‘Stoke Stumble

CONFERENCE SOUTH

Att: N/A



SUTTON UNITED – 1   [Dundas 58]

BASINGSTOKE TOWN – 2   [Charles 63. 72]

Aaand we’re right back where we started.

Today is the return fixture of our opening day meeting with Basingstoke, that if we’re honest, kind of set the tone for the rest of the campaign so far. Another game where whilst we probably didn’t deserve to lose, we didn’t deserve to win either.

Today’s visitors have hardly set the world alight since then, having a pretty decent home record, but suffering a couple of convincing defeats along the way and come to us in mid-table. What with our micro-revival over the last couple of games, it’s certainly a clash that we have to feel we can go out and win. Whether we do or not is another matter entirely.

Still, if the football gods have been paying attention, they’ll have noticed that not only are we surely due a win thanks to the law of averages, we have in charge now a man whose last job was a 13 year spell with todays visitors. So surely that’s got to count for something!

I amble in through a back gate to find Windy already getting stuff ready in Roses before opening time. With the extra pair of hands, we’re done & dusted by the time the staff arrive and we amble into the bar well before 2. Which is good news beerage wise.

A couple of steadying pints are necked, during which PC and other half arrive and Irish Pete makes his second consecutive appearance. No doubt wanting to find out if his lucky charm status apparently bestowed on him (dunno who by, probably himself) after Tuesday’s defeat of Dover is going to hold strong and prove powerful enough to deliver our second league win of the season.

I bloody hope so. Mainly as it’s now December. And as you probably just realised from my previous statement, we’ve won only the single fucking league game so far. 

After two games unchanged, the side is once more tweaked. Gonsalves surprisingly goes in at right back, with Sammut dropping to the bench. Alieu Jallow is nowhere to be seen as Dundas returns and Harry Ottoway retains his place amongst the subs. Also absent still is Asher Hudson and it seems we may have seen the last of Ouzo Opara after his first half horror show at Hayes.

The match it seems is planning on being a mirror image of that opening day meeting as for the first few minutes, pretty much sod all of any real note happens. We toil away without really posing any threat to the visitors goal and they have a fair bit of the ball, but don’t really do much with it in the final third. As such it’s not until the 13th minute that I’m reaching for the ol’ notepad in anger.

McBean collects the ball out on the right and as per normal, cuts inside. On doing so, he slips a pass into the channel for Dundas. He almost manages to round the ‘keeper, but at the last moment an outstretched hand pushes the ball against the big strikers legs and it rebounds away from him and escapes out of play for a goal kick.

A few minutes later, the ‘keeper is in action again, Honey fiercely strikes a free-kick laid into his path at the target, but it’s a little too central and the Basingtstoke stopper tips is over ther bar without too much fuss.

The rest of the half is then much the same pattern as before. They have plenty of the ball, but create little and we, well, create little! The only other event worth mentioning in between is the loss of Craig Tanner midway through the half to a rather silly challenge down on the left. The bloke arrives late and clatters in, with a suspicion of studs showing. Despite this, the ref only shows a yellow card and then both he and his lino miss the no6 putting his had to the throat of Tom Hughes, who disappointingly is the only U’s player to show any kind of reaction to what is a pretty fucking poor challenge.

Even stupider is the ‘funeral march’ that comes from some of the away support as Tanner is stretchered past. Which quite frankly, is more than a little out of order. Fucking grow up you tools.

With half time upon us, the visitors have their best chance approaching injury time. A ball into the right corner is hit first time on the volley across the box. It evades the attacker in the centre and the stretching man at the far post can only direct it wide of the mark.

Well, that was really quite dull. Time for a cup of tea I reckon, I need the excitement. Might go really wild in fact and have two sugars….

The second half admittedly couldn’t be any duller and within 3 minutes of the restart, it’s once more Phil Wilson to the rescue. A corner in from the left finds a Basingstoke man jumping highest pretty much unchallenged in the middle. His header is pretty much textbook, but Phil somehow reacts to keep it out on his line before the danger is cleared by Sammut.

