Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Hope is an assassin: the Mighty vs Coventry City

I'm pretending there's no game on today. Might casually pop down to that retro games place later next to the ground later and let myself be shocked that we're playing. I don't want to think about football today. I want Tuesday to live on in my head a little bit longer. 

Same again with the teams. That bodes well. I think. I don't know. What choice have we got to be honest? That set up worked against QPR and the last time anything worked was against this lot at their place and then it was all about Gaz. We could ask him to hop about I guess, but that might be pushing it. He might be the top surprisingly skillfull big lad up front of a generation (reader, don't even think about questioning this, now is not the time) but legs are quite important to footballers. 

That's the sort of top level analysis you're here for... Anyway, the point is, we've not got a lot of options and the formation precludes playing some of the players so the line up is the line up is the line up


The first ten minutes are great. The ground is a proper cauldron. Two drums, two sets of fans with songs and two teams who are willing to attack. We swap chants and shots. There's something very pleasingly old fashioned about it all.

CJ nearly recreates a key moment from Tuesday, charging down their full back, robbing him, cutting inside and then slamming the ball just wide of the near post. Jerry holds his arms out in despair in the gestural equivalent of 'fucks sake CJ!'

Someone is down in a heap. It's Jud. If I had to pick a player of the season, he's pretty close. There's not many candidates but he's been as good as anyone. Obviously that means he now is being shepherded off with concussion. We've got no CB on the bench because we don't have any more centre backs. Someone give him a pen and contract whilst he's dizzy.

Connolly gets punched. It looks worse than what Gaz got sent off for. The ref gives a yellow. You either saw it or you didn't and if you saw it it's a red. The ref is awful. He's never up with play and it's as if the EFL have sent someone especially inept to compensate for the anomaly that was Tuesday's ref who, for once, didn't have a pathological hatred of tangerine.

Their first goal. They work it down the left. They push it across. We appear to just let them line up a shot having not bothered with tracking the late runner at the edge of the box or chucking ourselves at it or owt. "After you sir, try your luck!" It flies in. For fucks sake. Our defence might as well shake the opponents hands and say "Jolly good show" sometimes. 

Rogers gallops away and is chopped down. To be honest, I'm not sure if he is or not, but it's a penalty. Jerry makes no mistake and we're level. We've deserved that. We're doing ok if you take away the calamitous defending for their goal.

Then a ball looping and falling behind their defence. Rogers again, he gets the right side, he breaks, he glances, he runs again and he delivers a perfect ball. The keeper is nowhere, there's Jerry, the goal a gaping gap and I can see the ball going in before it does. Everything is tensed ready for the release of delight when Jerry is sent flying. There's no contact with the ball, no doubt, no mitigating factor. It's absolutely nailed on. Play on. For fucks sake.

I can barely be bothered writing anymore. We concede a stupid goal just before half time where we make defending a corner look like a bad rehearsal of a primary school dance routine where everyone has practiced to a different song. We've done ok if you take away the calamitous defending for both goals.

Hmm. Not out of this. Let's not concede just after halftime

We concede another almost immediately by literally passing it to them to have another go in the box. We've done ok if you take away the calamitous defending for all three goals.

Then the glory of another goal conceded... one of our defenders runs around a pass from his partner as if unaware of the presence of their forward who nabs it with no real effort required. That adds a final self sabotage cherry to the disasterous icing on the cake of calamity. We're not doing ok any more aside from that to be honest. We look shite now.

The subs we make are pointless. Patino isn't great defensively but he gave us some calm in midfield when on the ball and once he's gone off we make nothing. Again we play Carey where he doesn't really belong. Bowler gets left on the bench because we don't change shape, despite them looking susceptible to a player who can run at them. Keshi cutting in from the left was outrageously good last year but we leave CJ on to mistime jumps and twang crosses 10 foot over little Jerry's head and put the Kesh in the middle instead. 

Dougall was horrible but he's probably the 5th choice to do the role he played. Oheeoh Super Kenny Dougall. He often gives the ball away. He wasn't the only one.

We were ragged. The great hope Poveda used his ten minutes to run into people and fall over. Most people went home. Coventry made a lot of noise. Keshi looked at least able to control a football so there's that. 

