NEWPORT COUNTY – 2 [Coates 18. Moralee 22.] SUTTON UNITED – 4 [Martin 8. Fear 42. Gonsalves 45. Watkins 46.]
CONFERENCE SOUTH | Att: 1080
After the promising performance saturday against Hornchurch, fears of getting a spanking here, as predicted by most of us in the ‘predict the score and win points’ game (copyright: Nick the Greek) on the forum were starting to recede. Some of us even so brave as to start believing a draw was possible. Whatever the result, one thing was for certain. With a lengthy train based away day, we were going to get a bit beered.
Unfortunately, as it’s a lengthy train based away day, some fucking genius decided that it was a great idea to close Paddington station for the Bank Holiday weekend. And guess what station we need to get a train to Newport?? Yep, Paddington. Twats.
So instead we have to go from Sutton to Clapham, then to Reading before finally on to Newport from there, meaning a journey taking twice as long and making an already early start even earlier. Oh and despite all this hassle, it’s still thirty-fucking-six quid for the privilege. Bastards. We’re going to the Welsh Newport you tossers, not the one in fucking Rhode Island! So it’s a piss early o’clock that Myself, Mr & Mrs Chalmers find Windy at the station, but sadly the Greek fellow is unable to join us for monetary reasons and with an impending house move coming up, he needs all the spare pennies he has. And besides, he thought getting utterly destroyed on the weekender to Dorchester in a couple of Saturday’s time was a better use of his resources. And I say I’d probably have to agree.
Despite having to make more changes than a Dolly Parton live show, we arrive at Reading surprisingly on time and hop off the train to find the place looking like a scene from one of those news reports about a ‘humanitarian disaster’ in some far flung place you’ve never really heard of and aren’t too sure where it actually is. Everywhere strewn about the place there are pasty faced, unkempt and muddy people sprawled out all over the platform with assorted bits and pieces of cobbled together baggage. We swiftly conclude that either the UK Tramps and Vagrants Association is holding it’s yearly conference nearby or the Reading Festival has kicked out. So stepping our way through the hungover festival debris, we locate our platform and await our train to Wales. It soon arrives and as we’re probably amongst the least hungover/high people on said platform, our quicker reaction time means we manage to barge a load of students & crusties out of the way skilfully beat the rush and bag ourselves a block of 4 seats.
As we head away from Reading, we pass the festival site itself and it’s only then that I become aware of the faint odour of BO and campfire smoke in the carriage. Although quite whether it’s actually filtering in from outside or from our fellow passengers, I’m not entirely sure. Eventually after 3 hours on the go, we finally cross the river Usk and are deposited into relatively fresh, BO smell free Newport air. About bloody time. I could murder a pint.
A quick look at a map of the town outside the station soon puts us into the High Street and outside a Wetherspoons pub. That’ll do for starters! A nice couple of pints of Brains SA later and we’re off in search of more watering holes. Unfortunately, our plan is hampered by one tiny fact. Today is a bank holiday. And as such, it seems the fine town of Newport has remained in the 1960’s with regards to it’s trading hours and is pretty much fucking closed. Despite it being nearly 12.30, 2 possible pubs are soon crossed off the list simply due to the fact they’re shut. Dejected and thirsty, we abandon the town centre as a bad idea and head back towards the river where a couple of other possibles lurk. On the way we find a small bar open and decide it would be rude not to partake in a beverage in what seems like the only other licensed premises open in Newport.
Whilst finishing a swift short, a gentleman approaches us and in his broad Welsh accent engages in conversation. “Ah, Sutton fans are you?” “We certainly are!” “Ooooh lovely. Wheretoisthat?”
The bloke soon realises that he’s confused us by the slightly obvious “we haven’t got a clue what you’re on about mate” blank look on our faces followed my someone close by actually muttering “What the fuck did he just say?”. I won’t reveal their identity, but he’s University educated you know. Thankfully the gentleman then repeats his question in English and with all the words in an understandable order, which allows us to glean that he wishes to know the location of the town from which we originate. We satisfy his curiosity by informing him it’s in South London, a bit near Wimbledon “where they do the tennis”, then drink up swiftly and leave before any other locals decide to try out their ‘foreign’ language skills on the strange people in green & white shirts.
