RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
CANVEY ISLAND – 1 [OG 47]
SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Jinadu 43. Bailey 57p. J.Nurse 88]
The last couple of weeks have been a bit ropey for the U’s. Losing a long unbeaten record at Bedford, then an awful defeat at home to Maidenhead, the captain & prized midfielder having a bust up on the pitch and a narrow, but abject 1-0 win over grossly inferior opposition in the County Cup.
I think you’ll agree that this is less than ideal preparation for a trip to the home of the runaway league leaders. Runaway league leaders who have played 19 matches on their own patch, winning 17 and drawing only 2. And coupled with a 27 game unbeaten run overall in the league, you can probably understand why we feared a bit of a going over. We’re half decent, but it can’t be said we’re exactly in the zone for this one!
Due to Canvey’s somewhat remote location and a glaring lack of suitable, let alone satisfactory watering holes in the vacinity, we decide to let ‘Greek Cabs’ take the strain instead of our bollocks national rail system. There is one drawback to this particular option though. And it’s a particularly nasty one.
No beer before the game.
Yes dear reader, horror of horrors, we’d actually have to watch a game totally sober. A rather disagreeable act that I personally am normally keen to avoid at all costs as not only does it promote sensible behaviour (Us? Sensible? With our reputation??), it also means the brain is particularly sharp and able to remember even the most minute detail of a horrible mauling against the league’s runaway leaders…
It’s just Greek, Windy and my good self today, with Chalmers deciding to spend the day watching Hartlepool – QPR. In Hartlepool. And Bob is doing housey stuff. So it’s at the disgracefully late (and sober) hour of 12.30 that my lift appears. Within a few of minutes of departure, I’m already regretting not at least relieving my beer store of some of it’s contents for the trip as Greek almost has the slowest crash ever by stacking his motor into the back of the one ahead of us at barely walking pace as he is too busy giving some bird driving a huge 4×4 next to us the ‘evil eye’ as he disapproves of her tactics involved in overtaking us in traffic. Only an alarmed scream from Gareth prompts him to slam on the brakes, avoiding disaster. Or in the very least, a rather heated exchange on the A23.
Never again. Never NEVER again I tell you!
Fortunately after a much quieter remainder of the trip, upon crossing over to the Island, we decide to play a little game. “Spot the mum with the most kids”. A few decent early spots of 3’s & 4’s are somewhat blown away by Gareth’s late claim of a 9’er! Although to be fair, no one else saw this to verify so we think he was either making it up or miscounted…
Well, at least he said he thought they were her kids. Either that or a lady pushing a pram was about to be comprehensively mugged.
A nice surprise await us when we arrive at Park Lane for the match. Nicky Bailey is stripped & out warming up with the rest of the side. Oooooh! Does this mean we’ll be back to the line up that won all those games around Xmas?
Thankfully, it does. Bailey appears to have made his peace with whoever he was required to make his peace with and he’s back. Which also means Tony Quinton returns to the defence and that we might actually be able to make more of a game of this than we’d expected!
With the best XI available to us restored to action, the U’s are quick out of the blocks & looking to make use of the strong wind barrelling down the pitch from seaestuary wall end. 3 minutes in and Hanlan swings a tempting free-kick in from the left towards the back post. Bailey gets there, but the angle is a little tight and he can only direct his header into the side netting.
A couple of minutes later, Gray & Bailey combine on a short corner from the right with Nicky swinging the ball in towards the near post. Jinadu gets away from his marker, but can’t direct his stooping header on target & it flashes wide.
The promising start continues with another corner won on 11 minutes. Again Bailey & Gray combine, this time from the left. Grays cross picks out Hanlan a few yards out at the near post. But despite his header looking on target, it strikes Fowler just in front of him and deflects out for a goal kick.
Canvey finally announce they’re in the game after about 15 minutes. A sweeping ball out towards the left corner is dropped over Akuamouah’s shoulder. And with Eddie not 100% due to an ankle knock, the attacker finds it easier than expected to get to the ball before zipping a low ball across the 6 yard box. Thankfully, no one in a Yellow shirt is there to put it away and the U’s defence manage to clear their lines.
The lads are soon causing trouble at the other end again. Honey playing a short free-kick to Gray out on the right. He goes at the defence before cutting in on the edge of the box and cracking a shot across the goal and just wide of the far post.
The home side take advantage of Eddie’s lack of pace again shortly after, another sweeping pass out to the left leaves him exposed, but again the ball in is lacking and despite flying across the 6 yard box, it’s too far ahead of the Canvey front 2 for them to reach it. Andy Iga is called into serious action for the first time on 24 minutes, when an attacker turns and fires in a shot from just outside the box. But Andy is equal to the shot and palms it away for the defence to clear under pressure.
Immediately, Sutton counter with Nurse turning his man near halfway and heading upfield. He passes inside to Fowler who them picks out the overlapping Bailey on the left. Nick tries his luck, but the Canvey ‘keeper covers his near post and blocks the shot with his legs. The lads keep up the pressure and on31 minutes a ball down the right sends Gray on a run. He goes past 2 defenders before sliding the ball to the near post for Nurse, but his quick turn & shot from 6 yards again finds the ‘keeper in the way and once more, the effort is blocked by his legs.
