After our last home game against Crewe, where we managed to snatch a 97th minute equaliser in a game where we should have been out of sight in after the first half, I wrote that we had two tricky away games at playoff place chasing Stockport County, and then at league leaders Leyton Orient. I said I’d have been happy with a point from either of those games.
As it turns out, I’m not happy. An unhappiness which was compounded when Hartlepool came from a 2-0 deficit to equalise in the 96th minute of their last game to grab a point that lifted them to 22nd and out of the relegation places. And at the same time dumping us into them as we now sit 23rd. We may have four games in hand on Hartlepool and games in hand on nearly every team above us (only Grimsby have played as few games as we have), but when we are struggling as badly as we are then games in hand do not necessarily relate to points.
We have also picked up a disturbing habit of conceding goals in the first five minutes of the second half, and then being unable to recover. The team are playing well in the first half, scoring goals, creating chances, having shots, defending well. Then half time comes. I’m unable to say exactly what happens. Perhaps Scott Lindsey gives the most soporific team talks known to man. Maybe they are all popping diazepam during the break. Or they are having their memories wiped and they come back out having forgotten how to play football.
What ever it is, they need to stop. Right now. No shows in the second half are not going to help us win points. Which we need. As we all know, points win prizes. The prize in this case is not being relegated.
Anyway, off the pitch a couple more of the fringe players have exited trimming the squad down to just the 172 now. And today’s match sees the opening of the new fan zone in the southeast corner outside the stands, where the ambulance park used to be.
I wandered down to the ground nice and early, straight from writing so I could have a good look around before the hordes descended, and to get some decent photos of in and around the ground. But this is me, so there are photos. Decent is subjective.
One that intrigues me is whether the missing tile on the red wall is due to it having fallen off, or has the owner of the tile ripped it off in disgust at the ineptitude of WAGMI?
I got a programme, and I was so early that it was the first that seller had sold. The results pages are still a mess (players sold or on loan are supposed to be in grey text, and whilst Francomb and Craig are, Nichols and Hessenthaler are still in red, and Appiah has disappeared completely), but it does point out our opponents today are Carlisle United, against whom our league season started back in July. Additionally, whoever chooses the photos that go in the programme is carrying on with their own personal competition of what is the worst photo of Jack Powell they can get away with putting in the programme. Today’s is a classic of him having just launched a mouthful of spittle.
We started the season with out longest away trip. It was a 1-0 defeat, which after some pre-season optimism was a disappointment. One that paved the way for a season full of them so far. The hope of an away victory was dashed, and it’s something we haven’t managed since.
I’ve already mentioned we are in the relegation places, meanwhile our opponents today are currently sitting in third, the final automatic promotion place. Whereas our fans headed north in the bright sunshine of a very warm summer, Carlisle fans head south on an overcast late winter’s afternoon.
The Carlisle team coach was just turning up when I got to the ground. It had been beaten by the fan’s coach. But there was only one, yet their end was quite full by kick-off, so there will have been lots of train and car journeys the length of the country. And by the time the game starts the sun is trying to sneak out.
I sat in the fan zone whilst I waited for the turnstiles to open. It is very new and very red. It offers an alternative to the Redz bar, and I suppose its positioning will allow for it to be open at half time, so more food and drink options for the east stand and terrace.
The pitch looks to be in a dreadful condition, plenty of bare patches, and dust is being raised when players are kicking a ball. Having the sprinklers on pre match doesn’t seem to have helped as it left puddles on the pitch.
Carlisle were wearing a dark blue kit and started off being awkward before a ball was kicked, enforcing a change of ends to kick to their fans in the first half. I haven’t seen any other team pulling that one here before.
It doesn’t take long for the first ball to disappear, as an uncomfortable looking Joel Lynch miscues a clearance out over the KRL Logistics stand. Even going the wrong way in the first half we do manage to get a shot on target within the first ten minutes of the game, which is promising.
Only for it all to start to turn to dust (and not just from the pitch) before the quarter of an hour mark. We had been having some decent pressure, but Carlisle attack and a ball comes across from the left wing and is bundled in by their right back, with what looked from our angle suspiciously like his left arm. Our keeper was moaning at officials about it for a couple of minutes afterwards, but the goal stands and it’s 0-1.
Five minutes later a mistake from Lynch gives it to Carlisle and a ball played through is picked up by their number 10, who slots it in from an acute angle. All our defenders had stopped, apparently waiting for an offside flag which never came, and just like that it’s now 0-2.
On twenty-six minutes, in what appeared to be slow motion a Carlisle player ambles his way through what constitutes our defence (if I said walked through it would not be an exaggeration) and pokes it in and that makes it 0-3. Some fans are slipping out.
Thirty-eight minutes in. A silly free kick is given away over on the left wing. When it comes in the keeper flaps at it, Carlisle take a shot, the keeper just parries it back out to the same player who makes no mistake with the rebound and it is now 0-4. Cue even more disappearing fans.
There are two minutes of added time, enough time for Carlisle to put ball two out over the east stand marquee, but fortunately not enough time for them to score another goal, and the half time whistle goes with the score at 0-4.
It looks as if Carlisle’s decision to kick the other way was a good ploy on their part. It also appears to have confused the DJ, who plays none of the usual suspects during the half time break.
Perhaps the way we are facing does matter. Four minutes into the second have and Jack ‘Powderpuff’ Powell has a shot on target, it goes out to the other side and the ball is shot back towards goal by Nick Tsaroulla and despite the lack of pace it goes into the corner and the comeback is on 1-4. There is no stadium announcement about the scorer, and what we had missed is the fact the Tsaroulla shot had been helped on its way by Oteh, and the goal was his.
The comeback didn’t last long, just after ten minutes of the half Carlisle have a series of corners. The cracker present version of a keeper we are currently playing has a flap at all of them, only to have a flap too far and then allow a Carlisle player to bundle the ball in at the far post and it’s 1-5. Absolutely no need for the bell end of a scorer to celebrate it in front of the home terrace though.
Only for it to very nearly be 1-6 just seconds later, a Carlisle striker is allowed to amble through the centre of the Swiss cheese defence, only to put the ball inexplicably wide.
Then came the launch the ball into space section of the game from Carlisle. A few minutes after the goal they put one out over the corner of the away terrace on the west side. Then at the midpoint to the half, three more balls out in quick succession. Over the west stand, then one out over the KRL Logistics stand for a corner for us, and then back out over the same corner as ball three.
Then they nearly score goal six again, but with a good save for a change the chance fails to hit the net, after the defence had once again opened like the Red Sea. Ball seven disappeared with another hoof from a Carlisle clearance, this time over the middle of the west stand.
The crowd announcement came early as 2,917 with 504 away fans. It not being difficult to follow a side for hundreds of miles when playing like this I suppose. Unsurprisingly there is no mention of a man of the match.
Then in the eighty third minute a Kellen Gordon cross is forced in by Dom Telford to muted cheers and it is 2-5. It’s the last meaningful action of the half, and after three minutes of added time (not announced again) the final whistle goes and it’s a 2-5 defeat.
There must have been a change in DJ, either that or they couldn’t even summon the will to play ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ and instead we get the usual half time playlist.
And we slip another point from safety, as Hartlepool, who were trailing 3-1 as normal time ended scored two injury time goals to grab another late draw. Carlisle meanwhile moved up a place to second.
A rearranged game against Tranmere Rovers is coming on Tuesday night. We desperately need points, even away, we need to lose the tag of the only team in any league without an away win.
Come on you reds.