Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Monday, November 30, 2020

Up for the Cup?



It's about time we won something again...

It might be just me, but the fact that every football match is equally unspectacular right now, seems to have done the FA Cup the world of good. Ok, so the average Champions League team has slightly better players than Chorley, Marine or Canvey Island, but at the end of it all, they're still just some lads running round in an empty stadium. 

There are nearly 40,000 registered football clubs in the country. Anyone who plays professionally is pretty fucking good at football. They're at a team who are in the top 0.0023% of all teams in the country even if they're playing for Crawley Town, Stevenage or Carlisle. The lads who play for Chorley and their ilk aren't quite in that bracket, but they're not so far behind. What's more, whilst in the Champions League, you might see the overpaid stars, sheltered from normal life, trooping off grumpily to their secure biobubbles and recovery tents after a defeat or reacting to a win with a flurry of product placement tweets on twitter and some sort of emoji that suggests they are 'blessed' - in the cup, you get to see the keeper going to the offie in his kit for the lads. Which is better? 

Can you honestly tell me the raw joy of Chorley and the rest isn't worth as much as the money the elite win for the Champions League? What is football for? Servicing the financial and lifestyle dreams of the elite or giving everyone a bit of fantasy, a bit of escapism, a bit of magic? The wide eyed shock of the draw, the nervous anticipation, the pure, genuine naive elation of the win. This is visceral, joyful and real in a year that has been pretty short on raw delight and genuine pleasure. The Champions league serves up game after game of humdrum tedium. That's something we aren't short of in 2020. The cup, with its brutal knockout formula is excitement, raw win or lose sudden death jeopardy. 

Every day is predictable. I've not been more than 10 miles for anything but work for so long. Do I really want to watch the same sides slug it out again in games that don't matter where I know whose going to win probably? Do I really want to watch soap opera football, the same cast endlessly reoccurring, reenacting the same predictable plot lines, managers acting like surly villains, scowling and muttering when they don't get their way? What I want is something, anything different. I want a jolt of life, a dose of the impossible. I don't want hours of debate on tactics and hours of post mortem on why we need a VAR to check on the VAR.

I want a good game of football. Blood and thunder if possible, ideally with some cracking goals (the cup has already had its share of 30 yarders, great passing moves and thumping headers) and a bit of tension... Players going mental when they score, managers suited up like it's the biggest day of their lives, passion, breath steaming in the air, shouting, pointing, players running themselves into the ground like there's no tomorrow, for if you lose in the cup, there really is no tomorrow.  

For some teams, it's not a case of 'their season rests on this' - it's a case that they've never, ever achieved this before. It's a case that a win will secure a windfall that will secure the future of the club, it's a case that the players will write themselves into local folklore. It's not about securing a 'market share' or a manager 'reaching expectation' - it's just fucking magic. It's about the team at the end of your street, dreaming of playing against Man Utd. 

I don't know if it's just me clutching at the buoyant escapism of football in a sea of dissatisfaction, but it feels, just a tiny bit, like the magic is back. Perhaps it never went away? Maybe it was just obscured by the gloss of all that operatic music and hype, by the spectacle of the big games, the pomp and circumstance and relentless selling of the 'occasion.' and maybe, when all of that is stripped away, we can see the old trophy again, sparkling and resplendent as it ever was. 

I can just feel something in the air. It's going to be a special FA Cup. Someone is going to get an all mighty shock. Someone unlikely is going to win it. The game at Wembley will have some kind of magic to it, because, after this year, how can it not? Abide with Me will never have sounded so good. 

You never know, it might be us... 

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Saturday, November 28, 2020

Four under forty watt floodlights : Harrogate Town Vs the Mighty


Splash out on 80 watts!


The first year I followed football seriously was the first year of automatic promotion and relegation between the football league and non league. The team who came up were Scarborough, managed by some fella called Neil Warnock. Whatever happened to him I wonder? Even at the age of 7 or 8, I noticed that the names of some clubs looked incongruous. I had a book, (that I really wish I still had) that had a complete record of every football league table and the name 'Scarborough' didn't feature in it. It therefore seemed weird as it flickered into view on the vidiprinter with that weird noise the vidiprinter made as if it was literally printing the teams and goals on the screen physically. Why did it do that? Answers on a postcard etc. 

Scarborough have come and gone (our titular hero Mitch having had a spell as their manager at one point) from the league. They've been wound up and reformed, changing their name from Town to Athletic in the process. Looking at the list of promoted teams since is a sobering task. Macclesfield, Rushden and Diamonds, Halifax don't exist in their league form. Teams like Barnet have suffered a severe decline, many sides have gone back from whence they came, the likes of Kidderminster and Boston now much worse off than they were at the time of their promotion. Yeovil Town, always one of the biggest non league clubs by reputation and fanbase made it all the way to the Championship before heading all the way back to non league in a 16 year spell. My first Pool game, I shivered in the old wooden seats of the west stand with my dad as we scratched our way to a 1-1 draw against the now defunct and reformed Maidstone United. 

Still, there's happier stories to consider. Wycombe seem like league furniture now and are in the Championship. Accrington have prospered against the odds. Some crummy fishing port are in the league too. I forget their name. Burton also made (and survived for a year) the second tier. I can never quite get used to seeing Stevenage and Crawley as league sides, but weirdly, I can happily accept Morecambe. Maybe it's a geographical thing, a hangover from the early years of football that means I just can't take a Southern side seriously but every Northern team is a potential powerhouse.

Of all the teams I find incongruous (Cod botherers aside) I think Harrogate Town are the ultimate. I don't really know anything about them beyond the little I gleaned as I hoped they didn't pip Barrow to the post last year. They've had a lot of investment, the son of the chairman is the manager and they boast the actual Jon Stead as one of their players. I turn to wikipedia and learn they used to be called 'Harrogate Hotspurs' and they only spent 3 years in the 5th tier before going up to the 4th. I lose track and end up reading about the Yorkshire League that ended in 1982, with Emley as the champions. Emley also no longer exist, reborn as Wakefield FC who, curiously, play in Doncaster and AFC Emley, who don't.. I'm digressing. 

Harrogate are one of those sides who wouldn't have been promoted under the old election system. No one would have fancied them in the club. The last side to win the Conference before Scarborough was Enfield and their application was rejected by a measure of more than 12 votes to 1. It's weird to think that within my lifetime, sporting merit wasn't the chief consideration about who got promoted or relegated and whilst we've opened the door on some slightly questionable clubs who are there only because they're a one man ego trip, isn't that ultimately the state of play in football in general? If the previously generally shambolic and occasionally mercurially brilliant Man City are to be a predominant force for a few decades because of their finances, why shouldn't Harrogate or Fleetwood be in the league? We've got Simon Sadler and all that...

Anyway... 

I don't want to think back to Tuesday. Half time, I'm cancelling the Wembley trip, convinced we're going up as fucking champions. Full time, I'm back to thinking 'mid table' This is the joy of football. This is the life of 'Pool fan. We've never done it the easy way and all too often we're a Jekyll and Hyde (United) side. My instant reaction to Critch's first game was 'that was all a bit 'Macca'' - the game on Tuesday was exactly that. Sublime and ridiculous in one. 

The question is - how is he going to rotate the squad? Do we have the forwards to give the Goal Machine and Shirtless Jerry a rest at some point? Will someone like Matty Virtue or Oliver Sarkic get a probably much needed run out? Surely Dan Ballard will get a game today, the same is surely true of Jordan Gabriel. Has Demi Mitchell got his trust or not? We'll see but the side on Tuesday seriously ran out of batteries and I'm expecting changes. The way we play is tiring and we need more than 11 players who can be trusted to play. I really can't read Critchley, so I've no idea if it'll be 'same again' or 'all change' 

When the team comes it's obviously got Marvin in it as it always does. Luke Garbutt is a surprising inclusion, Gabriel and Ballard come in as expected as does Keshi, Ward and Woodburn. It's a selection that again highlights how (literally) pivotal Madine has become to the way we play. It's a bench that makes me wonder why, when you've got Turton and Husband who are both fairly versatile, you'd pick almost an entire back line as subs and not give someone like Virtue or one of the striker kids a chance for a run out, maybe see if Bange (he's big, he's a striker!) can function for twenty minutes as an emergency Gary Madine-a-like if we desperately needed one. Still, in Critch we sort of trust depending on what happened the match before such is their loyalty of football. 