We didn't really deserve to go 3-1 down, but once we had, we tried our best to make the scoreline look correct and even managed to add some gloss to it for Coventry.


In the end, this game was about 3 things.

1) Cov were good. They got at our wingbacks and therefore they (particularly Lyons) had far less impact.

2) The key moments of decision making also went for Cov. The ref could have sent two players off and given us another penalty. 

3) The tempo Cov played at flustered us and though we actually matched them for a good while in terms of our ability to get forward, we just couldn't stop making stupid mistakes and not having a player of genuine disruptive ability in the midfield once again cost us dear. Lose the middle of the park and you're up against it as we have been in far too many games. The more pressured you are, the more mistakes you make. 

To be honest, I hope Coventry go up. They're a good team that's been built over time and a set of fans who've been through the mill. In the longer term, we should take encouragement that we've poached their recruitment team. That's not much for the immediate though. 

We go into the next game (can't remember who that's against...) potentially with 1 out and out centre back, no defensive midfielder (because the nearest thing we've got to a fit one will likely be in defence) and one striker...

What a season.

Deep breaths everyone. We don't give up. 


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Thursday, March 16, 2023

Gary Madine: Goal Machine


He's an odd player is Gary Madine. Part creative genius, part old school target man. He's a muscle bound gym product who always looks like he's gasping for a tab and a pint really. Flawed. Sometimes very daft. Human. An actual man in a world of coached identikit tactics drones. An oddity in amongst the monotony of homogeneity.

The endless productiom line of uniform academy players are football Soylent Green. They melt down the ones who don't make it and pour them into a mould then another one pops out.

Gary is no-one's product. He's the goal machine. He's himself. For better or worse. He's a wild man. He's a model pro.

He's sometimes slower than a broken oil tanker marooned on a sandbank but his speed of thought, deftness of touch and instinct for what's around him are lightning fast.

Rarely this year has Patino played a pass I hadn't already seen. Don't get me wrong, I like Charlie, but Madine at his best does that every five minutes. Little touches round the corner. Glances to the side. Stepping out of the way, letting it run. Occasional bits of impudent and unexpected skill. First time football when everyone else needs three goes to control, look and pass. Pace isn't just in the legs. It's in the head.

Waving at players. Exhortation. Falling to his knees after not being quite quick enough to reach the ball. For a big man, he has a strange frailty. This season it felt like Gary was raging against the dying of the light. Each match seemed a little more painful that the one before. Each step closer to the end of the season a little more heavy.

He played like he loved it. He played with his heart and his soul. He played in tangerine and heart, soul and tangerine is all I ever want.

I'll miss him very much. I'm far too old to have favourite players but once you stop thinking like a kid, you might as well curl up and die. I never saw John Charles play. I'm far too young. I imagine there was a touch of Madine about him. Haaland? Shite.

Give me Gaz every day of the week.

I love a player who uses their brain to be better than their body let's them be. Brett wasn't the greatest finisher but he just ran more. GTF had the physique of a plasterer with a 3 pint midweek habit but the mind of a physicist. Gary often didn't appear to be able to run but made a career from what he could do.

You might not agree but I don't give a flying fuck what you think frankly.



1: I'm in the North Stand watching us under David Dunn. The big lad we've just signed is getting a lot of stick. He's not very mobile. He wasn't the best last time round and now he looks like the same player but with a spine problem. He keeps laying it off to nobody. At least he was free.

2. It's preseason. COVID. Critchley. We're playing fast give and go football. Madine comes on. This isn't going to suit him at all. Larry's man looks lost. Joe Nuttall seems a more likely candidate to play this way. It's a question of when and not if he leaves I think.

3: Gillingham away. We're rancid. It's rare I say things like 'disgraceful' but today I'm struggling to say anything else. 70 minutes. On trots Madine. A desperate roll of the Critchley dice.

You know what? He's excellent. The lot of them looked terrified all game. Gaz suddenly gives us a focal point. Gaz gives us belief. Gaz leads. They follow. It's too little too late, but y'know what? There's a player there.

4. Peterborough away. He scores the world's most awkwardly finished goal but it doesn't matter. It's a goal. A Gary Goal. He's the yin to Jerry's yang by now. We play through him. He's backing in, holding off, flicking and dummying us up the table.

