ATTENDANCE : 853
NEWPORT COUNTY – 2 [Bowen 25. Griffin 79]
SUTTON UNITED – 0
This weeks fun foray into the far flung points of Conference South …..oops, I mean ‘Blue Square South’ is our one trip ‘abroad’ as it were. We’re off to Newport and a jaunt over the Severn Bridge into Wales.
Normally, we’d be training this one and fully intended doing so this time until Wednesday evening, when a conversation with Bob on Wembley Way following the England – Russia qualifier started ringing alarm bells big time.
“So, you training it to Newport then?”
“Yeah, going to sort it out tomorrow. Get the tickets booked and stuff”
“I would if I were you. All the trains are full!”
Naturally, being football fans, we’d completely omitted the fact that the Rugby World cup was underway in France. Mainly as we couldn’t give a flying fuck about Rugby. But, for some bizarre reason, the organisers had elected to host a couple of pool matches and a quarter final at the Millenium Stadium. Cardiff. Which is in Wales. Not France.
And as Windy will tell you with his geography degree from Portsmouth University, Wales isn’t fucking France. It’s not even next to France. In fact, we in Sutton are closer to fucking france that fucking Cardiff.
What genius dreamt that one up then?
“But Taz!” I hear you exclaim “Why would a Rugby game in Wales pack out the trains from London?”
And ordinarily, you’d be right. This news would normally be greeted with a disinterested shrug, a mumbled “Meh!” and booking the tickets the following day as planned. But, a little voice tells me there’s more to this. Otherwise why would Bob be so concerned?
“Who are the Taffs playing then?” I enquire.
“Australia” Bob informs me.
Oh bollocks. As not only does it mean that every barman in South West London will be deserting their post to travel down to the Welsh capital to watch the game, even if we can get tickets for the train, it’ll be full of the aforementioned barman population of South West London.
And I’m really not sure I can handle the best part of 2 hours worth of Aussie ‘humour’.
Thankfully, Chalmers stupidly decides for some reason he’d like to drive down there instead and volunteers to transport us. Problem solved then. Direct transport to and from the ground and not a single “G’day” or mention of shrimps, barbies, Bondi Beach and most importantly of all, fucking Rugby. Result!
So, at 10am (or 10.15, depending on whose watch you go by, Chalmers or mine…) I’m picked up, followed by Windy and after a quick tea and petrol stop, we’re off down the M4 for the second time this season. Which is one more than we’d have liked if we’re honest.
The journey down is pretty dull as most motorway trips are, including the customary crawl in traffic along the way, meaning we’re only pulling into the car park of Newport’s Spytty Park home just before half one. A tadge later than we’d have liked.
Still, we hit the bar and are promptly presented with these funny wristband things, the sort you get when you go to a festival these days. We’re not sure if these entitle us to some sort of VIP treatment or are to help identify the bodies if we manage to upset the locals with chat about the incident at the Plough last season.
A couple of beers later and the train hogging, immigrant Aussie bastards are dishing out a bit of a beating to the Welsh in the French-except-for-a-couple-of-games-in-Wales Rugby world cup. Right, time to head outside I guess…
Team news for us isn’t good. It seems we’ve either dropped or are missing several faces for today’s clash. Liam Pestle comes in at right back to replace Hudson, with Lewis keeping the centre back spot over Darius Charles, who bizarrely, takes up the left back slot. Alimi returns to the midfield, but Honey is also dropped to the bench and replaced by Sol Taiwo. Finally, up front, Craig Watkins returns to partner McBean. Hmmm. Bit of shuffling going on it seems.
The home side make the better start and in the opening 5 minutes have a couple of promising looking openings fade out. We finally find our feet some 10 mins in and mount our first decent attack.
Taiwo cuts out a pass just inside the Newport half and Tanner collects the loose ball, feeding McBean on the edge of the box. He turns the ball into the channel on the right for Watkins coming in around the back. But he wastes the chance and fires his effort wide of the near post.
On 14 minutes, Alimi fires a crossfield from left to right that Malik takes down superbly first time, before galloping up the touchline and whipping in a very good cross to the far post. But it’s headed away for a corner before it can reach McBean arriving 8 yards out.
The resulting corner is put in from the left and somehow finds McBean in space about 12 yards out. But he can’t quite dig the ball out from under his feet and his shot is eventually blocked. Tanner follows up with a strike from the edge of the box, but the ‘keeper gets behind it and saves comfortably just in front of his line. From here on in though, it’s all rather depressingly one way traffic.
