BISHOPS STORTFORD – 3 [Higgins 14. Edwards 39. Edwards 60]
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Goodchild 76]
Dunno about you, but I had a cracking Saturday afternoon. There I was, at home, confined to my sofa, doubled up with flu feeling shit under my duvet with a big mug of lemsip. It was great.
Well, actually it wasn’t.
But at least I wasn’t out in the sub-arctic conditions watching Sutton United turn in another gutless performance unlike some poor bastards. In fact, had I been diagnosed with an acute case of the ebola virus, I’d simply have shrugged my shoulders and thought “Result! That means I don’t have to go watch us get bitchslapped upside our stupid shit football faces by Lewes!”
Yep, right now, suffering from a tropical virus that dissolves your vital organs inside 72hrs is far more preferable than watching Sutton United.
Sadly though, thanks to 2 days sleep and about 200 gallons of Lemsip, I’m suitably recovered in time for the trip north to deepest Essex and our clash with Bishops Stortford. Which isn’t that bad I suppose. Ok, we’ll get gubbed again, but at least their lot are a decent bunch. And they’re even laying on a buffet for us after as a goodwill gesture. And when you’ve not eaten for the best part of 4 days, that’s more than enough reason to travel for a couple of hours!
Just to rub it in, as I start my stroll to the station, it starts to bloody snow. Hmmmm, maybe this isn’t quite such a good idea after all.
Still, I manage to make it in time for the train without freezing to death, although the snow continues to fall as the train motors it’s way into town. Windy, Chalmers, Mrs C and myself are joined by Bob & Cath getting on along the way and we all head towards Victoria together. Naturally, the ladies enquire as to my wellbeing, whilst the males of the party continually make comments along the lines of “Poof” and “Gayer”.
To make matters worse, today’s trip coincides with the complete closure of Liverpool Street station. Which is a bit annoying as that’s usually the station we use to get up to darkest near-Stanstead. The alternative route of “trains starting at Tottenham Hale” initially sounds utterly horrible, until we realise that this place is on the Victoria line and as such, actually makes the trip far more direct.
At Victoria, tea and cash are obtained, but as we move towards the underground Chalmers decides he needs the lavatory. Sympathetic as ever, we leave his other half to wait for him while we bugger off and continue the journey. See you in Tottenham Hale mate!
The journey is dull, but we arrive in just enough time to catch the 12.07 train. Sadly, we have to pass as we’ve promised to wait for Mr Weak Bladder. The annoyance at this is increased soon after when we discover the next train we thought we could get 10 minutes or so later doesn’t actually stop at Stortford.
Still, PC finally arrives and we’re eventually on our way, passing the journey by stuffing envelopes for the upcoming trust AGM. All the while, the snow continues to fall outside the window all the way into Essex. Just adding to the sense of impending doom.
We’re soon at our destination and naturally, it’s still snowing as we hop off the choo choo. Bastard. It’s doing this deliberately to make me feel miserable. Still, the stroll to the pub isn’t far and it turns out that the public house I’m adamant I’ve never visited before in my life is actually the same pub we always used to get drunk in when Stortford played a couple of hundred yards up the road at their old ground in Rhodes Avenue.
Ooh, THAT pub? Why didn’t you say so?
In the bar, several of the locals are lurking and we soon get reacquainted over a couple of drinks. The summing up of our season since we last saw them at the rather amazing win at Stalebuns is short and sweet. “Fucking shit”.
Still, it’s a good laugh and we’re all thoroughly amused when a fat bloke appears on the telly. It’s Jeff Winter, the former ref, looking like he’s not only ate all the pies, but the pasties, mars bars and lard as well. Here we also meet ‘Ladderman’ whose recent “wind up the Welsh” efforts on the Conference South forum have amused us no end.
It’s soon time to be on our way and a short cab ride to the ground later, there’s time for a quick snifter before heading out into the cold. Oh well, at least it’s stopped bloody snowing.
The team line up does little to boost our confidence of an upset today. The midfield in particular carries about as much punch as paper tank with both Nicky Greene AND Rob Hughes starting. Oh joy. Phil is still missing with his bad back as is AJ, who at least makes the bench following his bang on the hip at Braintree.
Having had a couple of ropey results at home against lowly opposition such as ourselves, our play off chasing hosts are clearly in no mood to piss about this afternoon and set about trying to make the early breakthrough that, like pretty much everyone else who has scored early against us, will make their afternoon a whole lot easier. And just 3 minutes in, they’re not far off. A free-kick from the right is greeted with the usual marking (ie. None) and is headed just wide at the far post.
From here, they continue to threaten, but without creating too much more and we slowly start to show signs of life. The best of these is a good run down the right from JJ who evades his man to get to the byeline and pull back a cross to the near post. Despite Dundas lurking, the ball is smothered by the ‘keeper at the foot of the upright. Immediately after this though, Stortford really should be in front. A shot from the left is parried by Davies and runs straight to the expected attacker following up. But with the goal begging, he takes a wild swing at the ball and only succeeds in scuffing it straight back to the relieved Davies.
Of course, having had a lucky escape, we subsequently mark like retards at the next set piece and concede.
A corner from the left on 14 minutes is flicked on with minimal effort and the no5 makes his way through the crowd like a bloke weaving his way to a not very busy bar to stoop and head home the simplest of chances from about 6 yards out.
Still, at least we manage not to completely cave in from here and take a little bit of advantage of the home side relaxing a little now they’ve got that killer first goal. Around the half hour mark, we manage to put together a rather promising little spell that, if I’m honest, really should see us at least back on level terms.
