Att : 638
ST ALBANS CITY – 3 [Martin 14. Clarke 21. Marwa 74]
Sutton United – 1 [Watson 16]
When you’ve won only one of your last 19 competitive matches, the last place you want to go is somewhere like St Albans when they’re sitting second in the table and scored a feckload of goals.
Having a generally shite record in this nice bit of Herts doesn’t help much either.
Still, the blow is softened somewhat by the fact that the town has a wide selection of fine boozers. So hopefully, we’ll be far too refreshed to worry about the football!
Greek manages to worm his way out of this one, claiming there’s a ‘family do’ he has to attend. Probably called up some third cousin 6 times removed and got himself invited to their barmitzvah or something.
Despite pleas from Windy & myself, we fail to get invites to the same event and instead are stuck with the Thameslink trip up north.
The usual assembly is complete by Mitcham Junction and we’re settled in for the trip. Before we know it, we’re at St Albans and heading for our favoured watering hole, the ‘Farmers Boy’. We’re a little concerned though as we’ve heard the landlord responsible for it’s reputation as a great beer-hole has left and the place is up for sale. But the fears are unfounded upon arrival, with the usual ale-fare displayed on the bar.
And as an added bonus, the young lady behind the bar is somewhat on the attractive side.
Bob stumbles in a short while After and after a few pints and some lunch later and we’re off to stop number 2. The Mermaid. This one also has a bit of a question mark next to it, but this has nowt to do with landlords leaving and more to do with a drunken Millsy and a somewhat twattish local disagreeing about events during the game last season.
With fingers crossed that the landlord fails to remember us, we step through the door.
Again, lady luck smiles on us, as Mr Proprieter either doesn’t remember us or frankly doesn’t care and happily serves us. A game of darts is soon underway. Also keeping us thoroughly amused is the somewhat flashy jukebox on the wall nearby. It claims access to 2 million songs via a broadband connection.
Soon we’re all tapping in the strangest bands we can think of to try & beat it.
My own efforts come to a close when it happily brings up an ‘Infernal records’ promo only CD and the entire catalogue of Swedish Death Metal band ‘Meshuggah’. Decidng against downloading their snappy little number, ‘Destroy, Erase, Improve’, I return to my seat defeated.
Then it’s Darts time. But despite some monster scores from yours truly, DS’s superior check out skills on the doubles leaves the TazMrs C combo defeated.
Eventually, with the clock ticking towards 25 to 3, we make the short stroll through the park to the home of Stalebuns. On the way, encountering a member of the local chav population who happly tells us we’re going to ‘get fucked over’.
“Really?? Thanks for telling us. Wish the other 17 sides we’ev failed to beat over the last 3 months would’ve been so honest with us”
Well, we could have said that. But we didn’t. “Fuck off twat” being about the sum of our response instead.
Kings of the snappy one liner. That’s us.
Once inside the turnstiles, the side is pretty easy to work out. Watson remains up front with Luke, with Matt out on the right and the central midfield of Conroy/Gonsalves/Honey remaining.
From the off, the home side look pretty confident and move the ball around well. The first sign that it’s probably not going to be our day comes after just 5 minutes. A deep free-kick from the left finds a Stalebuns man at the far post, but his free-header hits the outside of the upright. Sutton respond a couple of minutes later. Watson nods down a ball forward and Conroy takes possession. He advances a few yards before letting fly, but his effort from around 20 yards is a little too high.
The home side though are always threatening and on 11 minutes, a bit of good fortune keeps the scores blank. A right sided corner is only partially headed away and is immediately knocked back into the danger area where the ball drops for a yellow shirted attacker a few yards out. Thankfully his attempted hook shot on goal is mishit and drops into the arms of a grateful Phil Wilson.
It’s only a brief respite though and on 14 minutes, we’re behind. Scarbaorough gets sucked in by his man and is promptly turned like he’s not even there. The whipped 1st time cross picks out a diving Saints man in the centre and Wilson can do nothing but watch the ball hit the far corner of his net.
To our credit, we respond quickly and within a couple of minutes, have levelled with a rare bit of quality play.
A free-kick out on the right is taken quickly by Gray, feeding Conroy. He clips a clever ball over the defence to the right of goal, freeing Cornwall. He manages to pull the ball back from the byeline, although a little unconvincingly, to the near post where Watson pops up to prod in from close range.
Thankfully, even the miss-master himself can’t fail from there and his celebration of pounding the badge on his chest with his fist at least shows there’s a bit of spark left in the big lump yet.
More of the same please Mr W. That is all.
Unfortunately, parity only lasts about 5 minutes. And it’s another rather avoidable goal that costs us dear. Pressure down our left, near the corner flag results in a couple of throw ins, one is eventually collected and bobbled accross the box, evading no less than 3 U’s men before reaching the completely unmarked Clarke at the far post. He has the simplest of tasks to turn the ball in from 8 yards out with Wilson comfortably out of the picture.
