Grinding it Out

Sunday 1st March 2015

Travelling up to London this morning, I knew Everton were beatable. I also knew if I was fan of today’s visitors I would see this as a really good time to be taking us on. Not because I lack confidence in our team but as a natural reaction to our very disappointing midweek outing today was always going to be tough.

The atmosphere inside the ground was always going to be a bit ‘flat’. It shouldn’t be. But it was. Getting the game out of the way with a win was on the agenda. And anything less would have been considered a total and utter disaster.

We certainly wasn’t at our often free flowing best today. The performance in the first half an hour in fact, matched the atmosphere in the stadium. Then we enjoyed a ten minute spell where for the first time in the match we seriously put Everton under pressure, culminating in Olly’s fine strike.

We all wanted to take the lead of course but I think we were all delighted when it was the big man up top who broke the deadlock. He had a ‘mare in front of goal in the week, there is no other way to describe it. But the last thing we wanted was him to lose confidence and today hopefully goes some way to preventing that from happening.

One up at half time then and I think we just about deserved it.

Our visitors enjoyed a lot of possession this afternoon and the 2nd half was no different. We defended well however, our shape in particular looking solid for the most part. 

The crucial point in the game for me came in a five minute spell midway through the half when David Ospina made two good saves from Everton’s only clear cut openings of the afternoon. It kept that lead intact and provided that springboard to go on and grab those all important three points.

Off the pitch you could really sense our supporters could see our team were working immensely hard and seriously digging in a game where we looked a little jaded I felt, especially going forward. 
 
Tommy Rosicky’s fresh legs were introduced at the perfect moment too and after a superb pass from Mesut, his strike doubled our lead and pretty much made sure the points were in the bag.

Not our greatest performance admittedly but we certainly kept that all important shape very well, defended competently, worked extremely hard and dug in. Keeping that clean sheet is so so crucial right now as we look like we can score in any game. Today was a fine example.

I don’t tend to get too involved with other teams results and how we want them to go unless they crucially and directly effect us. Whatever happened this weekend we are in amongst an extremely tight race for the Champions League spots. That includes being only 4 points off second of course.

West London plays host next as we head to the home of the Hoops on Wednesday night.

In the away end known for its grossly overpriced restricted views, let’s make some noise.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Fifty Shades of Naivety

Thursday 26th February 2015

Yesterday was my birthday. Triffic.

I always think its extremely easy to say we were ‘shit’….or this player was ‘useless’….or that player was ‘lazy’ etc etc etc. When you are so gutted with a result however, I also find those kind of reactions completely understandable.

Providing a more ‘balanced’ analysis is far more difficult I feel, even more so when you have such passion for the team that you can’t help but feel has just completely let you down.

The basic facts however, show at half time in the tie we have a mountain of Everest proportions to climb if we are to progress.

So what went wrong?

For me I was relatively satisfied after about half hour. We had dominated the game, created numerous half chances and looked extremely comfortable at the back.

The opening goal was unlucky whatever anyone says. I accept we maybe could have closed the player down but I dont remember a single game where there hasn’t been at least 3 or 4 similar shots taken from such a distance and the vast majority offer little threat. We are quite happy to praise the Ox for his fine strike for example but I’m sure Monaco will look at the fact he could have been closed down.

Whatever way we look at the goal it was definitely exactly what we didn’t want to happen. Despite that however, I still felt if we carried on keeping the same shape and applying the pressure we were well capable of getting a positive result from the remaining hour.

Olly had one of ‘those’ nights. His effort and movement were good but he couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo. Every chance that came his way was miscued. On another day he could have scored a hat-trick inside a few second half minutes. And when Welbs’ goalbound effort hit Theo on the deck and sailed over the bar it totally summed up our night in front of goal.

All of the above I can accept as part and parcel of the beautiful game.

What happened defensively in the second half however, I am really struggling to understand.

At home to Man Utd, when playing well, we went behind to an extremely unfortunate deflected goal. And then we went gung ho, left ourselves extremely exposed at the back and got picked off. All with plenty of time on the clock to get something from the game.

