GRAYS ATHLETIC – 5 [Cole 20. Carthy 44. Thurgood p70. Griffiths 85.88.]
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Watkins 24.]
Having faced 2 Essex sides at home in consecutive Saturdays and got sod all from either game, you can probably guess at our attitude to this trip into our (least) favourite county.
Grays isn’t our favourite town in the world either. Nor is the ground tonight’s opponents play at. Although that is due to improve as they’ve bulldozed all the old ramshackle stuff and are currently replacing it with 2 new terraces and 2 covered stands.
The problem is, they’re still playing there! Pictures from their website are on the one hand encouraging as you can see what they’re trying to achieve with the very limited space they have. But there’s still no escaping the fact it’s a fucking building site.
Right, where’s my hard hat?
Another thing that makes the trip less enjoyable is their start. They’ve only recently lost an 18 month unbeaten run at home and have banged in a fair few goals already.
I manage to slope out of work early and find Bob in the pub at Tower Hill. A quick pint later and we’re on the train. As with our other away trips so far this season, the crew is rather well represented. Chalmers is having to drive due to an appointment at home. Oscar and Dave head up with Gareth in the Millermobile.
Bob and myself amble in and find the rest of the mob engaged in their favourite pastime of enjoying a pint…in the company of our Chairman no less. Christ, he must’ve felt lonely to talk to us riff-raff!!
Seriously, it was a delight as always Mr Elliot. Now tell JR to win some more bloody games!
As it turns out, the ground isn’t quite as bad as we’d feared. The clubhouse end is basically finished, as is most of the ‘flats’ side. Still closed is the far end behind the goal and the main stand that seems about 50% completed. Chatting to locals it seems that the far end will also house a seated stand and a roof will run down the ‘flats’ side of the ground.
So it should be half decent………when it’s finished. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain eh?
Yet again, we field a changed line up from the last match, ‘Dave’ Arkali losing his starting place in favour of Nigel Brake. Joff Vansittart keeps his place up front, with Andrew Martin remaining on the bench.
The hosts make the brighter start and look to take advantage of our sluggish opening. Just 4 minutes in, a ball from the right finds a blue shirt in a little bit too much room, but the shot is hooked over from close range. Our right flank is again the source of the danger. A cross in to the far post is nodded back across goal. Our defensive header out is poor, but thankfully, the resulting shot lacks venom and is straight at Wilson.
Finally after about a quarter of an hour, we muster a threat. A corner in from the right from Gray is aimed at Vansittart and it seems his attempted header is pushed over the target by the challenging ‘keeper, but the ref thinks otherwise and a goal-kick is awarded.
It’s no surprise when Grays go ahead a few minutes later. Our passing has been ropey to say the least and needlessly conceding possession to a side like our hosts is rather silly. Brake plays a poor infield pass to no-one in particular. Griffiths races down the left and squares the ball for an umarked colleague to fire the ball past Wilson from 8 yards or so.
We can’t really complain, but our mood improves 4 minutes later. The defence beraks up an attack on the right. Matt Gray comes away with the ball and approaching halfway, plays a brilliant defence splitting ball into the channel. Watkins has made a perfectly timed run and runs onto the pass with the defence in his wake before drawing the ‘keeper and slotting into the far corner.
Shit! Where did that come from??
Not that we’re complaining of course!
Getting back on level terms definitely helps matters and we perform slightly better for the remainder of the half, with Grays not looking like running away with it anymore. Although they do miss another sitter on 33 minutes. Again a raid on the right ends with a ball to the back post, touched across the box and the resulting shot blazed over the target from a decent position.
But as it seems we’ll go into the break on level terms, another sloppy bit of play kicks us square in the proverbials.
A throw in on our left drops to Fear. Again, like Brake earlier, he turns infield and plays a ball to a green & white shirt that exists only in his imagination. It goes straight to a Grays player who darts down the touchline and with the defence caught out by the unexpected break, the Grays no8 has the simple task of thumping in the low ball across from close range.
Can’t think of a naughty word right now that covers this, but I’ll get back to you…….
With there being a bit of a rush for the bar, we decide to make our way to the far corner and the very edge of the rebuilding work to await the second half. Unfortunately, the standing area is very flat, meaning the view will be shite. Although we don’t quite realise just yet what a bonus that will be!
Oh yeah, the naughty word…
When it starts, the 2nd half fails to produce the hoped for fight back and the home side pretty much boss proceedings with our midfield in particular being very anonymous and guilty of giving the ball away far far too often.