Oh well, nice while it lasted……
Stalebuns movement, especially up front and out wide is causing us no end of aggro and on 24 mins a quick break catches us completely cold. Movement drags our leadenfooted rearguard all over the place before the telling ball is slipped into the left channel. Thankully, Conroy makes it back to block the shot. Palmer makes a complete hash of the follow up, slicing it straight into the air.
Probably not able to believe his luck, the attacker fails to control the chance and we’re grateful to see it run out for a goal-kick.
Our hosts are now in the ascendancy and a couple of minutes later, Wilson is called upon to keep us in the game. Again Scarborough is turned a little too easily on the right and the ball across the edge of the 18yard box results in a fierce drive that the U’s stopper does well to tip over the crossbar.
Big Phil is needed again after the half hour when a cross in from the left is horribly sliced over his shoulder by Palmer to the far post, Gray then fails to deal with the loose ball and instantly gives a lurking attacker a good sight of goal, but Wilson stands up well and makes a vital block from close range.
We manage a brief flicker of life just before the break, Gray gettig down the right and delivering an excellent cross to the centre that Cornwall just heads over the bar.
But it’s exactly that. A brief flicker.
Immediately after the restart, we’re exposed down the flanks again and a speculative effort from range on the volley from the left dips narrowly over the bar.
A couple of minutes later, the home side have a penalty shout waved away by the ref when after another neat build up, an attacker skips into the box. It does look from our end that he is tripped, but his tumble is somewhat theatric and this is probably what sways the man in the middle.
They keep up the pressure though and after 51 mins, we again find it hard to clear our lines. The ball is immediately put back to a man in space in the middle. But his fierce 20yard effort is stright at Wilson.
55 minutes played and a rare U’s foray forwards finds Paul Honey of all people marauding forwards. He latches onto a neat through abll down the right, but his driven cross through the box evades all U’s shirts and is cleared without too much fuss.
It’s a brief respite as just shy of the hour, another chance goes begging for the home side and again, it’s Wilson to the rescue. Once more, excellent movement on the left carves open the Us defence and ends with a neat 1-2 on the edge of the box. Their man glides past 2 defenders, before forcing another vital block from our man between the sticks. Thankfully the defence is alert enough to clear up the afters.
A good chance comes our way with about 20 to go when again Gray gets some room down the right. Getting to the byeline and driving the ball low to the near post. Again, Watson has anticipated and arrives to meet it. But this time, under pressure from a defender, he can’t turn it onto the target and it rebounds back out to Gray. He plays it back out and the ball is then worked out to the left where LUke Adams, on as a sub for Gary Elliott, swings a cross to the far post. But Scarborough, up in support of the attack, is always stretching and can only arc his header over the target.
But just as silly thoughts of maybe nicking a point start to form in our minds, the game is finally put out of our reach.
Another quick break opens us up and a raking pass right to left sets a Saints man clear. His rising drive towards the near post forcing Wilson to beat the shot away at the expense of a corner. Which is swung in from the left and picks out the leap of an umarked man at the near post and he guides his header just inside the far post.
Stalebuns see out the remainder of the game in relative comfort, with only one nervy moment when an excellent pass from the impressive Adams sends Gray clear of the defence on the left, but his effort is just the right height for Bastock in the home goal to beat out.
The stopper then treats us to a veritable Sunday morning footballers “40-a-day” coughing fit. I’d lay off the woodbines mate. They’re not good for you and they’ve already made all your hair fall out……
In the end, 3-1 is probably a right result for us. As without the intervention of Mr Wilson on several occasions, a right good tonking could have transpired.
We head for the bar and for some scores. Good news is the Bobbins recent run has ground to a halt with a 3-1 home defeat. Bad news is, pretty much all the bottom sides have picked up results and our ‘safety margin’ gathered back in August is being slowly eroded, leaving us 11 points above the bottom 2.
Which is far too fucking close for my liking.
One win in 20, 17 of those league games means we are starting to stare a relegation battle full in the face. Sure, a couple of wins could change that. But where exactly are those couple of wins coming from?
A quick snifter later and we’re off for the train, heading back into Sutton for Millsy’s pre-nuptial drink-up. We’re soon parked in the Nonsuch Arms in the high street, trying as hard as possible not to talk about football.
In the end, the night is a resounding success, with Mr Mills sambuca’d into submission by 10.30 and his attempt to retire ‘hurt’ soon after rendered a complete failure when he finds the substantial shape of Greek blocking his only route of escape!
Oh well , Cambridge next Saturday. And they’re good.
But then again, who isn’t compared to us at the moment??
MAN OF THE MATCH : Phil Wilson. Kept us in a game. Again.
ENTERTAINMENT : 7. They were pretty good to watch. Us? Oh….er…….
TEAM : Wilson, Scarborough, Palmer, Conroy, Elliott, Gonsalves, Honey, Akuamouah, Watson, Gray, Cornwall SUBS : Gordon, Adams, Fear, Boosey
THE REFEREE’S………this is getting boring now. We’re so fucking bad, we can’t even have a pop at the poor ol’ man in black to raise the spirits! Bah!.