---

Critch comes out swigging a bottle of water, Steve Banks carrying a blue folder. I wonder what's in it? We have a minute's silence for Diego, he wasn't quite Wes Hoolahan but he was pretty good and we're off under the worst floodlights I've seen for ages. 

Hamilton hares down the right and pulls it back, Keshi's shot is bundled away for a corner. It comes to little. We win a couple more corners, they have a nice run that comes to nothing, before Hamilton again causes all sorts of trouble, crossing to the far post and causing a desperate defensive header to flick it out of play. A Harrogate lad goes down, holds his head, then gets up and weirdly pulls his socks up over his knees. 

They have a few forays, we don't quite thread the pass a couple of times. They have a snapshot from a knockdown and then force Marvin into a stunning recovery tackle from his own mistake, turning his back on a through ball but getting back and timing the tackle brilliantly.

Keshi slips a gorgeous ball to CJ who skins the full back for about the fifth time so far and pulls back to Woodburn. The Liverpool man tries to cushion it and strike, but the first touch is heavy and the superb chance runs away from him. Another moment runs away from Pool as they break following a Harrogate corner, lovely footbwork from Hamilton as he steps away from two challenges, touches off to ward then along with Keshi, races forward, Ward has a clear run and there are men over, but Ward strangely seems hell bent on shooting from 30 yards instead of passing and predictably, he just cracks it into a defender. 

We see the good and bad of Marvin in a few minutes. First, he slides brilliantly to deny them chance after a first time pass finds a man in the box seemingly in space, but before he can even draw his his leg back, Marvin has had it off his toes. Then, under no pressure he plays a really poor pass and is saved by Ballard tackling back as Harrogate bear down on goal. 

Pool have a 30 second burst of pressure started by a Dougal tackle on one side of the pitch, involving five Pool players and ending with Ward drilling it from the other side of the pitch, toward the near post where Madine gets a good contact but can only turn it the wrong side of the post. 

The rest of the half is fairly uneventful. We knock it about without ever really seeming likely to do anything with it. The one time we do, CJ again is the danger man but his cross is miss hit and ends up back at the half way line, having completely missed the box all together. 

--- 

It's been manful and committed but not a great spectacle. I don't think there's been a save in it. Harrogate have worked very hard and defending very well but we've struggled to find a really quality pass. I think I've worked out what Critch sees in Ward. He likes that he always shows for the ball and takes it very well. The problem is, he doesn't seem to do very much with the ball when he has it. Keshi has been kind of the opposite, peripheral but on a couple of occasions, used the ball really nicely. I'm still not really seeing what got everyone excited about Garbutt. He has lovely hair and his physique looks like a Premier League player's but so far, he's basically been a left back. Woodburn has again been a bit anonymous. What does Kemp need to do? 

It says a lot that really, the best moment of the half was Brett getting tangled in his headphone cord and emerging from the disaster with a sheepish 'sorry - I got stuck!' 

--- 

Second half opens with a pair of free kicks, one each slung into the box to no avail for either side. I've decided to watch Garbutt to see if I can work out what the fuss is about. He stuns a lovely ball forward and plays another with a strolling elegance. He takes a nice well shaped free kick that comes to nothing and then he swings a corner that curls deviously, looks to slide off a Harrogate head and into the net. It seems my half time questions worked and Garbutt is even awarded the goal. That's better! 

Ben Woodburn wins a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box, close to the goal line. Garbutt is over it again, chipping it like a sand wedge and seeing it headed behind for another corner and more Garbutt watching. This time it's cleared more decisively but soon the ball is soon back in the danger area with Hamilton, he's forced outwide and the ball goes for another corner. There's a period of pressure and scrambling about, trying to tee up a shot, 3 or 4 players not quite able to make the space. 

Horrogate have a nice little move which ends with a weak shot straight at Maxwell. We go straight to the other end from a great goal kick, Keshi squares to Woodburn, but his shot, a bit like his overall performance is unconvincing. Maybe if I decide to watch him, he'll come good?

The first time I saw Gabriel, I liked him and he reminds me why as he puts the ball between two Harrogate players then wriggles through after it, then beats one, then another, then another before finally running out of steam. I love this lads intent. 

Woodburn is the spare man as Madine of the total football brain sees space and lays it off beautifully, Woodburn hits it better than the previous effort, the keeper saves well, it falls to Hamilton who hits it low and hard and the keeper makes a wonderful second save, as good as you will see. The corner comes in, it's headed away, but Ward control gloriously (as he does) and this time, he certainly does something with it, smashing it through a crowded box, with barely any back lift right into the bottom corner. 

Bez (on for Woodburn) plays a terrific ball that grazes Madine's head as his first contribution. CJ dances on the edge of the box and cracks one that draws another great save. Harrogate then have a little spell of pressure, their most dangerous coming from two silly passes by Bez and a really poor clearance from Maxwell, that sees him make a really good save to redeem himself. Pool break like lightening, lovely passing up the pitch and nice play from Keshi in particular sees Hamilton cracking it towards the near post and again, the keeper making a good save, this time with his legs. 

Keshi and Bez work a lovely move down the left but no one can quite bring themselves to shoot. Dan Kemp comes on for Keshi who has done ok today. He looks a little short of confidence but I think he'll take a bit from the performance. 

It's absolutely sheeting down and the rain is making it even harder to see through the 40 watt floodlights. The game is scrappy now, Pool having gone for the jugular for the first 25 minutes of the half are content to go forward when there's a chance but to take their time otherwise. Madine lashes one over the bar... 

Then a beautiful goal, Dan Ballard with a thumping challenge wins possession on the edge of our box, Pool stride forward and Ward (remember at half time I questioned his product, I'm managing this team from the blog!) plays the pass of the season, an outside of the foot defence splitter from the centre circle, weighted to perfection for Demi who races in, slips it past the keeper, it beats him but not the post, luckily Gabriel is there to tap it home from a few inches - a deserved goal for his effort today, the fact he, a right back, has chased this down, tells you all about his work rate. 

Bez does the most Bezlike thing ever as he picks it up, shapes to go one way, goes the other, finds space, runs back into traffic, backs himself to beat three, falls over and accidentally deflect the ball with his head from the ground, straight to a Pool man who can't finish. He's a manic chaos engine.  

Chissy gets the Madine 20 beers and 4 kebabs anecdote wrong, turning it into burgers. Chissy. You were fucking there! 

Madine, who has become more and more the pressing forward Critchley wants forces an error, he siezes the ball, runs away but the prone defender seems to stick out an arm and trip him. Goal Machine denied, defender off! From the free kick, Garbutt plays one that goes high, curls and drops perfectly for Dan Kemp to tap it in. A lovely delivery that made it look easy. I'm still a bit fuming though as Goal Machine goals are the best goals. 

The feeling doesn't last long as the whistle blows. Critch is grinning his twinkly grin despite looking like he's been chucked in a swimming pool. That's been a terrific way to put the wrongs of Tuesday right. We've hammered them in the second half and shared the goals around. The confidence that took a long time to build over a long period could have taken a real blow after the second half against Donny, but that's an important step in ensuring we're back on track. 

Garbutt provided some lovely delivery and composure in the second half, Madine again just makes the team actually make sense, Ward actually produced stuff, CJ was lively all day and unlucky not to get a reward for it, it goes without saying Dougall did his job, Gabriel is just a quality player but for me, the player of the match was Dan Ballard. Harrogate (or Harrigate as Brett would have it) had monsters up front, but Ballard combines the strength of an ox, the timing of a Rolex, the spacial awareness of a bat and surprisingly high class distribution. He's fucking special. One moment summed it up for me - they'd broke on the right, put in a dangerous ball. Ballard not only took a little side step as the ball was delivered, reading off the winger's foot and adjusting to meet it but leapt, flicked it completely deliberately and with perfect execution to Ward on the edge of the box to start an attack. Every defender we've had since the homecoming would have headed that 'up and away' in a general direction but he's a cut above. Imperious even. Sign him up! Lock him in a cupboard, kidnap Arteta's family and swap them for Ballard, I don't care about the morality, keep him at the club.  