A minute later, Wilson is going down on one knee to fist away a fiercely hit angled shot from the right after the attacker has cut inside Pestle a little too easily. On 21 mins, a build up of pressure on the left eventually yields a gap and the low cross to the near post is met with a stooping header 6 yards out that is somehow looped over Wilson’s goal.
It’s a brief respite though as on 24 minutes, we finally capitulate.
A deep free kick from the left is aimed at the far post. The big no9 doesn’t even have to jump to nod the ball gently over Wilson towards goal and the no7 bundles the ball into the net at the far post to make sure. That’ really a bit rubbish isn’t it?
Then on 28 mins a fierce free-kick from the centre-right whistles past the wall and just wide of Wilson’s near post.
Just as we’re starting to wish we’d stayed in the bar to watch the rest of the rugby, Taiwo hits a free-kick of his own around the Newport wall from 25 yards. But the ‘keeper is across well and saves comfortably at the foot of his post.
McBean then wastes a good chance soon after, cutting insiode after a good ball from Tanner finds him out on the left, he manages to work himself a good shooting position before completely scuffing his shot. It hits a defender and rebounds to Watkins, but again the shot is hit too straight and it’s another easy save by the ‘keeper.
Just as we’re hoping that we can keep the hosts to a single goal at the break, Gonsalves intervenes to keep the scoreline to that single goal. A free-kick deep on the left is nodded down by the big no9 and finds a man running into space behind him. As a goal looks certain, Lewis manages to get back and get a vital challenge in.
Hearteningly, we then have the final chance of the half, with a rare bit of decent play in midfield once more producing a ball out left for McBean. Again he cuts in and this time gets a better contact on the ball, but the ‘keeper is equal to the effort and pushes it away. Sadly, there’s no green and white shirt near enough to tuck away the rather inviting loose ball.
Still, as hoped, we do indeed only go in the one goal behind. Here’s hoping…..
Unfortunately, our decision not to traipse halfway back across Wales to reach the bar at half time is soon regretted after the restart as the second half isn’t much better than the first. The home side have plenty of possession, more probably than the first 45, but thankfully create little.
McBean has a decent chance within a couple of minutes of the restart, running onto a ball over the top and into the box. But the ‘keeper comes out to meet him and the ball ends up going wide of the near post. Warren seems pretty certain it’s a corner, but the ref thinks he’s missed a sitter and awards a goal kick instead. Sums our season up so far really!
Things are kind of dull until about the hour mark when we royally shoot ourselves in the foot. Already cautioned, maybe a little harshly but cautioned nonetheless, Gonsalves dives into a challenge on a man towards the right as he looks to get in behind our stretched defence.
The ref, having already displayed he’s not really in the mood to give us fuck all naturally has no hesitation in producing a second yellow and banishing Lewis to the dressing room. It’s a tad annoying that given Mr G’s recent strop and refusing to play for us, he’s really rather failed to cover himself in glory since changing his mind and returning to the side.
And now ladies and gentlemen, we really are in the shit.
Naturally, having been making us look a bit silly moving the ball around before we had the man sent off, our hosts start to take things easy in the now wide open plains of Spytty Park, otherwise known to us as ‘midfield’.
Shortly after our mans departure to get the kettle on and make sure the hot water is sorted for after the game, County have a really quite good chance. Their man almost walks through 3 somewhat poor attempts at tackles on the right and with a good sight of the target from 12 yards out and a second goal looking certain, a team mate strolls across his line of sight and blocks the resulting shot. It’s a brief moment of comic respite for those of us at the far end.
Haze chucks on Jason Henry and Nick Greene to try & give us a bit more life, but it really has little effect and the hosts continue to dominate, albeit now starting to sit that little bit deeper than before.
So, we keep some vain hope alive of nicking a point from some spawny equaliser right up until the 78th minute, when another absolute calamity in defence seals our fate.
A long ball forwards on the left is seemingly shepherded back to Wilson by Charles, but with a striker lurking, they only succeed in clattering into each other, leaving the ball to run loose and the striker has the relatively simple task of rolling it across into the far corner of the net.
If only we could get all these fuck ups on tape. We’d be able to make a mint selling ’em to the football bloopers market around Xmas time. It’d certainly give the budget a much needed boost.
Of course, now 2-0 down, we start to show vaugue signs of life, aided by Newport now being quite happy to sit very deep and fend off our rather feeble attacking efforts like a school bully fending off a much smaller child by putting his hand on his head and keeping his punches well out of range.
We do manage a couple of efforts though in injury time. Henry’s persistence awards him a shooting opportunity from 18 yards, but the keeper gets across well and pushes it firmly away for a corner. And then McBean wriggles through on the left following a throw in, but his shot from a narrow angle flashes just inches wide of the foot of the far post.
