Breaking the Habit

THURROCK – 2    [Orilonshie 35. Stadhart 37]  SUTTON UNITED – 1    [Hudson 86]


Usually, when a manager jacks it in or is sacked from a struggling side, the team he leaves behind quite often pick up in form, even briefly and goes on to claim some vitally needed points. But, always keen to break the mould here at Gander Green Lane, the U’s have managed to achieve precisely fuck all in the 2 weeks and 3 games now since Ian Hazel quit as manager.

Sure, Stuart Massey has at least managed to get the side performing noticeably better in that spell and we really should have got something from all of those contests, but the bottom line is, we didn’t. And as we all saw during the dying embers of the John Rains era, losing can become a dangerous habit. And one that can be a bit of a sod to break. You think smoking’s tough to stop? You try breaking a run of form like ours sunshine. Constantly chewing on some nicorette is a piece of piss in comparison.

Still, all the previous games were against much higher placed oppo than ourselves, including the current top 2, so whilst ‘higher placed oppo than ourselves’ isn’t exactly hard to find right now, hopefully tonight’s trip to lower mid-table Thurrock will provide the opportunity to pick up a desperately needed win and also provide Mr Massey a nice bit of leverage in getting the job he wants.

My trip into London to get the train from Fenchurch Street following work is a little fraught. Almost missing my train to Waterloo thanks to some ticket Nazi’s who are insisting on clogging up the ticket office and preventing fare payers like myself from actually using the service we’ve been charged for.

Fucks sake, I bet it was easier to get through Checkpoint Charlie at a particularly busy period.

Having just made the train, I have to dash for the underground, counting down the 20 or so minutes I have to make it round to Fenchurch Street. Luckily, connections are unusually good and I jog onto Platform 2 at Fenchurch with several minutes to spare. Damn. We’re going to lose aren’t we?

PC and Mrs C soon appear and we bag seats on the busy commuter train bound for the rather crappily named Chafford Hundred. Having dashed into the station, I’d been unable to obtain sustenance for the journey, so quite happily accept the offer of a half eaten bag of Cheese & Onion McCoys from Kelly. Any port in a storm and all that.

Flicking through the London Paper to pass the journey by, I take a look at my horoscope. Now, normally, I’d pay little attention to something that is patently a load of old bollocks, but I’m a football fan and my team is shit. And short of going into a church (we’re not quite THAT bad yet!) I’ll take all the help we can get.  Sadly, the prediction isn’t good…

“Cancer- Be careful how you release your frustration, particularly at a certain person. You could end up discovering you didn’t have to be quite so assertive”

So, that’ll be another defeat and me getting chucked out of here for calling the ref a cunt again then? Which is rather disappointing really, as I was hoping for something more along the lines of “Your day will be made when your incredibly poor non-league team actually manages to win a game”

Still, we’re soon stepping into the chilly night air at our destination without any delays and there’s even enough time for me to pop over the road to Tesco’s and obtain some scoff before our cab arrives bang on time.

Yep, we’re definitely going to lose.

The cab drops us off in plenty of time to head into the bar for a quick pre-match pint. Handily, Windy is just heading out of the bar as we arrive for a quick pre-match fag! Unfortunately, I plump for a pint of Guinness from the limited fare on offer which quite frankly, if anyone from the company were ever to sample they’d probably torch the place on principle.

It’s watery, tastes dreadful and has a head that I have a feeling is a tad larger than should be acceptable. Still, I only find most of this out after I’ve waited 10 of the 25 minutes I have prior to kick off to actually get it and it’s with no great sadness that I abandon it at 7.43 with very little having passed my lips. Lets face it anyway, there’s very little difference between watching Sutton and getting the shits at the moment anyway.

Unsurprisingly, the side is unchanged from the one that outplayed current league leaders Eastbourne on Saturday and still got gubbed 3-0. Simply as it’s all we’ve got and is frankly the best that Massey can field.

Our start to the game is also much like recent showings, starting brightly and taking the game to our hosts from the whistle. Indeed only 4 minutes have been played when our first chance comes (and goes). McBean manages to scramble through into the box in the way that he does on the left and finds his shot blocked. It rebounds out before being laid out to the right, where Quinton dummies and allows it to run to Henry behind him. His effort brings an acrobatic stop out of the ‘keeper and it’s pushed away for the first corner of the night.

A minute or two later and another corner is won. This time it’s half nodded away and drops for Quinton at the far post about 12 yards out. But his shot on the turn is straight at the ‘keeper and he makes a bread and butter save inside his 6 yard box.

Soon after, as if we’d forget anyway, the home side remind us just how utterly frail we are at the back, a pass down the right flank picks out the penetrating run of an attacker. Scarborough slips on the turn and is unable to prevent his man running in on goal. Fortunately for us, he wastes the opportunity with a terribly weak effort straight at Phil Wilson.

Our bright start does continue though and after just 12 minutes, we have a golden opportunity to snatch the lead. A super burst of pace down the left by Warren takes him virtually to the byeline and he squares the ball across the 6 yard line. Watkins awaits, but doesn’t really make great contact with the whole goal to aim at and only succeeds in hitting his shot into a startled defender and see’s it loop up and spin wide of the far post.

If at this point whilst reading the report you find the word “Sitter” suddenly pop into your head, then don’t worry, it’s perfectly natural. As is the involuntary motion of putting your head into your hands.

