It’s not that often we get to have a game on Valentines Day to be honest. The last one being away to Guiseley just before the Arsenal game back in 2017, which ended neither successfully thanks to a customary late winner nor remotely romantically as it was mainly spent in a motor full of farts with the likes of Mr X and Dukey there and back in a day. Motorway closures the lot. Although we were at least treated to the wonderfully stereotypical ‘last minute’ bloke at Northampton services clutching probably the last bunch of flowers for about 10 square miles and an smiley face emoticon cushion. I’m sure both are still in an evidence lock up somewhere in the area after his brutal murder that night. After a surgeon had removed them from his arse first of course.
Still, at least for tonight’s soiree full of proper League 2 love and affection we won’t have to be hiking off up the arse end of the M1 as the fixture gods have smiled upon us and presented us with a home game with Swindon. Although I doubt this same news was received quite as well just off the magic roundabout though if I’m honest. Sutton’s a lot of things, but it’s hardly competition to the likes of Venice or Paris in the romance stakes. Still, all this is never really a concern for my good self as I’m fortunate enough to have Mrs Taz in my life and she’s one of them properly modern, enlightened lasses in that she largely thinks V-Day is a load of commercial bollocks and if I want to go to football in the 14th of Feb, I jolly well can. And no, she doesn’t have any sisters, sorry lads. However, having said that, I do still usually lay out for a card and a little gift of some sort to mark my appreciation of her not smothering me in my sleep for another year. I’m not a complete fucking idiot you know.
This year, her ladyship was properly made up by my token offering as I managed to obtain a couple more packs of her absolute favourite sweets in Almond M&M’s to accompany the shit card, but to be honest the main gift that I can give her on this day of love that she will undoubtedly appreciate the most is of course my complete & utter absence for the evening so she can curl up on the sofa, watch shit films on Netflix and order up some even-more-fucking-expensive-than-the-M&M’s sushi to scoff for dinner. Off my account on Deliveroo to boot. Hey, if she’s happy, I’m, happy. Although god forbid I come in later with the U’s having lost with a mood on. That’ll probably negate the whole deal entirely. So, no pressure lads, it’s just my relationship we’re talking about here.
With a home game, I really can’t be arsed with the hassle of heading into the office, hoping to nick out a touch early to get to the game in good time after buggering about on trains and so forth, so I declare a WFH and do my thing from HQ for the day. Things are pretty quiet thankfully, so when 6pm rocks round, the laptop goes off and Mrs Taz is already giving me the evil eye to fuck off so she can rinse my Deliveroo for that sushi takeaway. Alright alright woman, give us a chance to get out the door! And with my shit sorted, I’m bidding farewell and hopping into the motor for the quick dart to the PROWS. Sadly, my attempts to secure the VIP Gandermonium spot across Mr X’s driveway are thwarted by Greek beating me to the punch, which is annoying as I’m pretty certain he’d said on Saturday he wouldn’t be making it tonight. Oh well, park a mile away and walk it is then!
Dumping the jam jar by Homefields school, I amble down Norman Road towards the ground and soon after, the floodlights pop into view over the rooftops. Even with the sort of spindly looking shit floodlights you get these days, there’s still something about seeing the glow as you get near the ground. Up the drive, I dive into the pie van for some dinner and with my scoff secured, it’s into the bar for a quick shandy. Waiting for me, I find 4Days, Lil’ Chris, Indy and Jonnie from the Yoof lurking by the jukebox. Also in is Southampton Steve, fresh back from his exile in Dubai for tax dodge work reasons. “I’m cold” he mutters after I greet him. “Jolly good!” I reply. If you’re going to spend months tossing it off in the desert, taking in a World Cup to boot, don’t expect sympathy from any of us once you’re back on these dreary shores sunshine! Pun intended.
Before I can tuck into dinner, I’m immediately accosted by the Wing Commander who comes to me with a confession to make. Seems that he’s been testing the security in Mr X’s megastore, albeit inadvertently. He tried out a couple of items and left intending to return on Saturday to complete his purchase, however when he got into the bar he found he’d knocked a pair of shorts off the rail and they’d dropped onto his coat pocket suspended from the hook on their hanger. I dunno, these old folks going rogue these days. I know there’s cost of living crisis and all that but come on. Fortunately Mr X was in a good mood when the WingCo returned his loot and he decided not to press charges. Must be going soft in his old age that one. That or he’d just had a smoke. Or a cup of tea. Or maybe both. Finally able to eat, 4Days and Indy regale me while I fill my face of their earwigging in on Jimmy Dack’s chat to his coaching staff at the Academy that took place in the MBA earlier. Interesting stuff it seems and good to hear we’re looking to get one identity through all our sides.
We also get some insight into the ‘Colin Nonce’ song from the Reading fans on the way back from Hartlepool on Saturday when Jenny Corkett swings by with a mate who’s along for the game and so happens to be a long standing Royals fan too. He explains that ‘Colin’ refers to new Huddersfield gaffer Neil Warnock (who, for the uninformed, is commonly known as ‘Colin Wanker’ by many football fans), although he does confess he cannot explain the unicycle part of the ditty. However he does promise to enquire at the next home game and report back further via Jenny at a later date. I also get to have a sneak peek at the 125th Anniversary book that’s coming out soon as Johnnie’s bagged his copy already given he’s the one who got lumbered writing it all. It’s a solid hardback effort and looks decent value, with lots of Paparazzi Loughlin’s images featuring. I’ll definitely be picking up a copy as soon as they’re available and you should probably do so too. Talk then turns to the team tonight, with more changes after Saturday being required. First no Randall tonight, unsurprisingly after his assassination at the weekend. But no start for Lee Angol, who I guess we’re not risking with 2 starts in a row after not much game time lately. Coby Rowe’s back in the defence though. Still, at least that baldy Welsh twat that 4Days fawns over all the time isn’t playing. Right, time for some action I think.