Now. Ladies and Gentlemen. Gary Madine is doing Cruyff turns and gliding about in the corner of the pitch. Time up.

All hail the Goal Machine.

5. Fleetwood.

Kaikai floats it in. Madine! Easy. As. You. Like.

6. West Brom at home in the cup.

Gary is really good. Everything sticks. He chases things down. He even manages to look more than sluggish at points. The game is a mere apperatif for the penalties though.

Their keeper is a prick. He puts off Yates. No one fucks about with Gaz's mates.  Especially not a skinny twat who thinks he's Tyson Fury because he's grown a shit beard.

He takes a look at the keeper. If looks could kill, the guy would be a smouldering pile of ashes. He strolls back. He trots in and hits the ball harder than I've ever seen it kicked before. Their keeper dives out the way. The net has scorch marks.

Gary turns and fires a glance. He's like John fucking Wayne.

7. Wigan away.

Madine is unplayable. I've rarely seen one player have so much impact. He's a magician, scoring one but conjuring goals for others. It's like their defenders are mere cardboard cutouts and Gary is just having a stroll about.

He doesn't play again for months.

8. Blackburn

Is he good enough for the championship though? Especially after the injury? 

Of course he is. He terrifies their defence for 45 minutes and then gives us the only outball we've got for the remainder of the game as they launch wave after wave of attacks. We've looked lightweight. Madine is back. We've got our heavyweight. We're stronger for it. By miles. 

9. A game I can't remember. 

We're leading. We're clinging on. Madine goes down. He rolls over. He grabs the ball. He gets up. He runs away. He puts the ball up his shirt. Their lad runs after him. He tries to grab the ball. Madine throws himself down in a heap. 

The whole ground cheers. Their lad loses his rag and (I think) gets booked. Madine smiles. Butter would not melt. 

Gary 1-0 Gentlemanly conduct 

10: Burnley away. 

We're getting mugged by them. We've been woeful. They've just passed it round us and but for a fairly random goal from out an of control Canadian shopping trolley they'd be miles clear. 

Madine wants on. He wants on so much he's warming up practically on the edge of their box. 

Madine is on. Now we're here. Now we're tangerine. Now we're roaring forward, a tidal wave of inevitability. Madine is the shifting of the tectonic plates and the rest of them are the resulting tsunami. Limbs. Tangled hugs with three different people I don't know and one I do. God love Gary Madine. 

11. Coventry away. 

See Wigan ahove but at a higher level. Madine makes heading look beautiful. Cushioned efforts. Little flicks that land with the right spin for the oncoming recipient. Everything goes through him and comes out the other side better. We're good. He's terrific 

12. Wigan away. 

We're up against the world. Nothing ever fucking goes right. Patino and Carey are school kids in midfield. Marvin had had a rush of blood to the head. Madine... Fucking hell! 20 yards. Brilliant! 

It's not enough. 

He runs himself to a standstill. He gets smashed and plays on as Appleton is statuesque on the touchline. He's practically hopping after the ball, chasing shadows, wincing every time he jumps. 

He fights on. A boxer in the twilight of his days who refuses to fall by sheer will. 

13. Bristol away. 

The end. He chases, he puts in a snarling tackle. It's over. He tries to play on. The smelling salts can't help. He can't beat the count. He falls to the canvas. 

We can't end like this. 

14. Preston

Gary. Oh, what a ball. An acute angle. Lofted. Backspin almost... He's found his mate. Jerry. MEGS! - where's that going though?... MADINE!!!!!!!!!!!! 

No 14, arms wide. In front of the North Stand. He knows what this means. He drinks it in. 

He's Gary Madine. He's a Goal Machine. 


I've written all this from memory. It might be wrong. That's not the point. Football is vivid and it lives on after the game. Whatever Gary does next, he's etched himself into tangerine memory. 

Get well soon Gaz! 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Unexpected magic: the Mighty vs QPR

The ice falls from the sky like so many tiny pieces of shrapnel. I pull my coat over my head. Why the fuck am I doing this? Bloomfield Road is gloomy and oddly quiet. There's a lack of match day energy. A mother in a lightweight and sodden white jacket leans into the wind. Her kids skip through the hail as if it's somehow a game. She looks so thin and cold. 

