The Pilgrim Way

I wasn’t really going to bother for this one. Mainly as I covered Boxing Day and well, that was only like a week or so ago. And we won. So you know, having some positivity at the top of the feed on the site was nice for a change, especially with this season. But with a decent gang travelling, Jason having managed to steady the ship and get a couple reasonable showings out of the side lately since Matt departed and Plymouth of course being a new tick combined with the fact that, well, we don’t get to the 3rd Round every day (our last one was THIS and THIS of course!) I kind of relented. And by ‘kind of’ I mean I’d play it by ear thank you very much. I’d do notes, take some pics, but if we got a right good hiding, I definitely wasn’t going to waste my time raking over the coals of yet another disappointment. Done that way too many times in the past cheers.

But, as things panned out, it was a pretty good day on the road generally speaking, so here I am, cup of tea on the go and my fat fingers thudding into the keyboard to create this latest rambling load of old bollocks. Right, now where should we begin? Decisions decisions. I guess we should really touch on how we got here first. That being courtesy of Barnsley’s paperwork pigs ear which got Horsham reinstated and turned our 2nd round free hit against a decent L1 side and get back to L2 survival into a far more concerning banana skin of the type you’ll find hard to live down should you step on it and get dumped heavily on your arse by a fairly local Non-League outfit. Thankfully they failed to really rise to the occasion and a U’s side held together with some spit, sticky tape and prayers, ran out comfortable winners in the end. Sadly, we didn’t draw someone massive away so we could take a fully expected rogering from their U23’s and collect a nice fat 3rd Round cheque with lots of zeros on it, but we did at least cop a new ground to visit in Plymouth’s Home Park. So that’s something at least.

The game “Flooded field or sea?” got old pretty quickly…

Tickets booked at a ridiculous 80 sovs a head for the day trippers and over a ton for the overnight idiots, this one was still much anticipated. New town, new ground, just a nice break from the already grinding familiarity of League 2. Of course, with such a long schlep in the offing, shitty Britain decided to keep us on our toes with some fucking stupidly named storm twatting seven shades out of everything for most of the preceding week meaning that when the big day arrived, there was flooding on the line somewhere along the way. Lovely. Still, that at least meant when my alarm went off at 6am, I was in the shower and out the door sharpish, as every minute gained at Paddington could prove crucial for bunking another service should ours get flushed round the U bend. Bus is fine and I double time onto the platform at East Croydon, straight onto a train. No sign of Magnum or Steve though when I walk through to get up front for the off at Victoria. The latter in particular is worrying as he usually does a McD’s stop prior to the train.

As I emerge at Vic and head into the underground, I spot a message from the missing Saints man. Seems he’s running late and rather than messaging me to ask if I want grotty Mcmuffins, he’s requesting I sort him some scran at Paddington. No worries. Down on the platform, a couple of the COC’s are lurking and it seems they’re on the same 8.03 off Paddy as us. Quick change at Oxford Circus and we’re soon alighting at the Bear’s gaff where on the platform I also locate 4Days, fresh from a lie in at his missus gaff in Bermondsey. And he’s not at all smug about that hours extra kip either, oh no. Up on an otherwise largely deserted concourse, plenty of familiar boats are gathering for the journey. Hardly surprising given we’re the only London side in the top 4 divisions away today. Having bagged tickets from Mr X I dart to Sainos, grab some nosh for me and Steve and get back to the mob to await our platform.

Time to make up some VDT…
Still trying to reach par…

With this sorted, I leave the others to board whilst I grab a brew to go with my bacon and as I head for the rattler myself I spot Steve finally arriving, standing out a mile in his bright orange jacket. A sharp “Oi! Dickhead!” bellowed across the station catches his attention and before too long we’re settling into a pretty quiet carriage with the others for the trip down. Breakfast time! We depart on time and find out we’re in the hottest carriage in the world. Although it could be worse, when Johnnie wanders through a while down the line from next door, he reveals they’ve got no heating at all. We trundle along, looking out the window at mostly overflowing rivers and myriad flooded fields, before we find out we’re being diverted, adding 25-30mins to the journey. Bang goes a pints VDT in Devon then! Chalmers is impressed that we go through one of Brunel’s tunnels on the way down, a fact that Mr X finds less than enthralling. PC tries to rescue this by doling out sarnies to everyone so we can do a taste test for his missus who are providing the bread for the products now.

