The ‘Judith’ brothers collected me early and we set off to get Bob next. When we arrived at his place he took a few minutes to emerge and when he did, he did so looking just a tadge fragile. Apparently his firm had laid on a free piss up at a Hogshead pub in town the previous evening. So naturally Mr Bone set about roundly abusing this kind offer and getting shitfaced.
Jealous? Me? Well yes I was actually. But not of his hangover So northwards we headed! No pub stop on the way up as we’d pretty much covered the local Firkins in this area, with the closest on that side of the country being off in the wilds of north Wales. Sod that! We don’t mind a diversion, but that’s taking the piss. We eventually crawl into Telford a shade after 1 and after making sure the ground was still where we remembered it to be, the merry travellers headed for the town centre. Sadly this proved to be an utter waste of time. We’d failed to take into account that Telford is one of those ‘new’ towns. Purpose built for peeps to live & work in, with carefully planned rather than grow out of a village or something like most places do. This means no ‘old’ town centre to hide Ye Olde Scrungehouses in. In other words, there were fuck all in the way of boozers.
We do one circuit of the Toys R Us, Warehouse store type town centre and bugger off back to the ground in search of refreshment. New towns? Load of arse if you ask me.
Just up from the ground we locate The Cock hotel which has a board outside proclaiming ‘Free House’ and ‘Traditional Ales’ inside. We stop and decide to take a squizz, wary of such delights having been advertised by pubs before only to find nothing but Caffreys and John Smiths smoothflow on offer. Thankfully, the boards did not lie and we set about necking a couple of pints of Heavens Gate and chatting with the friendly locals. One nice bloke tells us of their new chairman who wrote off the clubs entire debt with one cheque. Pretty fucking impressive when the cheque in question was for something in the region of 650 grand!! Oh for one of those type people at GGL…
Finally refreshed, so to the game. One end of the ground was closed off for building work as Telford’s aforementioned new chairman was also going about producing a nice shiny new stadium for the club (about 8 million quid’s worth allegedly) as part of his recent takeover. Well not him personally, some blokes in a JCB were handling the building bit, but he was probably off signing more cheques somewhere to cover it. We start with no Paul Harford as he’s now banned for 5 games after the latest red card, so Ed Hutchinson gets a start, but the side is pretty standard apart from that. Our first hint that things might not go well comes when the side run out, or in Aidan Newhouse’s case, walk out like he’s going the gallows. “Well, they look properly up for it” states Bob. Was that a hint of sarcasm I caught there dear boy?
We actually start fairly brightly, with Nko causing most of the irritation to the home side. Their back four looks a touch dodgy and the big mans pace coupled with that of Sammy seriously looks like causing some damage. Our first opportunity arrives about 10 minutes in. Nko chases down a defender who slips, leaving our man clear in on goal. Nko gets to the 6 yard box but only succeeds in hitting the ‘keeper. He gets a second chance from the rebound, but again finds the ‘keeper rather than the net and the ball is eventually scrambled away for a corner. As it turns out, it’s to be our only serious attempt on goal in the 90 minutes. Poor old future us’s.
Not much else happens as both sides try and get themselves settled, but a lot of the passing & control is terrible, the bobbly pitch not helping matters. Then the turning point of the game for the U’s. Nko receives the ball on the far touchline before the Telford No7 arrives with a horrendous 2 footed challenge. Ekoku goes down like a sack of spuds, clearly not in a good way. As with many cases this season, the ref decides that a challenge like this deserves only a yellow card. You can bet if one of our lot had done the same it would have almost certainly been a red, along with execution, paying compo to the ‘victim’ and 100 hours community service. In that order. Wanker.
Nko ends up being stretchered off, not to return. Scott Forrester replaces him and from this moment on we simply disappear. Dack, Harlow and Newhouse squander possession in the middle like it’s going out of fashion, our skipper is also passing to anything that’s NOT wearing Amber ‘n’ Choc as per normal lately. We really must have the worst midfield in the division. It can’t pass or tackle and simply doesn’t dominate at all.