In conclusion. He's a grand wizard in a team of wizards, and we're gonna win the cup! (And the league and the uefa cup the year after) 

Great second half. Life is good again. I'm going to Aldi now. 



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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Then the wheels fell off: Doncaster Rovers vs the Mighty




The second half

When did it start being ok to charge people to watch something and also subject them to endless adverts? It's having cake and eating it if you ask me. So, after I've booked a train journey with LNER, ordered a crate of Carabao energy drink* and had Papa John's pizza delivered I'm ready to watch the game. Critchley is clearly reading online comments as Ethan Robson comes in for Grant 'he's not bad, but what exactly does he do?' Ward. On that note, I'm convinced this article where I didn't interview Neil Critchley was the catalyst for an upturn in form. Since I didn't meet Critch we've been unstoppable pretty much. 

*as if anyone orders Carabao online. Honestly. Have they sold a single crate of it by mail order, to anyone, anywhere? 

Tonight's game is a decent test of whether we're a steam roller, ready to destroy all in their path or not. It's years of following the Tangerine cause that makes me cautious, as improved as we've been, I simply can't help but imagine the steamroller breaking down, falling apart, sinking into quicksand or rolling down a hill, out of control with Critch and Mikey G running after it, just not quite able to catch it, whilst Colin Calderwood just shakes his head and looks severe. I just can't imagine us being consistently good even though I finished the last match on an absolute high. 

Donny are on my list of 'teams I don't mind' as we usually play quite well against them, they have kit no one else wears that makes them look like a rugby league team and they're not Rotherham. They appear to only have one CD in their PA system and it sounds as if it's one of three remaining copies of 'The Best Soft Rock Driving Album in the World! Volume 3' - the sort of thing teenage daughters bought their dads from Morrisons for a father's day gift in the early 2000s.  

---

Pool start brilliantly, Madine finding Yates, who finds CJ, his cross is inches over Jerry, then it's pulled back for Sullay, who finishes the move off only for the linesman to flag for the ball going out of play. A terrible clearance then gives us a chance to attack, but neither CJ nor Dougall make best use of the ball and Donny go unpunished. 

Chissy gives us 'upsides' then 'big lancashire hotpot' in quick succession. 

Then it's a great moment as 'all fall down' from Chissy signals a penalty. Marvin has a good interception interception and feeds CJ who runs, stops dead to lose his man, gets the cross in and Madine goes down. Yates steps up and hits a penalty with the clinical manner of a russian sniper. All is good. We are good. This is what we want! 

Lumley then spills from a long free kick into the box and the ball bounces everywhere, Yates hammers it at goal but it rolls agonisingly wide and past Kaikai's outstretched foot that looked ready to turn it in. 

A Turton cross, a Kaikai freekick and a run the length of the pitch by the same player are highlights of a period where Pool have most of the game without really creating an obvious chance. I wonder why Robson goes and stands by Sullay when he's taking set pieces. It's fooling no one. Why doesn't he get in the box? 

Donny look quite nice when they get the ball and pass it up the pitch a few times, creating a moment of worry for Big Marv but little else aside. They look like a decent side, but in the opening stages, one that don't seem confident they can bring the game to us. 

Maxwell almost releases CJ with a very good goal kick. Turton does some really good defensive work as Doncaster almost get their left winger away. 

Madine wins a brilliant flick on but Donny clear - it only reaches the Viking, who drops his shoulder, charges forward and clatters it from forty yards. It's a great moment even if it's straight down the keeper's throat. Within 30 seconds Gretarsson is making a sliding challenge at the other end and his excellent work is rewarded with a Chissy monologue about Joe Garner, his voice seeming to waver with loss as he reveals that Garner has moved to India...

Pool get away with an Ekpiteta mistake, Dougall plays a beautiful first time ball from the edge of the box that causes real problems and from the resulting corner, Pool play three short passes before a cross which sees the Viking waste a free header. 

Yates tackles back, taking it off Coppinger and that starts a move that is initially great one touch passing, then Sullay, running, running, running and looking like he's taken a heavy touch at the end, nudging it wide of the keeper but too far for him to run on to. He stumbles and falls, but there is CJ, reading it brilliantly to crash the loose ball home. Sullay is face down on the turf as if he's agonising over the final touch and I wonder if, without a crowd, he actually realises the CJ has scored till Jerry dives on him in celebration. 

Chissy gets topical, referring to postal votes and then the Chuckle brothers within 20 seconds. Doncaster muster a half decent low shot and just before half time a first corner, which swing dangerously but does no real damage. 

---

The test will come if Doncaster change things. It seems as if they really need to as they've caused almost no problems at all. Pool have been clinical, they've not created that many clear cut chances but such has been our control of the game that 2-0 doesn't seem an unfair outcome at half time. Dougall again is making us tick and the added balance of Robson letting Dougall work his more natural right hand side and we're ticking along, looking like clockwork. 

A well coached team should look like this, mixing confidence, good positional play and using their instinct and how far we've come is measured in me only being able to think of one pointless passing move where we surrendered a good position to go backwards. 

Again, it's hard to really single anyone out as lacking. Marv has made the most mistakes but nothing that's cost us and has mostly looked imperious. We've defended from the front, worked hard out of possession and I just hope we can keep up that work rate with a virtually unchanged side that battled really hard against Peterborough. 

The Counting Crows belt out. It can't be long before we hear some John Farnham. 

---

Donny get sent out with their tale between their legs and a new player on the pitch. James 'is he still playing?' Coppinger is off and an athletic, muscular looking lad with dreadlocks is on. Those sort of subs always worry me. Other teams substitutes always seem to have more danger than our own. 

Doncaster start like a house on fire and pin Pool back, a ball in the corner is pulled back, Cameron John comes from deep and drives it home. There's general outrage about offside the validity of which I can't read at all from the angle of the iFollow camera but to no avail. 

Madine then seems to get battered twice, going down like he's been shot, winning two free kicks but Sullay's delivery is dreadful each time. 

The dangerous looking sub with a muscular athletic frame and dreadlocks sub plays an outrageously good scooped pass and a Donny man gets between Marv and Turton and flicks it beyond Maxwell who star jumps for all he's worth but isn't getting near it. 

Fucks sake football. 

Madine with beautiful flick to Yatres who bears down on goal, but Donny scramble back and scramble it away. CJ gets the ball under his feet under the edge of the box but can't get a shot or a pass away. 

Will we react tactically? Donny are looking a different team - Darren Moore has changed it up, got a new message across about both shape and style and though we're still putting pressure on, the control of the first half has evaporated. It's a test of the team's character but also a question of whether we can adjust things to renew our own threat. 

Donny try and fail to spring our offside trap a couple of times. Jimmy Husband sets Sullay away with a long ball but the move breaks down. Madine goes down again. Husband gets belted, Sullay gets crunched. Donny are clearly fired up. Yates wins it brilliantly in his own half, spins and runs but has no support. Hamilton wins it deep with muscle and then goes right through their defence but his pull back is cut out before it reaches anyone. 

I can't help but think 'if only we had a striker on the bench' as we're looking a bit better now but Yates and Madine are tiring... I'm preparing in my mind to say something constructive about 2-2 being a decent result when...

... Donny play it down the right, their winger sprints wide, pulls it back, it seems to slide past three players, it might be an illusion from the camera, but it's like we just let it roll across the box, till Dougall slides in on the onrushing forward and the referee gives a penalty. It looks a bit 50/50 to me but it doesn't matter as Whiteman belts it home with every bit the same certainty as Yates did earlier. 

Pool bring on 4 subs* - Keshi, Mitchell, Woodburn and Gabriel come on. I don't really understand why both Sullay and Yates are coming off but maybe we'll find out. 

