LEWES – 4 [Holloway 57. Griffiths 61. Davis 90. Groves 90]
SUTTON UNITED – 0
So, at last, we have another manager.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Merlin, a re-incarnation of Harry Houdini or Jesus H Christ as we’d really hoped (Apparently we couldn’t afford any of ’em) and instead we went for the safer, but mildly surprising option of Ernie Howe.
Ernie is fairly well known to us having spent some 13 years in charge at Basingstoke up until a couple of seasons ago and did relatively well on what seemed to be a modest budget. Although I’ve got a feeling he’s never quite been faced with a challenge like the one that greets him at Gander Green Lane.
He arrives with the U’s having amassed a ginormous total of 5 points so far in the league from a possible 39. That’s 13 games. And his task is made just that little bit more difficult by the departures of Craig Watkins (surpising) and Tony Quinton (really not that surprising). Ironically, these come within 48 hours of him telling the local rag he doesn’t think the side needs that much of an overhaul.
And, to top it all off, his already stupidly impossible task begins with a trip to second in the table Lewes, who have already nudged us out of the FA Cup some 3 weeks previously. To patch up the side, he moves to acquire two crackingly monikered lads. Firstly Alieu Jallow, a forward and then Ouzo Opara, a defender.
Fuck me, they’re going to need to be something a bit bloody special to get this lot going. Quietly, we hope that they’re distant cousins of Ronaldihno and Kaka. Although we get the feeling we might be disappointed and they’re just ca-ca.
Still, at least unlike the cup game, we get to head down to Sussex on a saturday on a trainline that isn’t being dug up for once, meaning we amble into the first boozer not too long after opening time. Then, wishing to watch the Man Utd – Gooners clash on the telly, PC and Windy persuade me to move up the high street to the Brewers Arms. Mainly as this seems to be the only boozer in town with posh telly facilities.
We drink, scoff some lunch and look on in wonder at the number of Gooners there are in the pub during the game. Hilariously, one is overheard to exclaim “Look at em, they’re probably all from London!” when the camera pans across the away section. Oh the irony. And they’re a damn sight closer to fucking Ashburton Grove than you dear boy!
With the designated match from the ‘greatest league in the world’ all done and dusted, we’re left with 25 minutes to make the nice brisk stroll to the Dripping Pan for our own match in the ‘second or third greatest league sponsored by Blue Square in the world’.
Unsurprisingly, the team announcement reveals that Ernie’s two new boys will go straight into the side, with Ouzo slotting into midfield and Jallow partnering Warren up front.
The early exchanges are pretty dull to be honest, with Lewes having plenty of the ball but creating little of note. Although again, they stick to the same plan as the cup game, knocking the ball out wide for Binns to run really very fast at Asher Hudson on the right.
Surprisingly though, it’s actually our good selves who create the moment of note on 13 mins. We manage to get the ball down the left and it’s played across field to Greene about 18 yards out in the centre, but his shot is weak and straight at the ‘keeper. The hosts retaliate immediately, a ball of their own in from the left picks out a man at the far post outjumping his marker, but he powers his header straight at Wilson.
Apart from this, it’s really quite uninspiring fare. Lewes threaten briefly, with Wilson having to be alert a couple of times to claim the ball at the feet of oncoming forwards, but apart from that, there’s really bugger all to get the pulse racing. Even the crowd is quiet, with neither set of supporters making any real noise. The fact that there seems to be about 100 less people on the covered terrace than there was a couple of weeks ago doesn’t seem to help. Then, with a minute before the break, McBean should probably do better when he turns on the left, cuts inside and hits a low shot across goal and narrowly wide of the far post.
Still, we go in scoreless at the break, which is I think a massive improvement on recent weeks, as we usually trudge in 2-0 down to two really quite awful goals. It’s a start!
This gives us a little hope for the second half. Keep it tight and see what happens. Although our rythm is somewhat upset a minute or two after the restart when Ouzo goes down heavily after an aerial challenge and after several minutes treatment, leaves the field on a stretcher, complete with neck brace.
From here, we seem to struggle somewhat. It’s not that Lewes seem to step up a gear or try that bit harder, we just seem to visibly wilt. And on 50 mins, we get a warning shot across our already low sitting bows.
We seem to find it hard to clear our lines and pick up our men and the home side work the ball through for a shooting opportunity. The first effort is half blocked, but runs kindly for another attacker on the opposite side and Wilson has to get across quickly to save the shot right on his goal-line.
