CONFERENCE SOUTH | Att: 747
BATH CITY – 2 [Foley 12. Walsh 65] SUTTON UNITED – 3 [Dundas 7. McBean 24. 42]
Three to go. With relegation confirmed, there’s little to really keep us interested in what remains of this season, apart from the struggles of our dear friends and neighbours at Colston Avenue, who find themselves in the familiar territory of the Ryman Premier Division relegation zone. But, whilst this admittedly puts a mild smirk on the face of your average U’s follower, it simply can’t make up for the pretty much 9 months of abject misery we’ve had to endure.
Still, at least in the last couple of games Mr Dack has managed to find a bit of fight and arsehole from our rather rag tag bunch of players. And whilst we hope for a final victory at some point before the end of the campaign, even the most wildly optimistic of us can’t quite see us somehow getting one. Well, certainly not today anyway.
Away to Bath City, another of those pesky sides who’ve spent basically the whole season in the top 6 battling for a play-off place. Plus they also gubbed us rotten 4-0 at home immediately after that infamous victory at St Albans to pop the shortest lived revival bubble in the history of bubbles. A defeat we’ve never really recovered from if I’m honest. Just as we thought “Hey maybe!” we were right back to “We’re fucked” in the blink of an eye.
Oh well, guess Bognor away is the last chance we’ll get. They’re a bit shit and should have nowt to play for when we get down there during the week.
For the second away game running, it’s just a duo of Windy and myself making the long journey by train. Belly was supposed to accompany us, but pulled out feeling a bit ill Friday night. As was Greek, well, at least for about an hour or so until he realised that getting in at 2am from being on the lash in Kingston when you’ve got to be up for a 8.30 train into London to head to Bath wasn’t what he had in mind for a Saturday and sacked it off. Wuss.
Also absent are the Chalmers posse, who are heading down to Frome to visit PC’s old man before heading into Bath to catch the game later in the day. So, it’s just me and Miller who find ourselves on the daft o’clock express to Victoria. As we pull in to the platform, the day takes a turn for the worse.
“Got my ticket?” I politely enquire of the other Sutton fan on the train. Windy gives me that blank look in return. “What ticket? You didn’t ask me to get you a ticket…..did you?”. The problem with the Miller blank expression is it’s quite hard to tell if he’s taking the piss or not. So I persist in requesting my ticket, the one he’s bound to have purchased at Sutton. Like he usually does.
A couple of minutes later, a couple more denials accompanied by that same blank look and it’s perfectly clear that he hasn’t in fact purchased me a ticket. Ooops. Oh well, time to rock up at the barrier, look stupid and hope they take pity. Thankfully they do, but my having to go and purchase a ticket for the journey from the desk means we’ll certainly miss the 9.30 train from Paddington. No opening time pint for us then! Miller slopes off for a fag and I try to get the cheapest deal I can from the bloke behind the desk.
Unfortunately, our faithful Network cards don’t cover the line to Bath, so there’s no 1/3 discount to be had. Which is a bit of a shit really when you consider the return ticket is 54 fucking quid! Not trusting Windy’s info regarding the discount, I double check with Mr Ticket selling man. He confirms this is the case, but helpfully points out that Reading, which is on the same line IS covered. He could sell me a ticket to there and then one from Reading to Bath Spa.
Result? Ol’ Tazbert is 6 English pounds better off than his colleague Mr Miller as his ticket comes in at the princely sum of 48 nicker. Ok, so it’s not exactly a massive saving if I’m honest, but it’s better than nowt. It’s a couple of pints worth at least and as this season goes it’s definitely a result of sorts. Plus it should make my travelling companion sulk a bit about not ticketing me up himself!
The one good thing with this diversion is that it means we have a good few minutes at Paddington to cash up, grab some munch for breakfast and obtain a nice cup of tea before getting on the train as opposed to sprinting for the platform had we got here in time for the 9.30. We park in Carriage A and relax, sipping our brews. The calm before the storm.
It’s a quiet journey down and we wind up strolling out of Bath Spa station on time just after half 11 and into some lovely steady rain. Nice. Just what I like first thing on an away journey. Getting pissing wet through. I’d much rather be getting pissed!
The two of us wander round, looking for a boozer, before settling on a rather dull, chainy looking place called the Lamb and Lion. Mostly as the far superior looking Hobgoblin is still somewhat shut. God I hate noon openers! Here, we neck a quick pint and try to locate the other pubs Bob has kindly provided details for via the wonder of modern technology that is Nokia Maps. 20 fruitless minutes later, we’ve given up. Both deciding that the GPS system Nokia currently provide can only be described as ‘shite’, in fact, it’s somewhere on a par with Chalmers less-than-legendary ‘Paul-Nav’. And that’s saying something.
