THURROCK – 5 [Janney 28. Cross 52. 80. Goddard 68. 89] SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Akuamouah 18. Gray 87p. 90p]
CONFERENCE SOUTH | Att : 276
If by any chance you find yourself confronted by a person or persons in the very near future quizzing you about a game of Non-League football they could possibly watch somewhere south of London, then the only sound piece of advice you could give would be the following: “Avoid the London Borough of Sutton”
With the Bobbins currently rooted to the bottom of the Conference South about as firmly as a 200year old Oak tree and the U’s freefalling down the table faster than Greek jumping from 30000 feet with an anvil round his neck, it has to be said the LBS ain’t exactly a pleasant place to watch your football at the moment.
Unless of course, you’re an away fan. Then it’s a right old fucking laugh as you’re almost guaranteed to come away with 3 points and a nice boost to the old goal difference.
Tuesdays abject Trophy exit to the most basic, if hardworking opposition has completed one of the most dreadful turns in form I think I’ve ever witnessed in nigh on 25 years of following the U’s. Now, I know none of us really expected us to seriously stick around at the top and challenge for the title all season long, but this is taking the fucking piss! From top to 12th in a month with only one league point collected in that time. And that via an own goal, against a relegation haunted side at home.
What is more shocking though is the violent drop in form of a lot of our current squad. Dependable players, who for the first month and a bit defended resolutely, kept 8 clean sheets and scored for fun, have suddenly started performing even less competently than my nan.
And well, she’s er……dead.
Following the Uxbridge defeat, to his credit, JR moves quickly to try & bring in some new blood to shake up the side. Michael Gordon, a midfielder, comes in from Crawley. Jay Conroy, a right back who appeared briefly for us in pre-season a couple of years back (and mostly recalled for maiming Hamlet’s winger that night) and Ali Chabaan returns after a short break from football. Which is just what we want I think you can agree,
The first two are interesting because the only way we can really accommodate them in the side is by switching to 4-4-2 and moving Gray out of the right. Mr Chabaan, we’re not so sure about. But apparently, he’s “Raring to go”. I just hope that he wasn’t mis-quoted and the words “….to another club” were missed off the end of that sentence.
Of course, with recent performances making even Carshalton look vaguely competitive, the team are presented with a somewhat tough assignment to display that it’s all been a horrible mix up and we’re not really a complete fucking shambles after all. Away to Thurrock.
As it’s a proper twat to get to via public transport and even worse for getting a pint, Chalmers volunteers for driving duty on this one and everyone accepts immediately. So he rolls up at mine with a car full of depressed fellow U’s around 12.30.
Even Greek is in attendance despite declaring last week he’d definitely be skipping this one to add points on his ‘Missus/Girlfriend Reward Card’ by going Crimbo shopping with his good lady. Foolishly however, he’s gone & got it all done early so he can come round the M25 with us. The absoilute muppet.
So, your missus doesn’t need any help carrying bags then mate?? Unpacking maybe?? Bit of wrapping doing? Putting up the tree?? No?? Are you sure? Quite sure???
Bugger. Thurrock it is I s’pose.
On the way, we make a quick stop for a cuppa and cash at Clackett Lane services. To my dismay, I find the only working ATM’s are of the ‘Robbing bastard’ variety, wanting to charge me the best part of 2 quid for withdrawing my own money!! Loudly declaring this as ‘Bollocks’ (I only wanted a score out!) I walk off in a huff. Chalmers solves the problem for me by lending me an Ayrton from his own withdrawal. Today is going to be shit. I just know it. Shortly after, we’re through the tunnel and pulling into the car park at Thurrock’s Hotel. Right, time for a beer.
We find a quietly confident ThurrockBoy in the bar. Which is unsurprising really ‘cos he’s got every fucking reason to be given they’re not half bad and we’re little better than utterly rancid! Meanwhile the second half of the Liverpool-Wigwam game on the telly fails to entertain.
Soon, we discover that 2 of JR’s new acquisitions will be starting today. Conroy comes in at right-back of a 4 man defence & Gordon replaces Gray on the right. Matty moves up front to partner Eddie in attack with Douglas starting on the left and Cornwall finds himself on the bench. Right, Well let’s see what we get eh????
From the off we’re a little slow out of the blocks. Almost immediately a quick ball down our left exposes the defence. A throw in is conceded and quickly taken, again catching us on the hop. Fortunately the Thurrock man hasn’t yet got his eye in and drives low across goal and wide of the far post. Erm, lads. Wakey wakey!
A couple of minutes later though, we show a little more promise. Akuamouah collecting the ball inside the box on the right after a patient build up involving the new boys. He wriggles free and manages to pull a teasing ball back across the 6 yard box, but sadly no one in a Sutton shirt is there to capitalise.