The first chance comes soon after the restart, the bal in from the right being deflected into the path of an attacker, but despite being well placed, he drags his shot badly wide. Then soon after, Wilson has to be alert to hold a fierce snap shot from distance.
Other close calls come and go, but somehow our goal remains intact. But with 20 minutes to go and as thoughts of “Hmmm, maybe we can nick something here” start to form, we get royally fucked over by the ref.
Another quick break from the home side surges down the middle of the field. A low ball left seems to have put in an attacker, Fear intervenes and appears to just win the ball, which then runs back to Wilson before the guy in the blue shirt goes down.
“Backpass” shout the home crowd.
“Penalty” decides the ref and points to the spot.
“Fucking two-bob blind cheating arsehole” says I.
Naturally, the nasty little bald headed twat who royally pissed us off with his charmed life in escaping several cautions on New Years Day sends Wilson the wrong way to make it 3-1.
We briefly try to rally, but it’s not very convincing. Joff is struggling to make any impression on a tight defence and Brake is not making any headway down the left. Unfotunately, a change is not forthcoming.
Joff does get one half chance, but his turn & shot from the corner of the box lacks any power to bother the ‘keeper. Gray & Watkins continue to stand out as our likeliest threat and the 2 combine for our best chance of the half.
Matty goes on a great surging run from well inside our half before playing another super sharp pass through the defence to the left where Watkins has made another absolutely perfect run. He meets the pass spot on 10 yards out and hits it first time, only for the ‘keeper to have raced off his line and make a very good block.
A minute later, the action is typically up the other end and it’s 4-1. The U’s defence fail to clear their lines and the ball falls to a blue shirt all on his own in the box and he rifles an effort high into the net.
It’s around this time that some fat mouthy tosser on a balcony belonging to one of the flats behind thinks that mocking our team is funny. Now, maybe if he’d paid his 9 nicker like the rest of us idiots, we’d give him a little more credit.
But he hasn’t.
So we switch our attention from the footy temporarily and set about roundly abusing the fat Sky subscribing bloke on the balcony. Which provides some light relief.
There’s more to come though and with time almost up, some shocking defending allows the winning margin to be extended. A cross from the right picks out an unmarked Griffiths in the box. With our lot standing & watching, he has the simple task of rolling a shot across Wilson and into the far corner.
Naturally, this sparks off fatty on the balcony again, but more references to salads and one particularly biting comment advising him to “fuck off indoors and watch a keep fit video” seems to do the trick.
We make a quick exit so as to return to the Hood for refreshments and drown our sorrows a little.
Amazingly, Chalmers beats the usually rather rapid Gareth back to the pub by a few seconds.
Upon arrival, we’re treated to the amusing sight of quite possibly the worst bit of parking in the world, with a car positioned a good 4 feet from the kerb. In fact it’s closer to the white centre line than the kerb.
Chuckling, we enter the pub and tell whoever will listen. A string of regulars pop out for a laugh and after a pint or so, we start to reckon that it belongs to someone in the pub.
Come closing time, we’re convinced. Especially as 3 other people we’ve never seen in the pub before are suspiciously hanging about ‘chatting’ outside after we’ve been kicked out. Hungry for some silly comedy, we do the same and a battle of wills begins. Who will out chat who!
Eventually, we get bored and start to move like we’re leaving and the other group does the same. As predicted, one of the ladies in the other group goes straight to the appallingly parked motor and gets out her keys……..to a loud cheer from the assembled crew and an attempt by Gareth to capture her embarrassment on camera.
Thankfully, the local constabulary aren’t passing at the moment most of us are rolling on the pavement pissing ourselves. Finally we pull ourselves together and still chuckling, head off into the night.
Another home game Saturday.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Matt Gray. Only player to really stand out apart from Watkins.
ENTERTAINMENT – 5. Defensively ponderous and no presence in midfield.
TEAM : Wilson, Gray, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Booth, Fear, Corbett, Arkali, Akuamouah, Watkins, Vansittart. SUBS : Olusesi, Martin, Arkali
THE REFEREE’S………shocking. Another bloke who gave us fuck all from early on and continued as such. Penalty for them was a bit of a joke as there seemed very little contact at all. Linesman on our side 2nd half was so poor, he got 3 consecutive offsides in the space of a couple of minutes completely wrong as he was too busy paying attention to yours truly telling him what a useless wanker he was. Arsehole.