SUTTON UNITED – 1 [El-Salahi 85]
EASTBOURNE BOROUGH – 5 [Ramsay 4. Atkin 39. 67. Armstrong 46. Ballard 67]
We’re fast counting down the games now until this wretched season is over and we can just consign it to the dustbin of history and get on with the task of getting back out of the Ryman as fast as humanly possible.
Still, the fixture list is determined to wring that little bit more misery out of us before the end and we start a somewhat difficult spell of games with both the top 2 visiting GGL (which hasn’t exactly been so much of a fortress, more a run down council house) starting today with Eastbourne and then off to deepest Essex to Stortford, both of whom are well in the play-off mix.
Despite the fact we all pretty much know we’re doomed, there still a hope that we’ll actually start showing a bit of fight in the remaining games and god forbid, actually maybe win one or two. Today’s game carries such hopes. What better to put a little bit of shine on a shit season than giving one of the sides near the top a bit of a fright?
Yeah yeah, I know.
Thanks to our transport system, I only end up arriving in time to simply give the Tea Hut crew access to the premises, with Windy having already set up and got everything ready. Ooops. Best go to the bar then I think. He’ll be wanting a pint for having been left with the lions share of the graft!
We’re soon propping up the bar and the conversation turns to the fact that despite the side being pony and getting beaten most weeks, it’s surprising we’ve really not suffered many hammerings. Only the 4-0 reverses to Lewes & Bath springing to mind. Which is frustrating really, as this then leads to thinking about all those points we’ve missed out on.
Reflection. Don’t do it kids, it’s shit.
The bar slowly fills up towards kick off, mostly as the visitors arrive and a few pass comment on our predicament. Mostly referring to the game at their place much earlier in the season where we’d largely played them off the park for most of the afternoon and yet still gone down 3-0. Yeah thanks. That’ll be why we’re in the fucking shit.
Those earlier hopes of putting on a fair display are soon shot down once we hear the line up. AJ is still missing after his bang on the hip last week and Dean Sammut has been dropped altogether as far as we can tell. Which means that our back four consists of Kez & Scarbs in the centre with a midfielder (Bash) on the left and another centre back (Whisken) at right back. oh joy.
The mood isn’t helped by Windy’s revelation shortly before KO….”Same ref as Hampton on Boxing day”. Oh god. McLaughlin? The smurf? He was utter pony. We’re screwed.
Oh well, best get this over and done with.
Any resistance from our struggling troops is soon swept aside after kick off. Barely 5 minutes have elapsed when a simple punt downfield from the Boro ‘keeper carries over our two pedestrian centre backs. It’s allowed to bounce twice before the visiting forward shins a bobbling effort beyond the rather half arsed grasp of Davies and into the corner of the net. Oh for fucks sake. Even by our standards this season, that’s pretty awful.
“Easy, easy, easy” the travelling support chants from the far end, complete with knobby over the head hand clap. They’re not wrong. I’m half tempted to join in until I remember I don’t want to look a twat if I can help it.
What makes things worse is that from here, we run up the white flag so quickly that even the most nervous, pacifist Italian infantryman would be calling us ‘pussies’. The rest of the half is really just utterly forgettable. Eastbourne just canter along and keep us very comfortably at bay without really breaking sweat at all.
It takes us a good 34 minutes to manage even a vague threat on the visitors goal. A quick free-kick on the right sends Dundas clear on the right. His cross from the byeline is good, but the ‘keeper is alert to the danger and he manages to extend a hand to cut out the ball in before it can cause any real problems. And that ladies & gents is about the sum of our efforts for the first half.
Obviously shaken by the fact that we’ve managed such an intense and concerted spell of pressure, Boro retaliate and show us who’s boss and stuff on 38 minutes by grabbing a second and ultimately killer goal. A corner from the right isn’t cleared and a shot back through the crowded box is diverted past Davies from close range by an alert attacker. Thankfully half time arrives to save us any further nonsense.
If we’d had any curiosity about whether Ernie might be able to fire some fucking life into this crap and give us something vaguely resembling a bit of fight are dispelled something like 10 seconds after the restart. The gaffer’s replacement of an ineffective Johnson and a woeful Scarborough has just barely been announced on the tannoy before we’re 3-0 down. From kick off, the ball is played left, the bloke runs to the bye line, crosses low to the near post and the striker tucks the ball beyond Davies with a deft touch.