*Insert your own rant about a) the notion of 4 subs coming at once or b) why we're only making the subs at 80 mins when we've been piss poor all half. 

We can tick off 'he's quick....but he isn't that quick' once more from the Chissy bingo as CJ races after an overhit long ball. At least there's that. I've been in too much of a bad mood to note some of the classics he's come out with second half but I can't let that pass. 

Grant Ward comes on, but as much as I look, I can't see an obvious change of shape, all the subs seem to be like for like. Gabriel battles hard, Woodburn has a little run but is tackled. CJ again goes through and pulls one back, we have loads of passes that eventually lead to cross where Madine is muscled out by two defenders sandwiching him. Ward hit's one one like a gunshot on the half volley from 20 yards but it's blocked for a corner. Ward belts a long ball into the box, it looks harmless but it clearly, clearly, clearly is handled by the Donny defender - there's screams of handball but nothing is given. 

Fucking football. 

--- 

Everything we were first half, we weren't in the second half. It was an early season pattern that we couldn't cope with teams changing things up against us and it's perhaps a reality check tonight that again, we've struggled against a side that makes definitive changes. There's an element of bad luck, offside, a dodgy penalty and a penalty denied at the other end but I also found myself frustrated that we couldn't make earlier changes when it looked like we needed new energy and new ideas on the pitch. 

I can't be bothered doing the 'who is to blame?' post mortem. What's the point? The answer is sort of 'everyone' in the way we were so flimsy in the second half and I don't want to think about it anymore. Donny came out and were much more direct and much more physical. They were clearly on the end of a bollocking and an instruction to stop letting us play, to leave their mark on us and it worked and as our high press waned as the front players tired, we had nothing much else even if we didn't really have the luck. 

In conclusion, we looked like a steamroller, then we fell apart. To lose was unlucky, but everything good in the first half was equal to what was poor in the second and it was troubling that once it started going against us, we had no answer. 

Nothing else to say. Too glum. Tier 3 bollocks, dark nights, dark mornings, long day at work, all of that, then this.

Fuck's sake 'Pool. 

Onwards. 

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Saturday, November 21, 2020

The whole loaf - Peterborough Utd vs the Mighty



Whilst managers and pundits go on about fatigue and sharpness in terms of players, no one, but no one thinks of the poor bloggers. If you lose a star player, you can bring someone else in to take their place but in the cut throat world of cutting edge football blogging, there's no reserve team, no bench, no squad rotation. So, after a gruelling schedule, starting with the migraine inducing Southport match on YouTube that seems forever ago, I'm very glad of last weeks rest and fighting fit, raring to go, chomping/champing (which is it?) at the bit and so on and so forth. Going to Aldi last week was grand but it's no match for the Mighty. 

Last time we played Peterborough was a stone cold classic. A brilliant game that we won 4-3 and in sadly, in retrospect proved to be a false dawn. It looked as if we could play purposeful attacking football under Larry, that we could throw caution to the wind and score one more than them, but in fact, within a very short space of time, that game seemed like a distant memory as we reverted to losing games by trying not to lose games. 

When I see the team sheet I'm slightly concerned that we might lose this game by trying not to lose it. I never claim to be that up on the opposition, I simply don't watch enough football to make that claim, but everyone knows that Peterborough are good at the attacking stuff and a bit shaky at the back and the Darren Ferguson is a bit like Steve McMahon on speed. I'm not sure why we've dropped Gabriel who is a tremendous counter attacking full back though to be fair, he did get turned inside out a bit against Ipswich. It worries me that we might get pinned back and Turton isn't really the man to counter punch. 

Time will tell. There's been a big upturn in our fortunes but that's been with the caveat that we've literally played some kids, some non league teams and some teams that aren't very good in our division. Today will be test if the last few weeks is a mirage or we've got better for real. 

The main tension before kick off concerns the commentary. Will it be the Chisnall and Ormerod dream  team (Ormernall/Chisnerod?), replete with snacks and sayings? Or will we have 'Generic local radio Commentary Drone 34' alongside Mick Payne, a man who no one knows who he is, but seems to be wheeled out to say things like 'in fairness, the keeper had no chance' because... well, because... I actually don't know. Who is Mick Payne? Why is he on the radio? Does he even know? 

It is Chissy but with the ex clampet Glen Little instead of wor Brett - Little's voice has the feel of a fella who has moved to Marbella and opened a bar (one in which he employs other people to do the work for him, and he just chats to people and drinks a few Stellas) so laid back does his southern drawl come across.

The minutes applause for Warren Green is a moving moment and puts a lot into perspective.  

The camera pans to the bench and there's no sign of Mike Garrity. Where has he gone? Is he inside a suitcase in Colin's boot? Is he having a haircut? Did he fall asleep on the coach and Critch decide not to wake him cos he looked so peaceful?

Pool have tangerine shorts on, I never feel too good about that. 

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We're off and the two sides trade moves, pressing and probing, looking pretty evenly matched for both skill and ethos. - Kaikai breaks, Yates fiddles with it in the box and fires it just wide. Dougall plays a beautiful diagonal ball, Hamilton cuts inside and absolutely belts it at the near post where the keeper can only beat it back from whence it came. Madine has a go from distance with a low effort that sneaks past the post. CJ gets similarly close with a curling effort from the edge of the D that could have found the bottom corner had it been a tiny bit straighter

At the other end, Pool keep Peterborough at arms length, a mix up between Maxwell and Turton and a looping cross that Maxwell watches over the bar the only moments of worry until they hit the side netting on about 15 minutes, which is immediately followed by some pointless and nervy square passing at the back which inevitably concedes possession.

By this time I've switched commentary to the other side in search of audio that is synced with the pictures, and I'm greeted by a man who sounds like he's unemotionally voicing over a really boring VHS safety video for a small national chain in the early 2000s. 

I hear the goal before I see it, but it's the vision of it hitting the net that brings me to my feet. A short corner from Ward and Sullay delivers one of those dreamy balls he can play with his snake charmer's ability. It hovers like a military remote drone flight looking for a target and then falls to Yates. Shirtless Jerry goes on a big mad run, turning what feels like a full 360 degrees and just when I'm ready to curse him for over complicating it, he comes full circle and slots it home beautifully. 

The boring safety video man refers to us as 'orange' (though to be fair, his chirpier mate, describes us as 'tangerine' and 'playing champagne football') and I'm going back to Chissy who might not always get it right, but at least sounds awake even if describing a different game. Immediately he rewards me by pointing out that Grant Ward has 'kept it legal' for Gary Madine. We have a move of maybe 30 passes that comes to nothing but is good craic none the less

They grow into it a bit, swinging a tricky ball that Husband has to put away for a corner, running down the middle and shooting a good five yards over, winning a dangerous free kick when Husband tries to disguise a really cynical challenge as falling over and convincing no one, least of all the ref who books him. Grettarson dives to block the ball from the resulting set piece and Chissy goes on a digression about why can't the ambulance man kick the ball back if he won't pick it up, where he seems genuinely cross at having to wait ten seconds for the ball to be retrieved. A few moments later Jimmy Husband concedes another free kick and I'm feeling a bit more concerned than I was 10 minutes earlier when we were playing total(ish) football. They're just running at us and whilst it's not worked yet, it feels like it might sooner or later. 

Chissy brings out the classic 'two falls and a submission' to describe Yates tussling and losing out on the edge of the box as we assert ourselves a bit more, with a couple of nice moves, the best of which starts with Madine caressing the ball to the to the floor with a gentle sensitivity that defies his frame and reputation and ends with their keeper being tackled by his own player and getting tangled up with an advertising mat. 

We have a nearly moment as Madine and Yates share a couple of passes but the third is cut out. Dougall is booked. They win a corner, we deal with it. Chissy does some political analysis and accuses the government of 'making it up as they go along' and the half time whistle blows. Get him on Question Time next week.  

--- 

We've done really well this half, playing with structure and shape. We dominated the early part of the match and the increased confidence in having a go at goal is apparent. Peterborough havn't really clicked or caused a massive scare but I'm on edge slightly as the way they run at the defence, it seems a matter of time before they draw a foul and both Dougall and Husband are now going to have to watch themselves. 

