…or not as the case may be. A match more like a pre-season friendly ended up with the Hatters deserved 3-0 victors.
Because of the anticipated small crowd it was one of those unreserved seating games where the Upper bit of the Kenny, and the David Preece Stand were closed. This gave me the opportunity to sit behind the goal like I used to, and also to make a personal discovery. Since moving from the bearpit to a slightly more reserved location a few seasons ago (coincided with our slide down the divisions..mmmm..) I have clearly honed my shouting technique to ensure that the players and ref can still hear me thirty rows back. However, I shocked myself yesterday when shouting at one of the players, as I used the full force from three rows in, which frankly could be heard at the Oak Road end. I think poor Mark Tyler put his hands over his ears. I turned down the volume from 11 from then on.
Yesterday was of course an FA cup qualifying round game, the first time we had played in the equivalent of this round since beating Great Yarmouth 15-0 in 1914. The FA had it in for us even then because we should have got a bye, and made a mockery of having to play at that level even then. I read in the programme that three goals was the fewest goals number we had scored in a tie in this round, so it was fitting that we didn’t break that particular record yesterday.
Strange game for me yesterday as I was unfettered by friends or by Godson and was all on my lonesome for the first time since the Plymouth game last year. My Godson had received a one-match ban from his Mum for bunking off his flute lessons, apparently there was further punishment in store for him as he had to go and see his mad Granny too.
It was like a ghost town behind the goal in the Kenny bar, and I think at one point I had been the only customer for 20 minutes. At least being on my own gave me the chance to read the programme from cover to cover for a change and also to sink three pints. However, I still had plenty of time to spare at about 2:30pm so reluctantly I took my seat early and watched the players warm up and play dodge ball from all of the stray shots.
Three things stood out from the pre-match warm up – firstly Rio Charles knows where the goal is instinctively and was knocking them in for fun. Secondly, yesterday at least, Liam Hatch couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. He must have had twenty shots at goal, just one on one with Shane Gore, and didn’t hit the target once let alone score a goal. Can it be that difficult receiving and hitting a ball into the net from 12 years? Even I might have got one on target, and I was a very slow left back who never scored in over 150 games.
Thirdly, it struck me what a good keeper Shane Gore is. I think he would have easily made the team if we hadn’t had Tyler, or if we still had Dean Brill.
So, onto the match: Tyler started in goal and had very little to do other than put his hands over his ears and to kick the ball to the opposing centre halves. Reynolds started at right back and treated us to the heaviest contact on a back pass I have seen for many a year, giving them a corner early on. White and Blackett teamed up in the middle, both having sound enough games, and I think Blackett is much better at centre half than left back. Howells started at left back and had a cracking game I thought. He linked up with Burgess really well down the left, made some good runs, got some crosses in and generally did very well. I think he must be the most improved player this year, and he has come on leaps and bounds since Mick left.
In the middle we started with Burgess on the left who played about 80 minutes. He did look at bit tired and wasn’t completely in the game, but it was a good workout. In the middle was Asa Hall, now back to his best and surprise surprise Pilks who played in the holding role because Nico had the ‘flu. He showed what a quality professional he was and how poor Nico has been by not putting a foot wrong and looking as if he had played there for years. The only thing that let him down slightly (and only slightly) was his distribution, but if he kept things simple he was excellent. On the right Adam Newton started, and had a sound if not spectacular game.
Up front, we started with Rio and the returning Kevin Gallen, who must have been pleased to get 90 minutes under his belt again.
We started well with Burgess and Howell linking up nicely to put Gallen in and created a few chances from the start. It was only about 10 mins before the first goal came when Pilks, aiming to take the leading scorer mantle back from Craddock, shot and Blackett pounced on the rebound.
Grays weren’t showing much at all hardly surprising bearing in mind they were missing all of their loan players, including our own Geo. Beavan esq. The only one who stood out for me was the long haired Jamie Slabber, who played some nice passed and laid the ball off well, but couldn’t shoot for toffee, which is just as well as I think all of their decent chances fell to him.
Reynolds redeemed his early blunders by powering forward a la Ed Asafu-Adjaye and struck one from about 25 yards which brought of a great save from their keeper.
Meanwhile Rio was having a great game. He must have managed two or three runs down the right resulting in good crosses, the best of which presented Gallen with an easy header to make it two nil but he put it wide.
The second goal was as inevitable as the BBCs baiting of Nick Griffin. Newton ran down the right crossed well (I do like Adam Newton) and their poor centre half Rnkovic put it in his own net, a fraction of a second before Gallen would have done. Later on Rnkovic was involved in an amusing off the ball incident with Rio, which they both saw the funny side of. Rnkovic outpaced Rio down our left to then shield and to see the ball out. As the pair of them ran back up the pitch Rio clipped his heels as if to say ‘that’ll teach you for being so clever’ and he fell over. Rio gave him a wink and Rnkovic grinned and shook his head.
In the second half the game became much more of a training match as the result was already known. After an hour Gnapka came on for Newton and Ed A-A replaced Alan White. Interesting to see Reynolds switch to centre half and Ed to stay at right back. Reynolds looked much more comfortable from then on. So we ended with the unusual back four of Howells, Blackett, Reynolds and Ed. Numerous chances came and went for us in the second half, and Grays looked a bit better but only because we dropped the tempo a bit.
As I mentioned above, Burgess came off after about 80 mins and Nielson brought on one of the trio of youth team players on the bench, Taylor Nathaniel. Taylor looked lively down the left with an excelent turn of pace and was immediately involved. The ball was played to him from the back and he ran down the left, turned the ball back to Asa Hall, carried on, as looking to get the 1-2 but instead Hall steadied himself and finished beatifully to make the game 3-0.
Apart from another chance for poor Slabber that was about it. I enjoyed the game, even though it had a pre-season friendly feel to it. It’s hard not to enjoy 3-0 wins, we have had so few in the last few years.
Fair play to Grays they did look down on quality, but did play some decent football, when we failed to close them down sufficiently.
The only other thing of note was Gary Sweet’s very informative notes about the process of recruiting the new manager. Without saying so in as many words he made it clear that AN isn’t being considered which is a real shame. He even described Nico et al’s comments calling for Neils to be given the job as “rather outspoken” – which to me seemed a bit snooty or clumsy, which I am absolutely sure it wasn’t meant to be.
To quote the latest position he said:
Having conducted numerous interviews to date, we are confident that we will soon be able to appoint a manager who matches our immediate need and our longer term ambition and a man who should be popular with you all.
That last line was tantalising. Does he mean that the manager should be popular with us because he will match the clubs ambitions and get us promoted, ie he will become popular because of success? Or, intriguingly, does he mean that once the manager is announced he will be a popular because of who he is?
That’s Graham Taylor out then!
So the draw is later on today – I bet we get Leeds away…
UPDATE: It’s Rochdale at home on the 7th.