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Sleeping with the enemy

Well then. Southampton Parkway 2 Stansted 1 and it all looks interesting doesn’t it?

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Due to a mixture of no game at St Albans, the Northern line being fucked and your editor really needing an afternoon out, I went down to Eastleigh vs the Champions Elect. Along with about five other Wombles, TB himself and no more than 150 odd Clarets. What a difference a week makes, eh?

OK, enough sneering. What did I make of it all? Quite simply, the title is in our hands. I really mean it as well. Eastleigh were a strong, physical side – think H&R without the violence – and deserved the win. They will be a side that will grind away, and will be the most trickiest of all the remaining fixtures for us (on paper, anyway), even including our last away game of the season. Really don’t be surprised if they’re the team who you find in second place in the not too distant future, though whether they’ve quite got “it” enough to go for the title remains to be seen.

Chelmsford were ordinary at best. They looked a bit like they had the stuffing knocked out of them from last week, and because Eastleigh took the game to them they looked like they weren’t going to get anything. Their goal was their one bit of quality from them the whole game. Other than that, they were just, well, meh. I wouldn’t go so far to suggest it was a bit lights-on-nobody-is-home, and I didn’t see last week to compare and contrast. But right now they remind me a bit of Chelski – have had a great run in recent seasons yet maybe the moment has passed for them? They’re a good team but they’re no longer the good team.

Sure, you have to respect what both teams are capable of. And there’s enough crap in the CS to ensure that both these teams will still be chasing top spot for a while yet. But I drove away from the ground thinking the same thoughts as I did for a lot of the Ryman One season – this is in our hands more than we even dare to realise. Yes, the pressure is on us now. But as said before, it’s a different kind of pressure, the pressure to stay ahead of people. People raising their games against us is hardly a new phenomenon, we should be used to it by now.

Wonder what TB (and Stuart Cash) made of it all? No, I didn’t interview TB afterwards. In fact, I didn’t see him at all, but I’m sure he would have made plenty of mental notes. The game down on the South Coast on the 28th March could be that game, and I’m sure with plenty more watching and hopefully the same run of form continuing, it could be like those old days when we used to go down the Dell and occasionally won.

Anyway, enough of that. What’s it like to watch an important game in your own division as a neutral? Firstly, I wasn’t a neutral, as I was naturally supporting the home side today. Eastleigh till full time, me. Secondly, even in the CS it’s still a bit of a culture shock to watch a non-AFCW game. OK, this wasn’t too bad a turnout, but even so there was that little something missing. The play itself was all right but not the most skillful or spectacular – Eastleigh had a few attacks that broke down in a way we just don’t see at our games. For the first time this season, I allowed myself to say that we are better than the rest of the teams.

All right, it’s BBB to think that, and if it goes ahead, Tuesday can bring us down to earth. It’s a vital month for us, because these sets of fixtures where what buggered us up in October/November. But elsewhere, the main rivals are suddenly slipping up. We are strangely enough in a better position than we were at 2.59pm today – we’re still two wins ahead of everyone else, but now with a game in hand. Suddenly, we could almost afford to slip up, though not something I would suggest quite yet.

What else occured to me today? Met some locally based Wombles (hello there if you’re reading this), and the local Eastleigh contingent seemed quite happy to talk to us. The ones behind the goal even challenged us to a singing contest (unfortunately, we lost. Well, rather, we declined to take part…), though transpired one of the main singers knew a couple of the locally based Wombles anyway. It was all quite amiable.

Fuck all Southampton fans though. By plenty of accounts, they are a bit “strange” when it comes to that sort of thing, despite last season getting 50% off entry if they showed a Saints season ticket. In fact, things sound quite bad at St Mary’s, although after the way they revelled in our relegation in 2000, don’t expect massive amounts of sympathy. Also sighted were a dozen Havant and Waterlooville fans who turned up at half time as their game at Dorchester got called off ten minutes before kickoff. Somehow, that’s a pisstake too far, although to quote one local “couldn’t have happened to nicer people”.

All in all, I enjoyed today. It was a nice change and the result helped too. I would hope we take a good 2000 down there when we play, it could be a defining game. Just hope AFCW don’t foul my mood up by doing the mother of all fuckups……