First Dundas outjumps his marker for a free-kick played in from the right, but his header lacks power and is an easy save for the ‘keeper. A minute later, Sammut clips a ball in from the same side that gives Dundas a chance to turn his man. His first shot is blocked and only a timely intervention prevents him a clean strike on goal from the follow up.
On 33 mins, a rare break from midfield really should result in a penalty, but once more, we’re let down by rather clueless officials. Hughes gets into space down the right and clips a ball in behind the defence for Goodchild through the middle. The ball bounces awkwardly for him and he elects to try & help it past the last defender for Dundas running in behind, but his little touch on is clearly handled by the defender who makes the most of some staggering myopia to clear the ball, much to the fury of the players and ourselves.
Dundas again causes problems on the right soon after, getting down to the byeline is typical fashion. But his low ball across is blocked and he blazes the loose ball across the face of goal and out for a throw in on the far side.
Having mustered this little purple patch, we soon revert to type shortly before the break and it’s game over on 39 minutes. Rob Hughes fails to deal with a high ball under no pressure whatsoever and simply nods it to the nearest Stortford man who immediately switches the play infield. A colleague takes the ball and heads towards the centre before trying his luck from 20 yards or so. Normally, such an effort shouldn’t really trouble a properly positioned keeper, but sadly Davies is inexplicably to the far side of his goal and his rather desperate dive is beaten by an embarrassingly weak effort that sneaks into the corner.
Now, if I’d not seen such incompetence all season, I’d no doubt be muttering something like “Oh for fucks sake” right now. But as I have seen such incompetence all season, I won’t. The break isn’t far behind and I decide to make the most of the break and head into the warm bar out of the cold.
After a brief respite, it’s back out into the cold. Naturally, as the teams line up to restart, the snow starts again. Which is delightful. JJ gives us a brief lift shortly after kick off, getting down the right and with a clever little chip, loses his man on he byeline, but after cutting back in, his shot lacks composure and he blazes well over.
Stortford’s response takes a little while, but again, our defensive frailties are exposed afte 56 minutes. A deep ball from the right to the far post is hooked back across goal and with Davies stranded, Kez is on hand to clear off the line. The respite is brief. On the hour, a long throw from the right is simply headed over a rather poorly positioned Davies and loops over him into the net.
Five minutes later, it’s nearly 4. A free-kick from the left is met with another all too easy glancing header, but this time Davies is equal to it and gets across to tip the ball away.
With a little over 15 to play, we really should have a man advantage as Dundas breaks from deep. With only the no14 anywhere near, he has a fairly clear run to goal. But the 14 has no intention of letting it happen and cynically lets the U’s man drift past him before cutting him down from behind. Naturally, the ref lets such a pointless and dangerous challenge slip and only awards a yellow card. Sadly, we can’t even make them pay from the free-kick, Hughes swinging an effort up and over the wall, only to see it crash back off the bar on the far side of the goal.
This seems to give us a little lift and we keep at it. Then a couple of minutes later, the goal our efforts at least deserve arrives. Ottaway and Goodchild combine on the right and Harry lifts the ball in behind the defence for the midfielder to dart in on. He just makes the bouncing ball before the ‘keeper and manages to knock it past him into the far corner of the net.
Of course, we proceed to take the piss with the usual sarky chants of “You’re not very good” and “You’re not singing anymore”. We even manage a quick rendition of the locals favourite Wembley based song. When you’re as bad as us, you’ve got to take your entertainment where you can.
We take confidence from the goal and keep pressing to the whistle in search of another goal. Dundas almost adds a second 5 minutes from time, darting onto a through pass and knocking the ball past the oncoming ‘keeper. But he can’t quite get the finishing touch in and a defender just slides in to clear the danger from almost on the line. Our last effort comes almost on time. Ottaway showing persistence to battle through on the right and earning himself a shooting chance. But the ‘keeper is equal to the effort and beats away the young striker’s effort from 12 yards.
So, another defeat, as expected. But at least we’ve had a go today and you can’t fault the effort of most of the lads in keeping going right to the end. It’s just a shame that not all the performances recently have at shown this bare minimum of expectations.
Back in the bar, we find out that once again, most of the sides immediately above us are showing a turn of form we can only dream of. St Albans have won again, along with the seemingly shocking Weston nicking a win at Dorch. Which amusingly costs PC some several hundred pounds in his treble bet. Oh dear!
A few drinks are sunk and we get stuck into the range of nibbles laid on by the locals. Although not before the team have piled in before us, assuming it’s the customary bit of scoff usually provided by the host club. Oh what the hell, at least they earned it this week.
A few later and we decide to head back into town to partake in a couple more at the local of one of our kind hosts. Again, beer is quaffed while we talk bollocks about a various selection of football related topics. But all too soon, it’s approaching 8pm and we decide to hit the station for our train home. Goodbyes are said and we agree to come to the play-off final if Stortford make it that far and we head off. As with the Stalebuns trip at Xmas, Ed joins us for the journey home, being the only Stortford fan not resident in the town. As with that journey, he has the pleasure of our depressed, miserable company all the way back into London before we go our separate ways.
All the way back to Sutton, Windy & PC are debating whether to go back to the Hood for a last couple of beers and to be a nuisance at the traditional BH monday quiz. I leave them to it as I skip off at Scummersville for the short trot home. I can hear that Lemsip a calling!
Oh well, it can all be over on Saturday. The big R is almost upon us.
MoM : Craig Dundas. Excellent again…..
TEAM : Davies, Whisken, Sammut, T.Hughes, El-Salahi, Goodchild, Greene, R.Hughes, Wright, Dundas, Johnson. SUBS : Dos Santos, Dunn, Ottaway, Bray, Wilson.