Cressing Road, Braintree
Ordinarily, Braintree is one of those away games one doesn’t feel too unhappy to miss. Horrible ground (albeit improved since the dwarf shed behind the clubhouse end goal was removed – supporters over 5ft 10in no longer have to pick the splinters out of their scalps on the way home); a mental, fluffy bearded steward who appears keener to get a fight started than a late-on-the-card boxing ref with a looming dinner reservation; and an on the hour train service to London which requires a breathless sprint after the final whistle or sixty minutes of demoralising wandering well outside the centre of town. There is also the lingering, but nowhere near as strong as it was, resentment at some of the antics of their top brass three seasons ago.
On top of all these, and possibly most importantly, was our record of two defeats and two draws (one of which was followed by our downfall in a penalty shoot-out which, I grant you, was terrifically exciting, but still). So, with a long and expensive train trip to Weymouth to pay for next Monday, Braintree was the obvious corner to cut.
However, it turns out the leopard that represents our performances as Cressing Road was in the mood to display his brand new set of spots and so, and I never thought I’d say these words, I really wish I’d made it to Braintree. Finally a win there courtesy of yet another Manny Williams brace, taking his total this season to seven in five games.
Two home draws and three away wins thus far then; currently in second or, if you ignore goal difference (as I like to when it suits me in this way), joint-top. Furthermore, it’s not like we’ve played any no-hopers yet, all five of our opponents having won at least two games themselves. Indeed, Braintree and Staines’ only defeats have come at our hands.
Still, it is still only five games in and the next couple of weeks will bring further tough challenges. Basingstoke and Dover are our home games, the former having an unexpectedly good start, and Dover (much more expectedly) currently leading the table.
In addition is that away game at Weymouth, which is difficult to call. After taking a couple of humiliating barrellings against Bishop’s Stortford and Eastleigh, they’ve taken four points from Maidenhead and Worcester.
We’ve had good results against Weymouth by and large over the years but, as this weekend’s Braintree result shows, history is bunk; all that matters is the here-and-now.
Still, I’m pleased I’ve been keeping a lid on the over-confidence, as each result reveals a new delight, an extra little fizz of excitement, rather than a blasé shrug.
This posting also appears on ' Bin Man 87', one of the many blogs on the Conference South Guide site.