Crossing the bridge, we start keeping an eye out for the next place on the pub list. First is an establishment named the ‘Riverside Tavern’. Personally I have images in my mind of a nice old type building, possibly an old warehouse type place, housing a cosy boozer with a copious selection of ales. Sadly, my imagination is well off track with the real world and we find something that resembles a 70’s tower block with a dark looking place underneath with the name ‘Riverside Tavern’ above the doors. Fuck me, can today get any worse??
With no other options available, we cautiously poke our heads through the door. Thankfully the place is almost empty, thus reducing the percentages of getting glassed\stabbed and once our eyes adjust to the lower light levels, the place doesn’t look all that bad really. And besides, it has beer. So we decide to risk it for a biscuit (and a pint!) and wander in. It turns out to be a good choice as the beer is top quality and the sparse sprinkling of locals means we get to hog the pool table for the length of our stay. Windy then procures a taxi number from a local at the bar and orders up some transport to the ground (tip : Having someone called ‘Gareth’ ordering the cabs with an obvious English accent when in Wales doesn’t work well). Drinking up, we head outside and await our cab. And wait. And wait. Windy eventually calls them back to find out where it is, only to be told we’ve somehow missed it (fuck knows how, as absolutely nothing pulled up outside the whole time we were there!) and there’s now nothing else until 10 to 3! Fucks sake. Oh well, nowt for it but a quick tab back up to the station and the cab rank there. So much for having a Welsh named bod in the party.
Now, Newport’s Spytty Park is an athletics stadium and usually, we’re not keen on them. Mainly as it means the pitch & the terraces are normally in different postcodes. But they’ve done their best to make it as football-y as possible with a big covered terrace running down one side. So the view from the back of this is pretty decent and makes you feel more on top of the action than say Hornchurch or the dreaded Arena in Croydon.
As is becoming customary this season, JR has to make changes to the line up. Joff’s back injury keeps him out meaning Craig Watkins will get his first start alongside Martin up front. Also missing is Bradley Thomas, who has cried off sick that morning, leaving us with just 2 subs. And both of them are forwards. Still, despite being a bit short handed the lads start well and take the game to our hosts. Only 8 minutes in and our first serious attack has us jumping around like loons on the terrace. Matt Gray’s long throw from the right is headed on by Watkins and it drops to Andrew Martin behind him who dispatches a deft sidefoot volley from 8 yards past Freestone and into the bottom far corner. Bloody hell, that’s not a bad start!
Confidence seems to grow from this early strike and we play some decent football that almost leads to a second. Martin taking the ball on the right on 12 minutes before putting a cross along the edge of the 18 yard box. Watkins receives and with a deft turn, flashes a shot inches wide of the post. With a quarter of an hour played, an overlap down the County left results in another decent cross into the box. The home defence clears, but only as far as Peter Fear lurking 18-20 yards out and it takes a good save at the expense of a corner from Freestone to keep Fearo’s thumping drive out. But, having had the best of the early stages, the home side suddenly find their feet and hit back. On 18 minutes a U’s foray breaks down and a quick counter is launched. With the defence a little stretched, a drive up the centre results in a pass into the box for Coates to run onto and pace a shot under Wilson to level the scores.
Oh arse. Here we go again. Still, it was nice while it lasted.
