The Boy and (particularly) his younger sister will often ask why we cannot have the good things in their lives more often. In particular, just like Wizzard, they wish it could be Christmas every day. This extends though. “Why can’t it always be the weekend?”, “why can’t I have a party / sleepover every day”, “can we just have chocolate for breakfast every morning?” and so on. The answer we always give is the clichéd one, straight out of chapter one of the parenting manual (incidentally I lost mine somewhere around the time I took The Boy to his first away game at Charlton, so if anyone finds it I’d be grateful for its return). “If we did it all the time it wouldn’t be special”. So with football matches.
On Friday I worked from home. Yesterday in London. On Friday we were in the pub, then a very nice lounge with very nice food, then a monstrously padded seat halfway up the West Stand. Yesterday I was sitting alone, eating a supermarket cheese sandwich and monitoring Twitter whilst crossing my fingers that Southern weren’t about to leave me on the platform at Wivelsfield due to the train doors not closing. On Friday the game – or rather the second half – had everything. Last night? Not so much action. I’m struggling to come up with much to report, not because I can’t remember it this time, but because there really isn’t much to report.
At least the gang was back together, at the back of the WSU. We could sing without being stared at, the padding and legroom are more than adequate (as anyone who has stood in front of a seat at an old school ground made artificially all seater can attest) and the view first class. It was just a shame it was a view of a Cardiff team who parked the bus, a lorry and two Boing 737s before going about the task of cynically hiding footballs in each so that they could not actually be played with. Well metaphorically anyway. Did you come for a draw, Colin?
They were helped in their quest for pointdom by a series of questionable refereeing decisions that seemed to suggest holding a centre forward by the shirt was fine but not shoulder barging, that time wasting was now de rigueur and certainly not punishable by anything as vulgar as a yellow card and that the offside rule had been rewritten.
Nevertheless it was nearly an effective strategy by the twelve of them. The Albion created a couple of half chances early on, Murphy just failing to connect with a whipped in cross, before a great ball in the channel from Duffy led to an interchange between Hemed and March, playing in the number 10 role, with the former shooting just wide. Knockaert hit a cheeky free kick under the wall and just past the near post, to much Gallic shrugging.
But the goal tally was more threatened by Cardiff’s rare forays forward, and we were grateful to that man Stockdale again. A brilliant tip over from a Morrison header from a free kick out wide (possibly awarded for running on the pitch or kicking the ball in an unseemly manner, I can’t remember which) kept us in the game. Previously they had shot wide from 12 yards out after a good run down our right by Hoilett (Goldson tried manfully throughout the game and gave his all, but a right back he is not). An even better save from Hoilett after a long throw from Halford (remember him?) caused chaos, though the ball had popped around and there was the suspicion of offside in the build up.
Other than that it was just time wasting. There were so many pauses I thought we might be live on NBC or CBS. “Third down and six to the Cardiff Dragons” as my mate Josh said when they took yet another long throw. “Colin ought to refund us half our ticket money” opined Mark. And Cardiff are certainly the only side to take the ball in to the corner after 35 minutes of the first half. Frustrating.
The second half was frustrating for different reasons entirely. We woke up and so did the referee.
Shortly after the restart Hemed should have given us the lead. March, for once, got free down the channel and played in a lovely low cross but Hemed could only slide wide from six yards and beat the turf in frustration. We started to be given free kicks and corners and Dunk and Duffy came close from each. On the right the delivery of Knockaert was excellent, but on the left we were missing Norwood, replaced here by Kayal. The latter is still recovering though and came off, for Norwood to run to take the corner that had provided the stoppage. How his delivery wasn’t converted I will never know. Nearly an assist with his first kick.
But then, finally, came the goal we’d been craving. It started unpromisingly with a throw on the left and a clumsy cross field ball that Stephens struggled with, yet this opened up the space. The ball was drilled to Hemed’s feet with his back to goal, but rather than laying it back he produced a delightful first touch and turn and drilled home a powerful shot. At that point there was nowhere else I’d rather have been than in the WSU, with my friends, going potty with relief.
That, largely, was that, though there was the comically ironic sight of Brighton now wasting time and Colin complaining about it like mad. What goes around, comes around.
Afterwards the busses seemed to be stuck in a jam forever, so we walked to the station, more in hope than expectation, and got straight on to a train. There I took a call from my Cardiff mate, magnanimously congratulating me and stating that they have to play like that with the squad they have, a fair point when Greg Halford is starting. You’ll stay up, Sam, but I’m glad I don’t have to watch that every week.
The Boy’s Ref Watch
He wasn’t there but I’m awarding minus ten billion on his behalf. Inept, frankly.