Well, not quite.
We head dejectedly back to the bar to try drown some sorrows before piling into the PCmobile and heading home. The locals are quite gracious in victory and even try to cheer us up with some outrageous statements such as “Oh you weren’t that bad!” and “Thought you looked alright first half”
Cheers Welsh people, but we can see through your poor attempts to make us feel better and thus spend more on beer in your bar.
Eventually, we decide it’s time to skedaddle off home and perhaps get back to the Hood in time for some scoff. But, with a long journey ahead, us passengers decide that a few bottles are required and we manage to procure some from the bar before heading off to the car and stuffing them into every available storage space we can find. Needless to say, PC’s motor sounds like some sort of pissed up milk float as we pull away with all the bottle clinking away in the door pockets, which makes Windy & I sat in the back giggle like naughty schoolchildren.
The journey starts badly as we wind up on the wrong side of the M4 and find ourselves heading towards Cardiff. Not good. Last place we want to be! A quick recalculation though and we’re soon back on the right track and looking for the first available services for a piss stop.
Baldders emptied, we’re soon back on the road and heading homewards. Although after a couple more toilet stops are required and means we probably won’t make it back in time to the Hood in time for food. Any hope we did have of making that 9pm deadline is soon extinguished as we near the M25 junction. Mrs C awakes from her slumber and coughs quite loudly twice. PC enquires if she is about to be sick. To which she responds in the negative before promptly chucking up all over the dashboard.
Naturally, Windy and I allow PC to get on with his driving and deal with the situation as delicately as we can. So we hand Kelly the carrier bag we’ve been using for our empties, whilst rapidly winding down the windows in the back shouting “Urgh!! Air! Air!”.
Hey, we’re sensitive 21st century guys after all.
PC decides to head for the next services on the M4 and after a windswept 20 minutes for us in the back with all the windows down, we finally find ourselves parked up. As the C’s head off to get cleaned up and deal with the car, Windy and I hang around in the car park like a couple of vagrants, drinking our bottles. We also helpfully open all the doors on the motor to get some more air in so as to lessen the sicky smell.
While we wait, we jokingly discuss asking for a lift in the large white stretch limo parked nearby. Bizarrely, the occupants decide they want to point out the fact that they’re in a big white limo. The fact that they’re all female has absolutely nothing to do with the fact Windy enquires if we can come with them.
The dirty teases say yes, but they naturally drive off as Windy and I jog over to take up the offer. Still, at least they’re nice enough to wave goodbye from the rear sunroof as their elongated mode of transportation disappears into the distance.
Oh well, I guess we’ll have to persevere with our current vomit stained vehicle then?
With out drink supplies exhausted, Windy then wanders into the local travelodge to try & secure more booze, but is disappointed to find that Travelodges lack a key component in this plan. A bar. So he returns empty handed.
After a few minutes the C’s return, a little tidier and with materials to clean up the car. And before too long, we’re on out way again, heading down the M4 into London, having decided that going back to the M25 would be pointless. Windy & I keep our windows open a tadge in the back, just in case.
Heading back through Richmond and out of beer, Windy demands we stop at the first offy we see and PC, surprisingly, agrees, pulling up at the first Threshers we find. Windy disappears off over the road and returns with 2 large bottles of beer. One Russian and one Polish, which is amusingly named ‘Tsicky’.
Not wanting a bottle of ‘Sickie’, I plump for the Russian stuff. Then we discover the rubbish bottle opener we’d acquired at the first services back in Wales is nowhere to be found. So a difficult few minutes follows as we try to prise the tops off with our door keys.
Windy’s TomTom provides a final moment of amusement for us in the back as we continue on our way through Richmond. Despite PC knowing full well where he’s going, we have the TomTom stuck to the window. Suddenly, the female voice blurts out “In 300 yards, turn right”
In far less than 300 yards, PC indicates and goes to turn right before slamming on his brakes and cursing loudly. It seems we’re turning into a multi-story car park.
“Fucking thing!! Turn it off!!” he tells his two by now giggling insanely rear passengers.
Things are a little more subdued by the time we do finally roll up at the Hood, a bit later than we’d have liked. The 6-pints-before-closing-time plan hatched on the back seat being abandoned for a more achieveable couple-of-pints-in-mostly-silence effort.
No really, this time it is. Whaddya mean you stopped reading about 10 minutes ago?
MoM : Erm…..I really can’t think of anyone deserving enough…..
TEAM : Wilson, Pestle, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Charles, Taiwo, Watkins, Tanner, Buari, McBean, Alimi SUBS : Hudson, Henry, Williams, Bray, Honey