This Conference South stuff is a bit of a lark, isn’t it? All the hype, anticipation, concern over what we’ll do when we step into the Great Footballing Unknown, and at a well known difficult venue and…………
Be honest. Who here really expected it to be Cymru 1 Ingerlund 4? Even the most arrogant, testicular-heavy Womble wouldn’t have put money on this particular result beforehand. Talk about walking into town and waving your massive weapon about. The last time I can remember an opening day fixture like this, with such tempered expectations beforehand, was our one in Ryman One. And we all know how that turned out.
OK, it’s only the first game. It could just be a baptism of fire, it could be beginners luck. Team Barf won 6-0 at Fi$her after all. We could lose on Tuesday and go into a downward spiral never to recover. Even now, we could get relegated by January. It could be……… nah, fuck that. Great, wasn’t it? Seriously, this is the sort of game we not only hoped for last season but expected. It was the kind of performance we put out against the likes of Maidenhead, only with something to really prove this time.
The game? After an admittedly nervy first half-hour, I thought that because it was so slippery, we’d lose due to a defensive error. However, we started getting back into it, and came close a couple of times. Then, when JM’s rather strong header went in, there was only going to be one winner. Seriously – Newport just seemed to stop playing and we just merely went up that gear. Not only that, but we showed something I can’t remember us doing since the early days – we took control of the game and just drained the sting out of the opposition. In the past, you had that nagging doubt in the back of your mind that we would lose our focus and the opposition will get back into it when they shouldn’t. Yesterday, there was none of that.
In the few notes the weather allowed me to write (note to self : buy a pencil next time), I made a comment that we needed a second goal to kill it off. Well, lo and behold, about 3 minutes after scribbling it down, you guessed it. Though I can’t remember Main’s second goal, his third was a peach though. And Finn scoring as well – even the Russians haven’t gone through Georgia quite that ruthlessly. Shame that we had to put a slight scuff on an otherwise perfect performance by letting that goal in.
I hope what I saw in deepest South Wales will be de rigeur for the whole of the season. No, we won’t win every game 4-1. In fact, we won’t win every game. But we won’t go far wrong if we make a habit of going in for the kill. Maybe that’s what playing at a higher level has and will do – we know the likes of Newport are good enough to do you over, so when you’re on top you take every single advantage you get. Call it better focus, if you prefer. Last season, we would have got 2 goals up and just left it at that. We couldn’t afford to do that then, and certainly we can’t do it now.
But I think there’s something else as well that contributed to our victory. We played like a team that just didn’t have a care in the world. And I mean that in a positive way as well. Nobody expected anything from this game, yet we were just able to play. Granted, I thought that Newport would be better than what they were but it almost like we faced up to them, cocked a snoot and went to work…
Then again, it seemed like everyone was quite relaxed yet focused. Our turnout, certainly in the high 900s, wanted to sing, watch a game and enjoy itself – and not collectively shit itself every time the opposition crossed the half-way line. We sung a lot, and apparently it was the best ever atmosphere in their ground – we are, reportedly, on a par with Swansea. Though I’m not too sure if that’s entirely complementary 😉
All in all, a good day out. Everyone knows we still have a long way to go, and Furruk on Tuesday could put a serious prick in our inflating confidence. But win that game and Saturday and that’s a major mental block out of the way already. And you never know, this season might turn out quite fun…
Plus points: We won. Away. Quite comprehensively. All round team performance. Defence looked solid (for once). Jon Main. Kennedy. Learning to keep it tight for the first 30 minutes. Playing with confidence towards the end. Looking like we fit already in this division.
Minus points: Letting that goal in. The shit weather.
The referee’s a…… : Rumours beforehand suggested it was the notorious Ron Ganfield. Led to believe that it was indeed him taking charge, which certainly explains some of the decisions. To our amazement we were allowed to not only win the game but have 11 players left on the pitch at the end. Maybe Ganfield has turned over a new leaf? Perhaps he had an accident that involved a blow to the head, affecting his judgement. Or maybe it proves the rumour that DA’s “comments” to him before a certain game really were true……
Them: Roadsigns in two languages, rolling green hills and excessive rain. Wales could almost be Ireland. As for Newport, apparently they were a very friendly club to deal with. Couldn’t help thinking they could have been a tad better organised, especially with the portaloo situation. Then again, if they dealt with our level of support each week they probably would be. It was a bit of a nostalgia trip today, even down to getting kept in 10 minutes afterwards. As for their team, if they’re one of the best in the CS we really have nothing to worry about. It was as though their heads dropped when we went 1-0 up.
Good to see Dean Holdsworth’s PR exercise beforehand didn’t go down too well – “Judas, what’s the score?”, wasn’t it? Bet he won’t last the season. Really good to see KC (mark one) get a good reception though, and like the other KC he managed not to do much against us either.
Nee naw nee naw: Speaking of nostaliga trips, when was the last time we had a police presence like we did today? Met spotters, police cordons and even the good old fashioned Cop Cam, taping your mugshot for the secret DNA database. Probably. To be fair though, Newport fans (and Welsh clubs in general) have a “reputation” and I think Heddlu Gwent have it more or less sussed. I shudder to think what the Swansea game was like a couple of years ago there. Oh, and for the first time since the old League days, a police escort for the coaches – your humble/esteemed editor managed to tag along the back of it. One thing you may not have noticed was that the coppers were still around for the M4 section, checking nearby bridges. Again, nostalgia….
Point to ponder: How many games in the last three years can you say you enjoyed as much as this one? Only Aldershot and G&N really. The other games were so racked with tension that they were practically unenjoyable. But this was feel good football – the kind of game where you go home and have that real glow that you’ve seen a goodun.
Thinking about it, here’s something else to consider. It was a 3 and a bit hour car journey from SW19 Towers to South Wales. No matter what sort of car or conditions you have, it’s still a punch to do. But how much easier was the rain to deal with whilst going down the M4? Those who travelled to the long away games in the WFC era will testify to this – there is no better feeling than getting on the main route back home, settling down and realising just what you have achieved….
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) The weather. It’s August and yet I felt as cold as I do in October. Kudos to anyone and everyone who made the trip by road (those on the train took the cowards way out). Especially considering the amount of accidents on the M4. (2) Spotted : D Anderson and M Gayle. (3) Why is provincial radio so shit? I listened to the output of the likes of 2Ten FM, Radio Wiltshire, Brunel FM, Red Dragon FM and without exception they were all banal local radio, Pop Idol production line hell. At least in London you get XFM, Virgin, Smooth, even RJ isn’t too bad (depending on your taste). We’ll ignore Crapital, shall we? The worst one was one of the Wiltshire stations I had on, which claimed to “only play the best music” and then announce they were going to spin Sing It Back by Moloko. If that’s not a major trade description violation I don’t know what is. (4) Passing Staines on the M25 when going. Funny to think our last competitive fixture took me exactly the same route…
Anything else? Yeah, that bit before the start of the game where they all line up and then walk along shaking each others hands. They do it in the Champions League, and now by the looks of things they do it in the CS as well. Authorities insist on it because they can convince themselves that the “spirit of fair play” is adhered to and it’s supposed to look good. Personally, I think it’s a pile of horse wank. What next – kissing opposition players beforehand? Although I’d start watching the womens game a bit more if that was the latest FIFA diktat.
So, was it worth it? Hey, we’ve been waiting six years for this.
In a nutshell: So, Champions by December then?