Westleigh Park, Havant
As I type they say a storm is coming to these Isles. Batten down the hatches, nail yourself to the floorboards and sling yer valuables in the fridge, all that. If so, this game was the calm before it. A draw that reflected the balance of play, with no great moments of contention.
Then again, for all that equilibrium, we did get a few moments of excitement and, as is becoming customary of late, a goal of quality to purr over. Which we’ll come to.
Right now, I’m reticent to rip arms off for a point prior to kick off for home games, unless we are so injury depleted that the tea-bar ladies are having their international clearance checked. There is a difference however between accepting a point before kick off, and being okay with it once the final whistle blows. This was a clash between two clubs currently in mid-table and who, if we’re being realistic, will probably be there come the spring.
There are some clubs in this league with the resources that mean anything less than promotion will require the manager to be tarred, feathered and glued to the side of the stadium as a warning to others. We are more window-shopping types, we’d like promotion one day but we’re not going to continually grab chunks out of the pension pot to fund it; leaving a smashed, empty pension pot as a metaphor for shattered dreams. We’ll save up for it, perhaps over many years making sure we get our homestead in order first, as though it were a once-in-a-lifetime cruise. It probably will be.
So, if we have any hopes of gate-crashing the play-offs like a wine-thirsty tramp collapsing through the door of a hipster artist’s private view, it is in this well-maintained home of ours that we need to consistently appear in our ‘Saturday best’, performance wise. No paint-spattered trackie bottoms and tight-fitting Toto tour t-shirt, we need the freshly dry-cleaned three-piece suit and shiny shoes. Lee Bradbury gets this, sartorially anyway, always appearing on the touchline as though having come straight from presenting the quarterly figures at a corporate board meeting.
Speaking after this game, Bradders was disappointed not to have taken all three points, mainly in reference to Sahr Kabba’s late close-range shot which powered straight into the midriff of Sports’ keeper Craig Ross. However, Eastbourne had a similar opportunity earlier in the second period. In that instance we can praise our chosen deities for giving Scott Bevan sweat-less composure and giant f***-off legs as Matt Aldred’s shot rebounded off his distant shins.
Nic Ciardini also had a long range dipping shot well saved by Ross, so opportunities were there, but I must admit we were starting to get edgy as the final whistle approached as Eastbourne won corner-after-corner. So, like I say, this was a point that I’m comfortable with now it’s been safely won. If you include out 3-0 win over Hartley Wintney in the Hampshire Senior Cup, that’s now five games unbeaten since we exited the FA Cup, so there’s not too much to complain about right now.
Except perhaps the timbre of our half-time announcements. As our man on the PA Trev solemly announced that his thoughts went out to a season ticket holder named Bob, we prepared to bow our heads in memory or in hope, until he continued with the news that Bob’s great tragedy was that he had to take his daughter and he friends shopping at Southampton’s West Quay instead of watching the game. We like to think of ourselves as a community club, and this apparently now extends beyond the parish notices to nicking diaries from people’s bedside cabinets. I look forward in the coming weeks to hearing about Beryl in Row H of the stand is taking a shine to the bearded gentleman at her salsa class and how Keith in the Car Park End is getting on with his new shed.
Of course, from the PA announcer who once detailed an opposition goalscorer as being “at least five yards offside”, and also declared “this is a farce” with Tannoy-brand amplification during a particularly water-logged, but unabandoned, fixture (that we happened to be losing heavily), nothing surprises us. We wouldn't want him any other way.
What did surprise us was Eastbourne taking a lead after 36 minutes. Most of those minutes had seen us pressing forward, but they got their first proper chance and took it. Possibly because the last two games I’d witnessed saw us chunk in seven goals, I wasn’t too alarmed at this stage and indeed it only took us four minutes to bring the game back to level-pegging.
What a goal it was too. After Sahr Kabba’s at Maidenhead and Dennis Oli’s agin Basingstoke we’ve had a decent month for goalsch but arguably this topped the lot. Now, we’ve been trying fancy-pants free-kick business out on the training ground although recent attempts in game play have not often led to much. Indeed, as the two-touch move went out to Perry Ryan it looked to have gone behind him a bit and as he shaped to shoot I imagine most of us believed if the ball was going to be picked out of anything it would be out of a broken windscreen in the car park.
We woz wrong as from 25 yards, Perry’s shot, well, it flew, it rocketed, it dipped, it hit, it nestled. It was gorgeous, genuinely exciting stuff. No doubt it got Perry’s blood pumping and if he’s wearing a permanent rock hard-on over the next few days, it won’t necessarily be because there’s any ladies nearby.
That was it for the day’s scoring though but as stated both keepers needed to be at their best to prevent anything further. So, a point we’ll take, but we can and will perform better at home, I’m sure.