We all hoped we might have learned from that experience.

Last night suggested we havent. How we can leave ourselves so exposed at a time when we were seriously banging on Monaco’s defensive door is almost beyond belief.

At 2 nil we had to take risks. Again I understand that. And it that situation there is always the chance you might concede again against a counter attacking side. But we worked extremely hard to prevent that from happening whilst trying to get ourselves back in the tie.

The Ox’s strike gave us that lifeline. Above all else at that time it was massively important not to concede a third.

And we managed to do the complete opposite with what can only be described as a comical and suicidal last few minutes.

I am a very positive person and always try to see the plus points from any performance.

At the moment however, I am stunned.

Roll on Sunday, we desperately need to bounce back against The Toffees.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Much Too Close For Comfort!

Monday 23rd February 2015

Heading into injury time with a two goal lead and a defensive performance that made that scoreline as comfortable as it sounds, our particular group were thoroughly looking forward to continuing the fun and games in the heart of our capital city.

Only when lying in my hotel bed watching the Sunday morning repeat of MOTD did I realise just how close the 93rd and 94th minutes were to completely ruining our day. At the time it looked like a dangerous cross but I genuinely didn’t know we were the width of a post from throwing away two massive points in a game that looked like producing nothing less than a victory all afternoon.

Our pre match build up on this occasion included an early start, a bit of brekkie in Balham and plenty of refreshment and banter in our usual Thornton Heath pre Palace haunt.

Those of us who remember the ‘good old days’ look back fondly on all the many hundreds of old style stadia we visited. They certainly had a huge amount of character and days out at the likes of the Baseball Ground, Ayresome Park, The Dell, the Victoria Ground, Roker Park etc etc etc will live long in the memories of all those who lived through those times.

Selhurst Park certainly falls into that category and similarly we have many happy memories of our numerous visits. On the other hand, in a football world that contains decent facilities and views we have definitely been spoilt in recent years! The away end at the home of the Eagles is pretty dreadful to be honest. Access to the toilets, refreshments and even the seats is appalling and the view is not great either!

A better view near the front

A better view near the front

Fortunately for the usual thousands of Gooners present the first half view was more enjoyable than the one experienced by our hosts.

Although the foul definitely wasn’t debatable, whether it was inside or outside the box was touch and go for our penalty. Probably an inch either way and it went in our favour on this occasion.

Santi made sure it was the perfect start and we were on our way.

Once Olly doubled our lead after more excellent work from Welbs and another superb pass from Mesut the result never looked in doubt.

Or it didn’t until deep into injury time!

Another big win and we celebrated long into the night with the expected gusto.

Changing competitions, much has been said about the decision to move our FA Cup tie to a Monday night. If there is anyone out there that genuinely still believes the FA and the TV companies give two hoots about those who actually want to attend games I am gobsmacked. No matter what they say, we are considered last, it is as simple as that.

I have no doubt we will take near on nine thousand fans to Old Trafford, even on a Monday night with no public transport options and two days holiday required for most. The fact is however, it would make absolutely no difference to these organisations if we didn’t.

The most amusing bit for me is the TV companies actually think they are doing the genuine fans a ‘favour’ by putting it on the telly on a Monday night. They think that those who would have travelled if the game was at the weekend will by quite happy with the ‘alternative’ of TV coverage on a Monday night! Simply laughable and a million miles from being in touch with reality when it comes to the travelling fans.

That competition takes a back seat this week of course with 3 massive games ahead of us, the first seeing us welcome Monaco to London N5.

I always believe number one priority in European home legs is a clean sheet. And my thoughts for Wednesday night are no different.

If we can achieve that and take a lead with us to France too, that has to be a positive result.

Make some noise boys and girls!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Into the Last Eight

Sunday 15th February 2015

Love is in the air this weekend. Apparently. Does that mean it wasn’t on Friday? Or indeed it has now been put away again for another year? All I know is this time 12 months ago we were looking forward to the FA Cup quarter final draw. We all know what that led to…….and this afternoon we went one step closer to repeating that feat.

