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Staines on your new jumper

Now, that’s more like it. After what seemed like an eternity, finally a game in the league that justifies the pre-season hype. While we shouldn’t get carried away with Twelve Men 2 Eleven Men 5, for once we had to perform well and we did.

If ever a time called for a proper, non-fuckabout type performance, yesterday was it. It was as though the last few weeks had kind of manifested itself, and collectively we said “come on guys, let’s go”. Whether it was JG before the start yelling out “no excuses” or TB’s blast at them post-Carshalton, I don’t know, but yesterday I saw a team determined to prove a point, not merely settle for one. Had we even drawn yesterday, I think you could have said that playoff hell beckoned for us this season. Automatic promotion? Stop laughing.

Needless to say, the first 20 minutes were a bit where we left off on Wednesday. Then, we were playing a team who would have beaten us had they been more competent. Yesterday, we were playing a team who were beating us because they were more competent. Like Arsene Wenger, I didn’t see the penalty incident, but people were REALLY wound up by it. More on the ref later, but at that time, I just couldn’t see any outcome but a plucky draw/defeat at best.

Obviously our players had different ideas. When Beckfield (sic) scuffed his shot and for once didn’t go wide, something changed. Really, something did change. Whether we had a sudden injection of confidence I don’t know, but you know how games can suddenly alter just like that. Those who’ve been watching us recently would have seen a concrete footed-laden, going through the motions, dare I say disinterested looking collection of players taking to the field and scraping points. Suddenly, we looked a bit more like a team.

Actually, we looked a lot more like a team, and one that wanted to win as well. After Beard’s wondergoal (and I bet nobody got that on video) you really did think a case of how many, not if we’d score any more. I don’t wish to sound cruder than normal, but you know when you’ve been ill and one more heave (so to speak) suddenly makes you feel a lot better? Well, it was like that, minus the tablets and the thirst for Lucozade

Even Staines’ equaliser didn’t make me think we’d lose it. Strange that I thought in the previous games the oppo scoring was the surefire way of ending our season, yet yesterday a title (stop laughing) chasing rival equalising before half time with us in the ascendancy didn’t.

And as the second half proved, I think there was only one winner yesterday. Sadly for the ref, it was us. I don’t know what TB said at half time, but he probably didn’t need to say a lot. Certainly to Fergie, who went on a blinding solo run and for once actually put it in the rather natty blue/yellow nets. Cue much cheering, smiles of glee and the occasional exchage of body fluids. Probably.

When Webb (apparently) got bundled over, and the impressive Main slotted home quite easily, I would like to say that I was quite relaxed and writing up mentally this report in glowing terms. Actually, I wasn’t – I was shitting myself that Staines would somehow nick one back and a 4-4 draw was on the cards. Even another run/shot/goal by Fergie didn’t entirely make me think we couldn’t blow it.

In the grand scheme of things, this was just one game in a marathon season. We certainly need to repeat that against Hendon on NYD for starters. But it proves we can do it, and as somebody suggested yesterday, maybe TB has found his ideal formation totally by accident? OK, I still think we’re best getting money for Jolly, and I get the feeling Danny Knowles won’t be with us after the loan spell is up, but as of yesterday, we really did look like a team who could say they are good enough for automatic promotion and actually mean it.

While I’m here, I’ve singled out Fergie in the past for being shit somebody who just runs a lot and does fuck all with it afterwards. In short, expendable. Yesterday, he showed something I haven’t seen from him before. No, not an England shirt but somebody who went on and took it on right at the last. Maybe like the rest of the team, he needed something to click and yesterday it happened?

Whatever the reason, this was the perfomance needed at the time needed. Just make sure we repeat it for the rest of the season, eh?

While we wait for that, here’s….

Plus points: A win. Away. Five goals away from home to boot. SF. Way we came back after going 1-0 down. Keeping our confidence levels up even at 2-2. Mark Beard’s goal. Jon Main’s penalty. The committment shown as well as the skill. Jason Goodliffe.

