SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Ball 12]
THURROCK – 0
I’m tired of all this. Can we just take our total of 15 points, work out our average points gained so far (it won’t be a lot, let’s face it), apply that to the remaining dozen games or so we have left, then add it to our current total and just call it quits? Yes dear reader, I think it’s fair to say that our struggles this season are starting to wear me down somewhat.
Still, everything should be alright now, because during the week, news reached us that we’d actually managed to sign another player! And not any old player, oh no……we’ve signed a forward! Steffan Ball, who sounds more like an Aussie soap star than a Non-League footballer if I’m honest, has joined from Ryman Premier side Ramsgate where he’s been top scorer this season. With 13 goals. Prolific.
Oh and in related news, if on Thursday evening you heard what sounded like a very strong gust of wind, that was actually Craig Dundas just sighing with relief that he might not have to spend 90 minutes running his bollocks off again this weekend in his brave, yet futile one man attempt to keep us in the Conference South.
Although that doesn’t mean you can start sacking it off Mr D, oh no. We’ll be keeping an eye on you young man, you mark my words!
Deciding to have a bit of a lie in for a change, I head into Sutton a tad later than normal. And it’s instantly proven to be a mistake. My bus gets about 200 yards before having to take a huge detour thanks to what looks to be a bit of a nasty smash on Carshalton High street. Bloody typical.
Still, despite the delay, I land up in the bar not long after I usually do and so indulge in a pre-match pint to try & help dull the senses a little before kick-off. As being fully sober (or even conscious) during a Sutton game this season really isn’t a recommended course of action, even for the most upbeat of our support.
The side is understandably changed little from Saturday, with the only real changes being Liam Wright making way for the new man from Summer Bay up front and Scarborough coming back into defence in place of Tom Hughes. Still, it’ll at least mean that for the first time in ages, we’re able to field two forwards. At the same time.
Today’s task is hard to predict. Whilst the visitors have a pretty shocking away record, they’ve won 6 of their last 7 apparently. All the talk beforehand over ale is of how we’d viewed the clash at Ship Lane back at the arse end of 2007 as a ‘must win’ and here we are about 3 months later saying much the same thing about the return. Although today is of much greater importance and urgency. A defeat in this one going into meetings with the likes of Havant and then Eastleigh will almost certainly leave us with an almost impossible task of saving ourselves. Because it’s of course not quite a big enough ask already is it?
Outside, the weather is absolutely glorious. Feeling more like mid-April than mid-February, so no doubt we’ll be watching today in short sleeves. Who said global warming was a bad thing?
Despite our plight, we manage to start proceedings quite brightly. An early corner is half cleared and Scarborough returns it to Hughes who whips in another cross that Ball heads just over the target. Scooby then meets another corner at the near post several minutes later, but heads wide of the target. Then with 13 minutes played, a poor goal-kick from the Thurrock custodian drops to Steffan (a man so tall that he has three rings of tape around his socks to keep them up) around 25 yards out. His touch is a little heavy, but it at least does him a favour in tempting the ‘keeper off his line to try & atone for his error. But the new man gets there first, just, and prods the ball between the oncoming stopper and a defender trying to get back & recover the situation.
It takes its time, but the ball eventually, joyfully, trundles the 15 yards or so to goal and winds up crossing the line with a defender in hot pursuit but satisfyingly not able to reach it in time. Debut goal Neighbours guy. Nice one mate. Now, we don’t wish to seem greedy or ungrateful my good man, but any chance of maybe bagging a couple more? Preferably before half time?
Being bestowed with the rare honour of going in front, we naturally get a nice little surge of confidence. And 10 minutes later, a little more composure from Bash should probably see us 2 up. Pressurising the defence on the left, a pass inside catches a defender unaware and deflects perfectly into the channel for Alimi to chase after. He collects, looks up and with Ottaway arriving completely unmarked at the far post, he tries to clip the ball across. But the effort lacks loft and the ‘keeper manages to intercept and pluck the ball out of the air at the near post. Fucksticks.
The visitors have taken their time to get going, but when they do finally muster a chance, it’s of the “done nothing so it’s about time we took advantage of shit defending and scored with our first effort” variety. Which surprises absolutely no one.
A deep searching cross from the right is headed back across goal all a little too easily at the far post for my taste, but fortunately, AJ is on hand to help out Phil and heads the ball off the line. The chance seems to inject new life into Thurrock and they’re soon well in the game and unsportingly causing us problems. Then after 38 minutes, I’m really not quite sure how they don’t manage to pull level. And I’m sure neither are they.
After a spell of possession that we fail to break up, a ball into the box causes all sorts of havoc. Suffice to say, it’s a little hard to tell exactly what went on when I’m stood at the other end of the ground, but I clearly remember thinking twice in under 5 seconds “they must score” only for the effort to be blocked somehow. Naturally, the last desperate hoof clear is off the goal line.
Hmmmm. This could be turning into a loooong afternoon. Again.