On a personal level it has been an extremely ‘heavy’ and very entertaining weekend. Plans suggested it might be but you never know whether that will come to fruition.

Around 4am on Saturday morning, stood in my sister’s kitchen with a lump of cheese in one hand, a glass of port in the other and a ‘springbok’ being prepared in the background, the whole scenario suggested those plans were well and truly approaching a situation that accurately supported those plans.

Certainly Saturday felt long and slightly painful.

A few beers with a good friend and fellow Gooner were on the cards later that day and I don’t mind admitting I was extremely happy to hear him say “I’m not really up for a heavy one tonight mate”!!

Consequently we enjoyed a couple of beers and went for a ‘Chinese’, not something particularly newsworthy or entertaining in normal circumstances but when our table for two was donned with a red rose and the only food available was their ‘Valentines Special’ it did prove to be slightly awkward and amusing.

London has some great pubs. Possibly the most obvious statement ever. But being such a big city, even the most Londony Londoners (!) wont have been to every one. Especially on match days when we all have our tried and tested routines.

Today a few of us decided to try one or two new ones down in The Strand/Charing Cross/Leicester Square part of our great capital city. Just to calm the FA Cup pre match nerves of course. And a good decision it was, a fine couple of hours before we made our way up to London N5 for the main event.

Leicester made it very very difficult for us on Tuesday night and they are bottom of the Premier League. Middlesbrough are currently sitting top of the Championship. Does that not make them a potentially even trickier opponent on paper? Especially given they turned Man City over on their own patch in the last round.

With all that in mind however, if we put in the kind of performance we know we are capable of, progression to the quarter finals was certainly well within our grasp.

Professional is probably the best word we can use. Throw in the word thoroughly and I think we are just about there.

To be honest, our visitors hardly had a sniff until injury time when the game was already over.

We weren’t stunning. But once Olly’s quickfire double put us in control we never looked like letting that lead slip.

That will do nicely and means we can all look forward to tomorrow evening’s quarter final draw.

Crystal Palace could have joined us in that hat…..but they are not. But they are our hosts next on our 2014-15 football journey.

On we go……

See you at Selhurst Park.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Strange Game, Strange Performance, Good Result

Wednesday 11th February 2015

We are all very much aware that above all else the three points are imperative. Especially I feel, after a defeat. And from a strangely disjointed and unconvincing performance at least we have come away with exactly that.

Discussions with fellow Gooner Ian on our journey into London, surrounded ‘how many’ rather than ‘will we win’. I couldn’t help but think back however, to our Christmas game at home to QPR. Similarly to the Foxes they were bottom if my memory serves me right but if nothing else that game proved anything can happen.

We took the three points with a 2-1 victory but almost identical to tonight our visitors came close late on to getting something from the game.

Were we lucky to win? Possibly a little. I’ll take that however, for all those times where we have come away from games with less than we deserved.

Everything else on the evening went pretty well. A smooth journey up and some fine Chinese tucker from the Arsenal Fish Bar all washed down with a fine pint or two of ale made sure of that.

The football on the other hand was at best frustrating, at worst downright poor. And it is difficult to work out why.

Certainly Leicester played well beyond where their league position suggests and this should be taken into account when forming analysis. I am also less than convinced playing one small man up front works, even if that player is Alexis Sanchez. For me we look a far better outfit with a bigger man in that position.

A win is a win however and fir that reason alone we have to be pleased. If the performance is poor, that is a massive and crucial ‘consolation’.

One thing is for sure we will need to play an awful lot better if we are to progress to the FA Cup Quarter Final by overcoming high flying Middlesbrough.

But tonight doesn’t change my opinion that we are well capable of doing just that.