Minus points: Their two goals. Luke Garrard going off.

The referee’s a………..: Wonder if he got a load of brown envelopes to buy a new personalised number plate? Would explain a lot if so. Seriously, while penalties are always likely to be contentious (especially when there aren’t instant replay facilities available) what I think made this tit worse than the infamous Mr Fish was his “I am always right” demeanour. I’ll leave others to list what he got wrong, if I started I’ll still be here till Doomsday.

Incidentally, and indirectly on this subject, I’ve noticed this morning a growing trend towards some critising our fans for giving the dick of a ref an absolutely hard time. My response? Welcome to the real world of football supporting, at least in non-backwater leagues. Actually, I thought the abuse of the referee was quite tame compared to some stuff I’ve seen and heard, and I sometimes wonder if certain elements of our fanbase are showing their naievity over this.

TBH, if I go to a football match, I expect to hear a lot of stuff I wouldn’t hear on the street. That’s just the nature of the beast, and I’m sure some bearded bloke with sandals and BO has written a thesis on the socio-political makeup of football supporting. If you’re abusing the referee because he’s an ethnic minority, or he had a death in his family, or he had a Glen Roeder-style brain op, then you have every right to complain. But condemn calling him a “fucking cunt” because he’s performing like one? Get real. Going to football has never been going to church or a WI meeting, and never will be. Football is sanitised enough as it is generally, and it’s not like AFCW can afford to lessen the atmosphere any more than usual.

Besides, if a referee blatantly misses a punch that is merely 7 yards away from him, and only gives the puncher a yellow card, are we supposed to clap like sealions and say “well done ref” without a hint of irony? Sometimes, I do wonder…

Them: Shit, weren’t they? Even with 12 men, they really got their goals down to mistakes by others rather than their own guile and ingenuity. Piss poor turnout from them as well – when they scored you could have been forgiven for thinking somebody had farted. Did they really pull in nearly 3k recently for their FAC ties? It’s not like they don’t advertise or have decent facilities either, or a team languishing in the lower halves of the table. Maybe this is what life is really like for the rank-and-file Ryman outfit?

Point to ponder: Going on from that last comment. The point was made to me yesterday that Staines weren’t all that, but neither were Chelmsford and the others. OK, I know Chelmsford beat us, but they’d been whipped had they met us yesterday. Doesn’t this just add to our frustration generally? And won’t it compound the frustration the next time we struggle to beat a team lower down? At the risk of getting accused of being BBB, this season we’ve put nine goals past Staines and Chelmsford and made them look very ordinary in the process. That’s not the sign of a bad team, that’s the sign of a team that really can get automatic promotion. If we’re not good enough generally, then so be it. But yesterday proved we are, and that’s what made Carshalton just that bit less palatable. We can live with being shit, but we can’t live with underperforming…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Staines playing Liquidator before the game. Well, we are in West London after all. (2) Maybe my eyesight is going, but in another act of Chelski-ism, I’m sure I saw a UVF bit of graffiti in the ground. That said, most other people seemed to think that it was in fact somebody writing LIVE very badly. (3) Before the warmup, our man in goal made a save and smugly proclaimed “just like a cat”. Shame some wag (?) replied to him “Yeah, Bagpuss”…..

Anything else? Maybe a QED moment, but this seemed more of a passionate display by the fanbase yesterday. Granted, the penalty in the first minute might have contributed to that, but it was certainly the best for a little while. I know some will say that it should be that way every week, but it’s more complex than that. Certainly a double-edged sword, and other such cliches. Also, the team seemed more with us yesterday. Maybe our team is like a dog* – happy to chase its tail and have a good strain on the pavement when you don’t want it to, yet wags its tail furiously when it knows it’s pleased its master.

* – at least, I assume that’s what dogs do. Personally, I hate them.

So, was it worth it? Certainly a good way to end a rather fraught 2007

In a nutshell: Now, just repeat that kind of play until the end of April….