A Tense Atmosphere

CONFERENCE SOUTH

Att : 518



SUTTON UNITED – 3   [Douglas 18. Scarborough 85. Gray 90]

CAMBRIDGE CITY – 2   [Booth 73. 86]

We’ve not been looking forward to this one much. Cambridge were always going to be one of the front runners this season and despite an indifferent start, were finally starting to find their feet. Culminating in a 4-3 win from 3-1 down against the same St Albans side that had pretty comprehensively outplayed us last weekend.

Oh dear. And you don’t have to be an officionado of Conference South football to know just how bad we’ve been recently. Still, if nothing else, we can get pissed up with the Cambridge lot to drown our sorrows. Then, come Friday afternoon, the outlook changes slightly.

The visitors, who have been under the cloud of possible merger with neighbours United due to financial woes, announced that the club would not be competing in the Conf South next season. It seems they’ll either fold completely or move to the Abbey and only retain their identity as basically United’s reserve side down in something called the ‘Ridgeons League’. Which, lets be honest here, only an idiot would believe this admittedly bollocks arrangement would last more than a season before the ‘City’ bit of the name was dropped in place of ‘United Reserves’ and the side decided to Change from their white strip to a nice Yellow & Black number. Almost makes jacking it in completely seem a reasonable solution.

Naturally, the Lilywhites faithful aren’t best pleased at this prospect. Well, to be perfectly honest, ‘fucking livid’ would probably struggle to convey just who pissed off they are.Which kind of puts our run of 16 points from 60 into a little bit of perspective really. Shit we might be, but we’re not in the shit.

It’s the usual pre-home match refreshments at the U’s birthplace, before we start a slightly earlier than usual stroll to the ground. The aim being to pop into the club bar for a quick half and commiserate with our somewhat deflated guests. On the way down, Chalmers and his missus realise they’ve forgotten their season tickets. Which is a bit daft, ‘cos it means they’ll have to cough up 9 quid to get in now.  And when you’ve got 16 points from 60 like we have, actually handing over that 9 quid when you are a season ticket holder makes you certi-fucking-fiable in my book.

Still, ST in hand, I breeze through the turnstiles, leaving them to sort out their tickets with the riff-raff and head for the bar. On the way, it comes to my attention that the pitch is somewhat uneven. In fact I’d go so far as to call it ‘shocking’.  It’s at about this moment I make a mental note to disregard the plan to use the words ‘flowing’ and ‘football’ consecutively in the same sentence when writing this report.

Upon walking through the door to the bar, it’s pretty apparent there’s something of an ‘atmosphere’. And not the ‘Jolly-had-a-bit-too-much-to-drink’ sort I prefer. Oh no. This is more your ‘cut-with-a-knife’ variety. And it doesn’t take long to work out why. Talking to a somewhat stony faced Gareth is one Mr Arthur Eastman, the City chairman. He’s also the fellow whose idea the ‘Become United’s reserves if we’re lucky’ thing mentioned above is.

Oh and on top of this it seems he also sold their ground 2 years ago and sort of forgot to tell anyone. Or how much he got for it. Or who he sold it to exactly.  Ooops. You are an absent minded fellow aren’t you Arthur?

Needless to say, this has him crossed off most City supporters Christmas Card list (Well, not unless Hallmark bring out a ‘letter bomb’ range in the near future that is) and no doubt added to their ‘Most like to see have a freak Yachting accident’ list instead.

Which makes his appearance in this particular bar at this particular bar either very brave, or very stupid.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the man was more than hospitable when we visited on that legendary last day drink up last season. In fact he even lowered the prices at the bar for us. And over a couple of beers seemed rather a decent chap. But as you know,  appearances can be deceiving. How wrong can you be??

I grab a pint and head over to Windy’s conversation hoping to find out for myself just what the fuck is going on in Mr Eastman’s head. Sadly, as I arrive, the ‘chat’ ends with the beleaguered chairman asking, almost pleading “So, you still won’t shake my hand then Gareth?”. Windy simply shakes his head as confirmation that nope, no hand contact will be ensuing before he swiftly downs the remainder of his pint and heads for the bog.

Hmmm, think I’ll swerve all that drama and go talk to the fans instead then. The ones sat over the other side of the bar watching the exchange, steely eyed and with great interest.

I don’t get much out of them other than some mentions of respect for Mr Miller blanking the handshake before a couple of ‘comments’ brings their Chairman into the fray. Needless to say, people aren’t impressed with the recent goings on and voices become raised. Thankfully, before anything silly occurs, a lurking U’s official who’s no doubt been made aware of the situation steps in and sensibly ushers Mr Eastman away to the relative safety of the boardroom.