Come on you reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Defeat in the Swamp

Saturday 7th February 2015

Athletico played Real in the Madrid derby today and hammered them 4 nil. It can happen. We have seen our team lose to our geographical rivals before and life dictates we will see us lose to them again at some stage in the future. Fortunately in the many many times I have seen us lock horns over the last 35 years or so defeats haven’t been that regular.

Overall I cannot deny our hosts played pretty well today and their fans celebrated as if they had won the league like they tend to on these occasions. I assume the dvd will follow.

We've seen our team win the league from here....

We’ve seen our team win the league from here….

The reality is however, the most frustrating aspect is we have dropped important points, especially given we have been on a run of good form of late.

We didn’t play particularly well today, that is definitely true. I don’t think we played any better last season either. But the result was totally different of course. My point is those dividing lines are so so thin.

Again today we tried to be compact when defending and rely on our dangerous attacking options to provide our threat at the other end.

And whether deserved or not, for long periods it looked like it could work.

At one-all and possibly for the only time in the match, with about 15 mins to go, I felt we could go on and win it. And for me, although this sounds a bit obvious, it was during this period that the game was won and lost. Welbs drew a fine save and from the resulting corner Laurent saw his thumping header saved when if it had gone anywhere else it would have gone in. And if it had, I am convinced we would have gone on and won the game.

Just when it looked like we would come away with a point our hosts’ ex Gooner supporting ‘one of their own’ headed in and we made the journey home with nothing for our efforts.

Overall, on a day when our opponents played well, we were disappointing and the result doubles that emotion.

There is only one way to deal with that kind of situation and we have a big week ahead in this country’s 2 biggest domestic competitions.

Grabbing a hugely important three points comes first as we look to overcome a team that ended today’s hosts’ FA Cup adventure in the shape of Leicester City.

For me its a game that can’t come quick enough.

Keep the faith.

Frank
@stubbsy70

Gimme Five

Monday 2nd February 2015

David Ospina is keeping his place between the sticks right now, not for any other reason than he hasn’t done anything wrong since he has come in. In fact he has oozed confidence, something that can only breed similar for all those in front of him. I have to agree with Paul Lambert when he said his Villa side were still in the game until Mesut doubled our lead but let’s be honest here, that was only because, one good save from our Columbian aside, we were not already the three of four goals up our attacking play deserved. The game should have been long over before our keeper saved Villa’s only serious attempt on goal until deep into injury time when we were five goals up.

We can’t do anything else but be confident we can score goals in any game. That aspect has never been questioned for many years now. On that basis it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out if we can get our defending right, or certainly the balance between the two sides of the game correct, we have every chance of competing at the very very highest level. Slowly but surely, for many many reasons, we seem to be heading in the right direction.

Lunchtime kick-offs are never ideal, especially if you have enjoyed Saturday night to the full and/or have a lengthy journey to the match. Having been in excellent form since our poor performance on New Years day however, any time or journey to see us play seems full of anticipation. And Sunday morning was no different.

My journey was fairly smooth…..apart from one particular aspect I feel I must reveal, even if its relevance to football is a little bit distant!

Travelling is something I quite enjoy and have done for a long time. The miles we put in to follow our team would be all the more difficult if that wasn’t the case. I am also a massive fan of music, a subject that is definitely my biggest passion away from the beautiful game. And I like eating too! Especially out at establishments from kebab shops to those with Michelin Starred chefs knocking up my tucker. But, I’m totally convinced the three don’t mix. Stay with me on this…..!

For most home games, when I get on the Piccadilly Line I have 14 stops until I reach my destination. On Sunday I managed to get a seat (something I was very grateful for after a ‘moving heavy furniture’ incident recently had made something scream in my lower back) and I settled down to relax for the 25 minutes or so until I got off. Or I would have if it wasn’t for the gentleman sitting next to me listening to his choice of music at a level where even with his earphones on my whole journey would be accompanied by the sound of someone constantly bashing tracing paper with a spoon! Not only that but a student opposite (the badge on his sweater allowing me to be so confident in my accuracy) was munching away on a bag of sushi. Not that offensive on first reflection but the smell was more pungent than the inside of my shinpads after a game involving extra time! I’m sure you get the picture. And no, they didn’t get off before my stop. 25 minutes of uncomfortable, irritating, nauseating torture.