And we’re right. Things get worse just 4 minutes later. A corner from the left finds Wilson trying to punch clear. But he misjudges his jump and only succeeds in fisting the ball straight into the air. It drops back towards earth, is nodded on towards the back post and Jamie Moralee makes no mistake, volleying high into the net from an angle. Some fine Anglo-Saxon is employed on our part of the terrace and we start to fear the worst. Our situation looks worse very soon after when Stuart Booth then limps off to be replaced by Olusesi, leaving Lewis Gonsalves as our only recognised defender on the pitch. Which is obviously not ideal. But, we continue to roar the lads on in the hope we can pull something out of the bag. Thankfully they manage to steady the ship and prevent the home side from taking total control. Then with around half an hour gone, Fearo gives us another inkling that we’re not quite out of this yet. Another raid down the left, another ball in and another poor clearance drops to the Plough’s favourite customer and cracks another shot on goal, this time fizzing just wide of the far post.
We keep plodding away and with the half drawing to a close, mutterings amongst the crew are along the lines of ‘taking’ a 2-1 defecit at half-time. Fortunately the lads have other ideas. Martin is rather clumsily flattened about 20 yards out from the Newport goal and a free-kick awarded. As the Newport players fanny about preparing for the kick, Fearo gets bored waiting and with the refs consent, curls a beauty into the bottom far corner sparking madness up in the corner of the terrace again. Fucking hell, we’ve mugged someone off for a change and got away with it. Wonders will never cease!
Naturally the hosts are a bit miffed at this and immediately set about trying to restore their lead. One low ball across the 6 yard box from the right is begging to be put away, but thankfully no-one is there to oblige and as we approach 1st half injury time, Mr Wilson is earning his corn again with a great stop from a low shot after another ball is fed in from the right. Ok lads, great stuff so far, lets keep it tight for the last few moments eh? Whats that? “Fuck off, we’re going to go up the other end and really piss off the locals by scoring again”??
Oh well, if you really insist.
Martin is upended right out on the left touch line and once more, Fear is on set-piece duty. Another beauty of a ball in deceives everybody and bounces back across goal off the far post. The shout of “YEEEEAAAAAAA………..OOOOOOOOOHHHH!” has barely left the lips of the U’s fans before Gonsalves dives in bravely and nods us unbelievably back into the lead from about a yard out. Naturally, more mad jumpy up and down silliness ensues before the ref finally decides to bring a pulsating first 45 minutes to a close moments later. Grinning like fools, we wander down to the far end of the big terrace to await the second half and no doubt a Rorkes Drift-esque defence of our one goal lead.
Now, if you’ve been watching football for a while, you’ll probably be aware of the saying about ‘attack being the best form of defence’. You are?? Good! ‘Cos when, like us, you’ve got 5 bloody players on the pitch whose first choice spot is up front at the sharper end of things, it’s probably not that bad an idea. And that’s exactly what the U’s do after the restart. Attack attack attack. Some dogged defending breaks down a Newport foray and a first time ball out finds Olusesi. The pacy little bloke legs it 50 or so yards right up the middle of the park, the ball at his feet. With the home defence backing off and support ahead of him in the shape of Martin & Watkins, Kunle opts for Martin on the right and despite his pass looking a little heavy, Taff gets control and wraps his foot round it, delivering a fantastic cross for Watkins who powers in at the back post, looping a header over the ‘keeper and into the net for 4-2. Time to go mad again methinks.
Once the celebrations die down, it dawns we’re facing about 43 minutes of pressure before we can leg it with the points. Erm, any chance of a fifth lads? As expected, the County response isn’t long in coming. Within 2 minutes an attack down the left results in a cross into the box. It drifts over Wilson but he’s bailed out by Matt Gray, who heads the ball away for a corner. The resulting kick finds an amber shirt deep beyond the back post, but his header hits the upright. 52 minutes and a ball in from the left again finds an attacker beyond the back post. Once more the ball is headed back towards goal and this time, Scott Corbett is called into action, heading away from inside the 6 yard box. Oh christ. 37 minutes left. I don’t think I can take this!