Finally with this distraction removed, I can get some conversation going and it’s soon very clear our guests are pretty well on their way to being ‘shitfaced’. Further investigation reveals that this status will soon be upgraded to ‘very shitfaced’ and will move swiftly up the scale to ‘I haven’t had a cunt all night drinkstable’ and beyond.

And who can blame ’em? However there is the worry that a certain level of pissed combined with feelings running high could cause someone to go and do something fucking daft. I hope not.

Eventually, kick off time arrives and we file out into the chilly afternoon air to find it alive with whispers that JR has officially tended his resignation as manager. Sadly, with the game now upon us and no officials at hand to interrogate on the matter, we have to put confirmation onto the back burner until afterwards. My, isn’t it a joyous day here at Gander Green Lane! The side has only one change from last week. Mark Watson is missing, apparently on holiday (we can’t confirm that this is in Florida,launching satellites for NASA with his right foot however) and is replaced by Steve Douglas.

Despite the terrible surface, we start quite brightly. And after 6 minutes, a Gray cross in from the right hangs dangerously at the back post. But the ‘keeper manages to tip the ball away before the leaping Gonsalves can make contact. Cambridge are soon in the game though and exerting some pressure. But, their only good chance comes on 12 mins. The U’s defence goes to sleep and a ball into the left hand channel sends Booth clear. He skips round  Wilson and from a narrow angle slips the ball towards goal. Thankfully, Scooby is on hand to recover the situation and blocks the effort at the near post.

Our visitors keep pressing, urged on by their noisy and very pissed following, but just don’t seem to really kick into top gear. Whether it’s the surface or all the bollocks going on regarding their circumstances, I’m not sure, but they certainly make hard work of breaking us down. Then just before the 20 minute mark and to our great surprise, we go and score one of those goal things. Yes, you read that right. Us. Do a goal.

A patient build up on the right ends with Eddie laying the ball into Gray, he skips infield before clipping a nice little ball over the defence for Douglas and he provides the sort of instinctive finish on which his youthreserve reputation was built on, deftly chipping the stranded ‘keeper at the far post.

The goal gives us a huge boost and a couple of minutes later, Douglas goes close to doubling the advantage. Cornwall breaks down the left and pulls a pass across the edge of the box. It’s behind the young striker, but he shows great determination in dispossessing the defender whilst grounded, before regaining his feet, skipping inside another defender and rifling a drive inches over the bar.

Arthur continues to cop stick from the Cambridge fans throughout the half as their side works hard, but fails to really trouble Wilson. We on the other hand continue to press. Akuamouah scampers onto a little clipped ball down the right before hitting a skidding shot across goal. It takes a horrible bobble in front of the ‘keeper and he does well just to keep it out. Douglas is unable to get past the last defender to finish off the loose ball and the danger is cleared.

Immediately after, another attack down the right produces a pass inside to Cornwall on the edge of the 18 yard box. His low shot on the turn skidding just narrowly wide of the near post. Things tail off a bit for a while afterwards and as the half looks to be drifting towards a slightly disappointing conclusion, Cambridge spark back into life briefly. The best moment coming 5 minutes before the break, with a nice build up on the left concludes with a 1-2 on the 18 yard line sending an attacker through on goal. But his effort skips across goal and just wide of the far upright.

Us? Winning? A half time pint is required I think!

The second half gets underway with City seemingly having been given a half time bollocking, as they’re pressing forwards right from the off. But again, despite plenty of good build-up and possession, not much materialises in the way of chances.

Sutton shrug off their own quiet start after 54 mins and break forwards. Douglas and Gray combine down the right and Matty goes past his man before pulling the ball back to Douglas inside, but the striker is unable to collect the pass and the opening is gone.

Cambridge are soon back on the attack and their good approach play is finally rewarded. A patient build up in the centre, sees the ball eventually worked out to the right where a gap has been worked. But despite a decent position, the chance is wasted, with the shot zipping across Wilson and wide of the far upright. From here on thought, they certainly have the better of the play. Managing to move the ball around smartly despite the terrible surface we’ve provided. It’s not until the 68th minute though that Wilson is called into serious action. A quick break down our left causes problems  and a ball inside puts our keeper in a  on 1 situation. But the big fella doesn’t let us down and bravely comes off his line to block the shot for a corner.

The set-piece is played into the box from the left and cleared only as far as the opposite corner of the 18 yard box, where it’s headed strongly back towards goal. Again Phil is on his toes though and claws it away one handed from the top corner at the expense of another corner.

It’s not until with a little over a quarter of an hour to play that City’s play finally brings their reward. An innocuous challenge is missed out on the right touchline just inside our half and the visitors swiftly take advantage of the lack of cover on that side. Booth travels forward with the ball and with the defence backing off all the time, he picks his spot with a delightful curling effort over the stranded Wilson’s shoulder and high into the far corner.