Still, with 3 minutes to the break, a perfect chance to relieve the pressure is passed up by another somewhat visually impaired twat all in black. Dundas gets clear down the right, cuts in and after having his first attempted cross blocked, the ball comes back to him. He steps past the rather silly sliding challenge that comes in, only to be sent tumbling by an outstretched & raised leg.
Quite how neither the ref or linesman spot this I’ll never know and decide that the defender has played the ball & Dundas hasn’t dived is beyond my comprehension. Still, I guess it kind of evens itself up a minute later when a cross in from the right byeline is so obviously handled in our box that we almost shout ‘handball!’ ourselves, that we don’t is probably only because we’re even more shocked the ref doesn’t point to the spot than we had been around 60 seconds beforehand!
Before the break, we have a couple of chances to add to the tally, first Bash latches onto Harry’s nod down from a cross-field ball, but his shot on the turn is straight at the ‘keeper. And then Ball can’t quite compress his rather lengthy frame sufficiently at the near post to turn in Honey’s little ball in from the right after he’s battered his way through in typical fashion. Still, despite all that I’ve written so far, we’re all quite agreed at the break that this really has been a shocking game of football!
My hopes of having my afternoon livened up during the break with the purchase of a steak pie and a cuppa are dashed when I munch into my snack and find that it’s actually of the chicken variety. And even worse, it’s the chicken variety that contains peas. I fucking hate peas.
Still, picking the horrible little green fuckers out one by one as I eat is admittedly far more fun than quite a few games I’ve seen this season. Having rid my snack of it’s pea infestation and scoffed it, the second half is soon underway.
And we’re a little slow out of the blocks. Almost straight from kick off, Thurrock break down the right and cross, resulting in a low shot across the face of Wilson’s goal and just wide. 5 minutes in and failing to clear our lines almost costs us dear as a searching ball is played in from the left to the far post where an attacker slides in. Fortunately, he fails to accept this absolute sitter from 5 yards and somehow screws the ball horribly wide of the target.
Right, when you’ve quite finished your half time chat & cuppas lads, any chance of doing some fucking defending? Cheers.
Thankfully from here we manage to settle back into the game more, but without really mounting much in the way of a threat until shortly before the hour. A ball into the box from the left finds Dundas chest. He takes the ball down, turns his man and as he pulls the trigger, is practically rugby tackled from behind.
Yep, you guessed it, no pen. Again. Our displeasure at yet another quite obvious offence being completely ignored by a fuckwitted official is cranked up a few more notches several minutes later with another frankly fucking awful decision.
A long ball forwards toward the centre from the right is chased by Dundas. As he closes in, the ‘keeper comes to the edge of his area and suddenly realises he’s out of space and that our man is going to rob him. So he does the obvious thing and 3 foot outside his box, picks up the ball. Unsurprisingly, the ref doesn’t see this (despite the fact that from behind the fucking goal even we can clearly see Mr Keeper is well out of his manor and has handled) and requires the linesman to flag and bring his attention to the offence. Staggeringly, he then only shows a yellow card.
Now, I know there was a debate a while back about keepers handling outside the box and should they be sent off, but this isn’t even debatable! The guy has deliberately picked it up well outside the area in a central position simply to stop our man getting it. If that’s not denying a goalscoring opportunity, I don’t know what is.
To make matters worse, the resulting free-kick smashed in by Ball seems to strike the outstretched arm of a jumping defender on the end of the wall. But again, it seems that such offences are not punishable these days and we get precisely fuck all from that too.
The game kind of dies a death here and there’s little happening until inside the last 10 minutes, when clearly knackered, we start to drop deeper and deeper, allowing the visitors to come forwards more. But despite plenty of the ball, they really do lack that cutting edge up front to make the most of it and the closest they come to rescuing a point is when AJ has to intervene with a smart tackle 12 yards out after their man has scampered onto a through ball.
Then, despite having not had either physio on once the entire half, the twat masquerading as a ref somehow finds 5 minutes of added time to torture us with before he finally blows the final whistle.
By christ that was dreadful, but it’s a win! And a rare one at that.
Back in the bar, a couple of pints helps settle the nerves and we manage a quick chat with our latest signing and today’s matchwinner. And he’s a jolly nice fellow. Plus he’s rather keen to impress, which is nice. Here’s hoping he has something of a Dundas-esque effect on the side.
Eventually, we decide on a change of scenery and wander off up to the Hood to once more pass the evening once more playing ‘Upwords’ (a strange scrabble type game that Windy had written off as ‘rubbish’ after 5 minutes last week before changing his tune soon after when he twigged how to actually play it and made a big score), whilst getting steadily more and more boozed.
We need a weekender to liven things up. But sadly, the next one of those is a 6 pointer in Dorchester. So there’s no chance of enjoying that one!
Oh well, only another couple of months left before the summer.
MoM : Paul Honey. Another all action display from the Ugster.
TEAM : Wilson, Sammut, Bray, Scarborough, Al-Salahi, Alimi, Honey, Ball, Dundas, Ottaway, R.Hughes SUBS : T.Hughes, McBean, Henry, Horne