I enjoy the cup games. Pressure off from the league. Sit where you want at the Kenny End, all the fun of the fair. Our third 5-1 in October and the fourth this season – which must in itself be a good indicator that something is occasionally going right.
Though the Kenny End filled up slowly it was just me for a while supping my beer before the game. I thought it was quiet even for a cup game before I realised my fellow imbibers were grouped around the telly in the other bar watching one bunch of pedestrian ladies lose to another bunch of pedestrian ladies 5-3 – and jolly good it was too.
The game today seemed to be in fits and starts. When we clicked, or slipped into gear suddenly we were scoring for fun “hot knife through butter” time. The rest of the time was a little more bitty.
As I always seem to be saying – it could have been so many more – I think I counted three crosses from the right across the face of the goal in the second half alone, just a little nudge would have brought another goal. It should certainly have been six – which would have meant O’Connor getting a hat trick after Cousins slip allowed him to race on and on and in and in and slot it round the keeper only for the half witted decision by Fleetwood to help it in the net and as he was in an offside position to ensure that an otherwise excellent goal was ruled offside.
There were a few rusty players on show today, George Pilks got a rest (as predicted on these pages!) and Beckwith and Antwi reappeared as our two centre halves. And, like the comedy duo they sound like, ably ensured that McClusky got the visitors off to a good start on six minutes with an uncontested header from Cousin’s free kick. I wasn’t surprised that they managed to sneak a goal, but I was surprised with the ease at which they snuck their goal. It took me a little by surprise, but the result was never in doubt, not even for the couple of minutes we were behind, before Beckwith was felled like a Giant Redwood in the forest and O’Connor stepped up to slot home the penalty. Yes – I typed that last bit correctly.
It was a funny game. It reminded me a bit of the 3-0 vs Grays a year or so ago. That was another game where it was apparent throughout who the winners would be. Anyone who backed Luton today to win would have got value. They were about 5/1 on when I looked. They could have played this game 30 times and the result would have been the same. There is a huge gulf between the biggest team to have been relegated from the league against a part-time team which has spent the last 49 years in exactly the same division. I know they are only two divisions below us, but there is a much bigger gap between us and that league then there is between tier 5 and League One.
What did I think of Hendon? They were a bit Jekyll and Hyde. Some of their players were on good terms with ours and played the game with a bit smile on their face, but others wanted to kick and stamp – poor Kissock bearing the brunt of one particularly nasty agricultural tackle, which fortunately got the culprit sent off, albeit for a 2nd yellow. I don’t think we were particularly dirty today, but Hendon had the physio on more times than Stevenage. In fact I don’t think I’ve seen a physio on the field more often than for the first 45 minutes. No, that’s a fib. I have. I saw Aylesbury play God-knows-who in the early nineties and they were dropping like flies. But then again the Aylesbury physio that day was a gorgeous blonde girl. I think even the ref pulled a hamstring in that game.
I digress. It wasn’t long before we took the lead – The Shadow bravely stuck his head on the end of an Osano cross, clashing with a defender in the process and stayed down immediately – the ref instantaneouly waving on our physio. He was stretchered off – I understand from Brabin’s post match interview that he has a depressed cheek bone injury or similar. Very unpleasant. Yet another injury. Whilst I don’t think he’s an out an out winger because of his crossing inaccuracy he has been an effective (and goal scoring) central midfielder and we can ill-afford to lose him. He joins eight other players presently out through injury. Thank the Lord we have such a big squad. Any other non-league team would be playing the kit-man by now.
Speaking of big things, Dance was replaced by another ring-rusty player Big Hips Danny Crow. He scooted around willingly like a keen kid helping out at a school fete, without having quite the effectiveness of The Shadow. He did look a little bit lost out there at times, which is a real shame. A few more appearances would get him back in the groove I’m sure. But with Big-Tommy-Wright, Fleetwood and AMS ahead of him in the food chain I suspect his chances might continue to be limited. Whilst not a natural midfielder it was his pass which led to Osano having a left foot thunderbolt blocked by the keeper with Big-Tommy-Wright being in the right place at the right time sticking his head on the rebound for the third goal.
At this stage we’d scored three goals in 25 minutes and I know my boys thought we were going to get double figures. But we dropped down a couple of gears, which coincided with Hendon realising that by closing down our midfielders it prevents them from passing the ball around easily, and thus have to pass longer and less accurately. This meant that Hendon came back into it a bit and had a couple of minor chances.
The only other fun and games was when Hand clashed with MacLaren, showing him a wrestling move whereby he pins him to the ground, and a small game of push’n’shove ensued. Both players getting a yellow card for their efforts.
The second half started brighter still from Hendon’s point of view, their turn to boss the midfield for a while whilst our players lazily played it longer and longer.
Then, not for the first time in a 5-1 thrashing this season, an opponent’s sending off changed the game for good. Chris Tavernier replaced Big-Tommy-Wright, with Big Hips going up front. Pleased to see CT getting a game. This meant that there was less longer ball stuff, and we started to play again.
As yet another Hendon player was off the pitch being patched up we stepped up a gear. Howells played in Stuart Fleetwood who made amends for his earlier boo-boo by deftly rounding the keeper having beaten the off-side trap (such as it was) and neatly slotting in a long-overdue goal.
More or less from the kick off a comedy back pass played in Fleetwood and O’Connor both in on the keeper, neither of who would have missed, but it was O’Connor’s turn to poke it in.
O’Connor continues to grow in stature and is proving to be the player we rather hoped he would be. He should have had three today, and was involved in countless moves. I also thought Kissock and Howells linked up well (Kissock was on the left of the midfield today) they played countless one twos and cheeky passing moves which illuminated the game. Kissock was up to his usual tricks today – ie lots of tricks. I’m not sure he was such a clever-dick when he played against us, I just remember him being a threat with the ball at his feet and good passing. He did lots and lots of step overs and back heels today keeping Hendon on their toes – as well as being the resident corner taker.
Another player who creaked back into action today was the long-awaited Charlie Henry. I must admit I can’t recall him being as short as that when he scored that goal against us for Newport last year. I think he may have shrunk in the interim. Henry replaced Hand in the middle of the midfield before the end and looked, bright, tenacious with a good eye for a pass, though did do a comedy miskick when presented with a chance. With Dance out now, his return to action might well be timely. I look forward to following his progress with interest.
It was funny to see Isiah Rankin again today (if that’s who the pot-bellied fellow was who got booked for encroaching after the ref was helped by the Kenny End to count out the steps) especially after he was mentioned on Danny Baker’s show on Radio 5 this morning. He is still held in legendary status by Bee’s fans for some reason.
So – yet another 5-1 win. No more than we deserved, but there were some moments of laziness on our part which would have been severely punished by a better team. I’m glad Kovacs is coming back, he looked good and will of course walk back into the team. With Blackett sort-of back and Keane keen to play centre half, it doesn’t look a terribly encouraging future for Mssrs Beckwith and Antwi. I think Antwi, like Osano was only signed for 6 months initially. I believe Beckwith, the pre-season skipper, has a two year contract. Mind you – with our injury luck, I suspect they’ll both be back in the team sooner rather than later.
I wish Hendon well. I wonder if this season will see their 49 year wait for promotion come to an end? Three seasons in the same division is bad enough…
So, next Saturday is the big game against Fleetwood. A six-pointer if ever there was one. Let’s hope Big-Tommy-Wright, Fleetwood and O’Connor keep their shooting boots on for that game.
Come on you Hatters. Arlesey Town please in the draw tomorrow. Or go on then, Sheffield Wednesday away.
Today’s report was sponsored by the words ‘Big’ and ‘Rusty’.