Cuff’s introduction on the right seems to give us a little life and we’re soon finding ourselves a bit more with the ball. But then again, this might also have something to do with the fact we’re already 3 down, pretty much dead and buried and the oppo are tossing it off a touch. Still, we manage to create little until shortly before the hour mark. A rare bit of decent play leads to a ball left finding Dundas. He gets a run on the full back and puts in a good cross that picks out Goodchild arriving at the far post. But his volleyed effort spikes into the ground and loops up over the ‘keeper, just clipping the top of the bar on its way over.
Several minutes later, another corner and more calamitous defending at the other end and it’s 4-0. Despite having 2 defenders and Davies in attendance around him, the Eastbourne man still outjumps everyone comfortably to steer a bread & butter header inside the near post. Personally, I’m at a loss to think of the last time an oppo side had to do just as little as these guys have to establish a four goal lead. It’s really quite distressing, even in a season where we’ve been as bad as we have.
Three minutes later and the inevitable 5th arrives. A run down the right flank is left unchallenged and the man gets to the byeline, pulling the ball back across goal. Davies helpfully dives over it and leaves the unmarked man in the middle a simple tap in. What was that about not really having got thumped much this season? I think I’d like to cry now.
Now, when you’re as abjectly bad as we are right at this moment. What you really need are some equally bad officials to go rub salt in the wound. Ref, that’s your cue by the way.
Dundas, in typical fashion, is still trying to keep our spirits up by haring after every ball like we’re 1 down, not 5 and with a little under 15 to play one of his trademark barrelling runs takes him down the right, to the byeline and past the defender into the box. He ducks one high armed attempt to stop him, but fails to avoid a second and is pulled back and to the ground.
Naturally, the concept that a foul in the box is actually a penalty is alien to Mr McLaughlin and he instead decides to try & preserve the visitors clean sheet with a free-kick right on the line OUTSIDE the box. He does himself no favours moments later when the free-kick into the box causes problems. An initial header on the target is blocked and drops loose in the box. From the resulting shot, the no10 clearly dives to his left to punch the ball off the line with a save his stranded ‘keeper would be proud of. Staggeringly, neither the ref or the lino spot this.
Even more staggering is the fact that matey felt the need to actually commit such an offence at 5-0 up. Ok, a clean sheet is a clean sheet, but fuck me, we’re talking game WON here. Talk about proper wanker. And had the ref spotted the offence, I’m sure the blokes manager would have been over the moon with matey buying himself a 1 game ban at a crucial part of the season for such a needless offence.
We seem to feel a little hard done by from this moment and we start to press a little for a goal that we really should have had. And with 5 to go, we finally get it. A quick throw in from the right is helped infield before being clipped over the defence. Kez reacts quickest and slides in to guide the ball across the keeper and into the far corner.
Biggest cheer of the day.
Naturally the goal triggers some ironic chants along the lines of “You’re not very good” and “Can we play you every week?”. We have a few more moments, with 16 year old striker Billy Dunn making his debut for the last few minutes and not looking completely lost, but nothing really to help reduce the defecit further.
With the hut closed up, we retire to the bar to find that the visitors have a little more class than their cousins from Bognor and refrain from taking the piss out of our predicament. Instead, it’s a few beers and a chance to catch up with Jules, who’s making a rare appearance, following the game. Right, I’m off down the Hood to drink that defeat into a very hazy memory.
At closing, we wander up the high street to O’Neills for a late pint or two. Or so I think. Instead, we end up in the incredibly classy Wetherspoons. Which I fucking hate. Being full of pikeys, chavs and Bobbins fans with Green sparkly hats.
Still, the hat provides some amusement and Greek is triumphant in his single minded quest to obtain said hat before we depart. Although quite how I’ve ended up with the fucking thing when I stagger in about half an hour later I’ve no idea.
MoM : Jason Goodchild. About the best of the bunch really.
TEAM : Davies, Whisken, R.Hughes, Scarborough, El-Salahi, Alimi, Goodchild, Honey, Wright, Dundas, Johnson SUBS : T.Hughes, Dunn, Ottaway, Cuff, Ball