The Bloomfield Club should be preserved forever. If it ever closes, it must go to Beamish. The light is warm, the wood panelling a comforting call back to a time that might loosely evoke 'childhood' or 'before things were like they are now and the world was mediated by people who maybe no longer are with us who smelled of fag smoke and leather.' The mirrored back room reflects us back at ourselves, the conviviality doubled by the second image. The talk is calm. The chat is resigned. We accept our fate. We expect little. It's easier that way. 

The team is picked by bingo numbers we joke. There's no need to even analyse it. It makes no sense to seek meaning in the random. People spot patterns to make meaning. There is no pattern in randomness. That's the point. There's no pattern in the selections. There's no pattern of play. Just an aging fella and his mate hoping to hit the jackpot in a lucky dip. The team selection as lottery numbers. Mystic Meg is dead. Mystic Mick hasn't got the same ring to it.  


Smoke channels towards the heavens. As send offs go, this is a pretty fucking good one. A fog of tangerine. A name ringing out around the ground. This is us. This is a goodbye. I don't know Tony, but everyone is once removed from someone who knows someone who does. That's how it is. We're massive. We're the biggest, best, most beautiful club in the world, but it's a tight knit thing as well. A tatty seaside town. A stubborn, brilliant and strange place. The night air, so cold and hostile outside is now imbued with an unknowable magic. Grief hurts. It's not my grief. It's not my place to claim any understanding of Tony or his loss but to air sorrow and to share in that is a basic human need and Bloomfield Road tonight is a church, a henge, a clearing in the woods where people gather. We live, we die. We need to belong and what is clear is that Tony belonged somewhere and that is something that matters in a way that goes far beyond the language we normally use to talk about football.  

Talking of football - I barely remember to shout 'C'mon POOL!!!' at kick off. Around me gallows humour abounds. 'Another footballing feast for the senses?' Oh, how we chuckle. What are we doing here? 

Fiorini the flick knife is sharp as the edge of a blade in the first few minutes. Clever first time touches. Bustling and weaving into little gaps. Giving, going. I like him. Oh, what could have been if he'd stayed fit I think. Now here's CJ. Why would you pick CJ? I know he's fast but he never matches that with impact. CJ shoves the thought back down my brainstem to wherever thoughts originate from by doing his full back with a burst of speed and then a cut back. Chaos. Handball! Handball! A WHISTLE!!!

Fuck me! We've got a penalty. The ref takes forever explaining something to one of their players. Why, I don't know. Maybe they're discussing a surprising shared interest they've just discovered, like say, collecting coins of the reign of Edward the 2nd... as I was under the impression a ref could say 'It's a handball, now fuck off' about footballing questions... Rogers waits on the spot as if protecting it from any skulduggery. Jerry lurks. I used to allude to his Slavic looks by suggesting he was a Russian Army sniper, but times have changed and that's enough to get me kicked off Match of the Day now. I hope he's still got the rifle sights though... 


How long to go? Only a mere 87 minutes to protect this lead... 

Jimbo down the line. Jerry comes deep, a deft touch of snooker ace kissing one at angle into a side pocket... Rogers with a slide rule pass. CJ again... CJ with muscle, purpose, pace, determination, shrugs the man off the ball and cuts back and YESSSSSSSSS! ANDY LYONS!!!! TWO! YES! 

How long left? 80 something minutes and an extra goal. We can do this. Maybe. Fucking hell. I'm almost more worried than we started about what the score will be cos it will hurt to fuck this up. 

A free kick is lumped forward. The keeper comes. The keeper spills. Nelson turns and scuffs the ball in. The ref will blow. The refs always blow on us for stuff like this. There's no whistle. Has he given it? I check the linesman. I check the other linesman for good measure. I think he's given it! HE HAS! THREE?!! FUCKING HELL????!!!!! 

How long left. 75 minutes. For fuck's Pool. Don't blow this. Please. Don't blow this. 

