FA TROPHY 3rd QUALIFYING ROUND | ATTENDANCE : 721
DOVER ATHLETIC – 1 [Cloke 60] SUTTON UNITED – 1 [McBean 30]
Thanks for the nice easy draw guys. Appreciate it. Oh wait, you actually gave us a team pissing their division and on a run of 8 or 9 straight wins didn’t you? Tossers. Still, things aren’t quite as bleak as they were a couple of weeks back. Since the draw was made, we’ve improved immensely. Firstly, we managed to keep a clean sheet for a whole 45 minutes in the second half against Hayes & Yeading (although we did admittedly concede 3 in the first half) and we actually drew that game. Yes, we got a point. A whole point. All to ourselves. For the first time in 2 months.
Pah. Ryman Div 1 South runaway leaders? We shit ’em! Ahem.
As a somewhat stark reminder of what we and our opponents today have become is provided in the fact that the last time we visited Dover’s Crabble ground, it was a league game in the Conference National. We finished bottom that year (sound familiar?) and have hardly set the world alight since. Our hosts though, have had a slightly harder time of things, dropping out of the Conference not long after us, they soon found themselves plunging into the depths of Isthmian football thanks to some pretty major money worries. With the club almost going under not once, but twice in that time.
Sort of makes our own trials and tribulations look positively fun filled if we’re honest.
With our position still dictating that we’re possibly going to lose a whole load of drinking days out next season, we decide (well, Greek does) that we should make a day out of our visit to the UK’s number 1 exit point for France. Er, yeah. Cosmic.
Still, stupidly, we agree and we assemble on the usual Sutton to Victoria service at the stupid hour of 9am. Naturally, Chalmers is complaining about the early start, but his protests are roundly ignored due to the fact that the lazy fucker has just spent the last week on a beach in Tenerife and not wiring a plug somewhere. Also in attendance is the recently AWOL Belly. Who has apparently been playing football on Saturdays. I decide to ease him back into the away game environment gently and resist asking if he’s playing alongside that Egyptian fella currently doing a residency at the old Millennium Dome.
Victoria arrives soon enough and as we stroll round to the Kent lines side of the station, one of us notices that there is a train to Dover leaving pretty much right there and then. But some wonderfully indecisive shrugging of shoulders to Greek’s pointed question “Shouldn’t we get the earlier one?” means that as it pulls out, we’re mostly still mumbling about how early it is and wanting a cup of tea.
Instead, we relax, get a cuppa and get on the originally intended service which leaves some 30 minutes later. A somewhat ridiculously long trip down is only lightened up by some strange Japanese touristy woman taking our pic randomly at the stop before Dover and my particularly odious fart dropped shortly before that earns me many plaudits from those assembled and fortunate enough to experience it. The two events are, you’ll be amazed to hear, unrelated.
Once off in Dover though, we stroll out of the station and Greek locates the local ‘fixer’ he’s arranged for today’s visit. A chap named Chris with distinctive purple hair, who is also a Sperz fan. Still, first impressions and all that, he actually turns out to a really nice chap. A little thirsty despite the liveners on the way down, we pop into the pub opposite the station, to be greeted by a rather jolly if somewhat dentally challenged Irish landlord. He declares he has no ale available, but boasts his Guinness is the best in town. We’ll see about that my good man…
It turns out the bloke ain’t lying either, as Belly and I enjoy a pint of the black stuff so good, you could almost be on Temple Bar in sight of the Liffey drinking it. The others lager meanwhile looks, well, piss like and fizzy. Like any lager really.
Soon we’re off down the road into town and the local Wetherspoons is soon located and more pints follow. Bob, who has been travelling down a bit later amazingly manages to follow my specially designed chav text speak directions sent a little earlier and rolls in not long after we’ve ordered. Something I’m half disappointed by and half proud of if I’m honest. A couple of beers more and it’s suggested we head to the Golden Lion down the road for one more before grabbing some cabs to the ground.
In here, the drinks get silly. Greek orders some vile smelling pint of cider that is about 900% in strength and Mrs C then unbelievably tops him by ordering a bottle of toffee apple flavoured Pear Cider. Which I think you’ll be amazed to read tasted fucking vile. “That’s what cider tastes like when I’m throwing it up” I helpfully comment after my first and thankfully only sip.
Who comes up with this rubbish anyway? The stupidly flavoured cider that is, not the shit you’re reading.
While we enjoy our pint, we are able to watch the Liverpool – Newcastle game on the telly, on what as far as we can tell, is some dodgy Albanian satellite channel. Still, at least it means Murdoch probably isn’t getting any money from it. Unless he or one of his immediate family owns a controlling stake. Which is more than likely when you think about it.
With 2pm fast upon us, we head out to the local taxi rank, just as the only two cabs there pull away. Arse. A local office round the corner can only offer transport in the next 20 minutes and as that will undoubtedly impact on our pre match refreshments at Crabble, we decide to take our chances back at the rank. Still, it’s worthwhile and inside 5 minutes, we’re all being transported to the ground without too much VDT lost.
