I’ll be honest, even not being the greatest fan of pre-season, I’ve found it hard to get up for this summer’s action, even with the historic first FL season looming just barely a week away. I guess that usual “It’s just mildly competitive training” feel mixed in with seeing precisely half a dozen live games in person in the last 16 months or so, along with no games at GGL this year due to renovations means the habit has definitely waned more than usual this season for the games you get in July.
This meant tossing off Saturday’s schlep down to Farnborough for the Aldershot game was not a tough call for me, even given the crap kick off time. Although some of the mob took it upon themselves to get some proper pre-season work of their own in by arriving at Farney spoons around 10:30am. For a 5pm start. Dedicated or just plain stupid? I’ll let you decide on that one, I’m not getting fucking involved! Especially as it seems they spent near on 12 hours in the locale from what I hear and yet couldn’t be arsed to blog it. It seems the game was a typical affair with a decent first half with the more familiar faces and all the subs killing the momentum and cohesion. It happens. My lackadaisical attitude was also applied to this evening’s outing in Dartford, which I actually forgot completely about until about 10pm last night. Which was annoying, as I could have gone into the office again and put myself 25 mins and a couple of more pre-match scoops away from Princes Park rather than an hours slog from my gaff and a quick one before kick off. Silly ol’ Taz.
As punishment for my absent mindedness, I did the usual commute from my pit to my desk at 8:30am and put in a day at the coal face via the power of the internet from home and kncoked it on the head shortly before 5pm so I could bump outside and jump on the bus to East Croydon and begin the longer than it should have been trek to Kent. This went flawlessly right up until my bus appears, I slap on my mask and open my wallet to pay with my card. And it’s not there. I have been sabotaged!! That or Mrs Taz hadn’t put it back in my wallet after her Saino’s run for shopping this morning. For fuck’s sake! As I leg it back to HQ, of course 2 more buses that shouldn’t be due for several minutes fly past me and my perfectly set plan is now in tatters. Sod this, I’m getting a cab.
A quick ticking off for her ladyship, my bank card recovered and some Uberage later and I find Steve parked outside Costas at the station, where just standing up has him complaining about the lack of energy from his recent bout of Wembley induced ‘rona. Naturally, being a Gandermonium based trip, there’s little to no sympathy coming from my vacinity and we head for the train, which is of course fucking late. Typical after all that bus\debit card faffing. Still, I have a cold drink and a sausage roll now, so this reduces my number of fucks given until the point I’m going to miss out on a pre-match pint. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Still, the train arrives in enough time to get to London Bridge, change platforms and make the intended Dartford service. At which point Crockett appears, having made a last minute call to attend tonight as he’s off work and was bored sitting on his sofa.
The journey down is pretty painless and is only broken up by a quick pic of Welling station for “We’ll never play you again” pisstaking purposes with their mob on whatsapp and general chat about the upcoming campaign and just how little research Sky do in their pre-season predictions, in which we’ve predictably been punted to be coming stone dead last in League 2. Now, I don’t think we’ll take it by storm by any stretch, but I think we’ve got more than enough to stay up. But hey, it’s Sky, so fuck them and their PL obsessed horseshit. Alighting at Dartford in the warm early evening sun, we stroll down towards the direction of the ground where 4Days is holed up in the Ivy Leaf pub. This is a tricky spell as it’s entirely guided by my memories of the route, which when you consider the fact that the last time I was here was THAT mad FA Cup tie 5 years ago and that I was pissed means this could really go either way to be honest.
Thankfully though, my memory is better than even I’d given me credit for and we make it straight to the battle cruiser without incident. Even better is 4Days is at the bar as we walk in, fucking touch! Pint please mate, cheers! Here just as we get sat down is that the kick off is a 7:30 and not 7:45 as first thought. Bollocks. Oh well, it’s only a friendly at fucking Dartford, I’m not rushing my pint. Talk then turns to how Crockett keeps his little lad entertained at home when he’s on Daddy daycare duties. Games? Nope. Toys? Nah. Ceebeebies? Uh, not really. It’s bus videos, on YouTube. “You work on the railways and your kid is a bus nut? Are you raising a Palace fan Matt?” & “Sod checking your search history, it’ll just be disappointing” are the pick of the reactions to this rather shockingly sad revelation.
Pints downed finally I guess we’d better got watch some football. Sort of. We head up the road and dodge some bees who are making the most of some big lavender bushes in a few front gardens along the way. Which naturally leads to philosophical conversations like ‘Bees or Wasps?’. And Bees, all day long for us. Wasps are just cunts. Thanks for asking.