Rose, Kizzi, Goodliffe, Rowe, Hart, Beautyman, Smith, Boldewijn, Ajiboye, Bugiel, Wilson SUBS: House, Dennis, Angol, Kouassi, Dundas, Gambin, Milsom.
As we head in, Dukey ambles up the drive. I’m surprised to see him to be honest given the date. “Missus has gone to some drag act thing with her mates” he offers as we dive through the turnstiles. So clearly he’s palmed the little one off on grandad so he can get some League 2 loving done this evening. Good lad. As we take our spots on the terrace I note that Greek hasn’t shown up. The bastard. Nicked the spot and then doesn’t use it, outrageous carry on that is. On the pitch as with Saturday at Hartlepool, the lads are off to a bright start and get on the attack. Sadly unlike Saturday, we lack that little bit of composure up top and a couple of reasonable sighters are wasted by wayward finishing, Dave being the worst one by firing well over from a decent position. Soon after, a decent run and cross from Enzio brings a better effort from Dave and a decent stop from the keeper, but Enzio following in on the loose ball is denied by the linos flag. Having had most of the opening 10 or so, they come to life a bit more and typically with their first serious attack are in front. They work the ball touchline on the stand side and a couple of little passes and some decent movement finds ex-PL striker Charlie Austin with the sort of space you don’t want to be giving an Ex-PL striker and he thumps past Rose from 12 yards.
From here, the goal lifts them and we seem to lose our way a bit, as we start giving the ball away too cheap, our touch lets us down and when we do manage to avoid those two issues, our final ball is then seriously lacking. They look far more fluid and cause us a few nervy moments during the rest of the half, but without Rosey having to do much at all. Our best in response is Enzio having a shot deflected over and then him getting his feet all in a tangle after Coby, yes, that one, has picked up a loose pass and threaded a cracking pass right through the middle for him to run onto. As it is, we’re quite happy to see the half time whistle and only be the one down. Here’s hoping that Matt & co can get into this lot and sort the issues out. Even just sorting out the passing would be a big bonus!
Thankfully it seems this does the trick (it turns out later they’d thrown us with a completely different formation than we’d expected them to play) and from the restart, we again start bright and look a lot more coherent than before. The first 10 or so of the half are keenly contested with us having shots blocked in the area and them having a shot deflected wide with Rose stranded. Enzio also sends a whipped free-kick a shade too high. Rose also has to be at his best when a Goodliffe slip lets their lad in but Jack narrows the angle well and gets down to make a solid one handed stop from the low shot. From here though, we keep digging away and from just before the hour mark, the visitors are getting pushed further back, not aided by that insistence of playing out from the back when pressed by three yellow shirts. Sadly though despite all this pressure, chances are at a premium and their keeper remains pretty unworked.
Matt chucks on Angol and Dennis for the last 15 to freshen things up and this eventually does the trick. Dennis volley’s a Harry flick on against the bar inside the last 10 and a minute later, we’re level. They don’t clear a set piece, it’s worked back to Kizz Rec Side and he dollies the ball up into the area. It looks a poor ball right down the keeper’s throat, but Goodliffe challenges for the high ball, the keeps fluffs it and Angol pounces to thump the loose into the bottom corner. Cupid’s arrow itself couldn’t have been more accurate and GGL erupts. I’ll be honest here, I’m a bit surprised that the ref hasn’t done what most other refs would do in this scenario and lazily blown for a foul on the keeper, but he hasn’t and that’s their problem. Not ours. “Let’s see how they handle the last few now” I offer aloud to no one in particular. The answer? “Not that great actually”. With time almost up, Hart swings a free-kick from deep towards the back post. We win first ball in the air and it drops to Dave lurking nearby, he has a little dart down the side of the box, cuts back and clips the ball to the heart of the box where Ali gets a wafty hook on it, it hits a defender and loops agonisingly out of reach of the keeper into the far corner. 2-1. You fucking little beauties, you’ve nicked it!
The board goes up for 4 added, but the visitors can’t really muster much more than one corner that we deal with no problem and before we know it, the refs blowing up and we’ve got another 3 points on the board and our first ever win over these lot as well. That definitely goes some way to making up for the unfortunate mugging we got at their gaff earlier this season too. Lovely stuff. With the usual plaudits dished out from the terraces, we head back to the bar via the magic door and get a celebratory scoop in. They always taste better after a win, even if it’s just a poxy shandy as in my case. Results elsewhere haven’t changed the situation and although we’re up to 10th now, we’re still 4pts off the playoffs. With most people having already shot off, Steve and I bid our farewells and begin the hike back to the motor, albeit with a late winner type spring in our step. A quick dart over the border to drop him in Croydon later, I’m back at HQ to find a movied out Mrs Taz dozing on the settee, stuffed to the gills with Sushi.
Everyone’s a winner tonight it seems!