Some very stirring music plays, reminiscent of the sort you'd get in a seafaring drama and I look up to be warned about piracy. I see what they did there. It's nice they've included tangerine in the colours that the cycle through as the background changes though.  

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The teams run out, or as Chissy has it 'are out, looking for work' as if the pitch is outside the dock gates in Liverpool in 1930. He soon drops in 'quick but not that quick' for good measure as CJ chases an aimless ball. Fans of Chissy bingo rejoice. 

Pool are pressuring high and causing problems. Posh present it on a plate for Yates under such pressure, he lays it off for Sullay who drifts from deep as is his wont, but sadly, this time, he leans back a touch and the curling shot is over the top and nestling in a seat behind, not in the corner of the coal 

Sullay again is let down by his finishing after bright work from Ward, spotting both a loose ball and Pool with players on the overlap. His dinked ball finds Madine who knows Sullay is behind him and his touch off is perfect, Sullay goes for that little side foot finsh that's served him well in the last few games, but like a golfer who miss hits a put from a few yards, the ball comes off his ankle, more than the instep and it's much too easy for the relieved keeper to fall onto it. 

Posh by now have made three changes and are coming forward with increasing intent. Ifollow is going black and experiencing technical difficulties but works for long enough to show me Madine heading back accross goal from a Kaikai free kick but no one can force it home. 

It feels like we need to break well and as I think that, we do, as if the team are responding with telepathy to my whims. Kaikai is lifting it long from the edge of our box, CJ getting into his stride, going past one and then being cleaned out by the left back in a nasty tackle. It's a yellow but it could be more. A minute later, Sullay is walloped by another challenge of a similar nature and it's another yellow for them. 

Pool are lucky/play the offside trap really well and the flag defies Posh when they looked to have a great chance to put three players through. 

Critch has gone mad. He makes not, one, not two, but three subs and all before 82 minutes! Woodburn, Keshi and Robson, replace Sullay, Yates and Ward. Keshi is the first to have an impact, albeit with a low shot from the edge of the box that's too weak to really trouble the keeper.

London Road is looking a picture under the light, it's hardly the San Siro, but it's a characterful place, terracing and an old fashioned corrugated iron roofed stand down one side, mixing with the more lego style new build at the other end, the big pitch mown into neat squares, a pattern that is only visible when the lights come on and increase the contrast of the image. 

Posh are chucking players at it and passing their way through, Dembele wriggles and runs and Marvin stricks out a leg. It's a penalty. But it isn't, it's a dive and we breath again. I'm nervous now, I've been comfortable to this point, but now its getting closer to full time. 

I was right to be worried and when the goal comes, it's so simple. A corner swung in between the penalty spot and the six yard box and a big centre half coming from deep, cleaning out anyone in his way and planting it home. 

It's all Peterborough, coming forward again and again, Dembele, who up till now has been having one of those games Sullay sometimes has where he looks brilliant off the ball but shit on it, shifts his feet and does some sort of weird toe poke just over the bar... 

We're hanging on. Chissy doesn't mention the proportions of bread but we're all thinking it. In fact, I'm really worried there's going to be no loaf at all and an evening of hungry regret. 

But wait! It's CJ, racing away again, going right to the corner and pulling it back, Woodburn airkicks, it falls to Madine who is at his most ponderous as he turns, controlling the ball like it's made of china and he's scared he'll break it if he kicks it, before he rolls it home past the keeper who is rooted to his spot. It's the strangest of goals, but who cares? Not me. I throw an non-plussed 9 year old around for a bit and even run up to the telly and shout at it as if the players can hear me. 

Them I remember we've still got a bit to play and I'm at home. Still, the whole fucking loaf could be ours and this is no cheap white bread win if we can get it... 

Posh hit the bar, a dangerous ball, someone leaps in crowd and its cannoning away, my head is in my hands and when I look up Maxwell is down having leapt like a playful cat trying to catch a fly or a falling leaf, but crashed into the post on his way down. In the end he's ok but I'm worrying about how I'll deal with if an outfield player has to go in goal. It's the best thing ever, but in these circumstances, I'd rather pass on even that rare joy for a win. 

We play a lot of the added time in the corner and it's on the left had side where Madine, shows unbelievable skill, dancing round three hacking Posh defenders, then going back round them again. He's like a truck winning an F1 Grand Prix, he just shouldn't be able to do this, but with deft touches and shimmies, he is. You'd expect this from Sullay but from a man who ten minutes ago took what seemed like thirty seconds to turn round in front of goal, it's a shock and a delight. 

One last attack, where it seems as if they might put together whatever has got them to the top of the league, a horrible moment when it looks like they've slipped the offside trap but the relief of the flag is then topped by the joy of the final whistle. 

--- 

What a performance! We've come to the league leaders and a side who seem to permanently be 'a good side' in this division and deserved a win. Not only have we won, we've done after looking like we've thrown it away and shown real spirit in doing so. We've scrapped, fought and played football and no one has had anything other than a decent game. I'm starting to think we've got something going on here. 

Dougall was fucking magnificent, not only did he rat and scrap, time his interceptions and nick the ball off their toes time and time again, but he also passed the ball with purpose and vision and didn't look out of place when he took it forward himself. What a signing he has been. I think we can finally put 'We miss Jay Spearing' to rest. 

The Viking had his best game today, possibly because we were against a footballing side but they don't lack presence. Yates was more than a handful and CJ whilst not at his devastating top form notable for his decent work on the wing, putting in a couple of decent balls and playing the wide role with discipline. Madine, similarly wasn't as pivotal today as he can be but his work rate was great and I think it's a sign of how crucial he's become that he, not Yates stayed on, even though Yates had caused more problems. Critch perhaps recognising that the Goal Machine is the catalyst for so much of what has come good about us. Other players are an effect, but Madine is a cause. So, for that matter is Kenny Dougall who has been that good recently, I think he merits another mention. 

All hail the goal machine! (Again)

I could pick out just about any of them for praise to be honest. We deserved it. 

Two away wins in the league, back to back and a good side dealt with, a bench full of quality and players like Kemp, Virtue and the born again Bez still to come... The only problem with all this is that I'm starting to believe again. 

It's the hope that kills you. 

Bring on Donny! 

utmp



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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

I gave in : the Mighty vs Leeds u21


There are few more pointless things than tonight's game. With a backdrop of bleating complaints from Jurgen, Ole, Jose and co about how it's really terrible that big rich football clubs have to play in the big rich competitions that make them big and rich, I find it astonishing that they choose to also enter the EFL Trophy, a competition designed solely to give the clubs who aren't big and rich a shot at pretending they are by getting to Wembley. Couldn't they solve their terrible injury crisis they never stop crying about by playing some of their expensively assembled reserve players they've nabbed of everyone else in the real games? Why do they have to have so many players that they need to play our first team if they can't bring themselves to play them themselves ever? 

I feel that strongly about this that I wasn't going to even give this match the time of day. But lets face it. What else is there to do? I could go for a wet walk in the dark. A black, bleak, miserable walk through a dank, dismal lockdown UK, a place that feels like living in the dying years of some Soviet satellite state but without the benefit of fancy murals and a culture of communal eating. All the greyness, authoritarianism and blind adherence to an outdated ideology but none of the moonshine vodka and trabants. 

What else am I going to do? Sit and think about my shit job and how I should be grateful for it even though it's been slowly killing me for years? Think about all the things I can't do to cheer myself up? Try and remember what my relatives look like? Watch some shit telly that's probably got Sue fucking Perkins in it? 

Fuck it. It's 6.55 and the Mighty are playing. Who needs principles anyway?

Three things sway me - the fact that Antwi is getting a start, it's another chance to see the rarest of sights: a game for Jordan Thorniley and most excitingly of all, the youngest and newest of Pool's pros, Rob Apter has a berth on the bench. Look at that Premier League. We're playing our own youngster. We've not had to enter a team in the FA Vase to do so. 