We rock into the ground 4 fashionably late minutes after kick off and emerge through the turnstiles behind a gaggle of home fans behind Bouzanis’ goal. And they’re singing. With a drum. “Fuck me, they’re a bit keen” Steve mutters as we start the stroll round to the far end. Here we find Chalmers, Mr X and a few of the Yoof Firm out on parade, pints in hand along with a few other regular faces who clearly have nothing better to do on a Tuesday evening.
TEAM: Bouzanis, Wyatt, Rowe, Triallist, Kizzi, Beautyman, Lovatt, Ajiboye, Korboa, Bennett, Kouassi. SUBS: House, Smith, Barden, Bugiel, Dundas, Eastmond, Boldewijn, Milsom
On the field, the hosts are taking this serious, understandable with them looking to be serious contenders in Conf South this year and us being, well, football league and massive an all. Good test for them innit. Well, sort of. Whilst they’re popping it about fairly competently, we do have the air about us of a side that hasn’t had long together at all. Dartford take the lead after 15 mins when a low ball in sees Lovatt clip their lad and wins the pen. Their lad tucking it away despite Deno getting a hand on it. With this, the main interest amongst the idiots is the rather good grub on offer at our end. Bacon AND Sausage rolls in proper tiger bread baguettes. They’re so good that 4Days has 2.
After 30 mins and with us making almost no impression, Matt makes a change and yanks off the unfortunate Lovatt for Ali Smith. And the change has an instant effect, as the former Alty lad soon has us far more solid in the middle of the park. This brings a couple of sniffs of a goal, the best of which is Bennett clipping a ball in that Harry nuts on target but the keeper saves and a defender, combining with the post, keeps Kouassi out on the rebound.
One down at the break, no one can be arsed with the bar so we just wander on round back to where we’d entered earlier and we catch up with a few faces we’ve not seen in a while and chatter also turns to what aways everyone’s got sorted out so far. It seems most are already set for FGR, Cardiff and Scunthorpe. And those can’t come soon enough to be honest.
For the second half, the U’s make 2 changes. Milsom replaces Wyatt and Enzio for Korboa. This gives us a little more impetus going forward and it looks to be only a matter of time before we’re level. So of course we go 2-0 down. We dither too much on the ball in our final third, don’t clear quickly and they block. Suddenly a lad’s in behind, clipped it across and after a nice cushioned lay off, their lad rifles it first time from about 18 yards into the far corner. It’s a great hit to be fair.
Their 6 picks up a yellow for persistent infringement, Bennett has a nailed on peno turned down (another shit FL ref!) and their defending and keeper keep them ahead before we finally pull one back. Milsom whips in a beauty from wide, Harry bullets a header in near post bringing a superb save from the keeps, but he can;t do anything about Dave putting the loose back in for Kouassi to crach into the roof of the net from couple yards out. Dave then tees up Enzio after a lung bursting run from deep in his own half, but the new mans clipped finish is too high and bounces off the top of the bar. A minute or two later, Dartford have a third when a shit Fk from us is cleared, we’re not sharp on the recovery and the counter ends with a shot being blocked but looping over Bouzanis. And that’s about it really.
Game over, lads politely acknowledged and we head for the exits. Mr X offers the use of his motor for transport home and we can all just about squash in. Well, that’s if he can find the fucker that is. For a few moments, he stands there trying to work out where he’s parked before starting with the old ‘fire off the remote in all directions and look for the flashing lights’ trick. Old school. I like it. Unbelievably this approach actually pays off and Eventually we locate his wheels, cram in and head for home via the M25, but not before our pilot has a brain fart and starts asking us for confirmation that we are actually on the M25 to begin with and not some other stretch of road to Folkstone or somewhere similar where we don’t live. “You’re the fucking driver!” 4Days adds helpfully. Indeed.
Fortunately for us, we are on the right road and we’re soon back in muggy South London and I’m being tipped out opposite HQ, bringing another crazy Sutton United adventure to an end. As I enter home, I manage to scare the crap out of her ladyship, which to be honest is fair repayment for her fucking me over earlier with my debit card. It also seems it’s one more scare than the alleged horror film she’s watching on the telly has managed. You can read into that what you like to be honest.
This is probably it for us for pre-season, as we’re unlikely to make the Barnet game Saturday with such an early kick off and to be honest, we can’t be arsed. So it is adieu until the opening day and Forest Green now. We’ll see you then!