The ground it seems, hasn’t changed a bit since that visit in the Conference proper back in about 1999. The bar certainly hasn’t changed since then. In fact probably not since 1899. Which probably explains the fundraising going on about the place to replace this rather tiny and run down facility.
A couple of snifters later, including a cheeky short and we’re back out into the chilly air for the football. The side is once more tweaked, what with Dundas being cup tied and both Gonsalves and Glover serving suspensions. Instead, Ernie gives starts to Jallow up front and gives Ressie skipper Tom Hughes his debut in the centre of defence alongside Jack Haverson. Greene goes to left midfield and Jason Henry is out on the right. Bash and Ug sitting in the middle.
The game is soon underway and despite our changed-again line up looking a little edgy to start with, the opening deluge we’re expecting from the red hot, free scoring home side never materialises and as the minutes tick by, we start to look that bit more confident. Then on 11 minutes, Ug puts in a free-kick from out on the right and Hughes gets up highest to head just over the target.
This seems to help lift spirits and we start to play a bit more relaxed and patiently. The home side waste a reasonable chance after 15 mins when a ball in low from the left is held up and then hit on the turn, but it flies miles over the bar. From here, we’re pretty much in charge of proceedings. The back four handles the home strikers well and we start to create chances, whilst harrying the home midfield and defence.
It’s from this in your face battling that we manage to take the lead after about 30 minutes. Henry does well to get down the right wing and pull a ball back across just inside the 18 yard line. McBean collects, but can’t quite wriggle past the 2 defenders facing him. Unfortunately for them, their attempt to clear their lines is incredibly slow and Bash arrives on the edge of the area to block and in turn deflect the ball back to Warren who doesn’t need asking twice to turn and slot the ball across the ‘keeper to make it 1-0.
Well I’ll be jiggered. First we come back from 3-0 down, next we’re taking the lead in a game. We are just RED HOT right now!!
A couple of minutes later and it really should be 2-0. A pass is pushed through from midfield sending Alimi clear on the right. But as he checks to avoid the attention of a defender, he almost runs into McBean and this allows the ‘keeper to narrow the angle. The resulting shot coming off his shoulder and looping wide for a corner.
From the corner, Honey swings in a lovely ball that Tom Hughes gets up for highest again at the near post and heads down. Unfortunately, there’s a man on the post and he reacts well to chest the ball off the line. It’s quite strange, but we’re a little lost on the terraces. We’re actually on top in a game and winning. Whatever next??
McBean has a good run and shot after 40 minutes, surging down the left before cutting in and hitting a low effort that the ‘keeper does well to get down to and just hold. Then on 42 minutes, a free-kick in from deep on the right sees Warren pressuring his marker into looping a header just narrowly over his own crossbar.
Still, when the half time whistle comes, it’s quite a nice feeling to actually get to wander round for the second half with a lead to defend and not a 2-3 goal deficit to try & desperately claw back. This winning lark is quite nice, one could get quite used to it you know. Probably won’t last though.
The break is over all too soon and the sides are soon back out onto the pitch. And from the restart, we’re glad to see that we’re starting as we left off. A couple of minutes gone and Henry darts from right to left across the box to receive a pass in from the left. His first time effort flashing just over the target. Warren causes problems again down the left with another tricky run before he drills a low ball across the 6 yard box, but there’s no one who can get close enough to apply that final killer touch.
Dover respond fairly rapidly and within a minute have a free-kick about 25 yards out that has Wilson flying across his goal as it dips just a fraction over the crossbar. Then on 52 mins, they take advantage of a poor decision not to award a free-kick for a foul on halfway and break quickly down the left. The cross is aimed at the far post where the downward header is just pushed away by Wilson. But as a tap in looks assured, Bash puts himself between ball and goal and the resulting effort is blocked before being cleared.
Then on 57 minutes, our stand in skipper gets a taste of his own medicine when he takes advantage of some hesitant defending after Jallow has nodded down a high cross in from the right, but like he had done a few minutes before, the defender throws himself in the way and the resulting shot is blocked on the line.
Still, despite looking lively, the home side aren’t really managing to trigger that same sense of fear that accompanies every Conference South game when the oppo attack. Their forwards finding it hard going against the well organised and really quite young Sutton back four.
Naturally, when they do inevitably and unsurprisingly draw level on the hour, it’s via the spawny deflection route.
A corner from the right is headed away and we’re a little slow to pressure the man with the ball about 25 yards out His fierce right to left shot looks to be going wide until it connects with the arse of the no5 in the area about 8 yards out and cannons into the opposite corner.
Such an event no longer warrants comment amongst the weary U’s fans these days. All this kind of thing triggers is a small collective sigh, a roll of the eyes and a quick check of the watch to see how long we’ve got to hang on for. Today is no different.