Time to follow our noses I think…….and several minutes later, lo and behold, we stumble upon one of our target hostelries. Attached to the local theatre, the interior is unsurprisingly a bit poncy and the beer fucking expensive. Still, the armchairs they provide are dead comfy and help to even things out a bit. Beggars can’t be choosers! It’s a good idea that we’d breakfasted before, as the prices of grub in here are a little on the high side. 7 quid for a BLT is a touch above what I’m prepared to pay for a sandwich, that’s for certain!
With such high prices, we wander back in the direction we came and soon find ourselves once more by the Hobgoblin pub from earlier and which is now actually open. That’ll do nicely!
Our choice is rewarded by a pub doing decent booze, a jukebox that is staggeringly good on it’s choice of tunes and a venue that hosts ‘Guitar Hero’ competitions on it’s big screen downstairs. Naturally, we highly approve. So, deciding not to fuck about wandering around in the rain anymore, we put our feet up and move on with the boozing.
The Chalmers finally manage to join us about 2ish from their base in Frome and manage to squeeze in a quick drinkie before we all pile into their conveniently parked car and head to the ground. Bonus, as it saves us two a cab fare and keeps us dry.
Twerton Park, to be honest, has changed little since my last visit sometime in the late-ish 90’s for an FA Cup tie. In fact, the only difference I notice is the huge segregation cages at the far end, a throwback to Bristol Rovers spell as tenants here, are no longer present. Still, it’s a huge old ground and like GGL a little tatty round the edges, which just helps give it that old school feel. It certainly gets my seal of approval, not that anyone gives a fuck about that.
Jimmy has made few changes this week. Ug finally returns from his 3 game ban to add some steel to the midfield, Jerson gets a second start out on the right, Tony Cuff also keeps his spot and unsurprisingly, Warren McBean is over his bout of flu and adds pace in attack out on the left. Actually, it’s not really that shocking a side overall. Still, the way we’ve been going, we could get quite easily humped 4-0 again here. It’s happened before this season and we’d not be remotely surprised if it happened again.
Things get underway just as the heavens open once more and we elect to stand under the far end of the covering down the side rather than get soaked watching a possible drubbing from the uncovered terrace behind the goal. Well, except for Kebab Belly Bob, who stubbornly refuses to change his usual ‘behind the goal’ habits and cuts a lonely figure out in the rain. One has to admire his stoicism as much as shake your head at his stupidity. The opening exchanges are fairly even, although the home side do look quite keen to get in front early and settle their nerves. They desperately need the points to help fire their play-off challenge. But, having had a couple of threatening forays that come to nought, we go and do something really unusual and very very unexpected.
We take the lead.
Yes, you read that right. We take the lead. As in score a goal. Jerson dummies a throw in from the right and Cuff overlaps. He drives to the byeline and whips in a cross to the near post where Dundas has got in front of his marker and guides a deft header over the shoulder of the ‘keeper and into the far corner of the net to make it 0-1. And there’s only 7 minutes gone!
Understandably, we go mental and quickly get our sarcastic, pisstaking songs towards the home support out of the way before their team gets annoyed and inevitably equalise in short order.
It’s a sensible plan as it turns out, as within 5 minutes, the hosts are indeed level. See, we’re not stupid! Well, we are actually, we’re still watching this shit with only 4 wins to our name all season, but hey, there you go. A simple ball over the top catches out the back four and an attacker surges clear, skips round the sprawling challenge of Wilson on the edge of the box and manages to slide the ball onto the target, the effort just crossing the line as a defender desperately slides in to try & clear. Arse.
Still, nice while it lasted eh?
Bath take heart from this and set about looking for a second. Our defence is looking a little wobbly now, something we’re very familiar with, but somehow manages to hold out by getting bodies in the way when it really matters, which we’re not so familiar with. The best effort the hosts manage comes after 19 minutes when a searching ball out left finds a man in too much space. He cuts in past the slightly hesitant defending and hits a low effort towards the near post. Wilson scrambles to get down in time, but the effort is cut out by a recovering defender at the expense of a corner.
Pleasingly, despite the slightly iffy defending at times, we’re actually playing some pretty decent football going forwards. The strength & movement of Dundas is seriously upsetting the home centre backs and the plain, simple running of Jerson and Warren out wide is really giving the full backs a tough time as well. Been a while since we’ve been able to say that and no mistake!