Canvey give us a scare straight after when a Sutton move breaks down in midfield. The home side counter quickly and a yellow shirt tries his luck from 25 yards out on the left. Bailey dives in to block the effort and it loops up & over the now stranded Iga and drops a whisker wide of the far post. Thank fuck for that!
Iga makes a huge wind assisted kick from the restart and Fowler chases it down around 25-30 yards out from goal. Just as it seems he’s about to get clear of his marker, he’s rather cynically hauled to the turf from behind. Some U’s fans are calling for a red card, but sadly, the Gulls no6 was pretty much level a few yards away making any argument for a case of ‘last man’ a bit of a dodgy one!
Still, the perpatrator earns himself a booking for his trouble.
The U’s continue to have the better of the play and on 35 minutes, a throw in from the left finds Bailey. He turns infield and having made space for himself, sends a curling drive just wide of the far upright which is a lot closer to the mark than the reaction of Potter in the Canvey goal would have you believe.
As the half enters it’s final stages, we’re starting to worry that all this good effort will go to waste unless we can nick a goal. As in the second half with the strong wind at their backs, the home side will no doubt set about bombarding our goal from all over the place. Come on lads, come on! One last effort!
Canvey produce 2 decent chances within a couple of minutes of each other, both again coming from the left. First a low diagonal ball to the right side of the area should be cut out by Quinton, but he can’t quite get a touch and the ball runs to Boylan behind him. But with the goal at his mercy, Mr 40-odd-goals-already-this-season lifts his shot over the bar. Next, a ball down the left flank once more exposes poor ol’ Ed and his dodgy ankle, but again despite a low driven cross along the 6 yard box, no one pops up to make the telling touch.
Then with us checking our watches for half-time, the breakthrough we’ve been hoping for. Nursey surges down the left and cuts into the box, but is harried off the ball. It runs to the edge of the box where the supporting Bailey tries his luck through a crowd of players, but his effort inevitably, is blocked too. The ball rebounds to the edge of the area & is scuffed clear by a yellow shirt, dropping at the feet of Jinadu just inside the opposition half. He strides forward and suddenly the path to goal opens up invitingly in front of him. The big man steadies himself before sending a 30 yard daisy cutter skidding off the turf and into the corner of the net past a startled Potter.
Wooooohooooo! It’s been coming, it’s been coming!!
The half ends without further incident and we stroll round to the far end with a smile on our faces. Well, we got the goal we deserved and at least it gives us something to cling onto during the all out assault that will now follow in the second half.
As it turns out, the lead we’d worked so hard to get lasts barely 3 minutes after the restart.
Iga takes a goalkick, but the wind catches hold of it and it drops out on the right, about 10 yards inside our half. It’s picked up by a Yellow shirt who immediately plays a pass down the touchline. The cross comes in low and Iga reacts to push the ball away at the near post, only for it to whack Tobes on the leg and trickle back over the line.
Another of our trademark howlers to add to a growing collection! Not that I’m blaming anyone here. It was just one of those things. But I’m willing to bet not many sides concede quite as many goals as us that can be placed in either the “avoidable” or “fuck awful” categories.
To their credit, the boys shrug off the setback, keep their heads up and are soon trying to restore the advantage. Once again, it’s the unlikely figure of Jinadu up front that almost does the trick! Bailey plays a centrally placed free-kick into the box, towards the back post. Tobi holds off his marker and slides in to pull a shot from almost on the byeline, past the ‘keeper, across the face of goal and a gnats chuff wide of the far upright.
Bloody hell! Has the big man had a bang on the noggin during the week and now thinks he’s Emile Heskey or summat???
Oh, hang on. That particular delusion isn’t possible. He’s scored today.
The home side keep playing the ball around patiently, but seem to lack any real urgency or drive. And, if anything, are trying to play far too MUCH footy around our box rather than stick the ball into the danger area. This helps our dogged rearguard and numerous passages of play are broken up by a White shirt intercepting a pass or just getting his foot in at a key moment.
It looks as though the boys will be forced to scrap out the rest of the half in this manner, until just before the hour, when a breakout earns us a corner. It’s swung in from the left, but headed a few yards clear by a defender. It’s nodded straight back in towards the back of the box where Patsy gets up & heads it down for Fowler. He spins away from his marker and takes a touch, but looks to have taken it too far and is heading out of play when for some reason, the ‘keeper races off his line and piles into our Number 9.
Now that my friends, is a stonewall dead fucking certainty of a penalty.
The ref seems a little unsure however, but a quick glance over at his linesman does the trick and he points to the spot. Let’s face it, if even a Ryman League lino thinks it’s a pen to the extent they’ll signal so to the ref….
The Canvey players protest pointlessly, but the decision stands. Bailey steps up and sends Potter the wrong way, slipping the ball into his bottom left hand corner. But, he’s only got a few yards into his celebration run before the ref calls him back.
And orders him to retake it.
You’re having a fucking laugh mate!