Still, nice while it lasted.

But, despite this setback, the lads seem to have taken heart from their efforts so far and go looking to restore their lead and barely a minute after going behind Conroy is stinging the visiting ‘keepers hand with a 25yard dipping drive that he has to tip over for a  corner. This brief exchange sparks what had previously been quite a tense, tight game into a frantic end to end battle for the last 15 minutes, with both sides exchanging efforts. Entertainment!

First the visitors break, with thier surge down the right leaving 2 defenders in it’s wake and a shot narrowly wide of the near post and into the side netting. Douglas then spurns a super chance to put Sutton back ahead going into the last 10 mins when a ball over the top predictably holds up on the boggy surface. He races clear and skips round the ‘keeper on the edge of the box, but hes been forced wide and is unable to put his shot onto the open target from the angle out on the left.

City hit back immediately, with the U’s defence again backing off the attackers. The ball is worked through the backline and once more, Wilson sees a low effort from the right run across his goal and just wide.

Then, with 5 to play, our own persistance pays off. A corner is won by Gray on the right. It’s played short before being played into the near post, where Scooby’s brave diving header deftly glances the ball across goal and out of reach of the ‘keeper just inside the far post.

Bloody hell!!! We can actually win one here!!!

Pleasedon’tfuckituppleasedon’tfuckituppleasedon……ah feck.

Within a minute, Cambridge have a corner of their own on the right. It’s flung in to the back post, where Wilson finds his path to the ball barred by a crowd of players and it drops to the unmarked Booth who crashes a shot back across goal and in off the opposite upright. Naturally, the noisy lot along the side are quite pleased by this event.

Now whilst I have all the sympathy in the world for their plight, I WANT TO WIN A FUCKING GAME THIS YEAR!!

Again though, the U’s press on and go in search of a winner. But with time slipping away, it appears a draw is the most likely outcome. But, as we start our stroll round to the bar, one last attack forms. The ball is worked out to Gray on the right, he turns inside his man and with a bit of space whips a low ball across that Cornwall dives in to try & meet in the centre. He fails to make contact, but his presence is enough to catch the ‘keeper in 2 minds and he can only watch as the ball spins off the turf in front of him and nestles into the far corner.

FUCKING COME ON!!

A pile of U’s players forms out on the right touchline with Gray at the bottom and a lagging Gareth looking on, unwittingly posing for a somewhat unflattering picture destined to appear in Sundays NLP. Sorry about that, we’ll try harder to keep him out of range of the pap’s lenses in future.

Thankfully, this time we manage to cling on to the advantage and moments later, the ref blows his whistle to signal the U’s first 3 points since December the 12th. Thank fuck that’s over.

The City fans continue their noisy protests, piling onto the pitch mostly to greet their team, but also to direct a bit more stick Mr Eastman’s way. Oh dear. I’m sure staying indoors with a four pack and Sky Sports on is looking quite an appealing prospect next week eh mate?

Right, now get off the pitch you bleedin’ hooligans, we’ve just won for the first time in 3 months, I’m in shock and I need a bloody beer! The beer flows in the bar as we get more info on the situation up at Milton Road. Thankfully, Arthur sees sense and stays up in the boardroom this time. Although his departure doesn’t go unnoticed and he departs with yet another flea in his ear from a group of pissed off fans.

With tensions rising due to the presence of some pro-Eastham supporters, the lads decide to head for the Plough before departing for home rather than outstay their welcome. Still, seeing people that hacked off at being about to lose their club isn’t nice. And it’s something I really have to say I hope we NEVER have to deal with down at GGL. We wish ’em well and hope that this nonsense finds a way to get sorted out somehow.

It’s a slightly sombre mood back in the bar and eventually the rumour from earlier is confirmed. JR has indeed tended his resignation and the club have sadly accepted, although being the sort of bloke he is, he’ll be staying on in the short term until a replacement is found.

Brilliant. We must be the first team in history to have a manager quit and then install the same bloke as a Caretaker!! Ho hum. Eventually, hunger gets the better of the assembled crew and we slope off to the Hood for sustenance. And of course more beer.

Phew. A win at last. Now we can look forward to Bognor next week with a bit of optimism!

MAN OF THE MATCH : Phil Wilson. Kept us in a game. Again.

ENTERTAINMENT : 7. Actually a pretty entertaining game considering the state of the pitch.

TEAM : Wilson, Scarborough, Palmer, Conroy, Elliott, Gonsalves, Honey, Akuamouah, Douglas, Gray, Cornwall    SUBS : Gordon, Adams, Fear, Boosey

THE REFEREE’S………again, didn’t have a lot to do really. It would seem the Conference have largely weeded out the shite from last year. About time! Another absolutely shocking linesman our side again though, which is becoming the trend it seems.

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