Super Jimmy Husband has deserved a song for so long that I should give up on pointing it out - he makes a good block as QPR decide they might want to do something about being 3-0 down. That aside, we're good. There's little flicks and tricks. There's movement. There's a hunger for the ball and most tellingly, there's a sense that when we lose it, we know what to do and we've got a fair chance of getting it back. When we get it back, we do a passable impression of having a plan to get it towards the other end of the pitch that has more variance than simply 'boot it' 

A corner. The lad next to me says 'This is the fourth' - I don't know why, but I believe him. It makes no sense seen as we're not very big and we are really bad at corners but something about his certainty speaks to the way that sometimes, you can feel a goal before it happens. The skinny underfed kid Patino puts it exactly where Thorniley is going to be... there's a gap, the ball comes from one angle, Jud from the other and then the net is full and the ground is delirious and the not-so-super-hoops are looking at each other and I'm hammering the seats in front of me and laughing in delight. 

WE CAN'T SURELY FUCK THIS UP FROM HERE? CAN WE? I'm still nervous. Even though it appears that QPR have accidentally been involved in a terrible mix up and loaded a random group of lads onto their team bus whilst the actual team end up doing whatever the lads who've turned up should have been doing, like, I dunno, standing about smoking tabs between brief spells fixing a sewer pipe on a busy street or whatever gangs of about 11 lads might do... I'm still nervous. 

They score. I can't decide if it's Fiorini getting carried away and hitting a not quite Hollywood pass (a Bollywood pass?) that dies just before it sets CJ away or whether it's CJ waiting for it and not reading that he needs to come a yard shorter and compete for it but they're out, up the right hand side, we're all desperately chasing, CJ nearly intervenes, but he doesn't quite and a cut back and a simple finish. 

Fucks sake. Just before half time. Why is football like this? If we'd just gone 3-0 up at this point, we'd be feeling more comfortable than we do after they draw it back to 4-1. The maths is the same but the feeling is different. 


I need a sit down. I don't quite know how to process this. 


QPR are out early. Ainsworth has clearly had a strong word and he shuffles out behind them as if disowning them. From this distance he looks like a cross between a normal bloke and an actor playing Frankenstein's monster in a rock opera directed by Ozzie Osborne part way through dressing for the role. I'd probably be scared of him if I was in a confined space, so I fully expect QPR to be better. 

They aren't. Rogers is at them. He's been great - he can run in straight lines and jink and turn in tight spaces. He's pulled them round and opened gaps. Lyons has another effort saved. He gets a corner as reward. Patino again floats the ball beautifully, deep, it slowing like frisbee to hover right where Lyons needs it and the Irishman profits from what he earned to the tune of a second goal. Free scoring full backs. It's the new thing and I love it. 

I'm getting blase about goals I think. FIVE! FIVE! FUCKING FIVE!!! YES!!! 

This has to be enough. Surely. 

Things are getting surreal. My lad sends me a voice message 'Dad... Wake up. It's a dream...' - If it is, I'm staying in this bed. Another break. Another corner. Now it's Curtis Nelson, an even more unlikely winger than Gary Madine, but watch him shimmy, watch him lay it off... Rogers!!! Oh... so close, the post struck with a resounding noise. Now it's Jud... What the fuck is he doing... He's just stood up a ridiculous sand wedge pass the like of which our actual midfielders haven't managed all year and Jerry is cartwheeling backwards onto it in what looks like a perfect overhead kick and I think I am probably in another universe where we're Real Madrid and they're shit or something... Ok, the ball goes away from, not towards goal from Jerry's effort, but sometimes, you just have to applaud. 

The 55th minute is one of those times. The ground up as one again. Memory. Belonging. Respect. Fuck you if you're so quick to diagnose football as 'a problem' - where else in the world do you get this feeling of being as one. Football is more than whatever you want to pigeon hole it as sometimes. RIP. 

Jimmy Husband flying down the wing on his own for the mad fun of it. QPR getting all tetchy and stroppy like they're thinking of how far home it is and how Gareth will probably put his own music on all the way home and stare at them angrily if they reach for their headphones. Jerry, who has been in top cheeky chappy form all night gets involved in a little tustle. Patino runs over and makes like a little dog squaring up to a big one. Everyone is delighted. Jerry gets booked. Mick decides to make some sensible subs and Jerry makes way. 

