I don’t really do midweek games, but I feel obliged to write something about Arndale 2 Lakeside Thurrock 1. And in just two words – bloody hell.
The general mood outside was one of understandable jubilation tinged with more than a heavy hint of “that was Staines all over again”. Well, it was and it wasn’t. See, the playoff final really was touch and go, whereas last night I really didn’t think we’d lose. Seriously. OK, we left it a bit too late for my liking, but had Furruk left with even one point, it would be classed as stolen property.
The passing was intelligent and – far more importantly – effective. Some impressive ball control as well, and considering this is only our second competitive game as a team/squad, we seemed to find our players quite easily in doing so. This isn’t to say we’re the finished article, far from it. We need that extra cutting edge up front, able to change tactics as and when necessary. Our defending from set pieces is still shit. And we’re not the biggest side….
But for this week at least, we can allow ourselves to bask in our own self-congratulatory glow. Last season we may have lost this game, or at least dropped points. We certainly wouldn’t have won it two seasons ago. If anything, last night was a better result than Newport last Saturday.
When Furruk scored, they shut up shop. This was after 15 minutes, by the way – I really can’t think of any attempts of theirs after that. Now, it’s annoying that they didn’t come out and have a go, but it was also the ultimate compliment to us. They knew we were outpassing, outmanoeuvering, hell out-everythinging them. Yet they had that one goal and we didn’t. It almost felt like a slap in the face that we were losing. Yet we didn’t panic, we stuck to the way we were comfortable with, and of course we got what we deserved in the end.
Last night was the kind of game I reckon will be the typical BSS game at KM. Opposition plays it dour and we basically have to pick them apart. If they get a goal, the majority of the game will be them hiding in their shell practically daring us to get at them. But unlike what we saw in the Ryman, these teams will have a bit more nous. As negative as Furruk were, they seemed to have that extra bit of guile and cunning that teams lower down the divisions didn’t have. There were times last night when I thought we’d have to learn to develop a lot more of the grey matter to overcome these sides.
But we kept going at them, we wore them down, and justified TB’s approach. Our victory meant that we overcame (in part anyway) another mental block that we developed last season – inability to put away teams at KM. We’re still not remotely there yet on that score, and probably won’t be for a while. But at least we can do it. Maybe this was like Staines after all…
Got to say though that it felt quite CCLish at times, and I don’t mean Furruk hardly bringing anyone. There wasn’t any massive weight of expectation – had we’d lost, we would have shrugged our shoulders, kicked ourselves for not winning, and walked out knowing we’re heading in the right direction at least. Nobody was really getting on anyones’ backs, probably because we know we were playing well. I’m not going to be condescending and suggest it’s a maturity on the fans’ part, but I think we’re a lot more patient than some want to believe. In fact, I’d go further and say that because of that, we were able to not get bogged down with the pressure, and come back to win…
One thing is certainly clear. As a team, and indeed as a club, it’s amazing just how far we’ve come since Furruk knocked us out in the FAC (was on the 16 October 2004, in case you’re wondering). Actually, reading the report of that very game, it reads as quite familiar doesn’t it? Had we lost, I would have been tempted to say that Furruk were one of those sides that we never seem to beat. Our success and progression will come from results last night, and the ability to beat these sort of teams week in, week out.
I wonder how many people will be ultimately disappointed with the BSS? If what we faced last night is typical (negative team, CCL level of travelling support), the enthusiasm for this division will die down quite quickly. If we’re not winning, of course. If Staines bought us five years of prosperity, last night bought us even more breathing space for the next couple of months. In all honesty, I doubt even with this start if we’ll be in the playoffs come the season’s end. I think we’re a work in progress and that will be painfully obvious at times. That said, already it’ll be a comedown if our season wasn’t extended…
Few other random thoughts from last night : with Furruk getting there late, the turnstiles not opening until late (lost keys, apparently) and the subsequent delayed kickoff, it had that feel, didn’t it? Mind you, our PA is fucked – the way it kept cutting out would have been symbolic had we lost. All that money spent on it and it still doesn’t work. Seriously, a new PA installation shouldn’t keep working intermittently like that, should it? Unless we purchased it in the throwout section of the nearest Maplin.
The crowd of 2786 is a pretty good one, especially for an evening game in the summer holidays. Whether our average gates will rise like we hope remains to be seen, but it does prove that the worst thing (normally) that can happen to a club is stagnation. We’ll get higher numbers if we’re playing decent football, doing well in the table and all the while KM becomes an enjoyable place to visit (and not for the away sides either). They do need to sort out bar staff shortages though.
Good to see the BSS sign up, not only on the Main Strank Stand outside and on the team shirts, but also on the front of season ticket books as well. Not that we’re trying to lord it up or anything about getting promoted. But for those there last night – didn’t it feel proper, IYSWIM? I don’t whether it was the stupid handshake business beforehand, the electronic sub board, or even playing a team that we’ve met before and always considered “up there”, but everyone just appeared to be more comfortable in their skin last night.
I know my Ryman bashing can reach obsessive proportions at times, but now it’s proven that there’s no comparison. The game yesterday felt better to be at than probably the vast majority of RP (and indeed R1) contests. True, nobody liked Turdeyland, but I don’t think we had much respect for it either. We have the utmost respect for the BSS, the teams and the organisation, because we know that it’s one division below the top flight of non-league, that it seems relatively “proper” and well run.
It’s quite clear there’s a real gap in talent between the BSS and the RP already – Furruck were difficult opponents for sure, but they weren’t the RP carpet-trippers. Jamie Pullen wouldn’t have called our Essex opponents as “barbaric”, like he described some sides from last season. Yes, we played a negative side, but it was a respectful negativity, if that makes sense. Their #4 clapped the WB afterwards last night in a kind of “OK, we lost but fair play”. Would we have had similar last year?
Of course, if you fancy a blast from the pretty recent past, just lurk on the Ryman forum every once in a while. You’ll still see the subtle (and not-so-subtle) digs at us, all in the name of non-league purity you understand. Still, doesn’t hurt to forget where you came from…
Anyway, enough of such irrelevancies. It’s Bognor Regis Town on Saturday, and the return of one Mr D Jupp. I just hope he doesn’t give me the same nightmares come Saturday evening as he did when I saw him play at White Hart Lane…………..