It’s been quite a week. Having paraphrased Wilde on North Stand Chat at the start of it I’m going to finish by paraphrasing Shaw. Or maybe Alan Jay Lerner. By George, I think we’ve finally got it.
“It” being turning possession football in to attacking football. “It” being turning attacking football in to goals. “It” being not Middlesborough.
However, as a piece of writing this is already failing because I’m giving away the ending before I’ve set the scene, even though you all know how it turned out. A bit like writing a film about a famous shipping disaster or something. So come with me as I wind the clock back to 2pm Saturday.
Just before two o’clock I was purchasing probably* the last ever Seagull Love Review and telling Stef how sad I would be to miss it. I took it up to the concourse and got a beer and noticed QPR were drawing 2-2 with Nottingham Forest with about seven minutes left. Forest then conceded three quick (and sloppy) goals to put them effectively out of the playoff race, to much cheering. Stick that in your FFP busting pipe and smoke it.
I checked for team news. And double checked. None was forthcoming. It was late, even allowing for the seven minute delay that was planned and, when it did finally come out, there was no Pole in Goal, replaced by Ankergren and Bruno had come in for Calderon. I sighed. Actually physically sighed. Firstly because I have no idea what Calde has to do to retain his place and secondly because I could now see Scoffers striding across the concourse towards me and I would have to break this news to a man who loves Casper the way Nick Clegg adores Nigel Farage.
PIG missing and Bruno coming in have been linked together by some on social media but it’s not something this blogger has any evidence for one way or the other. The official club line is that Kuszczak was ill and, having initially said he could play, then got worse. That’s the one I’ll take for now.
Anyway, all of this meant that I only had a chance to read a couple of the articles in TSLR before kick off, one in which Not Worth That accurately noted how tubby we’d got (sort of), something to which I am definitely a contributing factor, and another that ensured that Jon Obika will never again allow himself to be photographed with a copy. Would this tempt fate? Would he return to the scene of the worlds longest trap and worst overhead kick, both performed by J Obika, and destroy us with a hat trick? No. No he wouldn’t. Not even on the bench. But in the team at number eight was Ghoochanneijhad. God help Warren Aspinall.
Also in the team was Gus Poyet’s son, Diego. Would he be pumped up and ready to take revenge for the slight on his father’s ego, a large family problem I would imagine given that the ego in question makes up 98% of his father? No, no he wouldn’t. Instead, having watched us start brightly, he would give the ball away dangerously close to his own area on 11 minutes to allow Lingard – remember the guy who I said was brilliant when he first arrived – to sprint clear, beat a player and effortlessly flick a quick shot in to the opposite corner of the goal. 1-0. Woop woop.
There had been a consensus among the fans, one that I had bought in to, earlier in the season that if Rohan Ince plays we get a result. There might need to be an about face on that one unfortunately. There has also been a hotly disputed theory that Lua Lua is simply an impact player, best from off the banch. There might need to be an about face on that one too.
Lua Lua started and it was his good work in robbing Poyet that had set Lingard free. In fact he was a menace. So was Lingard. So was March. I honestly believe this is the football Oscar has wanted to play all season, so why on earth we haven’t is a mystery. Andrews wasn’t so much a holding player as a third centre back, screening, covering, breaking up the play and making simple passes. With someone back in something approaching the Bridcutt role, Greer’s confidence went through the roof and Bruno and Ward were allowed to genuinely push forward. None of our three wingers actually played on the wing but they buzzed around menacingly like a hornet threesome only with more pace. Ulloa held the ball up impressively. Stephens alternately mopped up or created.
The end result was dominance but also GOOD chances, with plenty around to pick up the pieces if it was missed. This is the football I’ve been expecting all season. This is what Oscar has meant in his programme notes. This is why we’ve signed the players we have. Christ knows why we’ve left it till the last five games to show it.
And yet football matches can turn on the smallest thing. Charlton’s one serious attack of the first half should have given them an equaliser. A deflected shot had beaten Ankergren and I had already mentally made the score 1-1 when a collective exhale from the North Stand somehow blew the ball on to the crossbar. Within minutes we were two up. A quick break found the ball with that man Lingard again and a perfectly timed short pass to Ulloa for once beat the offside trap. Ulloa couldn’t and didn’t miss. 2-0 to the Albion. Cruising.
The second half was less exciting though we should have gone three up when Lingard went clean through. Not sure how as, at the time, the whole ground was saluting Mackail Smith who had just started to warm up, but as for the chance itself I swear it must have bobbled. Great lad that Lingard. After that, Charlton seemed happy to settle for a 2-0 loss and us for a 2-0 win. When Lua Lua came off for JFC I opined to anyone who would listen that that was us for the day. We would become narrower, with less pace and more back passes. While that was the case it was also the case that we were never in danger. People started to drift away from The Amex, fans of both colours, so certain was the result, and yet those who did missed a cracker of a third from……………JFC. Always liked that lad. *cough*
With a minute left we broke on them and had a four v three. With JFC on the ball and the defenders unsure who to mark, he held on to it and cracked a smart low shot in to the bottom corner. 3-0. Goodnight Vienna. Can we play you (and Leicester) every week?
Afterwards I had a quick pint before being stood up in favour of Spanish Dave (that’s a claim to fame of sorts!). Didn’t matter in the slightest. The only sadness of the day came when remembering the ninety six who needlessly died at a football match twenty five years ago, remembered in a nearly impeccable silence. Nearly because silence and applause are different. Nearly because that is not the time to sing “Justice for the 96”. Nearly because, whoever you were in the WSU behind us, the minutes silence is not the time to carry on your phone call. But if the fans were nearly impeccable the players were totally. What IS this strange old season going to do next?
*because they ‘might’ do a special if we get to the playoffs. Not that that’s going to happen is it? <exists stage left quizzically>