Even so, I STILL worry when they bring on their subs. I like their young kid, Armstrong. He's big, he's fast and he's got ability. Quite why they don't seem to play him, is a mystery to me. So paranoid am I, that I breathe a huge sigh of relief when an effort created in part by good work from their young sub drifts wide of the far post. Kenny Dougall slashes a chance created by glorious football a mile over the bar. Mick makes some sensible subs. Carey pirouettes his way through and is only stopped from a piece of magic by the offside flag. Keshi comes on and looks like a dancing barrel, a squat, classy little pony doing a dressage jig as he bounces on his toes in time with his name ringing round the ground. 

Keshi heads one away. Nelson times yet another tackle. A long ball up the middle. CJ muscles into his ban, turns, takes the ball down, guiding it in the same motion to Dougall who this time slashes it home. Who the fuck needs Gary Madine when you've got CJ? I am beyond disbelief now. It's like I'm drugged up. The air tastes of sweetness, the noise is pure harmony and birdsong. This club is a drug. You think you're on the verge of kicking the craving, accepting that you don't have to care so much and they inject the magic directly into your bloodstream. 

I think I can relax now. Even I can't see them scoring 5 in 2 minutes... 

If I were a tabloid hack, I'd write 'after some admirable work by the indefatigable Hamilton and deft feet from Carey, the resultant corner resulted in Blackpool being denied seventh heaven only by the merest of inches as Connolly grazed the bar' - I'm not, so I'll just say 'fuck me, we even nearly scored again...

The whistle. Noise. We love you Blackpool. I don't want to go home. This feels good. 


So many times this year, I've clutched at straws. I've done it so often my fingers are red raw. I've tried to find things to say that aren't too cruel or perhaps neglected to comment on certain players because, well, you can read invective in a thousand places. Sometimes, I've made CJ the whipping boy because, well, I have and because, sometimes, frankly, I've thought he's been a bit shit.

Let me say clearly, right here in black and white... Christopher Hamilton was fucking brilliant. He actually looked like an international footballer. He played his game up and down the flank. He harried, he ran at people, he cut it back. He even joined in some neat triangles and showed himself aware of others and their movement. I think it's the best game I've ever seen him have. A simple role, played brilliantly. 

Literally everyone else was good. Nelson has been excellent for a while. Thorniley was weirdly inventive tonight and that partnership looks as solid as anything we've seen this year. Husband was perfectly Jimmy, Lyons gave us roaring presence on the flanks and could easily have had a hattrick. From full back. Without ever seeming to neglect his defensive duties. How? I don't know. More please. 

In midfield, Fiorini was a difference maker. It's not what he does as much as how quickly he does it. He sets a tempo. Patino played as well as he has done for what feels like forever. Connolly seemed to play both at the back and in midfield, just breaking things up and leaving it to better footballers to make the play. That's his ideal role for me. Rogers I thought deserved a goal as much as anyone on the pitch and Jerry deserved a goal as much as anyone in the world and it was joy to see him with a structure around him that let him roam, let people get beyond him and to see him playing with a verve and joy rather than just chasing lost causes. 

It won't be easy to recreate this. QPR were fucking awful, to the point where I felt sorry for their fans almost, the ref was, for once in about 80 Championship games, possibly slightly generous (I know!!!) and everything we hit went in or close - but it was performance we needed and c'mon - for fuck's sake!...relish it, enjoy it!

It's done me the world of good. Imagine what it will do for those lads who've been dragging themselves around the country, losing week on week, confidence draining, the exhortations that 'we can do this' seeming more and more hollow as each game passes. If that doesn't give us belief, then honestly, nothing will... 

We're staying up. 

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Saturday, March 4, 2023

Bonus point! - the Mighty vs Burnley

C'mon kids! Let's not be down. This is the day we turn those frowns UPSIDE DOWN. 

There's only the small matter of the best team in the division who play the best football in the division and are in the best form in the division to contest with. 

No problem. We'll pick a random selection of out of form footballers and dump them in a formation that doesn't appear to take any notice of their attributes and then knock it into the corners. 

We've got one major advantage over Burnley - we haven't got a clue what we're doing or why we're doing it. That is the art of surprise right there. BOOM KAPPOW! TANGERINE BASTARD SHOCK ATTACK! 