Sadly some don’t get how this works as Robbo refuses a second half of the other sarnie. “How are you supposed to compare them then you dick?”. Meanwhile 4Days choice of Salmon and Cream Cheese draws an approving “All very Fulham this isn’t it?” from him and has him wishing he’d got a small bottle of red from the trolley and not a can of beer. The view changes to the seaside as we trundle through the likes of Dawlish and Teignmouth. “Fuck me, that field’s properly flooded!!” I remark sarcastically looking out at the English channel. No one laughs. Wankers. Tough crowd this lot when they’ve not got a beer in them, I can tell you. Sadly, the journey tips just past unbearable a safe distance before we pull into Plymouth and when we approach, most people are just pleased to get up and move their legs so we all stand by the door for a good 5 mins before we pull in just for a change of scenery and to get the blood flowing again.

Nope. No idea.
Nearly there…

We rock into our destination 35 late, so Mr X collects tickets for a claim up and then outside, we bump straight into Cabs to head down to the Barbican area where we know there’s some pubs. Meanwhile Magnum and Robbo skulk off to drop their crap at their hotel for their overnighter. A quick ride later, we’re being tipped out in a nice old part of town outside the Dolphin, finding Greek already inside and nursing a pint of cider after a busy one the evening before. Here, Dr Bell fondles a Greyhound and we talk all sorts of exciting things like RJ45 connectors (Greek started it to be fair) and other such nonsense. Just as Robbo and Magnum appear from bag drop, a plan is hatched to basically make this an old school, quickfire 1 pint a pub run and grab cabs back the ground shortly after 2. There’s no protests tabled at this point, so we neck our first ones and swiftly move on to the Navy Inn opposite, where the North East derby is being revved up on the telly. Greek’s delighted to find they do Rattler here from our Truro weekenders and just as delighted to be able to send a picture of it to Dukey stuck back at home.

This one is downed quick too and we exit via the back door out into the harbour and stroll along to the Ship at the end of the row. We get stuck into the pint here and soon are in the Maritime. Same result, pint, done and then we’re into the Queens Arms just as it’s ticking onto 2pm. Right, this is our last one and we need transport. Having sorted the pints, the nice lass behind the jump sorts us a number and even advises a pickup point in the parade through the alley over the road to stop them charging a ‘one way system’ premium from outside. Touch! So a quick call later and 3 cabs for 11 dickheads in 20 minutes are sorted. Best tell said dickheads to get their pints down them! With time pressing on, all the sherberts show up as arranged and the last of us is away by half 2. Plenty of time that. Not our first awayday maximised drinking with a late cab dash for kick off rodeo I can tell you. Dropped at Home Park, there’s looking like a good crowd in as there’s plenty of people mooching about and heading for turnstiles. A quick check, the away end is located and we squeeze through the crowds to get to our bit. As we go, we decide to bag a programme given the occasion and how likely we are to be at this stage again in the near future.

“There a car boot on or summat today?”
Ready to go!

Inside, we find all the usual boats toing and froing and whilst necking a half decent pastie from the tea bar, catch up with a few people we’ve not seen since Boxing Day. Team wise, there’s some missing faces with Pereria and O’Brien not in the squad. Some worry that they’ve been recalled from loans, but Dion’s a season job and Aiden’s is until the end of the month, so they must have knocks. There’s also a couple of surprises on the bench with skipper Easty featuring as well as Hish who’s been missing since Port Vale. Starting to get all the bodies back. This can only be good for us going into the second half of the season and should give the new manager the best we’ve got to pick from. Whoever that may be and whenever they may join. Right, suppose we’d best get this over and done with?

Bouzanis, Milsom, Goodliffe, Sowunmi, Jackson, kizzi, Coley, Clay, Beautyman, Gape, Angol SUBS: Rose, Arnold, Dundas, Fadahunsi, Patrick, Eastmond, N’Guessan, Kasimu

The stadium is pleasantly full when we enter to take our spots in the stand. It’s nice to see the cheap ticket deal has paid off as it’s always much better to come to places like this and see them relatively full and not with like 3000 in them. Makes for a nicer experience and a fatter cheque once the gate’s divvied up. Chancellor Oakes will be delighted. Annoyingly, the hosts have appointed a new manager themselves the evening before and he’s in attendance today, which probably explains why they’ve gone very strong with their side to try and impress him rather than stick out the usual toss off of U23’s and fringe players we’d come to expect these days. Oooh, look at us with our Championship standard players! Grow up lads, it’s not big and it’s not clever. Very childish in fact. Naturally this somewhat unsporting approach has an early impact as we spend the first 10 minutes basically chasing the ball whilst the big boys selfishly won’t let us have a play with it. There’s some quick movement and good running from them which causes us some concerns, but they don’t really get a decent sniff of goal and just as it seems we’ve seen this early spell off and are looking to get a foothold ourselves, we of course concede a rotter.