We continue to perform promisingly though and another good opportunity comes our way after 23 minutes. A little diagonal ball into the box from the left picks out the darting run of McBean. He’s well marshalled and is unable to get the shot off, but the ball breaks kindly for Watkins coming in from the left. Sadly, his angled effort is straight at the ‘keeper once more and he blocks the shot with his legs.

Anyone else getting the feeling they’ve seen all this before?

A free-kick just after half an hour provides another moment of promise. It’s clipped in just beyond the wall and bounces up invitingly. Quinton ducks in, but just fails to get a touch and the ball carries on through to the ‘keeper before Lewis can intervene. And then 3 minutes later, we’re predictably behind.

A simple long ball over the top does the damage, our defence stood static and staring at the ball as it passes overhead like a bunch of Amazonian Indians seeing a airliner fly over for the first time. Meanwhile, the Thurrock bloke gallops through, manages to stay upright from Wilson’s sliding challenge just outside the box and after controlling the ball just before the byeline, rolls it calmly into the far corner as the defence finally arrives to try and rescue the situation.

Most of us don’t know whether to laugh, cry or mumble “Flaming fuckcakes, not again…”

As if that wasn’t enough to trigger one huge rush of Deja Vu, then what happens barely 2 minutes later is like watching the second goal from Saturday on the worlds biggest telly.

An attack down the left looks to have broken down, but a simple ball inside finds their no9 stood 18 yards out and in more space than a lot of objects NASA have launched, he takes a touch and rifles a low shot in off the near post.

Oh. dear.

Unsurprisingly, the last few minutes of the half pass in pretty much total silence. Which is probably quite unusual for a Thurrock home game I’d imagine.

Half time eventually arrives and despite offering plenty of encouragement as the lads trudge off, you can’t help but think that they don’t really believe we can pull this round any more than we do.

I quite fancy a nice pint of Guinness at this point, but as there’s nowhere nearby doing a nice pint of Guinness, I instead decide to head up to the far end and get a bit cold instead. Strangely, happy chatter does not abound amongst the assembled idiots as we await the start of the second half.

The second half performance, it must be said, is dire. It’s not unexpected, but a little disappointing nonetheless. Thurrock make the early running when they can be bothered and aren’t taking 2-3 days over every goal-kick and throw in. On 52 mins, poor defending on the right leads to the ball dropping invitingly on the corner of the 18 yard box. A Thurrock man hits a fierce effort at goal and Wilson has to react very quickly to beat the shot away one handed.

After huffing and puffing away and getting nowhere, a lifeline almost appears out of nowhere just before the hour. Greene drives a cross in diagonally from the left and it picks out Scooby a few yards out at the far post. But somehow the ‘keeper throws up an arm and without knowing too much about it and keeps out the U’s captain’s header. More dull stuff follows until around 20 minutes to play. Henry turns well on the right and darts between 2 defenders into the box. But his angled shot from 8 yards favours the ‘keeper and he beats the effort away with his fists.

Thurrock are now perfectly happy to sit and hit us on the break, mainly through the tiny, but incredibly nippy no11. And on several occasions, he goes on surging 30+ yard runs, gliding past numerous green and white shirts. Thankfully, none ends with the now fully expected third goal to put us right out of our misery.

With the clock ticking down and just inside the last 5 mins, we finally decide to stop fucking about and give it some grunt. And amazingly, it actually pays dividends.

A corner from the left is played into the heart of the box, but it nodded away towards the far corner of the box by a defender. It drops to Asher Hudson around 25 yards out and he takes a touch before belting a shot straight back into the top far corner.

Well bugger me!

The goal seems to knock the home side out of their stride a little bit and they proceed to stagger about like a boxer who’s just copped a cracking haymaker to the side of the bonce. Immediately, we go back on the attack and we win a corner. This is swung in from the right and Gonsalves stoops to nod it on into the heart of the area. Alimi reacts first and pokes the loose ball goalwards, only for it to be desperately hooked off the line. Greene then has 2 follow up efforts, both blocked by desperate bodies throwing themselves in the way.

McBean has 2 super chances to break & score within the next minute, latching onto diagonal balls over the defence, but both times his first touch lets him down badly and allows his marker to make up the ground and snuff out the danger.

Then as we push on, Greene is brushed off the ball about 25 yards out from goal in a central position. And with everyone up, the home side break. Gonsalves gets across as quickly as possible and just over the halfway line does the only thing he can and chops his man.

Having already received a yellow in the first half for a silly shove, the ref is left with little option but to produce a second and send Lewis back down the tunnel a couple of minutes early. From here, we try desperately to find an equaliser, but revert to bombarding the Thurrock box with high balls which are gobbled up with little fuss by the home defenders and goalkeeper before finally, the ref calls time.

We trudge back out to the car park to locate windy’s wheels, with only the knowledge that we don’t have a game on Saturday and thus can’t get beat again to comfort us.

Back in the Hood a short while later, it’s a pretty sombre atmosphere. We try discussing who is likely to get the job of manager, but not knowing exactly who has applied, it’s a bit of a waste of time. Although we do assume Massey’s played 4 lost 4 record as caretaker will most likely rule him out. Oh well, we’ll find out on Friday.

Personally I hope it’s George Borg. He might not get us out of this mess, but by god we’ll at least have a fucking good laugh as we go!

MoM : Asher Hudson. No one really stood out,  simply for that superb strike near the end.

TEAM : Wilson, Hudson, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Alimi, Quinton, Greene, Watkins, McBean, Tanner, Henry.    SUBS: Goodchild, Bray, Williams, Hammond, Honey

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