SUTTON UNITED – 0
ST ALBANS CITY – 0
With Saturday’s less than satisfactory performance and one of the crew already left behind on an away trip, it could be said we’ve had a somewhat less than cracking start to this ‘Blue Square South’ campaign. Thus we’re not sure if we really want to be getting a chance to put things right a couple of days later. But sadly, we must and we prepare to receive our old friends from St Albans at GGL for our first home game.
The Saints had a year off Connie South action after winning the play-offs season before last and got to have a taste of the big time up in the National division. Sadly, they endured the sort of season we can still remember all to clearly from our last foray ‘upstairs’. A so-so start, followed by a couple of encouraging results, but in the bottom 3 by Xmas and not having the strength in depth to pull clear, ultimately finishing a comfortable stone dead last.
Still, we’re sure despite the unhappy ending, they were glad to get to some big grounds and see some crowds. And Forest Green of course.
Their relegation meant the end of the brief but successfull reign of Colin Lippiat and the departure of a fair few players. In his place, Stalebuns have recruited Richie Hanlon, who we last saw tearing us a new arsehole for Rushden in that last Conference season, for his first managerial role. Things haven’t started well for them either, going down 3-0 in their opening fixture.
Game on! Probably.
Work again delays arrival into town, so there’s only time to grab a yummy Subway dinner with the other half and head straight to the ground. Looks like this will be a sober one. The stroll down to GGL is….er….delightful. Proceeding to piss down the moment we leave the sandwich place and not letting up all the way down. Nice. No standing out at the Collingwood End for me tonight.
Squad news on arrival boosts the spirits though. Watkins will start, along with Warren and Scooby returns from his suspension. Also back in is AJ at left back. That’s more like it! We could be competitive tonight.
The rain continues to fall as we get underway and pleasingly, we make a reasonably bright start. Then again, we did that saturday and look what happened! After only a couple of minutes, Warren gets possession about 35 yards out and drives for goal, going past 1 defender before hitting an effort from 20 yards. Sadly, his effort is almost a worrying to us in the covered terrace down the side than it is to the goal.
Things proceed at a fair old pace from here on in, with both sides trading possession and using the slick, wet surface to full effect with some nice, fast paced passing. But on 18 mins, it’s a boring ol’ set piece that provides our next opportunity. Tanner swings in a free-kick from deep on the right and it’s headed on in the centre, skimming off the turf just out of reach of Nick Greene sliding in at the far post. Bizarrely, the ref indicates a corner despite neither Greene or the defender getting near the ball.
Ho hum, we’re not complaining!
Despite both sides trading some nice play, we continue to have the better of things. And after 30 mins, McBean really should put us in front. A ball up the left is helped on and drops kindly for Warren behind 2 defenders in the box. He cuts across the 18 yard area, looking to go round the ‘keeper, but he manages to spread himself well and get a foothand to the ball and nick it away. Ross Montague follows up on the loose ball on the edge of the box, but a defender recovers and manages to get in the way and block his shot.
As half time approaches, things hot up and there’s a real little flurry of activity.
First the St Albans keeper misjudges the flight of a deep free-kick and gathers the ball at the second go after almost fumbling it out to McBean inside the 6 yard box. Stalebuns respond immediately and only great alertness from Wilson saves us from going behind. An attack is built and reaches the edge of our box, where an attacker manages to wriggle through into the area. He then manages to somehow keep the ball despite two attempts to dispossess him and suddenly finds himself staring at an empty net with the ‘keeper sprawled next to him. But, before he can pull the trigger and open the scoring, Phil reacts and somehow pounces on the ball to smother the danger.
We then head straight up the other end, with a great run from Greene carrying the ball from the centre out to the left. But just as he gets a great sight of goal, he simply fails to shoot and carries on going, before being shut out by the byeline and a goal kick is awarded.
Right on the whistle, Tanner than has a chance to open the scoring with a throw in flicked on from the right, but the keeper does very well to get down and keep out Craig’s low stooping header that skids in off the wet surface. So, still no goals then…..
We head round to the far end and already having eaten and not actually fancying a beer for once, I park my arse on the Securicor and await the restart as the rain continues to fall.
When we’re back underway, it takes a few minutes for things to pick up. But on 54 minutes, Tanner has a decent sight of goal. A throw from the right is flicked on by Montague and drops to Tanner by the near post, 8 yards out. He kills the ball with his first touch and hits it on the volley as he turns, but it flashes a couple of feet over the bar.
Montague troubles the keeper shortly after when Hudoson punts a high cross in from the right towards the near post. Ross challenges the keeper who fumbles and drops the ball behind him, but the Brentford man can’t react quickly enough to take advantage and the stopper gathers without too much fuss second time around.
On the hour, a Greene free-kick from the left causes problems. Delivered low to the around the penalty spot, Scooby pops up and sidefoots an effort narrowly wide of the far post. The visitors, despite having had a bit of the ball up to now, haven’t produced much of an attacking threat. But they start to find their feet around the hour and slowly start to show a little bit of promise in the final third.
One attack keeps us pinned in down by the corner flag on the right and we fail to clear our lines. The ball is eventually driven in at pace and an attacker in a little too much space in the centre guides a practically free-header just wide of the far post. McBean produces a response barely a minute later with a typically weaving run down the centre and then out to the right. But his low shot back across goal from 18 yards zips wide of the far post.
Another Greene run on 68mins, through the centre and then out to the right. He clips the ball back inside for Watkins. He steps inside his marker and with a decent sight of the target drags his shot wide of the near post. 3 minutes later a corner from the right causes problems, with the ‘keeper flying out to punch clear, but missing completely. But the ball hits Charles at pace and rebounds clear, allowing the defence to clear.
Saints remind us they’re still lurking inside the last 15, when a cross from the left is weakly hooked clear by Scarborough. It drops to an attacker 20 yards out to the right and he crashes a volley straight back just narrowly wide of the far post.
Things seem to peter out a little towards the end as both sides seem resigned to not finding a way to break the deadlock. Although with a couple of minutes left, a free-kick is won on the right corner of the box. Tanner takes and curls it over the wall, but the ‘keeper is equal to it and tips it over the bar without a great deal of fuss.
So sadly, despite getting on the board points wise, we’re still searching for that first goal. Still, the performance was much better than saturday and we looked a hell of a lot livlier going forwards! Right, time to retire to the bar for a much needed pint methinks.
Joy, Bromley on saturday. Wonder if they’ll be their normal charming selves?
MoM : Darius Charles. Looks a very assured figure at the back. Shame he’s not ours!
TEAM : Wilson, Hudson, Charles, Scarborough, Bray, Greene, Honey, Montague, Watkins, McBean, Tanner SUBS : Palmer, Henry, Martin, Pestle, Williams