You knows we love a panoramamamama!
Angol!!! 1-1!!

Quick ball from the back is sprayed wide, Kizzi doesn’t get out to his man quickly bought, a little ball into the box is laid off and Bouzanis saves the initial shot. But a green shirt is quickest to the seconds and despite having the post covered, the ball hits the U’s keeper and somehow still finds it’s way into the net. Seriously, some of the goals we’ve let in this year have been absolute dogshit. From here, the hosts settle a bit more and it takes some last ditch defending to keep them from notching a second. Annoyingly, a fair bit of the trouble is caused by us leaving passes short or going astray. Omar has to just deflect one wide right in front of goal and Ben had to get a boot on one after the lad’s been given a good run at Milsom wide. But we cling on in there and as the half goes on, we settle a bit, get out more and the feeling amongst the away end seems to be “Get to the break one down and we’ll have done well”. Thankfully, the half time pastie goes down a treat with just that one goal deficit to face second half. Here’s hoping we have more of a go after the break!

After the restart, we just look a bit more relaxed from the off and an early deep FK into the box is nodded down invitingly by Kizzi, but no one reads it and the keeps plops gratefully onto the loose before anyone in Yellow is alive to it. Better follows a couple later however, when Kizzi puts a first time clearance down the line into the channel in front of us for Lee Angol to chase. He gets after it, collects and with the defender probably giving him a bit too much room, he accepts the invite, steps inside a couple of yards and cracks off a low shot beyond the keeper. Fuck a duck lads! We’re level!! The goal is warmly received by the away end and you can almost hear the heavily West Country accented “Fucks sake” from the rest of the ground. Right, strap in. Game on.

Ah bugger.
Good effort that. We go again.

For about 10 minutes, the leveller gives the lads a huge boost and we start to play some good confident stuff. Coley, much improved on a fairly rotten 1st 45, causes issues on the left, twice getting into the box, his pull back from the bye line is somehow headed away from a corner (“If that had been us, that would have been an fucking OG” mutters Steve next to me) is the best of these. Still, we’re well in the mix here and the away end is bouncing away, urging the lads on. As we hit the last 20, the contest seems finely balanced. Until we royally fuck up again that is. The hosts first really serious foray forward of the half down our left ends with us doubling up, leaving a man free. Obviously the pass inside the box finds him and Coley dives in from behind. Penalty. The kick is hit with power and like at Stockport, Bouzanis guesses right but can’t get a strong enough hand on it and can only deflect it high into the net. 2-1.

Jason decides to have a go a couple of minutes later and throws in Tope for Angol and Patrick out wide. Both do well, with Tope in particular making a nuisance of himself. He combines with Patrick to feed Beauts on 18 who then tees up the returning Eastmond with a nice turn. But from 12 yards, his ring rust is clear and he guides his shot comfortably wide of the far post. We keep plugging away though and with our last changes ready to go as the 90 ticks up and 5 added on, they burst forward, find a lad on our left in a bit too much space and his shot from 18 clips either Milsom or Goodliffe and loops over Deano to put the tie to bed. Ah well, at least we had a go. We get through the last 5 without any further damage and without really troubling the hosts any further and at the final whistle, the lads trudge over to receive the plaudits their efforts deserved. Whilst we took a while to get going, the second half had been a decent shift and if we can get that sort of level every week, then L2 survival should be more than doable.

A shit version of a much better shot I should have taken 30 secs before…
Hunting for post match pints…

With the team applauded off, we head out into the steadily cooling evening. As we go, we find out all our relegation rivals have drawn today, so whilst we’re back to bottom place, it’s only on goal difference and we’re still just the 6 adrift. Doable. We also hear from SLO Loffers that there’ll be news on the new manager at half 6 tonight. Lovely stuff. Right, shall we get a pint and sort a plan for some cans then? We follow the crowd down the hill which gives an impressive view of the city skyline and with options near the station limited, opt to ponce into Magnum and Robbo’s hotel for a quick pint and then smash either Sainos or Tescos for train drinks. Having eventually located the bar, we settle in for a quickie and with less than 30 minutes to departure, it’s time to go shopping.

