Safe (Just)

Written on the day, but not getting home until midnight after the game, and other Bank Holiday activities means I’ve only just gotten around to typing up my scruffy notes.

And here we are, the last home game of the season on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the end of a ridiculously wet April. Last weekend saw only our second away win of the season at fellow relegation candidates Hartlepool. A win, courtesy of two Dom Telford goals and a good look at his sports bra, saw us move six points clear of them with just the two games left to play, and it also gave us a goal difference six better than them.

To hear everyone talk you would think that we were easily safe. Which only leads me to believe everyone is trying to jinx us. Jeff stelling on Soccer Saturday I can understand, after all he is a hopeful Hartlepool fan. But it has been everywhere. Three different articles in the Football League paper, on the forums, on the BBC match report, in the Downsman, and yesterday in Horsham I heard someone say we were safe as we were six points clear and with a much better goal difference so it’s effectively seven points.

Stop it. all of you. Six goals are fuck all. Two defeats for us and two wins for Hartlepool is automatically four of them. And if we do lose, we do have a capitulation habit to bear in mind. We have a terrible habit of throwing things away when the fans get too cocky and start taunting away fans. This falls into the same category. We need a point. When we get it, I might finally release that breath that I seem to have been holding in for the last nine months.

Today’s opponents are Walsall. When we played them away earlier in the season, we took an early lead through a Dom Telford goal. Walsall equalised in the first half, and then got a winner deep into second half added time. A goal that if we had prevented it, we would now actually be safe.

It isn’t the only time we’ve thrown away points late on in games this season. Five times we’ve dropped a point by conceding a losing goal in the last couple of minutes or added time. And two points were dropped when we let in an added time equaliser against Newport in the first game of the calendar year. Only once have we grabbed a late point, that being against Crewe. Those dropped seven points and the six-goal difference they would have meant would have put us in the heady heights of sixteenth and two points ahead of today’s opponents instead of six points behind.

Walsall are on a terrible run of form, so hopefully that’s something we can capitalise on, and not just scrape a point, but get a point. Get safety in style and if coupled with a Wimbledon loss it would put us above them in the table which would be a passing moment of sweetness in a morass of shit this season.

There is a new manager in charge at Walsall after their poor run of form, the appropriately named Mat Sadler, a former Crawley player. It turns out our manager, Scott Lindsay hails from Walsall, so it is a bit of a reversal.

I am straight to the ground from writing, and it is busy in and around the ground an hour before kick-off. There was no sign of an away fans coach by that point, but when the others turned up there were three out there. We had waited until the last game of the season to use the free ticket vouchers for the game and have Terri and Tom along today.

The programme still doesn’t have Anthony Grant in the squad on the back of it, despite the fact he has been playing in seven of the last eight games (and he came on as a sub again today).

Meanwhile I’m wondering whether it is work experience weekend at the ground as the little ginger steward in front of our block only looks thirteen at the most. Is that what they must resort to when Al isn’t around. Brighton have a home game at three on a Saturday afternoon for the first time in ages.

Walsall are in an all-white kit and are sponsored by Poundland. Which sounds like it would have been a much more appropriate sponsor for ourselves for most of the season.

Kick off is a couple of minutes late and there is a nice early chance for Tom Fellows which is saved. And there is a red smoke flare going off in the home terrace within five minutes.

Eleven minutes in and we lose ball one out over the KRL Logistics away stand from thirty yards out by a Walsall player for a corner. A goal by Barrow against Hartlepool filters through and brings about a chant of one nil to the Barrow boys.

There isn’t a lot of action, and the next attempt of note was a free kick for us about thirty yards out which was tapped sideways to Jack Powell whose shot was deflected just wide for a corner. Not long after, Nick Tsaroulla digs a cross out and the Ashley Nadesan header is just tipped over for a corner. Which comes out to Tsaroulla, and the shot is just over.

Both teams are attacking more and there are penalty shouts at either end and both are waved away. James Tilley is on the receiving end of a few fouls in quick succession and there is a stoppage for treatment for him.

There are four minutes of added time, and in that, former Crawley loanee Isaac Hutchinson is allowed to cut in and curl a shot in, but good strong hands by Corey Addai put it out for a throw before the half time whistle goes with it 0-0. And we find Hartlepool have equalised against Barrow as well.

Into the second half and it is a bit frustrating. The final ball just isn’t working. There is lots of possession, but a lack of shots. Then a Ben Gladwin cross comes over, Telford misses his header, and the ball bounces off Nadesan and squirms through the keeper who scoops it out. It looked to us as if it were in (and replays later suggested it was over the line), but it is waved away. A recurring theme from the last home game of the season, as there was the one against Leyton Orient last season which was two yards over the line and not given.

