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Rock of ages

You can thank the referee at the postponed Aldershot v Notts County game for this report. There I was at the Recreation Ground at 1.15pm, ready to do a days work and all of a sudden – “the game’s off”. And I just paid to park at the pay-and-display next door. Bastards. Cue one hastily reprogrammed sat nav, and your humble/esteemed editor thankful that he wasn’t sent to Barnet instead.

And after Rock 1 Roll 5, it’s another step forward. Maybe I’m right when I said on Thursday that we’re capable of winning the league? We certainly didn’t do ourselves any harm yesterday, and I’ve always liked Newport County….

Long term readers will sense there’s a “but…” coming, and sure enough there is one. Yesterday and Thursday were the first steps of what will be an intense battle for the top spot. I won’t say too much about Chelmsford, lest some of their more unhinged supporters on their messageboard and elsewhere accuse us of being obsessed about them. Unlike last season, they’re having to rely a lot more on luck, and by the sounds of it that ran out yesterday. It may be indicative of the relative strength of the BSS that the two promoted teams from the same division are turning it into a two-horse race again, but this doesn’t feel like last season.

But…. Let’s not get too carried away here. Both Bognor and Fisher were crap, and I mean, Ryman One level crap. If truth be told, we didn’t really get out of second gear because we didn’t need to. Our upcoming games will be far harder, or at least they should be, and this vital January period has already gotten just that little bit more important.

A cursory glance at the upcoming fixtures shows how much we’re going to need this upcoming Saturday off. Check them out yourself – this probably explains why Andy Little and Pullen have been rotating recently, why Belal and Jack Stafford have been getting runs out, and probably even explains why we haven’t been going at full pelt since Xmas. At times yesterday, I think we were going slightly above the motions, and it wasn’t the cold either.

Actually, yesterday was job done. It was nice to go to, not the unfriendliest people in the world, and scoring five goals away is always nice. Though did anyone have bowel churning movements when DK headed onto the bar and it bounced out? You know the sort of thing, the flashbacks to games in Ryman Premier past, where a promising opening spell was shattered by an opposition goal and all of a sudden we looked as helpless as a building maintenance officer in Gaza City.

Thinking about it, this is what TB needs to do this week with these days spare. No, not join the Israeli army, but something similar. Dig out those old Nuts TV episodes, and show the players the games like Heybridge away, or Folkestone away, or Harlow at KM, or that one around Easter 2008 when we let in two goals in the last two minutes, to leave us stunned and angry in a way I’ve never felt before or since. An aide memoir for those there last season, an induction course for those who weren’t.

Brief description of the game : we came out early doors and bossed it without actually managing to boss it. IYSWIM. DK headed onto the bar, cue much rolled eyes and a feeling of deja vu all over again. Then Kennedy did score. Then we got an own goal through their #4. Cue that circus music singing. Then it was half time. Then we went up the other end. DK once again popped up with a cool enough finish. Game over. Or was it? Doing our usual in defence. They get a goal back. Eye rolling time again, complete with nervous glance at watch. Dare they? Dare they? Thankfully Jake Leberl answered that one soon afterwards, and I claim credit for DK’s second and our fifth. Well, I did yell “go on, take a shot” just before he, er, shot it. I’m wasting my motivational talents…

Enough of all that. As the last few games have hinted at, I think our attitude is better this season, which is why TB hasn’t felt the need to bring in zillions of players. Yet. We just seem a happier unit right now than the collection of individuals we were last season. I don’t doubt there’ll be some loanees coming in, especially if we do find ourselves in the playoffs come May. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see us spend a little bit of money just to get in one or two players of the caliber of DK, or JM, or even Dwayne Lee (who I will guess has done enough to earn himself a contract with us now).

All this of course pre-supposes that we don’t fuck up between now and the 31st. This is AFCW, anything can happen. And usually does.

Plus points: We won. Quite comfortably. Never really needing to get out of second gear. DK’s finishing. Ability to snap out of our slumber when it went 3-1.

Minus points: Another sloppy goal conceded.

