This was always going to be a big grudge game. And with WednesdayÂ¹s cup tie such a close-run thing, there was only one question hovering on everyoneÂ¹s lips as we turned up at YoungÂ¹s Drive: would the weather freeze our bits off? In the end, Pie and MAsh 3 Steak Well Don 5 was enough to warm the cockles of anyoneÂ¹s heart, but as per usual, we were put through the wringer first.
Like Wednesday, we started the better team, lobbing the ball behind their defence for Giggsy and Co to work their magic. Unfortunately, each time the ball got anywhere near their goal, Ash defended stoutly (literally), clearing shots off the line as if their eight pies a day diet depended on it. When the goal came, though, it was beautifully worked — a mazy run up midfield from Dobbo Junior, a sweet through ball to Joe, then squared to Ryan, who slotted it into the net.
Ten minutes later, disaster. Naturally enough, your esteemed correspondent was checking her watch for half-time, and only realised something was wrong when she looked up to see the ball dribbling into the goal at the far end. Apparently, Carroll had kicked it out, only for an Ash player to kick it back past him.
Still, it was all square for the second half. Cooper got our second, then Gibbo (apparently) gave away a penalty, which Ash put away efficiently to equalise again.
At this point, widespread musing started as to whether a 19-game unbeaten run was the same as 100 per cent record. It isn’t. But it was all academic anyway after Ash scored again, this time a decent goal. We were 3-2 down! By this time the bar had emptied, as Ash fans scented a historic victory in the making, while our lot sheepishly came out to give token support to the (now) underdogs.
Then Harvey collected the ball, ran down the left wing and aimed at the net. The ball slid in and we all went mental. I didnÂ¹t even see Danny kick the ball from 40 yards out — just saw the thing bounce off the keeperÂ¹s hands and trickle beautifully into the corner. After that, the penalty was the icing on the cake.
Plus points: We won. Came back from 3-2 down. Harvey’s first goal — the crucial equaliser to make it 3-3. Shows he’s a footballer, not just a celeb addition to the team. Two other quality goals. Their goalie, a real gent. With a name like Jez Jukes, he has a glittering future in Hollywood when they remake Dynasty. Oh, and free cheese rolls for those who hung around long enough. Not quite on the Merstham scale, but enough for an honourable mention.
Minus points: The ruck. Too far away to see it properly. No atmosphere. Except for the Mad Ash fan, of course.
The refereeÂ¹s a … quite anonymous really, which has to be good. By CCL standards, sprightly.
Them: Their game plan was for the Number 4 to follow Everard like a limpet, while the rest defended deep (they were good in the air) and hoofed the ball up midfield. All they needed then was to be gifted three goals at the other end. Frightening thing is, it nearly worked.
Song sung blue: Or red and green, in this case. Has to be “Ash, Ash, Ash United” at foghorn volume.
Quotes of the day: (1) “Why donÂ¹t they make Malibu-flavoured condoms and other girly flavours?” Red-blooded male AFC volunteer trying to improve his pulling chances. Hm, thatÂ¹s the last time I go into JasperÂ¹s claiming I need a stiff drink, then. (2) “I’m glad to see weÂ¹re actually winning ugly” — unknown Dons fan at 2-1. Shortly afterwards, Ash equalised. (3) “The mind is the most important part of the body” — sports guru Nicky English. IÂ¹m sure that piece of information comes as a big surprise to the vast majority of the posters on Dons chatsites. But at least Mr English has a successful track record to back up his views.
Point to ponder: OK, it was dark, it was cold, it was Ash … but even so, how the hell can one opposition fan outsing the entire Womble massive for virtually the whole of the game? We came alive for a bit after we fell behind, but our chanting leaves much to be desired. Blimey, weÂ¹ll have to hand out MK-stylee songsheets the way weÂ¹re going …
Franchise watch: They lost 2-1 at home to the Millers. The gate — 3,061 — is less than their claimed season ticket sales, and taking into account likely away fan attendance and freebies, means FranchiseÂ¹s hard core must be under 2,000. This coming week is a massive one for them. Wednesday sees the meeting at which MK councillors will hear WankermanÂ¹s planning application. If they give it the thumbs down, itÂ¹s curtains. Even a delay could be hugely damaging. Rumour has it the Highways Agency are not satisfied with the arrangements for extra traffic, and could object. Question is though, why does it take the roads regulator to put Franchise on the road to oblivion, when the spineless FA could have done so ages ago?
Was it worth it? Always worth trashing the Ash.
In a nutshell: Roll on next Sunday!