This seems to give us a little nudge and we start to find some life, with Dundas starting to get some joy from the Basingstoke defenders. Then after 58 minutes, one bit of persistance pays off and he puts us in front. A ball is played up to him and he chests it down as he turns and muscles his way past his marker. Now in the box, he steadies himself and slots calmly past the ‘keeper inside his near post.

You know, for a former Scummer, the boy isn’t half bad!

The goal leads to a little spell where we start to show a bit of belief in ourselves. The best chance of this comes again from Dundas being a pain in the arse. He again does well to retain the ball, this time on the left and delivers a cross into the box. A defender just makes the ball ahead of McBean and manages to head away from goal. The ball is then recovered and again played left. This time, the cross comes in with a bit of pace and a defender slices clear at the near post for a corner.

Unfortunately, when it looks likely we could go on and add a second, a typically suicidal bit of play brings us crashing back down to earth.

Bash has possession in midfield and under pressure decides to turn back towards his own goal rather than look for a passing option. He’s hassled out of the ball and then tugs back his man conceding a free-kick. From the resulting set piece, the ball is aimed at the far post, where no less than 3 U’s shirts are in line to win the ball first. Which is good. Not so good however is the header that goes straight to an unmarked attacker at the far post who hits a half volley into the ground and back across goal, finding the far corner.

Fucksticks.

All of a sudden, the momentum swings completely away from us as we do what we always do after conceding and panic like fuck. Within a minute, Wilson is pulling off an excellent save to keep the scores level when a man is allowed to run in from the left. Haverson slips, allowing his man to step outside for a better angle and hit a rasping drive from 12 yards that our ‘keeper reacts brilliantly to touch onto his crossbar and away for a corner.

The writing is on the wall though and we’ve lost all the momentum we’d had a couple of minutes earlier. And before we can start hoping that we might at least hang on for a point, the visitors are ahead. We again drop too deep and allow plenty of space inside our own half, resulting in a deep ball in from the left to the heart of the box. The attacker gets a lead on Hughes and arrives a fraction before he does to meet the ball with a powerful header just out of reach of the dive of Wilson.

6 minutes, 2 goals. Sound familiar? If not, where the hell have you been this season?

The last 15 minutes are all pretty academic as we toil away without ever really threatening to claw our way back and get something from the contest. Basingstoke being quite happy to hit on the break and despite again having plenty of ball in and around our half, never quite manage to create anything that would extend their lead.

And that’s all he wrote. Well, not quite, there’s still a bit of guff to come below, but you get what I mean…

Tea bar cashed and closed, Windy and I slope into the bar for a much needed pint. The fleeting, enjoyable feeling of a victory felt on Tuesday night now a distant memory. Still, beer does help somewhat and although the feeling in the bar is still one of hope, I can’t help feeling that if we were to somehow get out of this mess, getting a result against the likes of Basingstoke today was vital. And whilst that rather rotund female isn’t quite warming up her vocal chords just yet, she’s almost certainly in the cab on the way to the venue.

The evening ends with the usual stagger down to the Hood for a comfortable, if somewhat slightly depressed remainder of the evening. This isn’t made easier by results elsewhere once again going against us. Dorch have lost again and are fast making a charge for our undisputed “Rubbishest team in the league” title, but we’re 7 points adrift of the Magpies and some 10 away from safety so they’ve some way to go yet to seriously threaten our crown.

Seems like Ernie’s statement when he started that he’d aim to get us out of the bottom 3 by Crimbo was pretty outlandish stuff. As currently, we’re going to need fucking snookers just to be able to get off the bottom by Xmas.

God I need a holiday. What’s Afghanistan like this time of year?

MoM : Craig Dundas. Settling in nicely. Took his goal well too.

TEAM : Wilson, Gonsalves, Haverson, Hughes, Tanner, Alimi, Honey, Dundas McBean, Wright, Hughes.   SUBS : Sammut, Scarborough, Ottaway, Glover, McLoughlin

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