Express Train Near Death Experience


Att: 277


SUTTON UNITED – 2     [Bailey 22. Nurse 75]

When the fixtures came out in July, probably the first match date we looked for, even ahead of the derby against the Scummers, was the away trip to Bognor.

This is thanks to 2 now legendary piss ups down there between 1991-93. Then the selfish, inconsiderate ‘Rocks’ went and got themselves relegated and we’ve been waiting for them to re-appear since! Thankfully they secured runners up spot in Div1 South last season and we get our piss up back.

But there’s bad news too. Some sick bastard at Ryman HQ thought it would be hilarious to set the game for the 20th of December. Tossers.

So we spent another 4 months hoping that the weather wouldn’t wipe the game out & give us a difficult Tuesday night trip to the south coast. To our relief, the weather held off. Game on!

But there was another dark cloud looming. The office Xmas Party!

I’d had mine prior to the Heybridge game & suffered. This week, Greek, Gareth & Bob were all on the piss the night prior to going to the seaside and er……going on the piss!! So it’s with some trepidation I amble up to East Croydon on the Saturday morning. The Greek is surprisingly sprightly, but it turns out he hadn’t really kicked the arse out of it the evening before. Gareth is a different prospect altogether however.

In his own words, he’s “Rubbish”. And he looks it! Reaching his bed at 4am having started in the pub at 3pm friday has obviously had a nasty affect. “Who’s idea was this??” he bleats as we head for the train.


Thanks to the wonder of our not-at-all-3rd world, miracle of the 21st century, national transportation network, we wind up in not so sunny Bognor a little later than anticipated. By now, the Greek & I are gagging for a pint. Gareth meanwhile is somewhat apprehensive! We wander onto the front, against the force 9 gale thats blowing inland and start looking for a boozer. We’re soon rewarded, spotting a place called the Unicorn down a side street. Mmmmm. Gales. A lager top later and even Gareth is seeming a bit perkier.

Then it’s off to search for the infamous scene of those aforementioned legendary piss ups. The ‘Cheers’ bar, somewhere on the front. I think! But the wind on the front is driving some very cold rain into our faces, so we dive into the first pub we see to take refuge. And of course, it’d be rude not to partake in some of their alcoholic products.

We get a stroke of luck when the barman overhears us talking about ‘Cheers’ and confirms it is still there. Up by the pier. Lovely, next stop then! Braving the Force 8 gale outside (thankfully the rain has stopped) we amble a bit further up and finally locate ‘Cheers’, which is now cunningly disguised as a hotel. Clever, very clever! But we’re not fooled!

For me, it’s like stepping back in time 12 years. The place hasn’t changed a single bit. Except for the pool table, which has moved just a bit if I recall correctly! It’s exactly the same as on those 2 utterly mad saturdays. Just with less U’s fans in attendance. Nick breaks me out of my reminiscences by announcing it’s my round. Cheers mate.

A couple of pints later and it’s time for a cab to the ground. We arrive with 8 minutes to spare. Time for a swift short in the bar then!

Drinks in hand, we emerge in time for kick-off. The first thing to catch our eye is the scoreboard placed on top of the covered end we’re shooting towards in the 1st half. Yep, you read that right. A scoreboard! Any chance of one at GGL Mr Chairman? Preeeeetty please!

The U’s welcome back Tobi Jinadu to the defence, with Gonsalves getting a chance to rest his knee on the bench.

Sutton’s recent huge improvement in form has seen them go unbeaten since the end of October. That’s 10 games! And strangely coinciding with JR releasing probably the 2 most experienced members of the squad in Watson & Bolt. Weird.

The lads confidence is clearly flowing again, but we start a little slowly & Bognor make use of the wind at their backs to push us back. But this lasts little more than a few minutes and with 7 played, Jon Nurse goes scampering after a ball into the space behind the home defence on the left. He cuts infield and his shot from 10 yards out slips the wrong side of the post and into the side netting.

Fowler finds space soon after, but the ‘keeper races off his line & makes the clearance. The U’s keep up the pressure and on 24 minutes, it pays off. Nurse wins the ball beep, turns and releases Gray down the right. He charges forwards and delivers a fierce low ball across the box. It misses out Fowler at the near post, but picks out the run of Bailey, completely unmarked at the back post. He rifles the ball into the net from close range.

The home side respond quickly to going behind and within a couple of minutes, a dangerous ball is played in from the left. But it spins away from an attacker at the near post and he’s unable to help it onto the target. But Nursey is soon back causing havoc amongst the ‘Rocks’ defence. He’s receiving the ball deep, some 30 yards out and as the defence drops off him, he’s turning & running at them. And they don’t like it! One break into the box forcing a tidy save from the ‘keeper who manages to smother the ball before Fowler can finish off.

Bognor keep our defence on their toes on the half hour mark with another ball behind Akuamouah on the left. The cross comes in finding the forward just before the near post. But his smart turn & shot ends up in  the side netting. On 38 mins we have a decent shout for a penalty when a ball into the right side of the box appears to be handled by a defender, but the ref waevs play on. 30 seconds later, Fowler is upended in the box and again the ref is unconvinced. Tosser!