As per usual, Mr X buys lager and all the G&T’s meaning he’ll end the evening with a bag of G&T and with snacks including Jaffa Cakes for myself and Dr Bell, we make a well timed stroll to the station to find our train already parked up and waiting. Lovely stuff. All aboard the “Fuck me, this takes how long?” express! We settle in and as we pull out of Plymouth on the long journey home, start checking the socials to see if we can guess who the new gaffer is. It doesn’t take long to find out that Steve Morison, Hornchurch’s manager who’d caused betting to be suspended late in the week (not him personally of course, but you get what we mean) has apparently left them today for a ‘Football League opportunity’. Wonder who that could be eh? With this in the public domain, I guess the SUFC media team thinks “Ah fuck it” and goes early, confirming that the new man in charge is indeed the former Millwall forward and ex-Cardiff gaffer at 20 past 6. This news gives 4Days a chubby, as he was of course a Welsh international as well. “Pretty sure I saw all his 20 caps and his one goal” he brags to the interest of literally no one. “He’s going to love you boring the arse off him in the bar after games!” chuckles Dr Bell. With this news, we challenge Johnnie and some of the yoof to come up with a song for the new manager.

Tell that to Mrs Taz…

We tuck into cans and snacks and after a while, I decide I really do need to drop the kids off at the pool. So taking one trap, Dr Bell takes the other and after a few minutes ‘Angry Birds’ I’ve got someone that sounds very much like Nutsack banging on the door, begging me to hurry up as he’s “dying for a piss”. Luckily for him, I’m all but done, but I of course make him wait a couple more minutes whilst I finish up, including a lengthy hand wash and dry. When I emerge, I wish him well with the overwhelming Eau de Day on the Piss I’m leaving him with. “Deep breath mate!” I advise as I return to my seat. Kids these days, I dunno. No patience. Back in my seat, Steve amuses people with a terrible re-enactment of the Jaffa Cakes ad from a few years back where the French sounding lass eats a pack in front of her primary school class going “Full moon, half moon, total eclipse” taking a bite each time. This then leads to us trying to find out her name, which proves fruitless as it seems no one online ever managed to track her down! This then leads to other foreign accented lasses in adverts which of course leads to ‘Nicole’ in the Renault ads. Although I myself prefer Annalise Hesme’s stint a few years later. Her pronunciation of ‘Jean Paul Satre’ in one of the ads was proper trouser tingling stuff and no mistake.

A bit later, the yoof are tapping out a rhythm on their drum, still working on that chant we challenged them to. This is amusing for the simple reason the rather middle class lady sat opposite across the aisle sits there staring absolute daggers as they do it, whilst they remain completely oblivious. This goes on for like 10 minutes with myself, Mr X and Steve sat giggling our arses off several rows away before she eventually snaps and politely interjects with a “Could you not do that please, it’s rather annoying”. Fair play madam, we’d have called them cunts at least twice if that had been us. The trip home has no diversion, so sadly, we’re looking at just the one delay repay for the trip until suddenly having been bang on time leaving Reading, we stumble into Paddington a delightful 18 minutes late! Whilst this in itself is annoying, it means we should be able to reclaim about 30 quid a man on our initial 80 quid ticket price. Can’t grumble!

All dietary needs being met…

We hit the Underground and jump on the tube with Keepo, Big Malc and Dirty Barry. The former is in a pickle as he’s agreed to meet a mate at Vic for beers having already been on the gas all day long. “I’m not sure more pints is a good idea” he groans. “You’ll be fine!” cajoles Big Malc, who’s definitely staying on the tube back to Morden and not going for more drinks at all. We wave off the lads at Vic, then bid farewell to Keepo as he wanders off to the pub containing his mate and his beery doom. On the concourse, I, Steve and Chalmers wish the Sutton mob farewell as they try to work out how long they have to wait for a Southern back to the ends whilst we head for East Croydon bound stuff, but we lose PC at the barrier as he decides to instead wait for a delayed train due to arrive shortly as this will get him directly back to Redhill without a pain in the arse change along the way. So then there were two. Soon East Croydon is on the horizon and a 410 is due imminently. Result. Whilst I decide to make a run for it, Steve can’t be arsed and goes for a tram instead. See you Saturday fella! I make the bus by the skin of my teeth and 17 hours after I left, I’m soon quietly re-entering HQ being careful not to wake an already slumbering Mrs Taz.

Ah, pillow and blanket awaiting on the sofa?

No arguments from me there. We are out of the cup after all. Nothing to celebrate.


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