Speaking of Sutton shirts, just quite why we’re wearing our home strip when the hosts also play in yellow escapes me. Away kit still in the wash was it?? How the ref’s let that one go, we’ve no idea. Sure, we’re in quarters and differenct coloured shorts, but still.
The home side though are looking dangerous when going forwards. An attack 6 minutes in see’s an attacker travel far too far with the ball through 3 ‘challenges’ before eventually hitting a low angled shot from the right that Wilson takes no chances with on the greasy surface and shovels it round the base of his post for a corner.
Slowly though, we seem to gain a little in confidence. Gordon is being involved in proceedings as often as possible and his tricky running on the right seems to be causing the home side some concern. Another player doing well is Akuamouah, carrying out his role of hold up man well. One such case after about a quarter of an hour he lays off to Ug on the edge and his ball left finds Douglas. Steve can’t get the shot off quickly enough to seriously trouble the ‘keeper, but his effort through the defenders legs is at least on target.
A couple of minutes later and a little out of the blue, we edge ahead. Gordon does well to retain pressure on the right despite the attentions of 3 Thurrock players. His patience pays off as he eventually works himself enough room to feed the ball into the box for Akuamouah, who turns his man superbly and strokes the ball into the bottom near corner beyond the dive of the ‘keeper. Yay! Jumpy time! It’s a brief flash of joy in what’s been a frankly bollocks month.
Our goal gives the lads a visible lift and for a few minutes, the confidence returns and we start playing some good stuff. A Gray corner from the left on 21mins is partially cleared. Ed recovers the ball and feeds Gordon. The newly christened ‘Flash’ steps inside a defender and his a curling effort is pushed away by the keeper. It hangs up in the air invitingly and Gonsalves tries to head onto the target, but his stretched effort lacks the legs and a defender manages to head away the danger at the expense of a corner.
The U’s continue their purple patch and shortly after, Gray almost doubles the lead. He recieves a ball into feet on the 18 yard line, before turning and hitting a shot back across the keeper towards the corner. This time his dive is enough and he pushes the effort away. Akuamouah follows up, but fires his effort into the side netting from a very tight angle.
Typically, from the resulting goal kick, Thurrock draw level.
The huge kick forwards is allowed to bounce around 25 yards out from goal and a backtracking Gonsalves slips going for the ball, allowing the shadowing attacker a clear run on goal. He makes no mistake from 10 yards, sliding the ball under the advancing Wilson from an angle to the left. Conceding is the last thing we needed. And you can practically hear the confidence being sucked out of the side like the the last dregs of a milkshake being hoovered up through a straw by a 5 year old in McDonalds. Uh oh, here we go.
Thurrock take over and suddenly, they’re looking like scoring almost every time they go forwards. 32 minutes played and a corner from the right finds the towering figure of MacFarlane, but his header across goal drops narrowly wide of the far post. A minute later, a throw out on the right is collected and crossed to the far post. An attacker outjumps his marker and heads on goal, but Wilson reacts well and tips the effort onto the post.
Within 60 seconds, the woodwork is in contact with the ball again. This time, weak defending allows the no6 to get down the right and then cut across the edge of the box before firing an effort through a crowd and off the foot of the near post. Somehow though, we manage to see out the half without further disaster and go in level at the break. Which had we been offered that this morning, we’d certainly have taken it!
Right, time for a bacon roll. I’m bloody starving.
The teams emerging from the dressing rooms for the second half is slightly bizarre. Some team in Yellow shirts come out, followed by some blokes in Blue. Hey! What did you do with our side you dodgy Essex bastar………oh! It IS our lot!
Guess the ref decided there was a colour clash after all. Ho hum! Well one thing’s for certain, you won’t catch me singing “Come on you blues”!!! I also doubt that our blue shirt, chocolate shorts and yellow socks combo is going to draw any admiring glances from any fashionistas in the crowd either. Because there’ll be loads of them around, naturally.
Unfortunately, the half-time break doesn’t seem to have helped us much. Nor does the novelty of wearing a strange new kit confuse the oppo any. As a couple of minutes after the restart, Thurrock are breaching the defence all too easily again with a quick attack down the left by their nippy no9, he plays a pass along the edge of the box where it’s helped on again out to another yellow shirt in acres of space on the opposite side. But despite this space, he wastes the opportunity by shooting straight at Wilson.
No matter, as a few minutes later, another simple attack finally gives the hosts the lead. An attack down our right seems to have come to a halt, but with our lot failing to pressure their opponents quickly, a simple exchange of passes moves the ball again along the edge of the 18 yard box, where the no11 nips between two static centre-backs in the middle and prods a shot through Wilson’s legs. Uh oh. I feel a drubbing coming on.