It’s from the now trademark Dundas workrate that a somewhat surprising second goal arrives just before the half hour. He challenges for along ball forwards and is just beaten to it in the air by the defender. But under pressure, his header is back towards the byeline, going away from goal. Most guys would accept the corner, but not Dundo. He chases back and slides in to try & keep the ball alive. He succeeds and pivoting on his hand, drags the ball back round into play and regaining his feet, lays it off to McBean a couple of yards away in support. Warren doesn’t need asking twice and simply steps inside his marker before thrashing the ball low past the ‘keeper inside the near post. 1-2
Oh. my. word.
More stupid celebrations ensue. This is ridiculous!
Bath look a little stunned and to be honest, a bit pissed off at the fact that a dead and buried relegated load of shite like us is putting up this much of a fight away from home. And if we’re honest, we probably should be as well if we’re honest! Still, we make the most of leading again and offer up every sarky, pisstaking song and chant we can think of. We even ask the still rather lonely looking Bob out on the open terrace to give us a song, which he duly obliges. Hey, as the saying goes, you got to make hay while the sun shines. Even when you’re in Bath and it’s pissing it down.
The hosts try & drag themselves back into the game once again, but now having retaken the lead a second time, our defence is growing in confidence from our attacking efforts and is looking that little bit more assured. The best the home side can muster is on 34 minutes when a centrally placed free-kick has Wilson leaping full stretch to his left to tip the ball away for a corner.
If we’re quite pleased with how things have panned out so far, we’re delirious 4 minutes before half time. A sweeping diagonal ball out to the left picks out McBean. Taking the ball perfectly first time, he rolls the clock back about 12 months and shows us what he really is capable of and more importantly what we’ve been so desperately missing this season. Darting past the full back, he cuts inside, glides past 2 more defenders coming to meet him and from about 15 yards, curls a deft low finish beyond the dive of the ‘keeper and into the bottom far corner.
Everyone goes mad. Properly mad. Somewhat understandably. Although one supporter who shall remain nameless prefers to celebrate by showing off his ample waistline. And no, it wasn’t Greek! The rather breathless reaction is for basically the whole away support, pretty much to a man (and woman) to belt out a little ditty that perfectly sums up the mood on the terrace at this moment in time.
“Whaaaaaaaaaat the fuuuuuuuuuck is going on?”
A bit bemused at the half time whistle, we amble round to the opposite end for the second half. And with the rain having stopped, we decide to keep a by now rather damp KBB company this half and stand behind the other uncovered end. Naturally, most of the half time chatter revolves around the fact we’re actually winning and variations on the question “So where the fuck did THAT come from?”. Also discussed is the rather special looking construction to our right. It’s a somewhat spectacular effort of two portakabins stacked one on top of the other, looking decidedly like they’ve seen far better days. Amusingly, the top of the two carries the sign ‘Club Shop’. As one U’s fan correctly points out “That’s not a shop, it’s got 2 floors. That’s a megastore!”
Before long though, reality brings us back with a bump and the second 45 is underway. And we again start brightly, with the home defence now understandably rather wary of Dundas, Jerson and Warren as a front three. But the only opportunity we muster is from a deep swirling cross from Nicky Greene out on the right that the ‘keeper has to judge right to take right under his bar. A period of virtual stalemate ensues, with the hosts looking for a way back and us defending everything and looking to hit on the break. It’s not looking too bad for us until shortly after the hour mark, when we return to shit season normality and the usual spanner gets lobbed into the machinery.
Honey wins the ball out on the right and with the home midfield getting a tad frustrated at their lack of success, they’re a little over eager to win the ball back. The ref, who has had a good first half but is now already rapidly declaring his homer credentials ignores 2 blatant fouls on the U’s man before he finally loses possession. The ball is just kept in on the touch line by a Bath man, but Tony Cuff dives in a tad too enthusiastically and absolutely clatters him.
Having already been booked, there’s only one outcome really, but we have to wait a few minutes for that as the frustration of the home side at being behind to a load of relegated toss like us finally boils over and a huge 21 man melee breaks out. Proper handbags and everything. But despite their no6 swinging punches left right and centre and the keeper legging it 50 yards to pile in and grab Dundas by the throat, the ref only awards yellow cards! Cuffy naturally walks for his second, but the 6 and the ‘keeper bizarrely are only cautioned for their somewhat overtly violent acts. To top things off, Dundo is shown a yellow as well. Presumably for presenting his throat to the ‘keeper in a provocative manner. Where do they find these fucking officials?
