Manly Handshake

RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION

Att: 206



BILLERICAY TOWN – 0

SUTTON UNITED – 1    [Fowler 12]

With the side performing slightly less spectacularly than a troupe of ill-trained gibbons recently, tonights trip to bottom club Billericay isn’t exactly our idea of fun. A win is desperately needed, not only to reverse our awful recent record, but as after this evening, we have another 2 week break.

The evening begins with a nightmare journey across London, thanks to our superbly run underground system. An hour from Waterloo to Liverpool St. Cheers Ken.

I find Chalmers outside the pub, already supping a pint. I’m soon necking one of my own. As we decide which train to hit, Bob appears. He too decides on a swift refreshment break before we scramble off for the train to delightful Essex.

On the train, Chalmers tells us how he’s spent the day using up all his bad luck (walking under ladders etc) to give us a better chance of a result tonight. We’d have believed him too if he then hadn’t told us about his bet on the Arsenal Champions League match, where he’s gone for a 2-1 Kiev win and some Russian/Ukranian bloke we’ve never heard of to score the first goal!

Are you sure it was really all for the lads benefit mate??

The U’s stick to their recent 4-4-2 formation, with the only change being Hamlin’s replacement with Fletcher after getting his knock on the saturday. This also means that Corbett, Honey & Akuamouah are all still missing.

With both sides in real need of the points, the match gets off to a bright start. The home side obviously trying to get an early goal to get them going. After 7 minutes, a ball down our right results in a low cross. Iga gets down to block it but spills the ball and he has to rely on his defence to clear the danger.

The U’s response isn’t long in coming and Fowler hooks a ball out to the right. Bailey chases in and pulls a cross back into the area for Watson, but he pulls his first time effort at the ‘keeper.

‘Ricay have their first solid effort around 10 minutes in. A corner in from the left is met at the near post & headed strongly across goal. But Iga dives full stretch and makes an excellent one handed save, tipping the ball around the post.

The let off proves handy as within a couple of minutes, we’re ahead. A corner of our own from the left is only half cleared. Fletcher puts the ball back into the danger area, where it eventually finds Watson. He lays the ball back out to Bolt around the left corner of the box. Bolty whips it straight back in and as the ‘Ricay defence comes out, Fowler spins off his man at the back post and sidefoots past John much to our delight behind the goal. It even earns Mr Fowler a congratulatory hand shake from your author.

None of that hysterical jumping about for me. Oh no. Far too unseemly. Manly handshake, jolly good show, get on with it old bean.

Ahem.

The goal gives the lads a bit of a lift and we manage to string together a few passes and cause our hosts a bit of discomfort. Soon after the goal, a great ball from deep by Bolt finds Gray out on the right. His driven low ball flies across the goal, with Watson just failing to make contact.

Neither side though can stamp their authority on proceedings and a bit of a scrap ensues. The next real chance falls to the home side. A corner is cleared, but as our defence charges out, the ball is chipped back into the space behind them, leaving an attacker 1-on-1 with Iga. But somehow, the guy manages to drift his shot wide of the U’s goal.

The last serious act of the 1st half sees the U’s almost double their advantage. A quick break from a ‘Ricay attack sends Gray free down the right. He whips a ball infield to the oncoming Bailey. He bursts through on goal, but as he’s about to shoot, the Town no4 manages to get across and close him down. Bailey gets his shot away though, driving it into the turf and looping up, drawing a great fingertip save from John.

So, we head for the bar a goal to the good. Whilst warming up, the focus switches to Chalmers big bet. We soon find that Arsenal are a goal down and much to his delight, the goal has indeed been scored by the bloke we’ve never heard of. We make sure Chalmers is aware of the fact that the drinks are on him if this comes off!

The second half starts brightly for the U’s, Bolt putting the ball out to Bailey. His deep cross picks out Watson towards the back post. But his header lacks enough power to beat the ‘keeper. Bailey is involved again soon after, winning back a ball he’d lost  on the left. Gonsalves overlaps and Nick threads the ball into his path. He makes a good strong run into the oppo half before trying to thread a pass of his own through the defence, but the pass is cut out just before it can reach the lurking Fowler.

Sutton’s spell lasts all of around 10 minutes and as time wears on, the home side get more & more on top. One cross from the right picks out a man at the back post. His volley is hit straight at Iga from an angle. The home side continue to put pressure on our defence and the U’s are finding it harder & harder to clear their lines. 57 minutes played and one bout of pressure results with a chip from the edge of the box bouncing off the top of the Sutton bar with Iga looking on.

It keeps on coming though. On the hour mark a good attacking run down our left flank. The deep ball to the back post is headed down, past Iga. Thankfully Palmer is there to hook the ball off the line.

Sutton break the one-way traffic soon after. Billericay again don’t clear their lines from a corner and Bolt puts in a wicked ball. Bailey nips in behind the defence, but just fails to make contact. John still has to dive full stretch to save one-handed & conceed another corner.

But it’s a brief respite. The home side keeps pressing, desperately looking for an equaliser. Just inside the last 20 minutes, there’s another near miss. A ball in from the right is headed back across goal, but the Billericay man can’t quite shake off Fletcher and his back header drifts wide. A while later, a corner from the left finds a blue shirt unmarked, but he powers his header over the bar from close range. Much to our relief.

Another header, this time from a deep cross out on the right, is also headed over the target from close in. Despite another couple of close calls, the lads somehow hang on and with one of the last acts of the match, Bailey bursts through, forcing a solid save from John with a low 20 yard strike.

To add to our frayed nerves, the ref finds several minutes of added time from somewhere. And we spend every single one of these cursing him under our breath. And sometimes out loud. Eventually though, the points are ours and that dreadful run is brought to an end.

We pile into Gareth’s motor for the trip home and Chalmers excitedly plays with the stereo, trying to find out the score of the Arsenal game. To his delight, the Gooners have snatched a late goal to complete the 2-1 result he predicted. This coupled with Ivan Scoreagoalski getting the opener means he’s 250 nicker better off.

Right, step on it Gareth, Mr Chalmers has a round of drinks to buy.

See you all in 2 weeks. Try not to win too many games while we’re away eh everyone? This season is hard enough as it is without other people being sort of good…

MAN OF THE MATCH – Matt Fowler. Starting to look sharp after his lay off.

ENTERTAINMENT – 6. Not a classic, but both sides tried to play….

TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Hodges, Gonsalves, Fletcher, Gray, Hanlan, Bailey, Bolt, Watson, Fowler

SUBS : Dray,

THE REFEREE’S………a completely standard, hopelessly irritating Ryman match official. Missed a couple of vital decisions for us and the booking for Fowler was a bloody joke.

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