Finally Off And Running

It feels like a long time since we last had a home game, but it is only a fortnight since we drew with Portsmouth in the Papa Johns Trophy and then won a penalty shoot out to claim the bonus point. The Saturday after that we drew away at Salford City, the second straight Saturday we had gained an away point in Greater Manchester. Then last Saturday’s home game against Gillingham was postponed after the death of the Queen on Thursday.

The date for the rearranged game against Gillingham hasn’t been set yet, but it’s bit of a shame it has been postponed as Gillingham are struggling to win as well, and it might have been a good time to play them. Now it will be played on a random Tuesday night, probably just after they hit a streak of good form.

Our opponents tonight are Stockport County. Freshly promoted from the National League. We were promoted to the Football League the year they were relegated to the Conference, and as such we have not played a competitive game against them. Their fans were scathing of our stadium in the season preview in Four Four Two, saying it would be a nasty reminder of playing in non-league. Which is fairly fucking cheeky considering how much of a delipidated shithole Edgeley Park was in the early noughties (They were in what was Division 2 then, and I went to a couple of games, back when you could rock up and get a ticket on the day.) And the fact they used to play their home games on a Friday night, so they didn’t clash with the two Manchester clubs and therefore get a few more people in.

We start the game in 22nd, just out of the relegation places on goal difference. Stockport are in 18th, four points ahead of us, and they won their last game, a 1-0 win over the Wombles.

It’s been raining on and off all day, but it hasn’t been windy so it shouldn’t be coming in sideways to get us wet sat in the east stand. It’s nearly dark as we walk to the ground, a combination of the quickly drawing in nights and the weather. I suppose the Stockport fans will be used to this kind of weather.

I get a programme; they still need a proof-reader. The message from the General Manager said we lost to Rochdale (a draw), if the General Manager can’t get these things right what hope are we supposed to have?

We see Al, he’s on duty on the Eden Utilities terrace again. Trying to stay in the corner where there is the least rain.

Stockport County are wearing their third kit, all yellow, like faded highlighter pens, which is a shame as I was hoping for their faux Argentina second kit.

There is a minute’s silence before the kick off, which is very well observed, and followed by the National Anthem, which was sung slightly out of time by most of the crowd.

The pitch certainly didn’t need watering. It stopped raining briefly as we walked to the game, but when the whistle went the start the game, it brought in the rain to teem it down for most of the game. It was playing havoc with the linesman’s hair (for those who weren’t there, he was bald).

Five minutes in and we win a ball in midfield, pass it through to James Tilley, who takes a shot from twenty-five yards out. It takes a slight deflection and ends up in the bottom corner of the goal and we lead 1-0. Only eighty-five minutes to hold out this week.

On seventeen minutes, Stockport have a breakaway. A ball is put through which looked suspiciously offside, but the Stockport striker latches on to the ball and tucks it in to make it 1-1. (Twelve minutes we held on.)

And it nearly got worse straight from the kick off, a careless back pass puts in Stockport’s number ten, but thankfully he scoops the ball over the goal. A couple of minutes later the ref slips as he runs to keep up with play and struggles to get back up and blows his whistle to halt proceedings.

Just before the half hour mark a ball is played into the area, and Dom Telford brings it down brilliantly with the outside of his left foot, and he is through on the keeper, but unfortunately it is a weak shot and straight at the keeper.

Five minutes later and it is Stockport’s turn for a horrendous back pass. One of their defenders passes it straight back to Tom Nichols, who passes it across to Dom Telford, who just gets it past the keeper and into the corner of the net for his first league goal of the season, and we lead again 2-1 (only fifty-five minutes to hold out this time).

It takes until nearly half time for the first ball to disappear, a ball bounces off James Tilley’s knee and over the East Stand. Two minutes of injury time are indicated before it is half time.

Half time playlist is…. not changed, probably the only broadcaster where they haven’t changed the playlist to a dirge. But it is the same old songs, so perhaps even the dirge might have been a good change. And the two minutes later back from half time happened again.

Six minutes into the second half and we concede a free kick towards the right-hand edge of the penalty area. The wall is lined up, and for the third time this season the free kick sails over the wall and into the top corner of the net. 2-2. For fuck’s sake, stop conceding free kicks on the edge of the area, it’s almost as good as a penalty to the opposing teams.

Ten minutes into the half and there is a Crawley break, Tom Nichols pings the ball across to Nick Tsaroulla, who cuts inside and takes a shot from outside the area which flies into the bottom corner and it’s 3-2. With thirty-five minutes to hold out.

Straight from the restart Stockport attack and get the ball into the box and their shot is very well saved by Corey Addai, and there is a deep sigh of relief from three sides of the ground.

Halfway through the half, ball number two is hoofed over the east stand by Tony Craig. It’s quite possible that one landed somewhere in the grounds of Thomas Bennett. The ref seems quite hot on potential time wasting (as well as blowing his whistle if any of the Stockport players fall over). So much so he was literally pushing Crawley players off the pitch when they were getting substituted (and he booked Corey Addai in Injury Time).

Speaking of Stockport players falling over, it must be because they are top heavy. I’ve never seen such a collection of barrel-chested freaks playing for one team at the same time. They must all be putting in extra time in the gym when it’s chest day.

Five minutes before the end of normal time, ball three is out over the east stand. It’s Tony Craig again, but not with as much force as the previous one.

The crowd is announced as 2,187 with 376 away fans, not a bad effort to get down from Manchester on a Tuesday night. The sponsor’s man of the match is Ludwig Francillette. WTAF? I’m assuming they spent most of their time at the hospitality bar and not watching the game.

The board goes up and the announcement is made and it’s six minutes, Doug E Fresh you’re on. No, sorry, it’s six minutes of injury time not Doug E Fresh. We are defending deep in injury time. If we get much deeper, we’d be at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

The full-time whistle goes, and it is a Crawley victory. 3-2. And a Tom Nichols hat-trick of assists. The win takes us up to the dizzy heights of 20th, only a point and two places behind Stockport now. Let’s hope we can keep it going when we travel to play Crewe Alexandra on Saturday.

Come on you reds.

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