An Unexpectedly Happy New Year

CONFERENCE SOUTH

Att: 622



SUTTON UNITED – 2   [Dundas p35. 46]

HAMPTON & RICHMOND BOROUGH – 1   [Lake 36]

Thank god that’s over!

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that 2007 was, as years go, a fucking shite one. Especially if you were a Sutton supporter. A dismal 12 months that saw us spend most of it flirting with relegation and putting on displays of largely awful football.

Naturally, it’s ended about as miserably as possible with Us sat at the bottom of the table and able to count the amount of points we’ve amassed on two hands. And with fingers to spare. Which is bollocks however you look at it.

Naturally, come the stroke of midnight on December the 31st, Windy and I celebrated the fact that 2007 was now history and raised two fingers in it’s memory at the Hood’s New Years Eve bash.

And don’t come back ya lousy pice of crap!

Still, 2008 doesn’t exactly start in a manner that allows us to put our feet up and expect it all to get better from here on in. Oh no. There’s the small matter of a home gave against Hampton, a return of the Boxing Day fixture where we nicked a point somehow, to kick off the new year with.

Piece of piss. Er…

As is normal for a home game these days, it’s down to GGL earlyish to help get the food bar set up. Coming through Collingwood Rec though I have to step over the remains of a caravan being used by the workmen dismantling the temporary health centre, lying in a pile of ash in the middle of the path, no doubt torched by local chavs who it seems have worryingly evolved sufficiently to have discovered fire (what next? the wheel?). Once done, it’s into the bar. Today’s line up is soon being passed around and it’s clear that Ernie might have realised that Saturday’s line up at Maidenhead wasn’t the strongest and is unlikely to get much change out of the big Hampton side so soon after the first game. As such, it means Jason Henry and McBean are restored to starting spots. As is Paul Honey.

There’s no place for players like Hughes and Greene and on paper, is probably the strongest starting 11 we can field at the moment. Which is good, obviously.

With no Ryman games scheduled today, out in the ground, it’s a veritable ex-U’s reunion with Quinton, Boosey and assorted other former Sutton bodies milling about in the crowd. Although it does serve to highlight just the sort of players we’ve had in recent years, what with very few, if any, actually still plying their trade in the Conf South.

We begin the first game of 2008 shooting towards the Collingwood end (or the Chav Pyro end as it could now be christened). And from the off, we’re actually looking pretty lively.

As early as the third minute, Henry tears down the right, chasing a ball over the top. He outstrips the defender and gets round him to the byeline, pulling the ball back for Dundas arriving at the near post. His shot is blocked by a defender just getting back and a corner is won.

Unfortunately, in making the pass, Henry is caught by his man and after a few minutes hobbling about, is finally replaced with Harry Ottaway. Which is a blow. Happy New year Jason!

Still, we keep up the early tempo andf after 9 mins, McBean makes a searching run down the left and having outstripped his man, lays a perfect ball accross the box. But Dundas has checked his run and is several yards short when the inviting pass zips past the face of goal.

Oh I really hope it’s not going to be one of those bloody days…..

All the time, we expect the visitors to kick in, but instead they just look very lacklustre. Much to the displeasure of their manager on the touchlines who can be heard to bellow “Oi! Focus! ALL OF YOU!!” more than the once inside the first 15 minutes.

McBean is unlucky not to open the scoring after 12 mins when a good strong run from Dundas down the left and into the centre allows him to find Warren in space on the right. He steps inside his marker and with a very good sight of the target, he places his shot a fraction too high.

Aaaarrrrrgh! Stop doing that! Just score!!!

It takes Hampton some 25 minutes to muster a threat of their own. When a ball left to right catches us out a touch and finds the run of an attacker in behind the backline. He steps inside the rather desperate sliding challenge from Sammut and hits a low effort that Wilson manages to block with his legs. The linesman’s flag then prevents anything nasty happening from the rebound.

Another reasonable chance comes a couple of minutes later from a corner on the left. An attempted clearing header goes straight up in the air and drops to a white shirt on the edge of the box. His first time shot towards the near post is deflected and bobbles rather worryingly across Wilson’s goal and just wide of the far post.

Despite the couple of minor scares, we come back at the visitors and about 35 minutes in, we get that rarest of things. A penalty! Yep. After having had about 2 in the whole of 2007, it’s taken us just over half an hour of the next year to win one. If any further proof were required that last year was an utter fucking mare…..

Dundas chases a ball over the top and he manages to muscle in on the no4, edging him out for the ball, but his desperate and really very clumsy challenge upends the big U’s forward just inside the box. The ref blows and for an awful moment we think he’s dropped a bollock and awarded a free-kick just outside, but our fears prove unfounded and he points to the spot before awarding silly Mr 4 a yellow card.  Craig himself takes responsibility and sends the ‘keeper the wrong way, drilling his spot kick into the opposite corner.

Get in! Maybe 2008 really could truly be a new year for us!

Er, actually perhaps not. As in typical Sutton United style (circa 2007), we go and piss away our hard fought advantage inside 2 minutes.

We’re a little bit slow to close down and the no10 finds himself in possession about 20-25 yards from goal. He has a speculative poke and the shot really lacks the power to seriously test Phil Wilson. But he goes down like a sack of spuds and only succeeds in weakly pushing the ball straight back out to a forward following up and he makes no mistake from 5 yards, slotting away the loose ball.

Oh for fucks sake.

The goal seems to finally spark the Beavers into life a bit and we find ourselves pushed back a bit for the last few minutes of the half. Then, right on the break, we have a bit of an escape. A silly free-kick is given away on the left and then swung into the box. A Hampton man gets up highest to head firmly down and off the foot of the near post.