Right on the break, Nurse again uses his pace & gets away from the home defence, firing a low shot across the face of goal from out on the left, but just wide of the post.

With the cold wind, we leg it into the bar for a purely medicinal half time snifter. One that will then proceed to take in most of the second half as well when we discover A- The bar is staying open and B- They’re perfectly happy to serve alcohol in plastic glasses & allow you to sup it on the terraces.

So I apologise if it gets a teeny bit hazy from this point on!

The U’s carry on where they left off at the start of the 2nd half, Nurse feeding Eddie out on the left. He puts a teasing ball in that Fowler can’t quite get to and under pressure, the defence manages to clear it’s lines. Just after the hour, the ‘Rocks’ give us a reminder that they’re still only the one goal down with a quick move on our left ending with a low driven effort flashing past Iga and just wide of the far post.

With a little over 20 minutes remaining, Nurse once again proves a thorn in the side of the harrassed home defence, this time robbing their No4 some 20 yards out & legging it for goal. Clean through, the 4 stops him the only way he can. By hauling him down. We call for a red, but the ref thinks otherwise and issues only a caution. Thankfully, Jack Pearce, the Bognor manager thinks otherwise too and immediately replaces the offender with a sub. A decision Mr 4 isn’t best pleased with!

It’s a rare display of sportsmanship in this day & age. Respect Mr Pearce. Shame wankers like Graham Roberts and his ilk are the norm rather than the exception.

The U’s have displayed good drive & pace with thier attacks all afternoon with the runs of Nurse, Gray & Bailey really causing problems. And with 15 to play, it finally brings it’s further reward. A sweeping ball from left to right by Akuamouah finds Gray. He attacks his man and delivers another of those wicked low balls. Finding Nurse in front of his marker at the near post to sweep the ball home. Drinks in hand, we bounce up and down in mildly inebriated delight. I then set off on a rather refreshing jog to the far end of the ground to capture another delightful image.

While I’m up there, the ref awards a slightly ridiculous free-kick just inside our 18 yard box for what appears to be obstruction, but the ball is driven into the mass ranks of Amber and Choc shirts, resulting in a very rapid break away attack with Nurse bombing away upfield with the home players in hot pursuit. Nursey gets to the byeline on the left before pulling the ball back to the edge of the box to……Dean Hamlin!?!? His thundering drive beats the ‘keeper but crashes back off the bar and is scrambled desperately clear.

Nursey again finds himself clear of the defence shortly after, but 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper he hits the ball straight at the ‘Rocks’ custodian. Which I’m a bit relieved about. As it means I don’t have to leave my refilled glass of Southern Comfort and leg it back up the other end to take another picture of the bloody scoreboard!

The U’s see out the remaining few minutes of the match without too much fuss, with only a bit of a scramble in our area presenting a chance that is blazed well over by a Bognor forward.

So, another 3 points towards that top 13 target and a bloody good performance to boot! We retire to the bar for another drink or seven and to gee up the lads for the big one next Saturday. Bobbins at home. Although Matt Fowler seems relatively confident as he leaves, crate of beer in his arms for the long coach journey home! Good man!

Now where’s ours mate?

Cabs are secured back into town and we set about having a few more beers. But with the trains home being a bit crap, we decide to head for Brighton for a few more drinks and it’s better links back to Croydon and thus home. Eventually, via Barnham & an ‘Alldays’ for a beer take-away, we wind up a pub I know by Brighton station for a couple before home. Meeting a Charlton fan and receiving some promising reports of young Aaron Cole-Bolt’s early progress since joining the Addicks recently. Although the Morris dancers and women in medieval ‘wench’ type dress populating part of the pub seem to disturb the Greek fella a bit!

To the train home then. Which makes a lengthy stop at Three Bridges. Thanks to the suggestion of the guard over the tannoy, Gareth & Greek by now gagging for a smoke hop off to get their fix. Well, Greek does, Gareth tries to kill himself by trying to open the door on the track side of the train. Only realising when I direct him the opposite way. 5 seconds later, another train thunders in past his original choice of exit.

Dozy drunken Scots bloke!

We’re soon on our way again, but for some reason, a very dumb idea is hatched. Instead of going back to Croydon & bagging a cab from there, Gareth & Greek vote to get off a stop early at Purley & get one from there instead. I’m far too pissed to argue and go along with this. It seems that Gareth is reliving his route home from his Xmas do the night before!

Pissed, happy although still slightly confused by our choice of route home, the cab dumps me at my door 20 minutes later & I stagger indoors to crash into bed and dream of what our resurgent U’s could possibly do to the Scummers next week.

God dammit it’s fucking good to have you back Bognor!!!

MAN OF THE MATCH : Matt Gray. Just pipped Nursey.

ENTERTAINMENT : 8. Booze, good footy & 3 points. We’re happy!

TEAM : Iga, Gray, Akuamouah, Palmer, Jinadu, Bailey, Quinton, Honey, Fowler, Hanlan, Nurse.

SUBS : Hamlin, Gonsalves, Fletcher

THE REFEREE’S…… Admittedly as both sides tried to play the right way, the ref had little to do really.

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