MARGATE – 1 [Watson 80.]
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Watkins 32.]
Another Saturday, another 6 pointer. Margate supplied our first home league win back at the end of October, offering little resistance in a 2-0 defeat. Sadly, I doubt we’ll get as lucky today as they’re on a bit of a run, having won their last 4 games on the bounce.
For today, it seems the majority of the crew, including myself, have prior engagements in the evening, (yes, we do actually have lives you know!) so a quick journey home to civilisation was required. That of course rules out placing ourselves at the mercy of public transportation. Plus, with Ashford’s ‘Homelands’ ground (Margate’s current lodgings) being some 4 miles outside of the fucking town of Ashford itself, we didn’t fancy the hassle of relying on local cabs.
In light of this, Chalmers offers to transport his missus, myself and Bob to the game, with Windy heading down with Millsy and the aid of his SatNav. Greek decides to remain at home in the warm. The ponce.
Heading down the M20, Bob & I consult the good beer guide for a possible stop off point for a pint in Ashford before the game. There’s not a single entry. And as we’ve never been here before, we’re not even aware of an average local either. Er, straight to the ground I think then Mr Chalmers….
The ground itself, as expected, proves to be in the middle of sodding nowhere. On top of a hill. So the choice of driving was a wise one as it would have taken ages to get away afterwards. And it’s fucking freezing. Stepping out of the car is instantly regretted, with a bitterly cold, biting, wind instantly attacking any exposed flesh. Christ it’s going to be a right laugh watching the game here. I certainly don’t envy the few Margate fans that schlep over here every other week. Right, where’s the bloody bar? They’d better have the heating on.
We make it through the turnstiles and leg it up the steps into the stand and the sanctuary of the clubhouse at the back. The ground itself is fairly tidy as these newer identikit places tend to be. The stand is bland, but functional and there’s at least some cover behind both goals.
Oi, hang on, why’s the bar not open yet?? It’s bloody gone 2! Get it sorted! I need booze to warm the bones and quick. Sadly we have to wait a few minutes to be able to purchase alcohol. Windy & Millsy appear shortly after, both cursing the cold.
A quick look at the team sheet courtesy of a kind U’s official shows that there’s a couple of changes today, although they’re pretty obvious ones. Gonsalves is fit again and replaces Danny Dray on the left of defence and Chris Nurse replaces Peter Fear who is unavailable due to the fact that he has apparently departed to Havant. It’s a decent excuse to be fair.
Eventually, the time comes to depart from the warmth of the bar and back into the arctic cold outside. As I leave, I realise I’ve left my notebook for scribbling my match notes in at home. Arse! Right, need to ponce some paper from somewhere!! Fortunately a friendly local journo in the stand kindly donates several sheets from his own scribble pad to save the day. Cheers mate! There was no way I was going to rely on my crappy short term memory for the report. I reason the paper will also come in handy for scribbling a last will & testament if it gets any colder and we die of hypothermia at some point in the second half.
The game is a very slow starter. Neither side makes any impression to begin with, the iffy surface and the strong, ice cold wind blowing straight down the pitch not helping matters. It’s not until about 10 minutes in that the first opening comes and it falls to our good selves. Play is switched from left to right and the ball finds Gray. He runs at the full back and manages to come through a challenge with the ball. He clips a cross into the 6 yard box, where the ‘keeper connects with a rather poor punch. The ball drops about 8 yards out to Watkins, but his attempt on goal is blocked by a defender and we have to settle for a corner.
Almost another 10 minutes pass before the next real event. Which doesn’t help with insulating us against the cold. Again Gray is involved, swinging a cross in from the right. It takes a slight deflection and drops at the near post, but Watkins is unable to get a touch and the ball goes out of play for a goal-kick.
Watkins again gets a sight of goal after 24. Robbing a defender of the ball around 20 or so yards out, he heads for goal. But with a good sight of the target, he fires an effort high & wide of the near post. Definitely a chance wasted that one.
Margate are meanwhile struggling to make much impression on the U’s defence. Their approach play isn’t bad and they’re certainly pulling us around a bit, but they lack that final ball and most either run weakly through to Wilson or out for a goal-kick. Which is fine by us if we’re honest.