Not long after Ekoku’s removal, we really hit the self destruct button. Gareth goes to collect a routine ball into the box. A home forward challenges and Gareth loses the ball. Fortunately he reacts a shade quicker than the forward, the shot is rushed and the ball thumps back off the outside of the near post. Worse is to come. Telford win a corner, but the danger is cleared to the corner of our 18 yard box. A Telford player collects and Newhouse goes to meet him. But rather than just jockey the man and make sure he goes nowhere, the big forward crashes clumsily into the player. Penalty. Quite where our discipline goes in moments like this is beyond me. Martindale steps up and sends Gareth the wrong way. 1-0 and from our body language out on the pitch, we’re looking beaten already.
Just on the break, Howells keeps us afloat with a great stop from a sizzling 25 yard thunderbolt and so to the munchie bar we go for our half time snackeroonie one behind and looking all but doomed.
A rather nice hot dog and a cuppa later I call Sarah to find out how the Grand National is going. She talks me through the last lap, much to the disappointment of Mr Chalmers as both his nags (as per normal) fail dismally to produce a money spinning win for him. Bob and I chuckle at his misfortune naturally. He’ll never learn that boy!
The second half turns out to be a painful exercise indeed. We play even worse than the first 45 minutes, unable to so much as string together 2 passes. Dack and Harlow are hoofing every ball as far as they can, rather than at least take a touch and look for any other options. Sammy runs himself into the ground again, chasing lost causes in the shape of our central midfields intercontinental ballistic missile style of passing. Now when played properly, direct football works. But this is just aimless lumping of the ball leaving the forwards with bugger all chance of creating any sort of pressure, let alone chances and let alone goals.
Our fate is sealed with about 20 minutes to go. We lose possession again for the millionth time, the ball is worked wide and the cross is met by the stooping Martindale. His header nestles in the corner of the net and we see our Conference life all but extinguished. You can hope and pray all you want, but it’s just about the maths now.
Dominic Barclay comes on towards the end, but sees little of the ball thanks to the aimless humpage I mentioned earlier. On the odd occasion he does, he actually doesn’t look too bad. Maybe one to try and keep hold of for next season? Thankfully we’re at least not treated to Mark Watson stumbling around and falling over like a pissed giraffe. That would have been just too much to bare on a day like this.
So in the end we’re grateful for the final whistle to put us out of our misery. We trudge back to The Cock for a consolation pint or two and discover that we’re even more in the shit than we were before, yes it seems that was actually possible, as Welling have won 4-1, Kettering have also picked up 3 points with FGR and Woking both drawing, so we now sit 6 points adrift of the sides above us and a good 8-10 points from safety. As I said before, all about the maths now.
After our pint here we hit the Compasses Inn nearby, recommended by a nameless committee member who has local knowledge. (Ta Andree!) There we have a few pints of the lovely Golden Thread on offer and discuss the season so far with an SUFC club director who also knows the place and has popped by for a couple. Then it’s back to the car, the Motorway and ultimately home.
We stop for a lavvy break at services somewhere on the M6, where we bump into some Southampton fans. They greet us in the accustomed manner. (ie. point at the shirts and exclaim, “Who the fuck is that?”) and we then exchange heading-for-relegation type chatter before securing sausage rolls etc for the remainder of the journey.
Upon returning to Sutton we drop off Bob to prepare for his second hangover in the morning, whilst Judith gets me an invite to a house party in Croydon. There we keep drinking to drown our sorrows until we’re booted out at sometime around 2am.
Forest Green on Tuesday then. That would be a 6 pointer if we weren’t so far back. And sadly for us, there’s no such thing as a 12 pointer….
MAN OF THE MATCH : Mmm, yes, very amusing…….
ENTERTAINMENT : 3. A poor game between 2 really poor teams.
TEAM : Howells, Berry, Laker, Sears, Skelly, Hutchinson, Dack, Harlow, Newhouse, Ekoku, Winston SUBS : Forrester, Riley, Watson, Iga, Barclay