Out into the relative fresh air of Gillespie Road it was very apparent it was going to be a cold old afternoon. Something that only some good pre-match refreshment, banter, plenty of clothes and a thumping good performance can make you forget.

And boy did we get that combination right.

Reflecting on the game as a whole it is very difficult to find any faults to the team or the performance of any individual player. Our defensive shape was fantastic throughout and when the opportunities arose we looked extremely dangerous and powerful going forward. Mesut took many of the plaudits and he certainly put in a fine performance but I felt the Coq was magnificent once again and the improvement and confidence of Hector Bellerin so early in his Gooner career was a joy to behold. Theo is getting closer and closer to the levels he reached before his serious injury too, another extremely positive aspect to take from our afternoon’s work.

Overall then, nothing but extremely satisfying as we look forward to heading down the Seven Sisters Road this coming Saturday for another lunchtime kick-off.

We have to be confident we are capable of coming away with a positive result, our current form suggests we can be nothing else. But our hosts will be feeling exactly the same. For me it changes nothing. This fixture is the most unpredictable on the calendar and always will be. Form goes totally out of the window.

Lets make the usual noise we always do at the Lane and be safe people.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Good ol’ Sussex By The Sea

Monday 26th January 2015

Two years ago we enjoyed a cracking day out on the Sussex coast. My thumping head today is certainly evidence enough that it was no less enjoyable this time round. Our current love affair with the World’s greatest cup competition continues.

A very good friend of mine and fellow Gooner is currently working overseas. Last time we were due to play Brighton he came to visit and a relatively quiet Friday night turned into absolute carnage! I remember the journey to Sussex being extremely painful but the day itself was equally as messy and we got the result we all wanted too.

A few weeks back my mate decided to book flights and come back for this weekend. To be playing Brighton again is a huge coincidence. 

On this occasion we decided to pop out for a few ‎jars on Saturday afternoon with every intention to not go mad given the big day we were expecting on Sunday. That was all going to plan……and then we witnessed the last 20 minutes or so of Sky Sports Saturday!!! There is no doubt that was one of the most incredible and dare I say amusing FA Cup days in living memory. And we celebrated a little bit longer and harder than we should have!

Sunday morning was a little bit tougher than hoped but once the banter started on our Gooner filled train journey along the south coast all the signs were there that it could be a fine day.

Brighton is very much a blue and white location but from the moment we arrived it was a total sea of red. The travelling army of Gooners were certainly up for making it one hell of a party. That of course would be completely spoilt if we didn’t get the result.

No matter how they go in all goals count the same but we definitely scored three crackers on the day. Theo’s fine control and finish calmed any nerves early on and despite our hosts giving us a tough afternoon I never felt like we wouldn’t come away ‎with the victory.

An absolutely fantastic day out and into the last 16 we go. This evening’s draw will determine where we go for our next cup adventure. 

Aston Villa join us in that hat and it’s them we face in our next outing on Sunday lunchtime. 

We seem to be gaining a bit of momentum right now, with some good results, good performances, injured players returning and activity in the transfer window. 

That needs to continue on Sunday.

Come on you mighty reds!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Yellow Moon

Monday 19th January 2015

Just before Christmas we were deep into stoppage time at Anfield and if we had defended a corner properly we would have come away with three points, whether we deserved them or not. One small lapse in concentration and/or application prevented a positive result from being an excellent one. We all hope in these disappointing moments we learn something and if yesterday’s performance was anything to go by we certainly look as though we have. Three extremely pleasing and thoroughly deserved points taken from the League Champions’ own back yard. Get in!

Waking this morning I had a bit of a ‘head’. A heavy, yet thoroughly enjoyable weekend meant getting out of bed this morning felt a little bit more difficult than usual! Although my blog is very much dictated by my life as a Gooner, following my team week in week out over land and sea I try and add a few other bits and pieces just to prove there are other aspects to my life than all things red, white, yellow and blue!