We win a corner shortly after the half-hour. Brake plays it in from the right and it’s nodded out to the edge of th 18 yard box where Scarborough attempts a slightly ambitious overhead kick. He only succeeds in hitting the ball into the ground, but it loops over a defender and drops for Watkins to poke home inside the 6 yard box and give us the lead.
Getting to jump about a bit thanks to taking the lead certainly helps keep the cold at bay for a little while! Couple more would be nice lads.
The rest of the half is pretty dire. And apart from a great solo run from the halfway line by Watkins that ends with his ball across the edge of the box being cut out, very very little else happens. Naturally, we’re pretty thankful to head back into the bar at half time to get away from the biting cold. Even the fact that the TV up there is showing racing from somewhere or other & not football half-times doesn’t seem to bother people. Fuck it, as long as we’re not outside.
Sadly, our time in the warm once more comes to an end all too soon and we trudge back out into the arctic wind. As we head for the far end which the U’s will be shooting towards, a couple of locals are seen to be shaking their heads and muttering things like “Rather you than me” as we pass.
We soon find out why. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty chilly in the first half, but fuck me sideways, it’s absolutely twatting freezing up this end! Up the other end, we had the cover at our backs taking the edge off the icy wind, up here, the bastard’s blowing straight into our faces which people soon forget those faces contain things like noses. And eyes. Even someone like myself who has a number of visits to Boundary Park’s infamous ‘Ice Station Zebra’ in winter under his belt finds it somewhat uncomfortable. It. Is. Cold.
Very soon, the general consensus is that we hope that the ‘Gate are either relegated or back in Margate for next season. And that the game is in either August or April. Certainly, if you had any doubts about the validity of their battle to get their new ground sorted back in Margate, then a visit to Homelands round about this time of year should have you full of sympathy for the poor bastards. Fuck doing this every other week in winter.
But I digress. With the wind now at our backs (but also in our faces too if you see what I mean!) we’re confident of holding out against the hosts. Once more, that confidence is misplaced as Margate come out strongly, looking for an equaliser. They press hard and after 53 minutes a diagonal ball out to the left evades Gonsalves, allowing a blue shirt to chase onto the pass and in to the space behind the defence, but his low strike across goal is touched wide by Wilson.
A couple of minutes later a free-kick from our right is headed on in the centre of the box and drops just wide of the far post. The lads aren’t helping our cause much by failing to hold onto the ball. Every time we get possession, it’s wasted with either a stupid pass or just being launched forwards aimlessly. Naturally, this just means the home side come straight back at us and grow steadily in confidence.
Gray loses possession in his own half immedately after, which results in a run and shot from outside the box that is thankfully hit straight at Wilson. One the hour though, Sutton respond. Watkins collects the ball just inside the Margate half, turns and using his pace makes about 40 yards before the ‘keeper smothers the ball at his feet on the edge of the 6 yard box.
Our appointed ref for the day starts annoying the frozen U’s fans behind the goal with some petty decisions and whilst this helps keep the blood flowing to the extremities, it’s no less irritating. The most bizarre comes after he allows play to go on after Nurse is clearly fouled in midfield. The ball runs loose and Paul Honey executes one of his huge, perfectly timed booming tackles only for the ref to blow for a free-kick. Even stranger is the Margate no9’s reaction as he piles into Ug, hands raised. After a brief tussle involving several players from both sides, the ref awards the no9 a rather lenient yellow card. And also books Honey! For WHAT exactly you moron?
I’d love to see the report for that one when it comes through to the club….
“Mr Honey was attacked by an opponent and after a brief melee involving several players, I cautioned Mr Honey just for the hell of it as I had no fucking idea what I was doing and didn’t want his assailant to think I was just picking on him”
On 65 minutes, the home side have a chance to level is slightly bizzare circumstances. A long ball forwards down the left is chased by Gonsalves and a Margate forward. Wilson also comes of his line to try & claim. A bounce on the 18 yard line kills most of the balls momentum which throws everyone. We’re then treated to the strange sight of the Margate striker trying to hold the ball, with his back to goal and Wilson right up his back trying to dispossess him!