Apparently, the lino had spotted a U’s player (he seems to indicate it was Jon Nurse) encroaching into the box before the kick was taker. Proper fussy bastard and no mistake.
Obviously trying to ensure fair play. Windy makes a polite request of the linesman for the retake.
“Watch the fucking ‘keeper stays on his line now!”
Nicky steps up again, this time going to Potter’s right. Unfortunately so does Potter and he pushes the kick away. But now it’s his turn to have his celebrations cut short!
The aforementioned linesman has obviously taken Gareth’s sagely advice on board and been watching the movements of Mr Potter. And they’ve proven to be somewhat illegal as he’s stepped off his line way too early. So, another retake. And I‘m starting to feel a bit sick now.
Seemingly bored with all this pissing about, Nick dispenses with finesse for his 3rd attempt and simply smashes the ball straight down the middle & into the back of the net to finally, 100%, officially make it 2-1. And we all jump around like mad fools (again!) to celebrate. Except Gareth of course, ‘cos he’s got a gammy leg. To compensate he waves one of his crutches in the air.
The oppo go back to their patient movement of the ball, but again, we’re a little surprised by their apparent lack of urgency. Whether this is just simply over confidence or something else, I don’t know.
Again, the defence digs in and stands it’s ground and is doing so quite comfortably until with around 74 minutes played. A string of passes across the edge of our box results in a little ball through a gap for top scorer Lee Boylan to go after. Palmer steps in, but the attacker goes over his outstretched leg inside the box.
Oh fuck it. That’s a peno as well…and to make matters worse, I can’t even have a rant and rave about it as even from here you can see it’s a peno. We stand at the opposite end, heads in hands, peering through our fingers. C’mon Andy, c’mon. Keep the bastard out!
Boylan strides up and thumps the penalty to his right. Iga guesses correctly and flings all 6 foot odd of himself to his left and firmly beats away the effort. No rebounds, no fucking about. All save. Lovely stuff.
It’s a brilliant, brilliant stop and causes more mad jumping around at the far end of the ground. I’m sure even Gareth manages a little bounce at this point! What’s this? Surely something isn’t going to go our way for a change?
The save seems to spark the home side briefly and for a few minutes, they exert some serious pressure around our 18 yard box. But, they only have one serious effort to show for it when we fail to clear our lines and the ball falls to an attacker in a bit too much space on the right. Thankfully, his dipping effort over Iga drops a shade over the bar rather than under it.
We’re still looking dangerous on the break though. And this leads to a somewhat frantic last 10 minutes or so. First Fowler plays a ball through that cuts open the home defence and sends Matt Hanlan clear. With only the ‘keeper to beat thought, he puts his shot straight into the arms of Potter in front of him.
It’s a brief let off. Bailey slides a pass down the left touchline for Nursey to scamper after. And in typical Nursey fashion, he goes for it! Cutting infield past one man he drives for the box , skips past a second opponent and finds himself 1 on 1 with the ‘keeper. His shot is from a similar spot to Hanlan’s and again is straight at the keeper. But this time, the Canvey custodian can’t hold onto the ball and fumbles it back into the path of the U’s striker.
Nursey doesn’t need asking twice and gobbles up the second chance, sweeping the ball past the grounded ‘keeper and into the net. 3-1 and it’s loony jumping about time again!
Meanwhile Mr Nurse disappears from view under a pile of green & white shirts somewhere near the halfway-line. Also around this time, a large section of the crowd populating the big terrace at the far end exits stage left to no doubt beat whatever rush they might have out here in the middle of the Thames.
Bye! Thanks for coming!
Canvey finally show a bit of serious intent in the last couple of minutes and dispense with the pissing about and get all direct on us. A ball through the centre of our defence results in a shot that Iga beats out and to our relief he eventually falls onto the loose ball at the second attempt.
With the hosts now starting to properly push up, more gaps are appearing at the back for us to exploit. Another ball through the home defence and that pesky Nursey bloke is off again. Holding off a much bigger defender, he surges into the box drawing Potter off his line before crashing an effort back off the bar. Now, 2-1 was good. 3-1 is marvellous. But 4-1? Bloody outrageous!
The last real act of the match comes from the home side, again stinging the hands of Iga. The U’s defence fails to clear a cross from the right and the ball drops to a yellow shirt on the edge of the box but his low drive through the crowd is again pushed away at full stretch by the Sutton ‘keeper. A few moments later, the surprisingly half decent ref calls time on the home side’s long unbeaten home record and their even longer actual unbeaten run and we rousingly cheer the boys off like the heroes they are.
Right, lets get the fuck out of here and get back home. I need a bloody beer after that.
It’s a happy and smug Peugeot diesel on the way home and before long, the much longed for and much deserved sweet sweet pints of victory are being supped back in the Hood.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Andy Iga. Had a stormer & the penalty save was quiet brilliant.
ENTERTAINMENT : 8. Both sides played football. And the result wasn’t bad either!
TEAM : Iga, Gray, Akuamouah, Palmer, Jinadu, Quinton, Bailey, Hanlan, Honey, Fowler, J. Nurse
SUBS : Boosey, C.Nurse, Hamlin