A break see a Tilley shot well saved, and then at the other end a Walsall corner almost sneaks straight in at the near post, by Addai keeps it out and ends up in the net instead. The Walsall fans celebrate the ‘goal,’ not aware that it’s the ball that needs to go in, and not the keeper. We breakaway and it is another piss poor final ball.

And now Hartlepool are leading. It’s not good for the nerves. Nor is the Walsall free kick twenty-five yards out in the centre. But it hits the wall, as does the follow up attempt.

Half an hour into the half and ball two disappears, it is smashed well over the east marquee by the brick shithouse of a Walsall defender. That is in real danger of smashing a window at Thomas Bennett school a quarter of a mile away.

Then we get a free kick on the edge of the area. And do nothing with it. The crowd is announced as 4,189 with 281 away fans, and just following that Gladwin gets a booking at the defensive end, and as the Walsall player rolls around like an extra from Platoon, the home terrace thrown three red smoke flares onto the pitch, which are cleared off long before Walsall get around to taking their free kick, which thankfully goes straight out for a goal kick.

Six minutes of added torture time is announced, Hartlepool are now leading three one, and the sponsors man of the match is announced as Tom Fellows, which isn’t bad as he was subbed off a quarter of an hour before the end. Six minutes go on for far too long before the final whistle is blown, and the match ends 0-0. We are officially safe, and I can take that breathe now.

Remarkably there is only the one pitch invader, who is more celebrating everyone seeing him on the pitch than us surviving. The stewards treat him as if they are fishing and have caught a minnow and they just throw him back into the terrace.

The players lap of appreciation follows the game and most of the crowd stay to applaud the players who are gradually being de-robed as they walk around as they give away shirts, boots, socks, and shorts to ‘lucky’ fans. And a few kids get out onto the pitch.

We stay in twenty-second in the table, but we will still be in League Two next year. One game left, Bank Holiday Monday 12.30 away at Swindon, which we will be going to for our fourth away game of the season.

Come on you reds.

Then in the pub after the game I came up with a poem to describe the season.


It has been tense

It has been tough

We have been dreadful

And often not tough enough

We have played badly

And we have played well

And lost time after time

Putting the fans through hell

In the relegation zone often

In danger of leaving the league

With only very rare wins

To prop up the emotional fatigue

A point today was good enough

But no goals were scored

Still there was plenty of action

To prevent us being bored

The final whistle was blown

And we got the point we need

Survival is now ensured

Despite all those blown leads

The season didn’t go to plan

In fact, it was a nightmare

Let’s learn from this next time round

So we don’t repeat this despair

We’re All Going On A Christmas Holiday

It’s a good day, our leave has started, we are now on holiday until the new year, eighteen non work days. A lottery win to extend that would be great.

Friday morning, we were off to Brighton for Helen’s full Nuffield Health health check that she had paid for a couple of years ago, via Hayward’s Heath. It was bright sunshine all the way, by the time her assessment was up the fog had started to roll in, and by the end of it we were unable to see the sea.

There was a midpoint as it got cloudy, I was left alone with my brain, with a view out to sea, and wrote this poem whilst I waited.

After which we were meeting Liam and Ellie for lunch at The Westbourne, near their house, which meant we had to find somewhere to park. The full rant on this can be found below

Lunch was good though.

Everywhere you (stop) look and listen there is something saying, or someone shouting, ‘get your booster.’ And to be fair the NHS texted me to say there was a walk-in clinic available at the Apple Tree centre on Friday until 1pm. Unfortunately, this text to tell me this was sent at 1.38pm on Friday. I’m currently trying to find a DeLorean that will go at 88mph to get me there in time.

The fog carried on hanging around after that. By the time we’d driven up to London on Saturday afternoon. It was what might have been called a pea souper in the past.

The Saturday night was the Madness and Squeeze gig, there was lots of other app related precursor, the full tale of which is below

We had taken the decision to miss Crawley Town’s home game on Saturday so we would be able to make it up to London for the gig without a mad rush. Only for the Crawley game to be postponed for Covid reasons, so we may be able to see the game (always assuming the muppets in charge in this country don’t lock down venues again due to Omicron).

You see things get stolen or “borrowed” from hotels all the time. But I’d have bet good money on the combination missing from our room never being guessed by anyone. The little holder for toilet rolls – the bit that clips on at either end and spins round – that was gone. The metal bracket it would clip on to was still there, screwed to the wall. And the little glass shelf above the towels. The one they usually put the plastic glasses on in the bathroom. Shelf gone. The two wall mounts with the slots in for the glass to slot into – still there.

