RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
KETTERING TOWN – 0
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Nurse 43]
What a strange one this was!
Easily our longest trip this season and our worst nightmare would be a tuesday night run up into Northamptonshire. Naturally, the hosts hung on in the FA Cup a couple of rounds more than us and our Saturday trip was off. A Tuesday night it was.
Bob, Chalmers & I decided to hook up at St Pancras. Gareth & Dave deciding the car was best. Well, at least we’d have a lift home! Little did we realise how valuable that would prove later on that evening.
Chalmers finally rolls into the pub just before 6, but still no Bob. A quick text later and it’s discovered he’s delayed at work. Ooops. Soon 25 quid lighter, we’re on the train. First stop Kettering.
It’s 25 past 7 when we hop out of the cab at Rockingham Road. Ah! Time for a quick drink methinks! Then Gareth calls and asks a question that gets us thinking. “Is the team there yet?”
Now you come to mention it, now we’ve had a quick shufty about we don’t see a team coach.
It turns out that the M25 is currently living up to it’s reputation as the worlds biggest car park, with Mr Miller only as far as Rickmansworth despite having left Sutton at half 4. Oh dear. Thats about when the coach left. And Gareth can go a damn sight quicker than than a 52 seater when there’s no traffic.
Oh well, looks like that quick drink will have to be several quick drinks.
It turns out that the team have bailed off the 25 and headed up the M40 before cutting across. It’s not exactly the quickest route, but it’s no doubt better than sitting doing bugger all. A Kettering official informs us as we head into the bar that the ref has set a deadline of 9pm latest for the match to kick off.
9pm? Do me a favour! Surely they’ll be here before that! Won’t they?
As the (cheap!) beer is sunk, it slowly becomes apparent through calls to Gareth and information announced by home officials that it’s actually going to be touch & go for a 9pm start. But, we hide our disappointment, order another round and swap banter with the home fans whilst watching the first half of Inter-Arsenal on the telly. Tough I know, but we stuck at it. A rather pleased-that-he’s-made-kick-off-after-all Bob eventually joins us to offer some moral support and another round of beers.
Eventually, with 15 mintues to spare until the 9pm deadline, the team finally roll up. Gareth & Dave meanwhile are still trying to find the ground. Come on lads, hurry up! They eventually locate their destination, park up and bundle through the turnstile with a couple of minutes to spare.
What bloody time do you call this then?? We’ve had to drink your share of the beer!
Sutton’s starting 11 is unchanged from saturdays draw, with the only surprise being the inclusion of Gonsalves on the bench, who only 4 days ago was apparently in need of a knee op and out until the new year! It would appear not.
Understandably, having been stuck on a coach for 4 and a half hours, the lads make a slightly sluggish start. But, it takes the home side almost 10 minutes to manage their first serious raid on Iga’s goal. A deep cross from our right picks out a red shirt well placed at the back post, but he heads straight at our man between the sticks.
Nurse gives us a little hope of competing tonight when he makes a strong run from deep down the left before cutting in and curling a shot into the ‘keepers body. The Poppies defence not looking the quickest in the world.
19 minutes played and with Kettering having most of the possession, they force a corner. It comes in from the left and Iga comes for it, but gets nowhere near making any kind of contact. The ball drops loose in the box and somehow from no more than 8 yards out, a Kettering attacker blazes the ball over the bar. Soon after, we fail to clear our lines and one of their lads tries his luck from about 25 yards out on the left, trying to chip the stranded-looking Iga. But his effort thankfully for us drops the wrong side of the far post.
On 24 minutes a corner of our own comes to nothing and the home side break very quickly. A swift ball out to the right puts their forward into a good position, but his angled shot is beaten away by Andy Iga. The U’s are struggling a little to create openings, but overall, they’re not playing that badly. But the home side keep pressing and are making chances.
Approaching the last few minutes of the half, we’re all hoping that we can keep it level for half time. Jinadu gives us a scare by sticking a boot out to block an effort around the edge of the area, but ends up somehow hooking the ball over his shoulder and just over his own crossbar! There’s danger from the resulting corner too, the ball being met at the near post and headed just over.
But, with us still hoping to keep it scoreless at the break, the lads exceed expectations and sneak ahead!