Bit of a frustrated Centre-back eh Phil? He eventually blocks the ball as the attacker turns and tries to get a shot off and Quinton clears the loose ball.
The home side are definitely on top now, what with our inability to hold onto the ball. But as they keep pressing on for the equaliser, they inevitably leave gaps at the back. On 69 minutes an attack breaks down and Scooby advances out of defence with the ball before switching it from right to left, finding Brake. He makes ground before slipping the ball out to the left for Gonsalves who’s made a charge up the left to overlap the defence. but his fierce low drive zips just the wrong side of the far post.
Nurse has a dipping 20 yard effort deflected over for a corner just before Watkins latches onto another long ball forwards out of defence. Closely shadowed by a defender and spotting the ‘keeper well off his line, he tries a cheeky lob from 25 yards out. Sadly, it drops inches wide of the near post.
I think Windy sums it up best as the slightly relieved ‘keeper comes to retrieve the ball.
“You lucky lucky c*nt!”
Margate go forwards again looking for that equaliser and as time passes, they look more & more like getting it. A free-kick on 77 minutes is swung in from the left towards the back post. Wilson comes, but doesn’t claim the ball and it drops loose just beyond the far post. An attacker lashes it on goal from a tight angle and someone just gets in the way to block it.
But, the goal we’ve been expecting comes with about 10 minutes left. The outrageously tall Margate sub Watson, who really looks like he should be playing in the NBA and not freezing his tits off here on a muddy field in smeg nowhere Kent, claims it, heading in a left wing free-kick after Brake fails to clear his lines and loses possession before fouling his man down by the corner flag. Wilson gets his hand to the lanky blokes effort, but can’t prevent it from crossing the line.
Oh just great. Can we at least not go and lose now please? By the way, can someone check if I still have legs? I can’t feel them…
With time running out, we have the better opportunities to snatch a winner, but not before a blue shirt has fired straight at Wilson when very well placed in the box.
We hassle the defence out of possession down near the corner flag on the right. The ball is eventually worked into a little bit of space and Akuamouah tries to get a cross into the box, only for his effort to be clearly handled inside the area by the no7. Staggeringly, neither the ref (who could possibly argue he was unsighted) and his assistant on that side (who certainly couldn’t say the same!) feel that this is in now way illegal an play is waved on.
With time almost up, another loud shout for a penalty goes up when Akuamouah spins off his man on the right corner of the box, only to be shoved to the turf by the defender. This time, the ref does blow, but awards an indirect free-kick first just inside the box and then after changing his mind, places it a couple of yards outside the box!
We almost get some justice for another piss poor bit of officiating when the initial free-kick is blocked and runs to Chris Nurse, who cracks a first time effort off the inside of the far post from the edge of the box. Corbett tries to follow in, but is puzzlingly flagged offside despite having a defender stood right next to him.
It proves to the last throw of the dice and the whistle finally blows. Admittedly, a point apiece is without doubt the fairest result, but it’s still bloody annoying to have missed out on the other two there right at the death.
Finally glad that our ordeal by arctic winds is over, we forgo a pre-departure warm up in the bar and instead quickly scarper back to the cars for a quick getaway. Out in the car park, we note even the ‘home’ fans are already piling aboard their mini-coach for the trip back to Margate.
And I can’t say I blame ‘em really. Hope it’s got good heaters. And speaking of which, CHALMERS!!
MAN OF THE MATCH : Craig Watkins. Worked tirelessly up front, mostly without much support.
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. Dreadful 1st half. 2nd was at least more interesting….
TEAM : Wilson, Gonsalves, Scarborough, Quinton, Gray, Honey, Corbett, C.Nurse, Brake, Akuamouah, Watkins SUBS : Corbett, Tydeman, Howard, Blackwell
THE REFEREE’S………had a decent first half, then fucked it up in the second with a few pretty awful decisions. Booking Honey for making a great tackle and then getting attacked by their no9 was one of the worst we’ve seen in a while.