We’re definitely looking a bit more ragged and it’s no great surprise when Lewes take the lead 7 minutes later. It’s even less of a surprise that the damage, like so often this season, is self inflicted. Nick Greene tries to play his way out of his own penalty area and gives the ball away. The attacker greatfully accepts the gift and curls an effort towards the top corner that Wilson gets a hand to, but can’t keep out.
Oh well, that’ll be us done then.
Naturally, the goal cheers up the annoying collection of pre-pubescent chavs that seems to accompany any visit to a ground in Sussex these days and who’ve gathered in front of us.
Soon, abusing these little tossers becomes infinitely more interesting than the game as we produce the other nailed on feature of our season and concede a rapid second. The defence gets pulled all over the place and eventually the ball is switched right for new signing Leroy Griffiths to run into acres of space and deliver a sublime chip over the advancing Wilson and into the far corner of the net.
With half an hour left, it’s now a question of how many we’ll get gubbed by, but we seem to recover a little and at least start to compete again a bit more, albeit without ever really causing the home side too many problems. McBean has another run and shot from the left that again zips narrowly wide with about 10 to play and it proves to be our last major contribution to proceedings, other than once again helping make a side look like fucking world beaters.
A minute after that chance, a swift attack down the left opens up the defence. The low first time effort arrows towards the far corner, but Wilson digs us out of a hole once more, getting down superbly to turn it away one handed. He’s busy again on 84 mins when another swift attack down the left ends with the ball played across field 20 yards out. The fierce shot flies towards the top corner before the U’s stopper reacts to make an excellent flying one handed save to tip the ball over the bar.
But despite his efforts, we still manage to put a nice flattering edge onto the scoreline in injury time, when we somehow manage to concede not once, but twice.
A simple crossfield ball from left to right opens up our defence again and the Lewes man has acres of space to run into and finish smartly into the far corner beyond the reach of Wilson. Then straight from the restart, we give the ball away and straight away the home side surge down the left. With the defence again all over the shop, a low cross to the centre is finished from close range by a suspiciously offside looking man.
Suddenly, 0-0 at half time seems a lifetime ago. Time to go get drunk I guess….
Thankfully, the chavs have departed, but we still have to pass some home fans at the far end, still singing away to a practically empty ground like they’ve just won the world cup and not tonked the worst team in the division. I’m unable to resist when one ditty includes a line involving ‘sucking cocks’ as we walk past and comment that they’re all doing that with Steve King.
Of course, the usual witty banter proceeds although the pick of the bunch is from one twat who smugly tells us to ‘Enjoy your long journey home’.
Eh? Long? It’s less than an hour you cock. Have you ever been out of Lewes?
My questioning his geographical knowledge and that coming back from Mansfield is a ‘long way home’ if he’s in need of an example leads to a somewhat heated debate with other locals as we walk across the car park. In the end, PC has to direct me away from things getting a little out of hand, whilst someone else directs a local the other way.
Oh well, that was all a bit silly. Pub anyone?
An hour and a couple of pints later in the Lansdowne Arms, the usual subdued natter that seems to follow pretty much all the games these days is interrupted by a tap on my shoulder. I turn round to find my fellow ‘combatant’ from earlier on.
Uh oh, it’s either punch up or pint time.
Fortunately it’s the latter and we decide to kiss and make up, putting it down as one of those daft football passion things.
Eventally, we decide to make our ‘long journey’ back to Sutton via Clapham and find ourselves slumped dejectedly in the Hood shortly after 9pm. A regular, Malcolm, tries to bemoan his Swindon sides ‘miserable’ form of 2 straight defeats in the league. We chuckle.
Two?? TWO?? Is that it?? Try nine mate, that’s proper shite that is! We laugh in the face of your paltry two straight defeats! Haaahahaha! See.
On this point, he unsurprisingly conceeds defeat as quickly as our team and disappears back to the other end of the pub before we can even think about bringing up the small matter of our -23 goal difference or 5 points from 42 into the discussion.
Hey, at last, we’ve found something that we’re actually good at!
MoM : Jason Henry. One of the few of our lot to stand out…..
TEAM : Wilson, Hudson, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Alimi, Quinton, Greene, Watkins, McBean, Tanner, Henry. SUBS : Goodchild, Bray, Williams, Hammond, Honey