RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
PURFLEET – 0
SUTTON UNITED – 2 [Fowler 37. Watson 82]
Ok, hands up everyone who thought this season was going to be pony? That many? Wow.
Er, who’s the oldish guy at the back with the big moustache with his hand up? He seems vaguely familiar….
The U’s so far remarkable start to the 2002/2003 campaign reached new heights yesterday night with a resounding 2-0 win at Purfleet. A side lying in 2nd place, unbeaten this season and with a 100% home record. And all this with a complete toe-punt of a referee.
So not a bad result really!
The usual dash through rush hour London and I find Bob waiting in the ticket office at Fenchurch Street. Shortly we’re off to the footballing metropolis that is the Thurrock Hotel, Purfleet.
Well, we’re heading in that direction anyway. We actually jump off the train at the stop before, at Rainham. Why? Because as you may know from previous comments my good self has made regards Purfleet, it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere. The station being a good few miles from the ground. In fact, the walk from the station takes just as long as the train journey from London to Purfleet does!
So, our plan is to jump off the stop before, book a cab and then kill a bit of time in the pub over the road with a couple of pints. Which we do. Chalmers soon calls and informs us he’s arrived at the ground in his shiny new car.
Which means the transport home is sorted as well. Bonus.
A couple of beers and a pricey cab ride later, we arrive at the ground and stagger in. Again, the U’s team has changed little, with only the addition of Matt Ottley, signed from Crawley, in place of the injured Danny Hodges. Also, Nick Bailey keeps his place ahead of Paul Honey. Strange.
As befits their lofty position, the home side make much of the early running, using every opportunity to put the U’s defence under pressure. Be it from free-kicks, throw ins or just big hoofs down the field by the ‘keeper, the Sutton defence has to be on its toes to keep our hosts at bay.
The first chance of course falls to Purfleet. A swift move down the centre results in a ball into the box on the right. A home striker gets behind his marker and heads goalwards. Thankfully, our old geezer in goal is alert and makes a brave diving save at his near post.
The home side continue to pressure the Sutton defence and almost break through soon after, some swift short passing out on the Sutton right and a ‘Fleet striker gets to the byeline, but his pass zips across the face of goal with no one there to apply the finishing touch. The other thing our hosts seem very good at is whinging. Twice their #6 moans about the attentions of Matt Fowler, even claiming to have been elbowed by the U’s striker. Twat! The fact that he’s 6ft 4 at least and Fowler would need a set of fucking step ladders to even get near head height are not lost on the ref. Who makes his only sensible contribution of the night by having a quiet word.
It takes Sutton the best part of 20 minutes to muster an effort on goal, a Danny Bolt cross from the right picks out Mark Watson at the near post. He gets in front of his marker and stoops to head goalwards, bu the ‘keeper is down smartly to save at the expense of a corner. Purfleet hit back, pushing up the huge Jimmy McFarlane for every corner & set piece, he gets his noggin on one corner, bulleting the header just over Pape’s bar. Pape is soon in action again, making a diving save to keep out another close range header following a corner.
With only a couple of off target Bolt free-kicks to go with Watsons header, it’s a bit of a surprise to us when the U’s take the lead after 37 minutes. Bolty fails to get any height on a corner and it’s cleared straight back to him on the right. He lays it out to the supporting Palmer who then slips the ball in towards Matt Fowler at the near post. The young striker controls with his first touch and with a neat bit of skill turns away from the attentions of two defenders before poking the ball past the ‘keeper and a covering defender, into the bottom far corner. Bloody hell! That’s a touch!
Naturally not wishing to relinquish their home record to us very easily, Purfleet up the tempo slightly and go looking for an equaliser. It almost comes about 5 minutes after they go behind. Another deep cross into the U’s box finds McFarlane. His looping header has Pape beaten, but bounces back off the top of the crossbar. Despite a lot of pressure and possession around the U’s box and a string of corners, Purfleet fail to test Pape seriously again before the break. In fact it’s the visitors who are denied a second goal, when with a couple of minutes to the break, the somewhat frustrating (and thats putting it politely!) ref denies the U’s what seems a clear cut penalty.