Nurse heads forward from deep and goes on a run with the ball. Slipping past 1 man and with the defence hesitating, he keeps going. The Kettering no2 tries to block off his run just outside the box, but Nursey leaves him standing with a little squirt of pace and cuts inside before wrapping his right foot round the ball and curling a lovely effort round the ‘keepers outstretched hand and into the net off the inside of the far post.
It’s a corking goal and we go suitably mad to celebrate.
Before I’ve had chance to scribble down a note of this event in my notes, he almost goes and does it again! Another pass into the channel for him and again he leaves the no2 trailing, suddenly finding himself 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper from an angle. The Poppies custodian does well to narrow down the angle and blocks Jon’s first effort, but the ball rebounds to him and he flicks goalwards it over the now grounded ‘keeper. But it lacks enough legs to find the mark and a defender just manages to get back and desperately hack it off the line.
We manage to see out the last couple of minutes without any trouble and we cheer the lads off, with of course that rather unexpected lead. Cheers Jon!
With no half-time bar access, we amble round to the far end to await the restart. On the way round, a fellow U’s fan informs me of a rather distasteful moment during the first 45 minutes, where a home ‘fan’ loudly informed Nursey he should “Go back to the bush”. Hmmmm. Now either thats a local saying meaning “Fuck off” or said person was a bit of a narrow minded twat. Having not heard the comment myself, I can say I sincerely hope that it’s the former, as the Poppies fans we had the pleasure of meeting were a good laugh and made us more than welcome before the game.
As the teams emerge for the second half, we’re all hoping the lads can hold out & who knows, maybe nick another goal! But within a minute of the restart, we’re soon preparing ourselves for a long hard 45 minutes! Kettering get possession in midfield and their man advances unchallenged before smashing an unstoppable drive from a good 25 yards out that has Iga well beaten, but luckily for us it thumps off the underside of the bar & bounces out. The U’s don’t clear the danger and a cross is immediately put in from the left, being met by a great header. But Kettering are denied again as Iga makes a great one-handed save, tipping the ball onto the bar and the danger is finally cleared.
The U’s come back into things after a quite few minutes as a steady fall of rain begins, Matt Hanlan sneaking in down the right and delivering a ball to the near post aimed at Nurse, but it’s cleared by a defender before the U’s forward can get there. The home side continue to have a lot of possession, but it’s becoming clear that they lack someone really sharp up front as an outlet for their useful looking midfield.
Chances are at a premium and with 20 minutes to go, Nick Bailey puts a free-kick in from the left that Quinton wins in the air, but his little flick ends up dropping into the side netting. The lads battle on though, with Nurse in particular impressing us with his non-stop all action performance. When he’s not looking to run at their back 4, he’s back helping out in midfield and even defence on a couple of occasions!
The steady rain continues as the game swings from end to end in the last few minutes, with a few strange decisions from the ref helping us out! Nurse shows his pace again in turning the ponderous no2 who hauls him back & gets a booking for his trouble. And the home side test Iga once more with a good low strike in from the right bringing a good save from the U’s ‘keeper.
But in the end, the boys hang on in there and just before 11pm the ref brings an end to proceedings and another away win brings 3 huge points for the U’s. The win finally boosts us back into that all important top 13 (12th) and has the added bonus of putting us back above K’s (I’m saying nowt!) and now only 6 points behind the high flying Scummers. The only bad point about tonight being that the flag is now completely soaked and weighs several tons. Getting that dry should be a laugh.
Right, come on Gareth, get a move on. We’ve got 8 minutes to make closing time at the Hood.
Whaddya mean ‘No chance’??
MAN OF THE MATCH – Jon Nurse. Again! Had an absolute stormer & a great goal.
ENTERTAINMENT – 7. A good, hard working away win.
TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Quinton, Jinadu, Akuamouah, Gray, Honey, Bailey, Hanlan, Fowler, Nurse
SUBS : Hamlin, Fletcher, Gonsalves
THE REFEREE’S………bloody hell! Another bloke who we really can’t complain about! Ok, if you’re a Poppies fan, you probably wouldn’t agree, but after a slow start he really seemed to favour us. Especially in the second half when a couple of ropey decisions went our way!