After 2 minutes I'm wondering what I've done as iFollow goes into meltdown. I'm trapped in a permanently recurring loop of half of one of Chissy's syllables. I spent a few minutes wondering whether I actually want to live in anymore if my life is reduced to this, staring at a frozen screen where a still image of a game I'm not convinced I want to watch is soundtracked by a malfunctioning robot Chizzy forever repeating the first 'o' sound of 'on the island' or 'on his bike'. Is this it? Is this how it ends? Can my sanity survive this battering? Will it ever stop?  

The answer is fortunately yes as iFollow rights itself in time to show Lubala get past two men without really needing to do anything. He just sort of scuffs it past ineffective challenges but then, if his skill in finding space is underwhelming, the outside of the foot ball he delivers is outstanding. The incoming Kemp meets it perfectly and tucks it away from about 10 yards out. 

The second goal comes from a Kemp corner, met by Thorniley at the near post, a flick header that cannons off a defender and ends up in the far corner of the net. It's a shame that the very peripheral Thorniley likely won't get credited cos I feel like it would cheer him up and there's a sort of hangdog solidity about his manner that I've warmed to when I've glimpsed him in the shadows. 

Other things that happen include

Sims does some perfectly good kicking and some really dicey kicking but doesn't have to do any goal keeping... Gabriel leaps into a completely random late challenge and gets booked for clattering one of their players for no reason I can fathom... Dan Kemp is really good, energy and quick, clever passing and Bez Lubala is having the best game he's had in a Pool shirt by far... Yates has an effort well saved. 

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We're winning, it's all fairly comfortable and someone has brought Brett a twirl and that has made him sound so delighted, I go into a reverie about how I love Brett precisely because the simple things in life seem to please him. I decide he'd be a good person to have in your corner in a Zombie apocalypse, as he'd find pleasure in tiny moments. You'd be looting a shop, devoid of supplies and find only rancid cod liver oil and rice full of weevils but Brett would come out grinning with a car air freshener and say 'ere, I love 'ow these smell, like sunshine, this one, lovely, I'll 'ang it in the stronghold, it'll make all the difference' and you'd just have to smile and the end times would seems just that bit more human. If Brett's happy, I'm happy.

Pool have controlled the game apart from a brief spell where no one seems capable of clearing the ball more than 4 yards and seem intent on passing it to each other in dodgy positions. 

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Lubala and Robson both seem to have space to shoot in the same run, one taking over from the other but both being forced out of it.  Lubala and Husband combine well to give Grant Ward a chance at the far post, but he volleys it well over. Pool put together 20 passes that ends with Lubala spinning and playing a slide rule pass to Kemp who shoots low into the keeper's knees. Seconds later shirtless Jerry lays it off, Bez wriggles past his man, shapes to shoot and curls it just past the top corner. Who is this 'Bez Lubala?' fella. When did we sign him? I vaguely remember some other lad who looked a bit dicey, but this can't be that one... 

Leeds play a delicious crossfield pass that sees Jimmy Husband gets sucked the wrong side of his man, it's pinged right across the box. Pool respond with a lovely sweeping move, one side to the other and it ends with Yates just not able to bundle it home. 

Thorniley gets all tangled up in clearing the ball, trying to turn past two Leeds kids for no apparent reason and only succeeding in falling over. Sims makes a great point blank save to save Thorniley from even more shame than he must feel having to live his football career hidden in a cupboard marked 'not for use' and only allowed out for games like this. You can almost hear Critch saying to Colin Calderwood 'You see? - that's why I don't use him' and my heart breaks a bit for the lad as he looks like he could be a decent centre half with confidence. 

Lubala stops dead, waits and waits then slips a pass to Yates that he can't quite make into a shooting chance. He then plays a ball to die for for Dan Kemp who is ruled offside, but the quality of the ball makes it worth commenting on.  

Keshi comes on for Bez who has been like a new player. Howe replace Gabriel. I really like watching Howe play, there's something raw and honest about the way he gallops down the touchline. Gabriel has been good again, he looks a real player, a proper talented footballer.  

Not a lot happens for a bit, Howe whips a nice ball to the near post that Yates is half a yard behind. Pool have another little spell of passing it to a man in danger followed by a spell of not shooting when it seems easier to do so than pass. 

Antwi dives at a loose ball and cleans out a Leeds kid. It's a second yellow without question, which is a shame as Antwi has done really well, keeping it simple, generally timing his tackles to perfection and looking the mature figure he looked in pre season. 

Robson picks up from Keshi on the edge of the box, he goes sides ways, shapes to shoot and (we know what's coming here, he'll shift it sideways to Grant Ward, who will do the same and then pass it to Keshi who will do the same, until eventually it'll end up back with Turton who will loft it out of play)... he only goes and curls an absolute beauty past the keeper, beating him at his far post. It's perfect, the way he falls away after hitting it and the spinning ball is cushioned by the side netting. Great goal. 

Rob Apter is coming on! He's little with a great mop of hair and his first touch is tidy, a bit of control and a neat pass. His second, he take a touch then accelerates and runs 10 yards aggressively, cuts inside and looks for Keshi. His third is a little flick on to himself, that pops up and he does brilliantly to wrestle with his man and make a sliding challenge to knock it away. He runs well and finds space, and a few times it looks like a pass might be on for him but it doesn't quite materialise. It's great seeing debuts. I remember Brett's where he just ran about like a madhead and I decided there and then I liked him. Maybe in 25 years time someone will be bringing Rob Apter a chocolate bar as he commentates after a long and fulfilling career as a Pool legend... 

Keshi belts one just over the top at some point whilst I'm concentrating on Apter and then the whistle blows. 

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Am I glad I watched it? Yeah, I suppose I am. Do I feel a deep sense of shame for rewarding the evil Premier League academy side with my attention. Maybe a bit, but I missed 4+ years of games for other reasons so I'm not going to chuck myself in the sea over this one. 

The best thing was Bez, a total revelation - hands up - who knew he could pass like that? Seeing him look integrated and purposeful and getting in the middle, instead of just standing on the touchline and mostly losing it or getting tackled was really, really encouraging, especially for a squad that has only two actual strikers in it. 

Robson's goal was a stunner and worth the tenner on its own but it was also great to see as it might encourage him to have a go a bit more. Suddenly with Dougall, William and Robson all fit and Virtue to return (as well as Ward who was perfectly fine tonight), midfield looks quite handy. That means Keshi might need to compete to play a bit higher up and Bez has staked a claim there as well. Perhaps we could cope if one of the Goal Machine or shirtless Jerry gets a knock...

Just whatever you do Neil, don't go mad and drop Sullay cos Bez played well once. Please. 

It wasn't much of a game really, we played some kids, we won easily enough, but like the Eastbourne game, we won comfortably enough to be justified in going away with a bit of confidence even if it was a bit of a no win match. 

Bring on Peterborough. 

utmp

 

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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Gary Goals: Eastbourne Borough vs the Mighty



Never has football seemed so lonely as FA Cup first round day without supporters. A minutes silence and the last post echoing round an empty ground, a wreath laid in front of cardboard cutout supporters. It's a crying shame that Eastbourne are denied this match being played for real. Given we won the most famous cup final in history, the game that begat all others as a televised spectacle, we must be an absolute plum draw. How many other 1st round clubs boast a Ballon D'or Winner and a World Cup winner amongst their former players? Who else would you really want if you were them?

Anyway, I really fancy a cup run. It's been a mad old season so why can't we have a decent cup run and make our contribution to the strangeness of it all? It's been grand seeing teams like Southampton and Everton topping the Premier League, why not us in the 5th or 6th round for once? In fact, fuck it, let's go all the way and win the thing. Why not? Chorley have just beaten Wigan, so why can't we beat Man City or someone? No reason at all. Lets 'ave it! 

Team is pretty much as you were except Ollie Turton plays in centre midfield replacing Grant Ward. Which seems odd but there you are. 

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There's no commentary on the stream so the strange sound of the fake crowd noise really stands out. It seems like this one has been generated by recording over excited schoolkids. It's sounds like one of those England U18 matches where they've given loads of tickets to schools or an excitable swimming event from an Olympics held in the far east. 

