One of the things with writing this here cobblers is that for every mad, mental awayday weekender to somewhere like Liverpool for you lot to lap up, there’s the other side of the coin of the far less stupidity laden home games to contend with. Sure, there’s still boozing and a fair bit of bollocks spouted to help fill out the paragraphs separating the pictures, but the time frame is smaller, people aren’t as beered and it’s simply nowhere near the levels you get on an away game. Well, apart from Boreham Wood that is, which is just shit whatever day you go. Home games also have a far more dreaded sub-category amongst the crew here, the home mid-weeker. Where a game is partaken of after a days graft and possibly with only the one pint down your neck before the start. So whilst other people spout all that rose tinted nonsense about football under lights, spare a thought for us poor bastards scribbling about it. Slim pickings doesn’t even come close sunshine.
It’s these games that make covering this shit challenging even under normal circumstances where we’ve got 3-4 bodies to rotate it amongst, as no one really wants a home midweeker. It’s just hard work and far less people read it anyway simply because, well, it’s midweek. Now imagine the pain in the arse when it’s just you on your lonesome, stood there with your finger plugging the leak in the shit football blogging dam. Anyhow, enough of me and my problems, I should probably get onto this evening and a first ever meeting with Mansfield Town. Now, usually, someone like Totts or Dukey would trot out some weird factoid about said oppo here and generally take the piss out of it and I’ll admit I’ve run with this template myself a couple times this season to mix things up, but I’ve been properly busy lately and I couldn’t really be fucked to look anything up on the Yahoos.
Thankfully though, the club themselves have provided me with a little diversion, as they are currently managed by none other than Nigel Clough, former Forest midfielder and son of ol’ Big ‘Ead himself, Brian. Although for many of today’s FIFA obsessed young football watching public who might be reading, that probably wouldn’t mean sod all given that Cloughie’s main achievements as a gaffer were a good decade before Sky invented the sport in ’92. Now, it’s probably inevitable that ol’ Nige would follow in his Dad’s footsteps and go into management, but for the life of me I can’t remember him for anything else but having his name added to the start of Burton Albion’s own moniker when he first started out in the Doc Martens League. The club becoming known to all and sundry in the football world as “Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion”, which always made them sound to me like some half arsed continuation of a middling 70’s rock band still plugging away with only the drummer from the original line up left, with a couple of session lads making up the numbers.
After a day that could only be correctly described as ‘a right twat’, I get to half 5 and decide that that’s quite enough for one day and power off the laptop, giving a flick of the v’s at the screen as it powers down and set about getting out the door as quick as possible so I can get some desperately needed Britneys down my neck pre-match. I wrap up warm for the expected cold outside and with time to kill until the bus into town appears, I stroll up the road a ways, my dour mood being slowly soothed by the grunting and grinding guitars of Meshuggah and other various acts contained within the musical genre known as ‘Death Metal’. Played at ear bleeding volume natch. This helps a little and also getting to sit at the front on the top deck, despite not being able to see chuff all out the steamed up windows, also delights my inner 8 year old for the ride into Sutton.
A quick stop in Finnegans for a bag of chips and I begin the proper old school walk down to the ground scoffing my spuds and dreaming of a pint in the bar before the off. As I cross the railway line to head onto GGL, I look down the tracks towards West Sutton International and the old lady’s floodlights illuminating the night sky. I’m soon up the driveway and picking up some tickets I’d been given via the ‘FanHub’ app. Obviously being a season ticket holder, they’re not much use to me so I decided to put them up for grabs via the socials. And as I’m here, I pick up tickets for the next couple of away games at Newport and Bradford. Admin sorted, I bump into Kev on his way in with his missus Dee and I slip him Steve’s season ticket for the night as our Southampton correspondent is currently
on a tax dodge working in Dubai until the end of the month.
In the bar, a much needed pint is finally obtained via a much more efficient seeming lane system at the bar. Here’s hoping it copes with the increased numbers on a Saturday! I locate the chap for my spare tickets and hand them over and then beer in hand, I catch up with Kev and we largely chat about football of the American variety, comparing the fortunes of our respective teams that we follow. Mine of course are phenomenally shit and always have been, which is quite some going in a league that is specifically designed so that everyone, at some point, gets a shot at glory. Oh yes ladies and gents, I really can pick a winner. Make no mistake about it. I’m often asked why I don’t gamble, this is precisely why.
Other faces wander in over time, 4Days appears with Lil’ Chris and Dr Bell briefly pops in on his way to his spot on the new Shoebox, still being all crutched up as he is from his recent hip op. Bob also appears just ahead of his good lady Cathy to bag the beers and they’re soon tucking into a decent looking fish finger sandwich each. It looks decent nosh and if I’d not already carb loaded on the way down with my chips, I might very well have joined them with one of my own. Another pint downed with 5 minutes to kick off, I head back out into the cold, dart through the turnstiles in plenty of time for kick off.
