Church Road, Hayes
So, after bringing you the experience of knocking about Liverpool in daze that was probably only a couple of notches away from being a diabetic coma, the pragmatist within me needs to try and reset the parameters. So, welcome to West London. With apologies to Althea and Donna’s pop-reggae hit of the 70’s, see me in me Hayes and ‘Ding.
Not that one would describe Hayes as an Up-town, as such. Even the followers of Hayes don’t particularly like it much, their forums often attracting ‘…and that’s why I’m voting BNP’ style messages. Sadly, this type of attitude has also crept into their terrace chants on occasion and this, combined with their obsession with singing aggressively anti-oppo songs rather than pro-H&Y numbers, does little for the good name of their club, nor that of the more reasonable Church Road constituents whom will be relatively legion, but perhaps a little quieter.
To be honest, despite priding ourselves on being anti negative-songs support, it’s fair to say we lapse from time-to-time, but this usually comes only as the result of severe provocation. However, Hayes & Yeading appear to delight in proactive antagonism. Well, I say Hayes & Yeading, but I really mean the former as, since their merger last summer, their integration does not appear to have run particularly smoothly, support-wise anyway.
Word has it that, when visiting our place earlier in the season, some of their supporters were heard to remark that they wouldn’t be getting behind certain players in their side because they had come from the Yeading background. Certainly, the word ‘Yeading’ doesn’t seem to appear in any of their chants, possibly because Hayes were the more vocal support, but more likely that the hardcore element remains less than impressed with the union, even eight months on. These are, though, early days, and every merger will have its bumps in the road to traverse.
Being back stood up at football (without being greeted by tuts from those behind) was also something to look forward to. While the rail-replacement-coach, excuse-me-driver-I-know-I’m-tall-but-my-knees-are-bleeding-profusely seating the previous weekend was all very nice, standing on steps, which can be back-heeled and kicked in moments of tension and frustration, was like Linus rediscovering his lost blanket, familiar and reassuring. Terracing was the ideal, soothing pair of comfy slippers to glide back into after our big weekender, havin’ it large in stiletto heels at the Anfield Road End.
Gary Elphick, finally free of his cup-tied shackles, could return, but into a new three man central-defensive unit with Neil Sharp and Tom Jordan, whilst Wycombe loanee Steven Gregory could make his debut proper, following the Thurrock abandonment, in midfield. However, we were without both our FA Cup goal heroes from the previous week, both plucked from above as reward for their efforts. Alfie Potter was instantly recalled by Peterborough to fight for his place in their first team whilst, more unexpectedly, Richard Pacquette received a call up to the Dominica squad for their World Cup qualifier against Barbados.
Anyway back to someone we still like a lot. Obviously pleased to be offered a chance to prove himself in League football, Alfie was nevertheless apparently “gutted” to be leaving us, keen to be part of what we all hope to be a late push for the play-offs. However, without his energy and invention, this may be one dream we don’t get to realise this year. Maybe we shouldn’t be greedy, considering, but our away form in the league defies belief, as did our away form in the cup, but in a very different way.
Whilst we can clearly keep it firm and athletic for those big cup games and for the majority of home league games, it now appears we need to employ some kind of pre-away-day fluffer to ensure the team remains pointed, perky and ready for action when on the road. Our 24 minutes at Thurrock and this game both proved we can do some good stuff away, but only apparently for the first period.
With Rocky rested and Big Rich deciding international football in the Caribbean was more attractive than coming to West London, Jamie Slabber and Craig Watkins began the game up front. Craig was keeping up his impressive recent form when given a chance, regularly beating the leggy Hayes & Yeading defence, but consistently being let down by his final touch. H&Y however caught us with a sucker punch in first half stoppage time. Justin Gregory conceded a free kick for handball, which Josh Scott was able to place past the wall and keeper Kevin Scriven.
Against the overall run of play certainly, but rather than use this as a catalyst for a second half display of purpose, the H&W will, so evident in recent games, suddenly came down with man-flu. We thus collapsed to a three-goal deficit before the hour, James Mulley and Kieran Knight getting the goals. Yes, we scored, but even then it was the 90th minute and sub Mo Harkin needed two goes at it. Bumps, crashing to earth, all of that stuff. Big back-to-school feeling. The bringing-in-board-games and mufti of those mid-September days before the cup run began and we were, albeit briefly, third seems a very long time ago.
Now fourteenth, it really is back to the white board, but we’re essentially starting again in a new school. The catch-up fixtures represent our chance to sidle up quickly to the popular group that hang around behind the play-off bike-sheds, before the mid-table bullies get to tweak our nipples or, even more scarily, the relegation haunted kids convince us that chewing our hair and looking pale is the way to go.
Hopefully this will be the final aberration, and league-game focus will dribble back in like a barium enema into a digestive tract, highlighting problems and making the appropriate solutions abundantly clear.
Hayes & Yeading United website
Havant & Waterlooville website
Alfie Potter interview