Thankfully an onslaught doesn’t materialise and despite completely ignoring how we’d played in the 1st half and now lumping the ball forward, we do get a sight of goal just after the hour. A free-kick from the left comes in and is knocked on to the right where Gray thumps a low drive across goal and wide of the far post.
A minute later and the situation deteriorates further. A long ball forwards carries over a very flat footed backline, sending the no9 clear through on goal. Scooby gives chase & makes a challenge in the box which from our position at the far end looks ever so slightly illegal. Ah, that’ll be a penalty then?
The ref though, sticks to his theme of somewhat random decision making this afternoon by showing Scoobs only a yellow card. Hmmmm. If you say so mate. But the way we’re going at the moment, anything in our box is a goalscoring opportunity quite frankly.
The no6 steps up to take the kick and places it high to Wilson’s right, but the big ‘keeper reacts superbly and instinctively sticks out an arm to block the effort, deflecting it back across his goal and out for a corner!
“Wow! Could that be a turning point in the game for us? Possibly even our season?” I hear you ask.
Don’t be fucking daft.
67 minutes played, we’re once again caught out down the flanks on the break and with woeful cover in the centre, the no4 has a simple tap in. Well, it would have been had it not looped untidily in off his shin and dropped just inside the far post for 3-1. Game, set and indeed match then!
A brief moment of pressure around the Thurrock box with 20 to play produces a ball drilled across the 18 yard box by Gonsalves, but Gray rifles his effort just over the bar. Then wth a little over 10 mins to play, the game gets a little silly. Thurrock add a typically rubbish 4th when a speculative effort from 20 yards following a corner is heading straight for Wilson’s midriff until Palmer adds to his growing list of “What on earth did you do THAT for??” fuck ups by sticking a leg out and diverting it into the net.
Now playing for pride, we create a half chance a couple of minutes later when Conroy plays in Gray down the right touchline, his low cross to the near post is spilled by the ‘keeper and sub Ali Chabaan follows up. But true to current form, he only manages to put his tap in against the head of the now prostrate stopper rather than the back of the net and the danger is cleared.
An unexpected lifeline comes soon after. A rare corner is won and played in from the right, aimed at Scooby at the near post, he’s manhandled somewhat and the lino flags for the offence. About an hour later, the ref notices his assistant with his flag displayed across his chest and pops over for a chat. Penalty!
Matty does the honours and crisply despatches it into the bottom left to reduce the deficit a little.
Sadly, any hopes of a stirring fighback are soon killed stone dead as another big lump down the centre is woefully misjudged by Palmer. To rub salt into the wound, their big no4 is sent clear of the defence and lifts the ball over the advancing Wilson to make it 5-2.
We, ladies & gentlemen, are an absolute fucking shambles.
Wilson prevents it getting really silly with time almost up, pushing over a fiercely driven free-kick from the edge of the box, but unexpectedly, it’s actually our good selves who round off the scoring. Gray puts a free-kick in from the right, it bounces around the penalty spot and strikes the arm of a defender. We all appeal half-heartedly for handball and are slightly surprised when the ref agrees and awards yet another peno!
Chabaan picks up the ball and it seems he’s all set on taking it, even when Matt as official designated peno taker, politely asks for the round thing so he can boot it into the net. In the end, he has to virtually wrestle the ball off the new man so we can get this over with and go home. We’ll be here all fucking day otherwise.
The kick is again pinged into the bottom left and we’re left with a really-very-flattering-to-us 5-3 defeat.
Hmmmm. Well, as responses to a crap cup exits go, that was pretty sodding piss poor if you ask me. Understandably, after that little performance, most visiting U’s briefly gather round TV’s in the bar for results before disappearing off into the night. We stay for a pint, but the mood isn’t great and we’re soon itching to get on our way home. Thurrockboy does little to cheer us declaring that Scooby’s challenge for their penalty was actually entirely fair and he’d won the ball. Well, that figures!
With the rest of our support long since back on the M25, we sup up and hit the road ourselves. Back in Sutton soon after, everyone splits off for various social engagements. Mine being some scoff at home and some rubbish telly due to limited finances.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Eddie Akuamouah. Just edging out Ug. Held the ball up well & scored.
ENTERTAINMENT : 5. 1st half was OK. But another abysmal defensive display let us down.
TEAM : Wilson, Conroy, Scarborough, Palmer, Gonsalves, Gordon, Gray, Honey, Douglas, Gray, Akuamouah. SUBS : Chabaan, Cornwall, Castledine