Twat the ball forward. Our lads run around a bit. GOAL!!! 



Frankly I don't even believe in it myself. Today we will lose 3-1 and playing what looks like 442 with a left back on the wing and a midfielder up front and a defender in midfield just confirms that. Gallows humour abounds. The wise counsel of me and the fellas on either side of me convenes and confirms unanimously that we've got no chance and we might as well get at them and try and get some consolation goals to at least give our front players a bit of confidence. No point trying to hold them to 0-0 as we'll never manage it. 

The first few minutes aren't bad but they're often the best bit. If games only last ten minutes we'd probably not be bottom of the league. The two teams are wrestling. Burnley don't look too flustered. We'll likely run out of steam shortly. 

"That keeper is dodgy - he was shit at Turf Moor" I opine wisely, like I know stuff, and obligingly, he proves to be so a few moments later. We close him down and he panics. This isn't bad. We don't look totally shite. It won't last mind.  

I love Sonny Carey. He can do stuff that is a bit magic sometimes but he's not some high maintenance madhead either. A clever first time touch buys us a yard, he receives the return pass, he drives forward, has a look and puts an absolutely divine ball right where Jerry needs it. The sniper cuts inside and whistles a warning shot that curls past the post. 

In the course of another game in another season, that would be just another chance but today and this year, it feels like a moment of gold. Some football. A bit of intent. Bloomfield is on its feet. Give us a little and we'll give you our soul in return. 

The ref is not endearing himself. Jerry gets wrestled to the ground. Play on. Their lad falls over. Have a free kick. They're not doing very much though. Neither are we, but I expected to be two down by now. 

Carey pick up a flick. Go on Sonny. Go on. He's looked half a yard sharper today and he drops a shoulder and gains himself some space and sprints into the box, touches the ball past his man and is sent sprawling. Obviously, we don't get a penalty because the universe hates and despises us in revenge for us being glorious, beautiful and tangerine. The whole of existence is jealous isn't it? The ref is a pale blue prick.  

As the half edges towards half time and the weak spring light fades towards the chill recent memory of a wintery evening, Burnley press. A driven effort, rising and fading into the corner. Maxwell at his best denies them. 

The longer this goes on, the more I feel the horrible sense of hope rising. Deep down, I'd written this one off and was going to just watch it. Maybe even for once, appreciate the other team playing instead of one eyed devotion to our cause. Now the game is making me care again and that notion seem the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Who the fuck watches football to appreciate the opposition? Weird people who probably vote Lib Dem, live in the home counties and wear beige I'd guess.  

The ref blows for half time after he's waited a good 90 seconds for an injury to be treated and not restarted the game. He's not had a great half. I'm not sure he knows the rules. 


That was better than I'd expected. I mean, it wasn't by conventional standards fun or full of chances and great football or owt like that and we're probably going to get battered in the second half, but it's been a season of few joys and to be not losing to the league leaders at half time having kind of matched them is a relative delight. 


Oh this ref. He can go and fuck himself. The first half he was bad but he's taking the piss in this one. Carey is sent sprawling again, then blatant shirt pulling is completely ignored and at one point (and I kid you not) he body checks Jordan Gabriel to the ground and then lets play run on then compounds our ire by not giving their lad a second yellow when one was merited and to be honest, for not giving him a red in the first place for chopping Gabriel in half when he was breaking and looking to go through. I'm so wound up by him that I had to get all his crimes out the way first cos I don't want to think of the dickhead again. 

Burnley are better this half. Their right winger is a terrific player. They can all move the ball with purpose. At one point, I watch enviously as the ball rests with their centre mid and three players burst in opposite directions, in a way that seems impossible to imagine us doing and also impossible to defend against if they get the passing right. 

Happily, often today, they don't get it on target. Multiple times, they get the final ball wrong or a switch of play drifts out, instead of releasing them. Still, they do create chances. Maxwell makes two more really good saves, one particularly notable because it deflects off a head and whilst he's originally going for it with his bottom arm, he chucks up his top arm and tips it over. They cause chaos when they drill a ball across the box and Jud (who is frankly, utterly brilliant today) stops it and hooks it away from just about on the line... 