It probably says more about the location of the Holiday Inn Express than anything else, but the security was the best of any IHG hotel we’d stayed at. The main door required room key card use to get in when we got back from the gig, and when I nipped across to the shop for drinks after breakfast. It was also needed to use the lift and the stairs. Yes, it’s obvious and simple, but they could do with it at more of their hotels.

On the drive up to Morecambe on the Sunday morning there was very little let up on the fog. M11 – fog. M25 – fog. M1 – fog. M6 – fog. Morecambe – fog. Some fairly light, other patches were thick, some so thick if you had asked me where I was, I could tell you I hadn’t got the foggiest. Yes, I did try catching the fog – I missed (mist). One of the worst places was at the M6 toll booth, coming out of there it is like Wacky Races at the best of time, but when there is fog where you can’t see the sides of the road there it’s like a spooky version of it, almost like Wacky Races meets Scooby Doo.

And the other thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter which lane we get in, it is guaranteed to be the official numpty lane. In the fog, there was a car in front of us trying to pay with their phone, despite it clearly saying card only and that it doesn’t accept Apple Pay or Google Wallet etc. They tried to pay half a dozen times with their phone before using their card. On the way back in the light it wasn’t much better. First there is the lane with the big red X above it that lots of cars were still queuing in until they were told to find another lane. And then there are the muppets who seem to think that lining their car up in the next postcode will make tapping their card easier. There were two in the queue in front of us who ended up hanging out of the car to their waists to reach across to the reader. Probably the same twats who can’t use indicators or who tootle along in the middle lane doing 60. (Someone in Lancashire is not a fan of this, as they have graffitied at least three bridges telling such drivers they were tools.)

Anyway, occasionally we did find ourselves above the fog on higher ground and it was bright sunshine up there. Which was causing the car’s map display to become dark (night mode). So, it went fog – day mode, sunshine – night mode. I’m not sure where the sensor for this is on the car, but it would appear to be fucked.

The first full day in Morecambe saw stops at Matalan, Dunhelm, Home Bargains, and Sainsbury’s. What do these four places have in common? They are all an almighty time suck turning morning into evening. Granted it didn’t seem like five hours. More like five weeks.

In the evening we went for a walk up to the front and along the promenade. No idea if the tide was in. All I could see were lights over the bay somewhere near Barrow-in-Furness.

Tuesday saw a trip to Kirkby Lonsdale, which is covered in the link below.

In the evening we headed out for dinner at the Morecambe Hotel, and for the second visit to Morecambe on the trot I nearly killed us all by pulling out in front of a vehicle I hadn’t seen. Nothing to do with the non-stop chatter in the passenger seat. It took a while for my nerves to calm down.

And then it was all over; and we spent most of Wednesday driving home. Although when we got to the M25 all the road signs had the message “Salt Spreading”. Having been up north for a few days, it did make me wonder if this was a new Covid variant affecting Cockneys only. It’s as likely as anything else these days

Weighing Me Down

It was very heavy this morning

I suppose that could apply to many things

Not just all the excess soft tissue on my frame

Not just the dense bones of my frame

The atmosphere could be described as heavy

No sun, but it was warm, muggy, oppressive

Recent rain had washed the pollen off the trees

I could feel it invading every orifice

All of those could be considered as heavy

But it wasn’t any of them that was weighing me down

No it was my feelings doing that

A dread pushing down on my shoulders

Fear crushing against my internal organs

Apathy shattering the bones holding me together

Like I am now a primordial sludge

Wanting to seep away from this life

To be able to hibernate

Not for the winter like a hairy bear

But from the pressure enveloping me

Confidence, usually low, is now in negative

Block the world out with headphones and sunglasses

I can’t hear them talking about me

I can’t see them looking at me

Not that they are doing either

It’s just my fractured self, imagining it

I don’t want to deal with the world

No people, no nature, no concrete cells

No forced conversations, no phone, no e-mail, no skype

Just me curled up in a foetal position in bed

Just me and what’s inside my head

But is that wise?

Isn’t what is in there the thing that is making me this way?

Is it a self-fulfilling cycle I’m in?

Revolving around like in a wall of death

If I slow down I crash in a heap at the bottom

Yet if I could pick up my pace somehow

Speed up to the top and take off

And it’s a cycle no more

As I fly through the air

I’ve broken away in a straight line

I may fall to earth soon enough

But my spirit will have soared

Physical injuries can be healed in time

So why not the ones of the mind

The people may still look

They may still talk about me

But why should I let them worry me

If I am fine with myself and Helen is too

Then nothing else matters, that is all I need