The referee’s a…: Another game without the official doing anything majorly wrong? Be worried, especially if you take the old fireman motto that the longer you go without a big fire, the bigger the inferno you’ll eventually have to deal with…

Them: Wonder which one of their staff shagged a witch over the summer? We all remember their clubhouse getting burnt down, they really looked ragged at times yesterday, and it got so bad their two managers resigned after the game. Curse of the Wombles. You do wonder if it’s just gravity finally getting hold of these sort of clubs – after all, if we talk about the likes of Dover coming up, somebody’s got to replace them. You can tell how down on their luck they are when they could only muster up two subs. And one of them was Duncan Jupp.

Point to ponder: I know I’m obsessed with our defence being shit, but did anyone else yesterday get the feeling that a better side than BRT would have given us far more problems? Their goal had a sense of inevitability about it, and that’s what I think will ensure we’ll be ultimately shitting ourselves over the playoffs this season (note: I said we’re capable of winning the title). Maybe it’s just a case of us switching off at 3-0 up? Although that in itself causes problems…

Three’s a crowd: As BBB as we always are, 1603 isn’t anything to be sniffed at. Especially on such a cold day. What I think must have helped was knowing the game was on that morning. Compare that to my Aldershot game (complete with Notts County fan on phone in car park saying “fucking cunts” about 120 times a minute – I know how he felt) where they kept enticing people to go on the premise that it might be on. Or the poor Grimsby fans who found their game at Barnet called off 30 minutes before kickoff. Perhaps the ultimate pisstake though has to be H&Y versus Worcester, where a pitch inspection was due at 10am, the referee decided to turn up a couple of hours late and call it off……

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Chelmsford not scoring any goals in the 99th minute. The FA and Conference are seeking an emergency meeting to rectify this situation. (2) The Bognor PA apparently playing a Pink song with a few utterances of the word “fuck”. Damn the obscenity laws. BTW, he did seem to like his mashups… (3) The guy called Roger who won the £100 in their raffle and subsequently donated it back to BRT. Can you imagine any of us doing that? (4) Your editor doing something he hasn’t done probably ever – eat in a Little Chef. Actually, it wasn’t too bad, no worse than Clackett Lane or anything you get on the M4/M40. Got to be soul destroying working in one though, especially an empty one on a Saturday evening. Anyway, did you know your editor had a lifetime ban from Happy Eaters? I was too miserable to be in one, apparently.

Anything else? Yesterday was FAC third round day, where the usual cliches about the butcher, baker and McDonalds milkshake maker come out. Anyway, leaving SW19 Towers for work BRT yesterday, I saw a dad with his two lads in Chelski clobber, presumably off to watch them surrender a last minute goal to Southend. Chortle.. The youngest kid was proudly waving his Abramovich-issued flag (you know, the free ones). What struck me was this : how often does that little group get to go to the Bridge? I suspect they managed to get in yesterday because it was “only” the FAC, and “only” against Southend, and therefore clearly too lowbrow and uninteresting for the parasite nouveau football fan that infest places like Chelski and Arsenal.

So, if they can’t get in to their local Prem ground, people such as the dad with his lads should “support their local non league side”, right? Trouble is, it doesn’t quite work like that in the real world. If I supported an AFCW side in the Championship and couldn’t get in due to an empty wallet, I don’t turn around and start supporting Slutton or T&M. Likewise, the kid I saw waving his Chelski flag isn’t going to start coming down to KM. Chelski is in his family’s blood.

And the flip side of this is what we’ve seen in the last week first hand with Fisher and yesterday at BRT. We often talk about the money side of things when these clubs are in trouble, but I honestly don’t think the interest is there for many non-league clubs. Or at least, a big enough interest to substain themselves any higher than Ryman Prem level. Yesterday, I saw a couple of Brighton fans, plus a couple of Spurz and Aldershot, but they were only a handful. The bulk of it was us, there was about 2-300 BRT and precious few “big club” fans. And the non-league clubs that are likely to withstand the upcoming financial shit are the ones who for one reason or another have substained a sizeable and legit fanbase.

I honestly believe that non-league attendances are only as high as they are now because of the stupid pricing of Prem/Championship clubs. Should they see sense and reduce them, that could really finish a lot of non-league clubs off. Suddenly, spending beyond your means doesn’t seem such a good idea after all.

So, was it worth it? Guess so.

In a nutshell: First steps forward….