We defend doggedly. Thompson is like an elastic band, pulled all over and twisted and then sent spinning by his winger, but he doesn't break. He gives us a few moments where he's about 10 yards from where he should be, but overall, he does a good job. Gabriel is solid and gives us a feel of genuine quality, Nelson is really good too, timing tackles and pouncing several times at the last to clear danger and Jud, well, I know I've already praised him, but he's so good I'll say it again. 

We push them back a few times but we can't find the shot. When we do finally find it, Jordan Gabriel hits the north stand. That, to be fair, is a shot on target by the standards of recent weeks. Jerry several times nearly makes something out of nothing. Their keeper continues to look dodgy. Carey looks much happier with Connolly and Dougall behind him and a bit of freedom to be who he is. 

I'm checking the clock. We need a goal. I'm checking the clock again. We need not to concede a goal. Mick shuffles things about a bit. First he sends on Rogers. Bowler goes off. He's had a couple of runs, but he's struggled to get into the game much. His game was probably summed up by a lovely run from the edge of his own box to inside their half where he just stumbled into their full back and had to chase him about for a bit forlornly. Now Mick calls for CJ and Gary Gamechanger and finally chucks on Andy Lyons. 

The balance of the game shifts. We're actually going at them. The noise builds. Every time we go forward, there's a roar of real hunger. CJ gets in on the left. The cross is hacked away. A free kick. FUCKS SAKE DOUGALL! Another free kick. Marginally better. C'mon Pool! A corner... Ooohs and aaahs. Long throws... everyone waved forward...  It actually feels, for a few minutes as if the goal is coming. Rogers is flickering through their defence. Madine is lurking with intent. CJ is head down running and who knows what he'll do, I don't think he has a clue either, but it might just work... 

It doesn't. 

The whistle goes and applause tumbles from the stands. It's well earned. I didn't expect 0-0. I really didn't. 


I enjoyed that game as much as anything we've seen recently. We seemed more at home with what we were doing and there were periods where it was difficult to tell which side was the runaway leaders and which side were the misfits, devoid of form. 

I think we looked sharper for a week's break and defensively, we did a really good job. If Thorniley hasn't been offered a contract yet something is wrong. In midfield, Dougall and Connolly perhaps epitomised what was good about us last year AND what needed to improve for us to move on. We won more second balls and several times they broke up play really well and we launched breaks. Both of them, but Connolly in particular, used the ball badly at times as well. At one point, Connolly's pass was so poor that Jud had to go and give him a cuddle and tell him to get over it. I'm not digging him out (I suppose I am in a way) but it's telling that our best performance in ages comes on the back of a battling and physical (but limited technically) performance from two players I don't think anyone would necessarily put in many other championship midfields. It says a lot about our recruitment that at the end of last year, that was the obvious area for improvement and yet, we've ended up going back to more or less the Critchley model of midfield as a meat grinder with creativity elsewhere.  

I liked Carey in a freer role - I think that's where he's best and Garbutt looked both sharp (some of his passing was very nice) and sluggish (some of his movement or awareness of where to run or track wasn't.) Maxwell again emerges with a lot of credit but his kicking is a horror show at times that puts extra pressure on us when we can't retain the ball much anyway, so to keep gifting it to them from goal kicks isn't ideal.  

McCarthy deserves some credit for this game. We nullified Burnley for the large part. That's no mean feat. We also managed to pose a threat at times and though we didn't actually have a shot on target, we at least got the crowd up and drove at them with some intent and moved the ball quicker and with more confidence. 

I'd given up. I've got hope again. In some ways, it would be easier if I didn't, but that was a performance which showed a lot of pride and just a sprinkling of ability too. The division is so tight and lots of the sides we're due to play can be beaten if we're at the top of our game. The way we played today seemed, for the first time in ages, to suit the players to a degree and if they've not given up, I've certainly not because we have got players who, with a bit of confidence in each other and themselves can keep us up. Today won't hurt. A point isn't a lot in the fight, but the belief that we could get 3 points next week and the week after is possibly the biggest thing we need and maybe today will be important in that regard.  

We are the Pool and we're staying up! 


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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 ...