Pool hit the post with seconds, CJ haring down the wing, selling his man a dummy and pulling back to Sullay whose low effort is palmed onto the post, before rebounding back into the keepers arms. 

Eastbourne win a corner, reward for a quick break and some muscular play. It's to the far post and for a split second looks like half a chance but it's too deep and they can only head it into the stand and well wide. 

It's terrific to see the stand behind one goal has a proper corrugated iron roof. I notice this as Maxwell takes the ball off the toes of an Eastbourne forward who barrels onto a through ball with the intent of a bull running at a matador. There's not enough corrugated iron anymore in football. Maxwell, just about whips his red flag out the way in time and dances round the burly front man, ball in hand. 

Sullay hits the post again as Ollie Turton spreads the play and Pool muscle through on the right, again the ball pulled back and this time Kaikai hits it hard and beats the keeper but not the goal frame. The ball bounces kindly for Borough, who hit a lightning counter attack, a ball over top beautifully brought down by their no 9 who gets away from Husband and strokes the ball towards the corner of the net, only to be denied by a combination of Maxwell's leg and arm. A good save and a breathless 30 seconds. 

Midfield playmaker Turton slips a through ball to Sullay, who lays it back to Dougall. The surf dude takes a few strides then hits a low, swerving, pitch skimming shot that the keeper (the fabulously name Franco Ravazzoli) does well with. 

Pool are indebted to the telescopic legs of the ever improving Ekpiteta as Gretarsson stumbles trying to shepherd the ball out of play, Eastbourne are on it like a rash, pulling it back and big Marvin needs all the timing he has to make one of his last ditch tackles that I don't think he gets enough credit for. 

Yates and Kaikai almost pull off a lovely one two move. A few minutes later, Kaikai stumbles as Madine attempts the same trick. Then a minute later, he looks away, only for Dougall's through ball to hit his heels. 

The goal machine leaps 35 yards out, takes the ball down and hits an outrageous volley that goes just over the top, hitting the back of the stand like a gunshot. Shirtless Jerry then brings a similar sound from the palms of the increasingly heroic keeper, played in by Hamilton, controlling with one touch and absolutely belting it with the next. It's a terrific save, an instinctive block of the first order, a solid arm thrown up and the ball beaten back from whence it came.  

Pool win several corners as the half draws to a close. The best one is flicked on at the near post and the Viking slides in at the far post but the Eastbourne man with him sticks with him and Pool are denied again. 

---

When I check social media, it seems we've had a couple of penalty shouts to add to our plethora of efforts. I have to be honest, I haven't noticed anything nailed on. We've dominated without really pulling them to bits and the story seems to be the same as so many games, not quite clinical enough and prone to an error at the back. I wrote the next line at half time in the Wigan game on Tuesday - If we score first, we can go on and put the game to bed as they'll need to come at us. If they get one, I'm edgy as they can park the bus... 

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Dougall lays it forward to Sullay, he stutters and shimmers and tries to find space for a shot. He strikes it but it's charged down only to break for Madine who places it carefully, but it ends up precisely beyond the far post. 

The goal machine is in the action again seconds later, his chest control and miss hit volley falling to Yates. Shirtless Jerry is offside but the moment stays in the report despite the linesman's flag as it draws another brilliant stop from the Eastbourne keeper. 

Gabriel lofts it high into the box, Madine gets under it and does one of those little cushioned header and it's Turton, steaming in, he's going to hit this on the volley and it's going to break the net. 

Needless to say, he doesn't. He kind of gets there a bit early, sticks a foot out and it rolls away about 4 yards in the wrong direction leaving Turton to turn and trot back to his position. There's always next week Ollie, always next week. 

The the GOAL MACHINE FIRES INTO ACTION! Jimmy Husband controls well on the left and charges forward and swings it in low, Madine controls a deflection with his right, the ball popping up, then he stretches a long left leg, falling backwards and half volleys it into the far corner.  1-0

Yates somehow misses at the far post, in the scramble it comes of an Eastbourne body. Madine has a header cleared off the line. Shouts for pen as Marvin heads it against the arm of an Eastbourne defender. It definitely hits him but I am glad that at least at this level of football that isn't a spot kick though. 

Gabriel lofts a free kick into the box, Madine climbs and nods down to Yates who has the presence of mind to lay it off to the onrushing Goal Machine for a side foot finish into the corner. 2-0 ALL HAIL THE GOAL MACHINE!!

Critch has been writing in a notebook all game, studiously using a cheap black biro to plot and his equations tell him it's time for Dan Kemp to replace CJ. I think CJ has done ok, his delivery has been better today I think.

Whilst we're on managers, I note their gaffer looks a bit like a character from the board game Guess Who - a big round bald head and thick black rimmed glasses. (Is he wearing a suit? Yes. Has he got big eyes and glasses? Yes. Is he very bald? Yes. Is it Danny? Yes, it is!) - His assistant on the other hand is an urbane holiday romance looking type called Sergio who I imagine has a few middle aged hearts fluttering amongst the south coast Shirley Valentines in Eastbourne's fanbase. 

Eastbourne have made some subs, trying more mobile lads in place of their brawny starting forwards. One sub has a shot well blocked by Marvin, the other then beats the same player and fires one just over and just wide. Eastbourne work another moment, a good move that involves some direct running and neat passing before a shot that's blocked by (you've guessed it) Marvin and prompts handball shouts. Then it's Marv again, trying to bring the ball down on the edge of the box but miscontrolling. For a moment it looks a fatal mistake but Eastbourne can't control it either and Gabriel is able to shepherd it out. 

Bez and Ward come on. The rain is pouring. The artificial pitch gets a weird sheen. Sullay shapes one from the edge of the box, but it's easy for the keeper. They score but it's ruled out for a push on Gabriel and the lack of celebration says everything about how obvious the foul was.  

Then Kemp picks it up, rides a challenge and spreads it to Yates in space, who takes it wide before he slips it under the onrushing keeper. A neat finish and it's 3-0 and job done. 

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Eastbourne looked good for the first part of the game but faded a bit. We did well to be patient, to just keep playing and it was a decent win against a committed side who weren't overawed by the occasion at all . Goals for the strikers will help the confidence and more games for players Dougall and Gabriel is no bad thing. The latter impressed me again, putting up with an absolute buffeting every time he tried to run the flank and showing the presence of mind to cover across a couple of times when the defender on the other flank was in trouble. Granted, he'll have harder games, but he did his defensive work well. 

The Goal Machine divides opinion but in mine, he deserves those two today for his consistent and often selfless play up front since forcing his way in. His dipping effort in the first half also highlighted what he's capable of, a bit of magic that defies his categorisation by some as a mere big lump. Him and Jerry again did ok together and they're starting to play to each other's strengths. It mightn't be quite Liverpool's front three but it's becoming a serviceable forward line, we've won 4 from 5 and when you havn't got any other forwards, it's handy that those you have can work together and do a job... 

Next up Leeds u23s. Lets ignore that one. It doesn't count. The FA cup first round is everything that a game against a Premier League reserve team isn't. 

utmp

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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Dizzying heights - the Mighty vs Wigan Athletic


Cotton wool please Neil. 

Put it this way. I've got history with Wigan. It's personal. 

I don't want the crappy carrier bag kit wearing non league club with ideas above their station who reside in a lego ground built on a sewage works to go bust. I really don't.

But I really want us to beat them tonight. I want us to beat them by 5,6,7 or 8. I want no sympathy for their troubles and travails off the pitch on it. I want us to destroy them, batter them, murder them, then to do it again next time we play them and repeat ad infinitum. I want them to have a complete existential breakdown as befits a club who can't decide if they play in all blue, blue and white, blue white and green or blue and black. I want them to reduced to deciding, on balance, it's probably better for their self esteem if they just stay the division below us, living in the shade, hiding away from the glorious Tangerine light. 

That's a 2-1 defeat for us for sure then... 