The red card leaves us feeling a bit nervy behind the goal. This half was going to be tough even with the 2 goal advantage, but with a man down as well. Oh dear. We’ve not exactly been renowned for our grit and fighting spirit over the course of the last 8 months or so. Time to suck it up and see…
Bath make the man advantage tell swiftly as on 66 minutes, a corner in from the right is poorly punched away by Wilson in a crowd. It drops just on the edge of the box and is immediately clipped back into the danger area where a flicked header diverts it against the bar. Again we fail to clear and at the second time of asking, it’s nodded back in and loops under the bar into the net to reduce the deficit back to 1.
Uh oh. Strap in folks, it’s squeaky bumhole time.
Smelling blood, the home side continue to press, but the U’s defence digs deep and despite a couple of wobbly moments, manages to get a body or a boot in the way at crucial times to break up numerous Bath attacks. Something that we’ve resolutely failed to do for pretty much all this season to be fair, so it’s nice and also insanely annoying to see at the same time. We’re not spent as an attacking force either by any means and a couple of breaks should really put the result beyond doubt, but first Dundas pulls the ball back straight to the ‘keeper after a good run to the byeline on the right with 15 to play and McBean races clear down the left before finding himself outnumbered on the edge of the box and his hopeful effort is blocked.
But, unsurprisingly, most of the action is of course at the other end. The hosts think they’ve snatched a point when another rubbish bit of ‘keeping from a set piece presents a chance, but the ball is turned in by a man stood in an offside position even we can spot from the far end and it’s thankfully ruled out.
Strangely, the last few minutes are played out to an almost eriee calm amongst the travelling fans as the home side seem to run flat out of ideas and huff & puff but fail to mount any serious chances to sneak something from the game. In fact, we even have time to mock the one idiot who’s taking the result badly who starts giving it large about “going down” from the big terrace to our left.
GOING down? You’re a bit late there fella. We’re long fucking gone!
Still, there’s always one dickhead as they say and he attitude of the other locals is, quite frankly, pretty humbling. As we nervously await the final whistle, I lose count of the number of people from the home support who file past and offer their congratulations, handshakes and good luck wishes for next season.
Damn, yet another decent bunch of people we’ve met in this bloody league and are going to miss next year! Grrr! Eventually, the ref, who it must be said has had a fucking shocker of a second half, finally gets something right and eventually blows up for full time leaving us to celebrate a superb and somewhat unexpected win.
Eventually, having cheered the team from the pitch, we head to the bar for a much needed beverage or two. In here, the attitude of the locals is once again, first class. Despite the fact we’ve put a serious fucking dent in their play off hopes, no one has a pop at us in the slightest and we get to spend time doing what one should in a football club. Drink beer and talk shite. We also locate an exiled-U by the name of Cliff, who it seems is a fellow Roundshaw lout like myself and Chalmers, but has gone upmarket and stayed down here after leaving Uni. We fill him in as briefly as we can on the utter horror we’ve witnessed in Conference South this season, much to his distress. Still, it could have been worse mate, you could have been there. YOU WEREN’T THERE MAN! YOU WEREN’T THERE!!
But, before long, we decide to head back into town and have a few there before Windy and I must depart on the choo choo back to the big smoke and the Chalmers must join his family for a luxury pizza hut out in town. A little heavy on numbers, we all manage to squish into the PCmobile and using Cliff’s local parking knowledge, find us a spot close to the Hobgoblin and get straight back on the beer.
More celebratory booze is quaffed to rejoice our unexpected three points before we have to depart and head our separate ways. The PC’s going for their stuffed crust and the rest of us either heading out on the piss in town for the night (Cliff) or back into the big smoke via GWR.
For Windy and I, the lack of a offy located on the way back to the station is probably a blessing in disguise as it means we have a less than stupid trip home. Still, the overpriced buffet car suffices in the meantime and at least provides a couple of happy cans to sup along the way. In fact a quiet journey back is only notable for Windy constantly asking “Did that really happen?”.
Yes mate. It did. Well at least I think it did….
MoM : Warren McBean. Ripped ’em to bits
TEAM : Wilson, Cuff, Whisken, Scarborough, Dos Santos, Greene, R.Hughes, T.Hughes, Honey, Dundas, McBean SUBS : Wright, Goodchild, Johnson, Bray, McLoughlin