Level, the home side step up a gear briefly and a couple of minutes later, some static defending means we get caught out by the famous old ball over the top. The Dover bloke legs it clear down the right and drives the ball across, but I’m sure he’ll have been disappointed to find that none of his colleagues have matched his run and are waiting to tap in. Another quick check of the watch…….arse, still more than 15 minutes!
Not long after this, Tanner really should put us back in front. Jallow & Greene combine down the left and the midfielder puts the ball into the box. Again the home defence hesitates in clearing their lines and Tanner siezes on the loose ball. He steps inside a defender and with a good sight of goal, drags his shot wide of the near post.
We keep up the pressure and McBean is soon stinging the hands of the Dover ‘keeper with a shot after breaking from midfield and cutting in from the right. With around 10 mins to play, we have a good shout for a penalty ignored when a ball in from the left drops invitingly for Alimi, but as he takes a touch, he’s cut down by a defender diving in, only for the ref to wave play on.
It looks a costly decision when the hosts seem to find a second wind and try to take advantage of our now almost traditional jittery last 10 minutes. Firstly another ball down the left ends with a low cross in that just lacks the attacker to put it away and with 87 minutes played, we concede possession in midfield and the home side break quickly. As the defence appeals for offside, a pass in from the flank finds a man in the centre. Wilson stands up and manages to block the shot, before a recovering defender blocks the follow up and the final effort is wastefully blasted well over.
Still, before the end, we have our own chance to snatch victory. With time almost up Jallow siezes on a defenders awful touch just inside the Dover half and races clear down the right. But, like Wilson before him, the ‘keeper stands up and manages to get his hands to the shot and push it away. Chance gone. Bollocks!
Still, it’s another promising showing and more importantly, we didn’t lose.
Deciding against heading back into what will be a pretty packed bar, we decide to head back down the hill to a pub Windy had spotted from the cab on the way in and we’re soon in the Cricketers enjoying a welcome pint, chatting with the locals and half watching the Derby – Chelsea game on telly, courtesy of some dodgy Greek channel. My word, they like their moody satellite round here.
Thankfully, having friendly locals to talk to helps in getting us directions to the station nearby. Not that anyone really listens as when we depart, everyone ignores the correct turning and wanders off in almost the opposite direction. Before I can correct them as I realise the mistake, we hear a shout from behind.
“Oi! Where the fuck are you going?? It’s THAT way!!”
It’s that nice man Phil from the pub. Obviously his feeling that no bastard was paying attention when he was giving directions shortly before was correct and had decided to make sure we made our train. Cheers!
A quick beer and nibbles stop at a Co-Op on the way and we stagger onto the platform at Kearsney with an almost ridiculous 5 minutes to spare. Which is pretty unlike us as we’re normally sprinting half the way to make that choo-choo home. Maybe we’re getting sensible in our old age?
Any suggestion that indeed we are becoming a bit pipe and slippers is soon dispelled by the childish antics on the way home, with Greek and Windy engaging in a tit for tat engagement of trying to slap each other as they try to eat pringles. Very immature and even worse, a criminal waste of munchies for those of us feeling a bit peckish.
Other entertainment comes in the form of Greek getting into a disagreement with the automatic toilet door. And losing. The angry lavatory fighting back and trapping his hand as the door slides shut. Naturally we’re all very sympathetic and not filming it on a mobile phone while laughing hysterically (clip on general release thanks to YouTube very soon!). Although Chalmers does his best to top it with a wonderful geography gaffe not long after.
A nice italian man has joined us in a beer to chat football and other things and naturally, having established the location of sunny Sutton for him, we enquire as to his own town of origins.
“Cagliari” he responds.
“Calgary?” asks Chalmers.
“No, Caligari” says Italian man.
“Funny, you don’t sound Canadian” says Chalmers.
Quite how Windy doesn’t crack a rib in his fit of hysterics I’m not quite sure. Thankfully though, he manages to remain concious as I’ve no idea how to do CPR. And no intention of doing so even if I did!
Also, Mr Italian man finds it amusing as well. Which is quite a relief considering he’s from a city in Italy. So he’s probably mafia or something. And the last thing you need on top of your team doing shite is pissing off some mafia dude and ending up with a horses head in your bed.
Bit stressful after all that poor football you know.
Despite Chalmers best attempts to offend our new Italian friend, he seems to be of the impression we’d be perfect people to invite to a Shristmas party he’s holding and asks for an email address to contact us on. Ok, so he might have been a bit pissed. Just a bit though. Maybe.
Eventually, we stumble back into the Hood just after 9 and slump into a corner for more beer.
God I hate footba…….hey, hang on a sec, we didn’t lose!
Barman, more drinks please!
MoM : Bashiru Alimi. Great display from the skipper. Led by example.
TEAM : Wilson, Sammut, Hughes, Haverson, Tanner, Alimi, Honey, Greene, Henry, McBean, Jallow SUBS : Hughes, Opara, Ottaway, Wright, Williams