It’s been a month since my last match report, mainly because, in that time I haven’t gone, or even followed the games much. We have only had one home game in that time but it occurred the day after I moved house and I was under orders to shift boxes and stuff. Same with the subsequent weekends. In fact the only game I listened to was Watford. It was perfectly clear how awful that was from the commentary. It was a battle between Warren and the fans for who was the most depressed.
My contact with the club was therefore restricted to the same channels as everyone else as we tried to follow the transfer window. All channels were monitored. The Argus, The BBC, Twitter and NSC. I really wish I hadn’t bothered.
When I first joined Twitter I followed some of our players. I thought I might get something out of it, and I do, but it’s not what I thought I would. Typically Inigo Calderon’s account is excellent. Spanish Dave was great with the fans when he thought he was leaving. And then there was the time Matt Sparrow insulted the whole of Croydon. But the rest? CMS inanely RT-ing the desperate? KLL reinventing the English language?
But worst of all for me was the way the players used the media during the window. Kemy engaged the fans, firstly to repel some fairly disgraceful spamming after Derby but then to say there was something wrong at the club. A succession of players issued pleas to The Argus for new faces. All, it seemed was not well. Then, just before the Doncaster game, we found out why. Far from hitting the roof we had lost over £14 million pounds backing Poyet to get us in to the Premier League and he’d failed, however narrowly. Those are facts, however uncomfortable we find them. Another fact is that those losses are unsustainable. Not FFP unsustainable – no more club unsustainable, unless Tony Bloom continues to bail us out.
This was the background to the Doncaster game and it made me both delighted and nervous to be back at the ground. Luckily I got there early and had a couple of beers watching Arsenal embarrass themselves at Liverpool. We couldn’t be any worse than that surely? And they were top of the league.
In fact, in the first half we were excellent. Lack of shots and chances had been cited as one of the issues at Watford but, with an attacking line up that included Ulloa, Spanish Rodney, Orlandi and Solly March we had the majority of possession and carved a series of decent chances. Ullloa missed the best with an unmarked header while another cross from a great move down the left was a stud’s width from being slid in. Doncaster created nothing. Sure it was frustrating but we were bound to put one of them away in the second half, right?
Unfortunately we came out for the second half far more toothlessly. Doncaster had reorganised and we’d got complacent. Or, as my esteemed best friend remarked “it’s like looking at someone trying to cut up a steak with a wooden spoon”.
In fact after 74 minutes I had mentally given up the ghost, having just seen us finally score but have it ruled out for offside. And then, finally, Ward found himself in an acre of space on the left and hit the perfect cross. This time we were onside. This time Ulloa did not miss his free header. 1-0. The relief of frustration was palpable, like a champagne cork finally popping over the doorstep of a newly acquired property, or perhaps another kind of popping after never quite being sure in the nightclub if she would. *turns in to Ian Holloway*
And then there’s Billy Sharp. The first ever scorer of a competitive goal at The Amex. Yet he cannot have any fond memories of the place at all. After all his career was ended and his life endangered by Lewis Dunk soon after that goal, or at least it was if you listened to their chairman. Returning to Doncaster, Lazerus like (and if you’d performed such a miraculous recovery would you choose to perform it to return to Doncaster? Really?) he managed to miss a sitter of a free header, easily their best chance, and before we scored. Then he was caught kicking out at Greer and given a straight red, on the East side of the ground. 12,000 pairs of hands in the West Stand waved him off. At least he’ll play again I suppose.
After he went, however, we went in to our shells. We sat back, looked disinterested and gave the ball away. You can’t put champagne back in the bottle but it can be off when you try it. This was the biggest cause for concern all day. We had the game at our mercy and we were trying to throw it away.
In the end we held on. We won. We’re eighth. I celebrated by renewing my acquaintance with both Harvey’s bitter and my friends from the GDC. After dry January that was a relief too. Many others were on the ale too, something that a gang of four teenagers with BMXs were about to regret. Having taken over a set of carriage doors with their bikes and started rolling fags on the train table they were suddenly swamped by well oiled, high spirited Brighton fans who loudly discussed the fate of their tyres and brakes. The colour drained from all but the lairy one, who offered to fight us, but a quick, banter filled, trip to Brighton was one of the most amusing I have ever taken. Everywhere, it seemed, we were determined to enjoy the win.