I shoot a quick look at the line up on the twitters as the teams emerge from the tunnel and note that Ricky Korboa is in for Randall and Barden returns at right back for the clobbered on Saturday Joe Kizzi. As I head for the Curva for the off, it’s pretty obvious that the crowd is several hundred down on what we’ve been seeing this season. Although with Champions League and Chelsea in particular on the box tonight and it being probably the coldest night of the year so far, I’m not really that surprised at all. Fucking part timers.
Bouzanis, Barden, John, Goodliffe, Milsom, Korboa, Eastmond, Smith, Ajiboye, Bugiel, Olaofe SUBS: House, Wyatt, Davis, Dundas, House, Randall, Wilson, Bennett
As with Saturday, the lads start properly on the front foot and go looking for an early goal. Korboa plays a big part in this early assault, with the lads using his direct quick darts out wide as much as possible, no doubt with the oppo not knowing anything about him so making the most of the element of surprise. This pays off after a couple of minutes as a Korboa free kick is half cleared, it’s popped back to him and he sticks immediately back stick. The ball hits a gaggle of 2-3 players and drops nicely for Louis to hit on the turn from about 8 yards. 1-0 and we’re off the mark early doors.
From here though, the game doesn’t really catch light. Mansfield find their feet and start moving the ball well, but without a great deal of threat and we meanwhile simply can’t get much of a head of steam up following the goal. They get a leg up from the lino our side who awards them a shocking corner when the ball is nowhere near fully out of play. Of course, its pinged in and the geezer nuts it on target bringing a decent save out of Deano. Easty then nods away the the follow up effort as well. But apart from this, we’re largely treated to the David Rock show as our old friend from the non-league days is out in the middle being as frustrating as ever, just a couple of stone lighter than he was when he was annoying us in the Conference South.
A largely dull first half ends and we’re left to mull about in the cold to consider the less than enthralling contest on the pitch, but one that we’re at least winning. Various natter is had to pass the time and I’m surprised to see Totts in attendance this evening, as it’s a long old hike back to his luxury seaside dacha on a Tuesday night. I can only assume he’s in the Republic on important presidential succession business today. Either that or he remembered he had a lockup full of old shit somewhere on the manor that he’d forgotten about for the move and had to get shifted sharpish. On the socials, a decent crack from the Podcast crew about one team coming to spoil and break up play etc and it’s not us or Mansfield also draws a chuckle.
Second half gets underway and it’s at least a bit more coherent than the first. The ref’s still being a fussy sod, but it’s not quite as bad as the first 45 and as such there’s a bit more flow to things. The visitors continue to move the ball well, getting between the lines, but they don’t create much. One clipped cross is headed across goal and just wide of the post, whilst at the other end, Korboa is unlucky not to make it 2-0 when Dave drives from deep, cuts in and feeds Ricky. His shot beats the keeper, but not the recovering defender behind who gets back to clear off the line and prevent a certain goal.
Mansfield have a sighter with about 20 to go, they open a bit of space Rec side, but the lad’s step inside to work the angle for a shot allows the defence to reshuffle and Ben blocks the strike in the box. Then a minute or so later, Issac chases down on the corner of 18 in front of us. It looks like he’s fouled, but the ref lets it slide and Dave picks up the loose. His attempt to get into the box is stopped and that loose ball runs to Omar who steps outside a challenge and traction engines it top near corner for 2-0. It’s a cracking hit and a slightly overdue bit of onion baggage from the big Lebanese geeze.
That largely kills the game and the last 15 or so is us mostly getting the arse with more poor officiating, with the lino who gave the toilet corner first half then bizarrely giving a goal kick when Dave knocks the ball off the legs of a defender right under his nose. Not great mate, not great at all. Still, it’s job done and it’s a decent bit of rebound from Saturday’s knock back. 3 points, clean sheet, can’t ask for much more really. We head back for the bar and a couple more pints are necked as we largely complain about our lives away from football, which oddly seems to be the one good thing for a lot of people right now!
Mr X shows up post megastore closure for a pint, boasting that he’s flogged more SUFC Xmas sweaters tonight than replica shirts. But, time is against me and I sup up and make a dart for the last stopper back to the Badlands as I’ve got to hit the Saino’s local before it shuts for a loaf. The train is on time and also contains a few Wombles on their way home from an important home win over a seemingly already doomed Crewe, which sadly means I can’t sit there all smug. I hop off the rattler at the other end, bag my bread for my toast in the morning and stroll home in the cold.
Back at HQ, I arrive home to find Mrs Taz calling her bedside reading lamp a ‘bastard’ amongst other things, as the battery on it had gone flat with literally one page left to go in her book. And turning on the main light would of course involve her leaving the toasty confines of the duvet in bed. So I feel her anger at the inanimate and not very illuminating object is somewhat justifiable in this case. It also clearly shows she’s been living with me for far too long, as calling a lamp a fucking prick is something I’d definitely do in that situation. Naturally, being the utter gent that I am and no doubt to her eternal gratitude, I do the missus a solid and flip the main light on so she can polish off her novel. “Oh, so I guess you won then!”
And what makes you think that my love?