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Pool muster an early but unthreatening effort in the first minute, Grant Ward (in for the injured Williams_ trying the spectacular but leaving their keeper untroubled and patting it down to catch on the bounce. Both teams then pass it about a bit, waiting for a mistake. Joe Garner assaults Daniel Gretarsson just because that's what Joe Garner does best.  

Gabriel (who has replaced the presumably rested Turton) whips a beautiful near post ball and the Goal Machine stoops, heads low and hard but the Latics keeper makes a really good save. 
 
Pool keep them pinned back without causing any particular problems. It's nice to see the full backs getting forward and the ball moved quickly. CJ brings a ball down in the box, turns and blazes his shot well wide. 

A dodgy header from Gretarsson leads to a chance for Latics to pull it across goal and only a desperate charge and a deflection stops the man running from deep from hitting the target. Wigan are asserting themselves physically and the Viking looks a bit shaken by his buffeting. 

Latics serve another warning, breaking well and delivering a cross to Garner's head, he climbs above Jimmy Husband but can only nod into Maxwell's arms... Pool are struggling to get a grip in midfield. 

Then a slip releases Yates who charges and looks certain to shoot, but lays it off to Madine instead. The Goal Machine looks surprised to get it, but recovers to lay it off to Sullay, who checks back, makes space, pulls the trigger then slips at the key moment and the ball dribbles harmlessly...

--- but wait, there's CJ, in space, with time and the goal at his mercy... all he needs to do is hit the target... He sees a net bulging in his mind's eye and belts it as hard as he possibly can, as if determined to make this the best goal it possibly can be! 

Sadly for everyone, he wellies it into the stand. 

Sullay ties the defence in knots, skipping, turning, going one way then the other, all low centre of gravity and magnetic control in one of those moments where it looks like he can control time itself... He dazzles, he mesmerises, he's a genius in ten second patches, but he doesn't really know where he's going against a wall of Wigan, he's beating them but getting nowhere closer, there's always one more, he goes past one then another one appears, it's like they're regenerating after he's slain them so finally he chips a ball to the far post but no one has quite read it. 

Madine back flicks and Shirtless Jerry runs hard at the defence, stepping over and looking like dynamite but then running into the same wall that Sullay did but with a bit less art. 

Latics have a sharp chance at the near post. Hamilton slams a good ball across but no one can get on it. 

Big Marvin (who generally seems to be a very nice young man, the sort who'd help old ladies over the road and such) is fuming with the dastardly Joe Garner. Handbags almost ensues. The referee just tells everyone to play nicely please. 

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We need to not concede first. We've had chances but they've looked well organised and ready to hit us on the break. We need to find a bit more presence in midfield. Focus is on the centre half partnership and particularly Gretarsson's rude introduction to nasty English centre halves but truth is, we're also failing to win the battle in the middle against Wigan's 5 and with two of our four being Sullay and Grant Ward, we're definitely missing MJ Williams and his embrace of a tough tackle or areal tussle. 

If we score, I think we could pull Wigan apart as they have to push more up. If they score, I feel we could find it tough to break them down as they do the opposite. 

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We come out and do that weird routine where we dance over cones like it's a tap dance warm up. Hadn't we stopped doing this? Why've we started again? 

Then Yates goes wide for a ball, picks it up, goes up against his full back and pulls it back, CJ and Madine turn in frustration but there's Sullay, coming from deep and gliding it home with the unseen ease and silent grace of a Amazonion warrier firing a blow dart into the neck of an unsuspecting adventurer. That is why we do the weird routine. 

Pool then set about their task of picking Wigan to bits well. Sullay puts a cross in that their keeper does very well to cut out. CJ wins a corner. Gabriel has a mazy run inside and shoots into a man, Dougall picks up the rebound and repeats the act but despite a great few minutes, we can't carve a real chance. 

Chris Maxwell makes a really good stop from some hesitant defending, Gretarsson half stabs a low cross away, but only to a Wigan forward who makes space brilliantly, shrugging off the lunging challenges with a turn that defies his burly stature before firing hard at goal. Maxwell stays tall, and throws up his arms, diverting the ball over the top, a terrific instinctive stop. 

Garner spins and kicks Husband as hard as he can. Just because that's how he plays. The ref has a polite word. Rule 42 - subsection (c) It's ok to kick people on purpose if you're Joe Garner. 

Then the Goal Machine somehow doesn't score. It's a beautiful move, Hamilton and Sullay combining like a dream, a one two then a pull back to Madine who has the chance to smash home, but turns and then with the delicacy of a dainty 17th century housemaid doing needlework tries to slide it home precisely. Sadly, he only succeeds in giving the keeper time to get down and make another good save. 

Wigan respond with a good spell. Five or so minutes where Pool are pinned back, losing it every time they pick it up, the biggest scare coming from a frankly terrifying corner which Maxwell tips away and Wigan lash it back but fortunately the bouncing ball cannons away, rather than into the goal. 

A surreal moment ensues from a Sullay freekick (it's notable how he's now on virtually every deadball) which is headed back from the far post then up in the air from Wigan. It drops to Marvin who somehow has acres of space and then somehow brings it down on the turn like he's always 6 yards out. Everyone stands completely still as if the play has stopped but it hasn't and Marvin goes from silk spun sugar to spilled milk as he finishes the move by toe poking it over the top like a schoolkid.

The moment is made weirder by Chissy having an imaginary argument about some letters than no one has sent to him about something no one gives a shit that he said. 

Sullay drift another free kick from the other side. Again it's a centre back free, deep, beyond the far post. This time it's the Viking who heads it back and it looks for a second or two like it's going to drop into the cornor of goal but it doesn't.  

Wigan make two changes and Pool respond by swapping Bez for Yates. 

There's an odd tension as the game draws to a close. Wigan aren't really creating anything put Pool haven't made chances count and players keep slipping under pressure. Wigan then have a helter-skelter of a move where it goes back and forth across the box before Maxwell finally scrambles it to his chest. 

Madine goes mad and dances through their defence but then can't quite get the shot from under his feet. 

I wonder why, of all players, we brought Bez on, as he's the player in the squad, if not in the whole of the division who is least likely to retain possession. Kemp comes on for Sullay who has had good game. Bez, chases a couple of loose balls down. Kemp skips away from his man and is brought down. Dougall lofts a ball into the corner. The ref blows the whistle... 

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Two wins in a row is grand. There's two ways of looking at this game.

a) we didn't particularly impress against a Wigan side who didn't offer a huge amount even if Garner gives them a hugely experienced and effective focal point that caused us real issues. I've seen worse teams than them but I do think they had a bit of a 'Bolton last year' vibe. Which I'm sure will delight them to know... 

b) we stuck to it against a side who set up resolutely and ultimately, the quality we have showed and had we put away some of the decent chances we created we'd have won it comfortably. 

There were moments where it seemed we could really take control of the game but equally, I never quite felt comfortable that we had done so. Wigan ran out of steam and you can see they're playing with spirit but lacking a bit. To be fair, they have a load of injured played so they might be a lot better than they look. 

I don't think we're playing at the level we need to to play against the best teams and really trouble them, but we are at least now making chances on a reasonably frequent basis against weaker sides and showing the ability to battle. We look so much better with Sullay involved than without him, with Madine properly integrated and part of the plan. We're also missing Robson, Williams and Virtue from the middle of the pitch so it's perhaps not surprising that at times we didn't run the show. I think we look far more coherent with 2 up front and for a short period in the second half (around the goal) we looked really mobile and fluid. It's that fluidity that will allow us to trouble the best teams. 

Anyway, that's all for another day. We beat them, we did ok. We've won 3 in 4 and we're on a march to glory. (i.e. not shitting ourselves in case it turns out we're so shit we finish bottom) 

We've won the Bryan Griffiths derby and that's all that matters right now. To me at least. Take yer pea wet and eat yer humble pie and fuck off. 

but don't go bust cos I'd miss you but don't tell anyone I said that. 

utmp

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Yet another bad owner. Where do they breed them?

This is Brooks Mileson. He owned Gretna FC. If you don't know who he is or what the score is with Gretna, it might be worth giving it ...