To our relief, the ref immediately blows up before anyone can cause any mischief with the rebound.

Oh well, at least we’re still in it. Over to you Ern, get ’em going again mate.

With the bar likely to be a bit busy, I head round to get a tea and summat to eat. Belly isn’t far behind and feeds me some nice information that Oldham currently hold a 3-0 half time lead at Leeds. Nice! Unfortunately, a long hungover queue means I don’t get served until the game has just restarted. As I turn to head round to the GGL end, I hear a rise in the excited tone of the crowd and see the ball hitting the back of the Hampton net.

Shit! We’re in front again!

Once amongst the rest of the herberts, I manage to get a couple of eyewitness accounts as to what happened. It seems McBean has latched onto a Wilson goal kick, bombed down the left and delivered one of those low crosses into the box. Here Mr no4, he of the penalty foul, does us another huge favour by swinging wildly at the ball and crashing it back off his own post and bar for Dundas to follow up and poach his second of the afternoon.

Cheers mate!

This time we manage to hang onto the lead for more than 5 seconds and really should put the game out of sight with a couple of decent chances. First on 57 minutes Honey bundles his way through midfield and picks out the run of Dundas on the left. But with time & space, he elects to hit the effort first time rather than take a touch and finds the midriff of the ‘keeper.

Then on 61 minutes, it should be 3-1. Dundas again shows great strength down the right in levering another defender off the ball and cuts in along the byeline. But, with 3 waiting in the centre and defensive cover lacking, he elects to try his luck instead of squaring for the tap in and the ‘keeper beats out his shot from the tightest of angles at the near post for a corner

From the corner, Honey picks out Scarborough leaping highest a few yards out at the near post, but his header flashes across goal and just wide of the far upright.

Naturally, being in front is a rare thing for us and as per normal, we start to retreat into our shells a tadge, thus inviting a smarting Hampton side to come on and pressure us more. On 67 mins a break down our left causes problems and despite a couple of last ditch tackles, the attacker still gets in and hits a low effort to the near post that AJ and Wilson combine to block out.

McBean almost gives us that 2 goal safety margin we need so badly with 20 mins to play when Ottaway holds the ball up front and turns smartly before feeding his fellow attacker, but Warren’s cheeky chip from the edge of the box is a little short and the ‘keeper manages to backpedal to claim it in front of his goal at the second attempt.

Oh this is going to be a long last 20 minutes or so!

A minute later and the Beavers are cursing their luck when a corner isn’t cleared and the shot back in takes a huge deflection that leaves Wilson stranded. But fortunately for us, there’s a man on the line on hand to head the ball off the line.

The game is getting a little tense now and missed opportunities for the U’s aren’t really helping the mental state of the fans behind the goal! Especially the one with 10 minutes left, when a Honey free-kick from the right finds Haverson peeling away on the left. He heads back across the face of goal, but the ball won’t sit down for Dundas and he can only lift it weakly into the greatful arms of the ‘keeper.

AAAAAarrrrrrrghhhh!

Naturally, as expected, the last ten minutes are a serious nailbiter. As the visitors start to press on to try & rescue something from this potentially rather embarrassing situation, taking advantage wherever possible of our at times rather panicky defending.

One corner causes problems from the left, being weakly headed away, only to be touched back into the channel on that side. The shot from the angle is then cut out in the melee in the middle of the box by god knows who and desperately cleared.

Then, deep into injury time, a real heart in mouths moment. A silly pass gives away possession and Alimi dives in to make a last ditch challenge. A foul is given and for a second, we think the ref has given a penalty, but thankfully he stands resolutely on the edge of the 18 yard box, ignoring the rather angry protests of the Hampton players.

Free-kick. Fuck me, that looks close.

The danger isn’t over though and Wilson has to be on his toes to tip away the set piece when it’s clipped over the wall towards the top near corner. The resulting corner is nervously cleared and then after what seems like an absolute lifetime, the final whistle.

Oh. My. God. WE WON A HOME GAME!!!!!

A huge roar of relief greets the final whistle and the celebrations on the old Securicor terrace are something akin to having won the league. And with good bloody reason! Also delighted, the team almost forget to shake hands with the defeated opposition in their rush up the pitch to receive some long awaited acclaim. First up our end, somewhat predictably, is our skipper, roaring like a loon and pumping his fists.

The reaction of the rest of the lads is also pretty heartening to see, especially the younger guys like Sammut and Ottaway, loads of piggy backs, high fives and Scooby-esque clenched fists.

Fuck me that was draining.

To take a breather, I head round to the tea bar to help tidy up and get stuff put away. It’s a welcome few minutes to reflect on a rather big result. On our return to the bar, it seems that it’s a good day all round, as a lot of results have gone our way. When the tables come up, our now massive looking 12 points has us within 3 of 3rd bottom St Albans.

Shit! If we win there on saturday, we could actually get off the bottom of the table! Imagine that! Not being 22nd. Hey, even Oldham won too. When was the last time that happened?

Over a couple of beers and we get to watch Greek suffering another lacklustre Sperz performance. It’s not good for him as he even misses the Spudz goal as PC distracts him at the moment Defoe sticks the ball away!

I think we’d better go to the pub now….

A couple more relaxed pints and I start to demand a nice big feed. PC is also interested and we end up having a nice relaxed and very refined chinese in Sutton.

Oh boy I must be getting old.

MoM : Dean Sammut. I know Dundas scored twice, but a superb performance by the right back.

TEAM : Wilson, Sammut, Bray, Haverson, Scarborough, Alimi, Honey, Maskell, Wright, Dundas, McBean.   SUBS : Goodchild, Hughes, Wright, Ottaway, McLoughlin

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