On Saturday I was taking my dad to see Queen and Adam Lambert at the o2 Arena, tickets secured once TV had decided what date and time they would select for our trip to the Etihad. Living where I do quite a lot of planning needed to be done in order to not only get to the gig, but be in a position to get to Manchester on Sunday morning and back to the South Coast after the game! Again with my abode being the reason I rarely go by train to any games north of London these days, travel by car (or the odd flight) being the most convenient way. I openly admit to being a little bit of a control freak too, so relying on this country’s rail network to get me to my destination on time and hassle free is not something I’m a fan of doing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy rail travel, so if it was more convenient and much much cheaper I would consider this option more frequently.

This weekend’s events might give you an indication as to why…..

My dad still lives in Kent so plans took the following course. I decided to book a very reasonably priced and comfortable hotel in Northfleet, my reasoning being my dad could park his car there, we could both enjoy some suitable liquid refreshment over the course of the evening and being located a few minutes from Ebbsfleet International station, I could get a fast train to St Pancras on Sunday morning, take a short stroll along the Euston Road comfortably in time for my train to Manchester. Engineering work in the Wimbledon area means trains from the south coast to London’s Waterloo are ridiculously long at the moment so with my dad kindly offering to pick me up from Godstone station, a few minutes off the M25 plans were in place for what could and should have been very very simple.

My journey involves a short walk to catch a ferry (or ‘cat’ to be totally accurate) and when the heavens opened and I got thoroughly drenched undertaking this I really should have seen it as a ‘sign’. We’ve all been there, blue sky all around…..and one small cloud…..directly above my head it seems.

The ‘cat’ was on time so no issues there but on arriving at Portsmouth Harbour I strolled into the station, checked the departure board to see my train alongside the word ‘cancelled’. Triffic. Whilst desperately trying hard not to bore you here my train was due to ‘join’ a train from Bognor Regis at a place called Barnham, I was to be alighting at Redhill to meet another train to undertake the couple of stops to Godstone. With absolutely no announcements or people to help on the station I thought on my feet and boarded a slightly late running Brighton train that was also due to stop at Barnham and in time to meet my connection, the train from Bognor. In Barnham in good time, all seemed rosy again, especially as the board was saying my next train was also running on time.

Sure enough, it arrived no problem but once I got on an announcement was made that we would be leaving a few minutes late as we were waiting for the ‘Portsmouth train’ to attach on the rear…….hang on a minute……the Pompey train…….so the one that was cancelled? Not only confusing but very annoying given my connection at Redhill was ‘tight’. Sure enough we got to Redhill late…..too late for my connection…..on a service where there was one per hour. Great.

I texted my dad asking if he would come to Redhill. Not too difficult you would think. But my dad has a new phone. Working a Nokia phone is not rocket science but my dad is of a generation where his knowledge of gadgets just about reaches the TV remote! Eventually our planned ‘meet’ took place and it was onward and upwards.

Having checked into our hotel I felt we had plenty of time, we could stroll to Northfleet station in less than 10 minutes for a train to Woolwich Arsenal (firmly located where the roots of our great club are of course) and utilise the DLR and the Jubilee Line to reach North Greenwich and our destination for the evening’s entertainment. Simple. Don’t be ridiculous!

With only 5 minutes or so until our train you can guess what came next…..”We are sorry to announce the 15.06 train from platform 1 has been cancelled”. Great, don’t you just love the railways in this country! It was freezing cold, this was one of the worse stations I had ever had the pleasure of being on…..and there was only 2 trains per hour, the next being 15.36. With little sensible option than to just wait, this is what we did before getting into the welcome warmth of the next train’s carriage.

The fun and games didn’t stop there of course, this one didn’t go via Woolwich Arsenal! Something I didn’t know. An error on my part admittedly but if the 3.06 hadn’t been cancelled in the first place it wouldn’t have been an issue!!! So…Waterloo East was our next location……somewhere I could have reached a few hours ago if I’d have taken the lengthy ‘Wimbledon engineering work’ option earlier in the day!