Mark Watson chases down a long ball forwards, harrassing the defender all the way. Both players enter the box and as it seems Watso is going to come out on top, the defender does extremely well to get a foot in and divert the ball to one side. Both again chase the loose ball but now with the ‘keeper in close pursuit as well. Again, the defender just wins out, nodding the ball towards the touchline to give him some breathing room to allow a big launch upfield. As he heads the ball, the ‘keeper intervenes and just clatters Watson. Absolutely no intent of even going for the ball! The ref duly blows his whistle, but to our utter amazement awards a free-kick against Watson! Understandably, this upsets the travelling fans behind the goal and we inform Mr Pryor what an inept wanker he really is.
The break follows soon after and grabbing a cuppa, we wander round to await the second half and a further onslaught from our hosts.
Much to our disappointment, the U’s start the second half, much the same way as the first. (IE- Not very well!). And for 10 minutes, we’re again under the cosh as Purfleet come at us looking for that equaliser. They very nearly get it as well.
Another corner (about their 67th) finds a Purfleet head in the area. The strong downward header is goalbound until Mr Pape gets his portly frame down quickly enough to make an excellent stop and beat the effort out. Darren Beale hammers the ball clear from danger.
Once this wobbly spell is over, the lads once again start to get into the game more and begin to play some nice football. Nick Bailey is having another good game, getting stuck in and combining well with Corbett. Bolty is being quietly effective, but without causing too much damage and the front two are working their socks off, with Mark Watson being especially effective against their big #5, McFarlane.
The U’s chances in this half are again mainly reduced to Danny Bolt free-kicks and he hits two from similar positions on the edge of the box marginally wide of the far upright. He also very nearly catches out the ‘keeper with one vicious swinging effort following a failed corner zipping inches wide of the far post. Desperation leads to the home side throwing on 2 offensively minded players for 2 defenders to try and get something from the game. But all this does is give Bolt more space to roam into and allow Beale and Hollands to push further up the field when in possession.
The ref, meanwhile, continues his somewhat one sided view of proceedings by failing to spot pretty much any act of foul play against Sutton players. Another bewildering incident has him blowing up for a free kick in the Purfleet box, again it seems against Watson. With Sutton going forwards and Watson and Hollands chasing a loose ball with a defender in attendance, Hollands gets to the ball first only for the ref to blow up. We all stand amazed looking to the opposite side for a ridiculous offside, but there is none! Even the Purfleet defenders seem a little confused by the descision!
Where do they find these inept chimps?
Purfleet still have a fair bit of pressure, but create little whilst Sutton go close on a couple of occassions. Watson has a carbon copy of his first half header from a Bolt cross just wide of the post and the big striker then goes on a marading 30+ yard run after winning the ball in midfield, ending it with a fierce effort that the ‘keeper does well to beat away with his fists.
Nick Bailey, by now looking a bit tired, continues to give his all and is the visitors saviour twice in as many minutes, tracking a oppo forward back into his own box and making two fantastic, perfectly timed, last ditch tackles.
With time running out, the oppo throw on another sub and with tem pushing up, the U’s are finding more and more space to attack in. Purfleets desperation is summed up as Mark Watson recieves the ball out on their left and tries to run the clock down a bit. The defender closes in and is given a lovely bit of advice from 20 yards away by his ‘keeper.
“Launch him!” says ‘keeper bloke.
“How about we launch you? You twat” we reply (On behalf of Mr Watson of course). Thankfully the defender ignores this somewhat dubious tactical advice and makes a fair challenge.
Then, with 8 minutes to play, Sutton’s dogged persistance pays off and they put the game out of reach. Another bit of battling up front wins a corner which Bolt plays in. It’s cleared to the far side, where Ryan Palmer swings it in to the back post where Mark Watson outjumps his marker and plants a deft backward header inside the post and into the bottom corner with the ‘keeper stranded.
“Launch THAT you wanker!” calls a U’s fan from behind the goal as we all dash to the perimeter fence and embrace a very sweaty Mark Watson for all but securing the 3 points.
The home side keep pressing, but all they manage is a yellow card for ex-U, Colin Simpson who’s on as a sub. And after several minutes of nervy injury time, the ref signals the end of the hosts 100% record at the Hotel and 3 excellently won points on their way back to North Surrey.
We grab some results in the bar before Mr Chalmers whisks us home in his new whip for more pints, somewhat happier.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Mark Watson. Big, strong and deserved that goal.
ENTERTAINMENT : 8. Tense, but brilliant dogged performance. Played some nice stuff too!
TEAM : Pape, Ottley, Palmer, Hollands, Beale, Gonsalves, Honey, Corbett, Bolt, Watson, Fowler.
SUBS : Gray, Timothy, Honey, Dunn