When it comes to shooting yourself in the foot, Saturday was a case of fire at will for the mighty AP. Another trip South of London saw a slight dwindling in the AP following, however the ‘Ultras’ (Bruce, me and I think Leslie’s Mrs later in the day) accompanied a squad of 14 down to Tolworth.
Our Saturday afternoon away travels are relatively lengthy affairs this season, however, they give ample time for a ‘learn along with Laurence’ session on the train. These for me are both frustrating and rewarding in equal measure. On one hand, Laurence takes new vocabulary into the world of recruitment on Monday morning. I am not sure how he will crowbar the word ‘aviation’ into construction recruitment conversations or, indeed, how he was not aware of it before, but I am glad it is now at his disposal. On the other hand, he is one to question things we take for granted….
Laurence : ‘Why are pitches better in South London?’
Me : ‘Lots of reasons. There is a lot of clay under the earth in North London, means the water doesn’t drain away as quickly.’ Granted, I was possibly trying to be too clever in this instance.
Laurence : ‘Shut up mate. You don’t get clay under the ground, that’s just stupid’
Me : ‘Of course you do. Where do you think it comes from?’
Laurence: ‘I dunno..’
Me: ‘Well I will categorically tell you that it is from underground. It’s one of the reasons we seem to get more standing water and pitches are easier to maintain South of the river’
Laurence: ‘Why is Wembley so good then?’
A sigh from me, whilst for Laurence, this was vindication. Anyway, with that Frost/Nixon encounter behind us it was full steam ahead to Tolworth.
I was heartened by the time keeping of the lads, although slightly deflated by the facilities. In short, they were absolutely immaculate with quality pitches, a real sickener to have to watch from the sideline whilst injured. I gave a quick pep talk but I think wearing a jumper with leather shoulder patches detracted from the impact. It wasn’t entirely Churchillian (we can explain what that means next week Laurence).
To say we were ravaged by injury sounds somewhat over the top, to say we were ravaged by injury and unavailability would be more accurate but just doesn’t sound right. Anyway, it was the latter. Without turning into a sob story, we were missing the skipper, the player of the season and our top goalscorer, some really important players. Lee Carlin was unavailable as well. That said, we lined up with a still strong 4-2-3-1 and a subs bench that mixed youth with Irishness.
Nottsborough were the reigning champions, had a rather tidy kit and goals on wheels. I can only assume it was a combination of the three that made us sh*t the bed in the opening 20. After a 50/50 first few, 5 mad minutes gave us a mountain to climb.
A pull back down the right hand side found their striker on the edge of the box, he took the ball on his chest before lashing home a volley from the edge of the area. It was an excellent strike, if you were a total berk, you would throw something about ‘tekkers’ in there. However, the amount of time for the ball to drop from chest to boot was ridiculous and we bottled the opportunity to throw ourselves in the way of it. Note to Stu. I hear you may have made a significant bet with Matt Kelly that the ball bounced prior to the strike. I can categorically state that the ball did not bounce, it was a full volley. If it had bounced, it would have been the worst piece of defending ever.
Speaking of which, Nottsborough doubled the lead with a Dog & Duck of a goal. An angled free kick was poorly contested by AP which allowed the striker to flick on, their wideman hopefully looped it towards the back stick. Stu’s movements were akin to a chuckle brother trying to catch a cake and it plopped into the far corner. 2-0 Notts.
Credit where it is due, we are a never say die outfit and it was game on within 10. The higher up the leagues we go, the less effective I expect the ‘clipped ball in behind’ to become. More fool me. Rob Hubbard was set away and finished firmly into the corner. 2-1 Notts.
The two goal cushion was restored soon after. One that would go straight onto a Rory McGrath or Nick Hancock ‘footballing nightmares’ DVD, were they not irrelevant and commercially unviable. Bit disappointed by that actually, they were a staple of my childhood Christmas stocking. Anyway, Stu’s error wasn’t on the scale of that one where the keeper chucks it into his own net, or of the hilarity of Phil Babb crushing his knackers, but he did wallop the ball off the backside of the onrushing striker which flew straight in. A bit of filler before something on the level of the Peter Enckleman clip maybe.
We therefore went into the break 3-1 down, without really being taken apart. It did feel like we had given them a bit too much respect, which as we all know, is a cardinal sin of amateur football.
We came out second half fired up, trying to play 10 yards higher and apply the pressure. It was game on with half an hour to play. Dan Gunyon had a tricky time against their fleet footed winger but he kept his head up and got his rewards. After cutting out a through ball, he continued his run and a ball over the top was miscued by the Notts keeper who was obsessed with volleying clearances away on the full. He sliced backwards, Gunyon rumbled onto it and slotted home the 3rd horrific goal of the game.
We really did grow in stature following the goal, pressing Notts back and creating chances. Brendan was putting himself about up top, Matt was coming into the game and Andy Brown quite literally had their full back on toast as Jamie Redknapp may have said. We had a couple of good openings but just couldn’t make them pay. Notts were lively on the counter but we were in the ascendency. Unfortunately, our hopes were scuppered with a stupid sending off with 15 to play. We lost the momentum, tired and were eventually picked off. It finished 4-2, it could have actually been more, but it would have been a really unfair reflection on the balance of the game.
Bit of a sickener but a lesson for the lads as well. Notts are a good side as you would expect and play some nice stuff. That said, had we switched on for the whole 90 and cut out the stupid errors, it would have been a lot closer. Quite simply, you cannot gift the best side in the SAL a head start and expect to get anything from the game. On the positive, we very nearly did. We can play a lot better than that and I know we can compete in every single game this season. If we do that with a bit more belief and cut out the silly errors, what we achieve is up to us. Big game on Saturday, let’s get focused. Come on AP.
MOM : Andy Brown. Positive, direct and a threat every time he got the ball.
Team : Pennycook, Gunyon, Monero, Egan, Hillier, Nicholau (Shaw), Hubbard, Fernee (O’Donnell), Morris (Manu), Brown, Kelly.