Not the greatest of days but a Jubilee Line train, some great food and pre-gig refreshment and an absolutely fantastic and spectacular few hours in the company of Brian May, Roger Taylor, Adam Lambert and of course the late great Freddie Mercury had us forgetting the ridiculously ‘difficult’ journey earlier. Stratford International to Ebbsfleet was the chosen route on the way back. There was no way we were risking a repeat of our outbound route!

Queen do their stuff

Queen do their stuff

Sunday morning’s alarm felt painfully early but our hotel had kindly offered to knock up a tremendous ‘Full English’ to match my intended departure time and with dad dropping back at Ebbsfleet International station thoughts turned to our tough tough trip to Manchester (and the best way to ease my throbbing head!) Inside the station building and guess what…….my train was delayed. You couldn’t make it up. Due to a ‘rostering error in Ashford’ apparently…..train speak for ‘cock up’.

Not using the rail system that often to travel to games as mentioned earlier, I decided to take up Virgin Trains’ offer to upgrade to First Class for just a little extra. Travelling on my own, I though why not. Its not as if I do this every week. I say ‘on my own’ but having taken my seat my carriage was full of Gooners. We certainly know how to travel in style us lot!

Before my carriage turned red & white

Before my carriage turned red & white

The journey proved comfortable, relaxing and full of banter and more importantly my first ‘on time’ and ultimately ‘as advertised’ train of the weekend! With the bottle of water and complimentary ‘snack pack’ I consumed not working on the ‘lets get rid of the headache’ aim I made my way to the bar about an hour into the journey. The ‘shop manager’ was a Palace fan and boy did he like a chat! The shelves were stacked full of goodies including a range of alcoholic beverages….but strangely no lager. I enquired as to why this was, not the greatest decision I have ever made……..”Well” he said. “I got on the train this morning and noticed we had no lager. I am only working today as I had the day off to go to Burnley yesterday and I get put on a train full of Arsenal fans going to Manchester with no lager onboard. Can you believe it?! So, I called my manager and said I need lager. Please can you make sure there are some waiting at our first stop Milton Keynes but he said this is not possible. I asked him when is the earliest we can have lager onboard and he said Manchester! So I’ve now got to tell all the Arsenal fans we have no lager!”

You had to admire his style, persistence and thought process!!

Armed with a bottle of wine and a gin & tonic I ambled back to my seat thoroughly happy and it proved the perfect ‘medicine’ for my ailment.

First Class refreshment!

First Class refreshment!

Arriving into Manchester Piccadilly it was certainly a bit Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby and by the time we reached our chosen location for pre-match refreshment the snowflakes were getting bigger and heavier. Fortunately by the time we reached our seats for the main event the weather had improved although it was still bitterly cold.

As a performance goes I don’t think any of us saw that one coming! Not that we didn’t believe we were capable of winning on the day, just the style and total tactical masterclass the elements none of us expected. City lose very few at home so to reduce them to just one or two half chances was an incredible performance. Going totally against the grain we allowed our hosts the lion’s share of possession and conceded a number of corners with some excellent defending. But not at any stage did City look like scoring from one of them. I cannot remember an occasion away from home where we held our shape and discipline any better. And if the other team gets nil I always fancy us to score, in any game.

The penalty decision has been described as a bit ‘soft’ in some quarters but would it have been given a foul if it had happened anywhere else on the pitch? The answer to that is undeniably ‘yes’ and for me that makes it a totally correct decision. And Mike Dean gave it too! The mind boggles! Santi coolly slotted home and the red and white army enjoyed the day’s first jostle.

The perfect half then but a long long way to go.

Our performance in the second period was arguably even better. Defensively we were very very strong and we looked extremely dangerous on the break and it was one such occasion that led to the all important free-kick that saw us double the lead. It wasn’t great defending admittedly but we showed great movement, it was a well delivered ball and like in every aspect all afternoon we wanted it that little bit more. Olly nodded home and it was carnage in the away end. We couldn’t…….could we?

