Westleigh Park, Havant
Where’s the fun in doing things the easy way, eh?
One could argue that we were getting ahead of ourselves by beating Eastleigh on Monday. That was never part of the plan, hands having already been ripped off for a point. Perhaps that relaxed us. Two points from two games against clubs in the bottom three? In the back of our minds we could hear a faint chant, echoing through time from the days when Big Daddy ruled World Of Sport. “Easy! Easy!”
Moving from “ah, it’s been great, but we’ll probably fall short” to “ooh God, this is HAPPENING” was always likely to lead to a stumble. We go from the hope of success to the hubris of expectation then to the hiss of deflation and the hum of nerve-ends rising to alert. That said, in the insane run in of the last seven weeks, we’ve had a dead-legged flump every couple of weeks on average. Every time this has happened we’ve thought, “…and there it is, like the death of a beloved magic dragon, our puff has gone.” Glum. Then, after thinking this, the nostrils have snorted fire and we have roared forward again. Giddy.
Of course, being put up against a team scrapping for their lives should never be thought of as an easy task at all, and so it proved to be, Maidenhead showing all ver skillz that should keep them up. In fact, so spirited and dexterous did they look going forward, it was baffling that they should find themselves in a relegation scrap at all. In the last three days they’ve comfortably beaten the sides in 4th and 5th places, and now need only to beat the side in 13th, or at least match Whitehawk’s result at Sutton, to keep them in the Conference South next year.
Our situation is equally clear cut. We put aside this game. We take on board how easily we were picked apart by Maidenhead’s eager beavers and learn from it. Either that or pretend it didn’t happen. What didn’t happen? Dunno mate.
Looking forward though, we similarly need to win our final game at already relegated Tonbridge Angels, equal or better Dover Athletic’s result or at least if we lose while they only draw. They play away to Hayes & Yeading United, who are in the relegation mix themselves so will be going gung ho for victory, no doubt about that. Hopefully the latter can get the result they need. They’d be our soother and make our lives smoother if they could do Dover over. That would be a favour to savour; generally ideal behaviour. Come on H&Y, our brothers in ampersands, I don’t want to have to be relying on us to be any good, for crying out loud.
I jest of course. To get to this point has been a superhuman effort and I think(/hope) we can stumble over the line like a bandy-legged marathon winner. At least it was that confidence that had me saying to my fellow London Brancher on our way down to this game that, in a way, I wouldn’t be devastated to lose as it’ll make Saturday’s game all the more thrilling. That is a gamble admittedly and one man’s feverish excitement is another’s finger-nail gnawing, bum-squeak hell. Still, we can handle a bit of nerve-shredding tension round our way, as our avoidance of relegation with the last kick of the SEASON two years ago proved beyond doubt.
Not sure I want to leave it to the 93rd minute of the final game to get what we need again, although we got into practice for it at the end of this game by slinging substitute Eddie Hutchinson, our midfield muckraker with the polished pate, up front in place of Dennis Oli, a striker who finds the scoring of goals to be beneath him. Steady Eddie has no such pretentions and used his shiny swede to skid home a consolation header shortly after the ‘additional minutes’ board had been waved around.
That was to be our only fillip in an otherwise limp display. One thing that has characterised the past twenty games that have taken place since the start of March is how much desire, heart and dogged rearguard has been shown. More clean sheets than a bedwetter’s airing cupboard n’ all. It may not have happened here, but we can all have a bad day at the office. Perhaps this was the calm before the storm, as Tonbridge are torn asunder by our fight-ful fellas.
We can only hope, anyway. To Kent we go this coming weekend for the final push over the top. Good luck everyone.