It seems the home side now feel they’ve found a weakness as all their crosses are now being aimed deep and beyond the back post for a big man to head back across the box. Fortunately, our dogged defending continues, managing to keep the hosts at bay. On the hour, a deep ball in from the right is again won & headed back towards goal. Wilson reacts and tips the effort over the bar for another corner. The flag kick is swung in, again to the back post. However this time it’s Eddie Akuamouah heading the effort off the line. But, the lads hold firm and weather the storm. And on 63 minutes a ball over the top sends Watkins in on goal. He manages to lift an effort over the advancing ‘keeper, but it’s just too high and drops over the target rather than into the net.
Wilson is soon back in action with about 20 minutes left when a free-kick from the left once more is headed back across goal. The resulting header at the near post is palmed wide for a corner by the U’s stopper. Immediately after, a cross from the left results in a super header in the centre of the box. But for the umpteenth time, Wilson gets himself down quickly and makes another superb save, pushing the effort away.
The ref is not helping our slowly fraying nerves meanwhile, by stepping into full on ‘homer’ mode and awarding free-kicks to County for the smallest infringements. Anything awarded our way is naturally greeted with a loud sarcastic cheer and mutterings of ‘about fucking time mate’.
Another thing personally bothering me is Windy’s constant reference to Mr Martin as ‘Taff’ or ‘Taffy’. Erm, is that wise mate? Especially considering we’re surrounded by people who might take slight umbrage at the term? I know it’s basically his nickname, but y’know. With 15 minutes to play, another good ball through sends Watkins clear of the defence. Closed down quickly, he fires in a dipping effort from the edge of the box that Freestone does very well to get to and beat out. The U’s man is onto the rebound like a shot, but before he can finish a covering defender makes a superb ‘no prisoners’ tackle. Thanks to this, Watkins is soon being replaced with our one remaining sub, Scott Forrester.
By now it seems the home side have blown themselves out as passes start to go astray and we pack our defence to keep them out. The last chance of the match then falls to Sutton with about 5 minutes left. A rare corner from the left picks out Gonsalves at the back post, but he puts his header agonisingly wide when he should certainly be hitting the target at least.
Still, we see out the last few minutes without too much further incident and finally, we have our first 3 points of the season. COME ON!!!!
Somewhat overjoyed, we stroll back to the clubhouse sending texts and making calls to non-attendees to inform them of the result. We then set about getting a good few drinks down our heads and swopping some good chatter with the locals who despite the outcome are good value, welcoming and seem fairly philosophical about the result. And as the bar starts to empty out a bit, Mr & Mrs Chalmers acquire some take outs from the bar and we head back to the station in another cab. The long journey home has begun! The train itself is pretty busy once again and we struggle to find seats. As per usual, several carriages are wasted on ‘first class’ when the total number of people occupying seats in these sections would struggle to fill half a proper carriage. We try our luck, but are soon inevitably told by the ticket bloke that the upgrade is a tenner each. We tell him thanks but no thanks and wander off down the train on another seat hunt. We eventually find some in the last carriage, but we get the feeling this ‘quiet’ carriage wasn’t really designed for four mildly pissed football fans bearing loud clinking carrier bags full of booze. Oh well.
Still, we somehow avoid a further ejection and arrive back in Reading having already worked out that it will be more than possible to get back to the Hood for a couple before closing time as long as the trains don’t let us down! Things get desperate halfway back when the booze runs out. Windy claiming the last bottle of a vile tasting green-death coloured alcopop. Having already tried one, I decide I’m not that desperate for a drink and let him have it. I think it’s this green rubbish that helps him decide he wants the little table-y thing attached to the train wall and wishes to take it home with him. Hmmm, not sure that’s possible mate, unless you’ve brought a screwdriver?
Amazingly, all the trains are surprisingly punctual and we eventually roll through the doors of the Hood just after 10pm. 30 seconds later and the first celebratory pint is pretty much already quaffed. Ahhhhh, lovely.
Now, what time is it I’ve got to be up for work tomorrow again???
TEAM : Wilson, Gray, Corbett, Booth, Gonsalves, Akuamouah, Fear, Honey, Brake, Watkins, Martin SUBS : Olusesi, Forrester.