The final whistle went and three enormous points were in the bag. Awesome.

Yeeellllllllloooooowwwwww!! Get in there you beauties!

Yeeellllllllloooooowwwwww!! Get in there you beauties!

An extremely satisfying result for so many reasons. Not only does it keep us in the hunt but there’s no way of knowing just what that will do for our confidence.

Heading back with my fellow south coast Gooners (by car!) I couldn’t help but feel very proud. Happy for Mr Wenger for getting it tactically spot on, delighted with how the players put those plans into place, full of pride with the support the thousands of travelling Gooners gave on the day and absolutely ecstatic with the result.

A return to Brighton comes next, a trip that two years ago proved successful, highly entertaining and dare I say, a little bit messy!

More of the same would be fantastic. Unfortunately however, I will be going by train!

Frank
@stubbsy70

Stoke at Home…..via Warwick!

Sunday 11th January 2015

Travel to and from home games can be very easy. Especially if you are following tried and tested weekly plans. Some of life’s other events can change your routine but even then, some decent planning can make it easy.

The ‘other event’ on this occasion was a wedding on the outskirts of Coventry on Saturday afternoon.

I’m not a big fan of weddings. In fact if I was told I would never have to attend one again I would be delighted. But, you have to do these things now and again I guess and our home game with Stoke being moved to Sunday meant I no longer had an excuse not to attend.

Departing just after 7am the day before a home game is not ideal but this I did for what looked a long long day ahead. In fact an hour or so into the journey and somewhere on the M40 everything was going swimmingly. Then however, my car started to lose power, intermittently at first and more regularly as we approached our destination.

I achieved my remit of getting to the wedding in good time but I would be lying if I said my thoughts were not concentrating on how much difficulty we would endure getting to London N5 less than 24 hours later.

The wedding came and went in the usual fashion and I enjoyed the food and drink that came with it. For that I am grateful for the invite and hospitality.

The following morning’s painful early start however, was where the problems really started. Heading south my spluttering motor was experiencing further degrees of power loss before reaching Warwick.

In my role as secretary of a supporters club, match ticket allocation and distribution is very much part. So me getting to the match is pretty important!

With this in mind a decision was taken to get a day return with Chiltern Railways from Warwick Parkway to London’s Marylebone, get to the game, hopefully pick up three points and deal with the ‘situation’ upon our return.

Travel wise it was certainly a good decision and we arrived in North London with plenty of time to spare. In fact it was further vindicated when we heard our original planned route would have been badly affected by the M25 being shut!  Pre-match activities over, the game was equally as successful, Mat Debuchy’s worrying exit aside of course.

We don’t need reminding about the difficulties we experience every time we head to the Potteries. Our record at home however, couldn’t be more opposite and as soon as Laurent’s thumping header set us on our way we never looked like getting anything less than three points for our efforts. 

Alexis was superb yet again and our little Chilean magician added yet another fantastic goal to his collection to put us in a strong position come half time and his cheeky ‘under the wall’ free kick sneaking in off a goalkeeper who had prevented a first half rout saw us pretty much home and dry early in the second period.

A pleasing afternoon then and a quick and on time train journey out of Marylebone  (if a tad packed solid due to all trains being cancelled out of Euston!) meant we reached our unexpected Sunday evening destination of Warwick efficiently and problem free. The fun and games however, could well have been about to begin.

So….how did we get on?

Well……she coughed and spluttered a bit at times but she done me proud and got me home. Tomorrow she will be going to the ‘doctors’. Fortunately she is still under warranty!

Some days we all make decisions that don’t prove to be correct. Today however, I feel we did everything right. And that, most importantly of all, includes our team. Three massive points.

The sky blue multi billion pound side of Manchester plays host next for what is certainly one of our toughest games of the season.

A ‘simpler’ day would be nice!

Frank
@stubbsy70

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