Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside…
Thursday 11th May 2017
We have experienced some of our best away days down at Southampton over the years. Who can forget Rocky and Merse’s 2nd half goals on the title run in of 1989? Wrighty’s hat trick in his league debut in our colours? The sheer magic of Bergkamp in an early season 3-1 victory almost 20 years ago (yep…it’s that long ago)? Or Thierry’s memorable late strike in 1999 whilst he was learning his new role as our centre forward?
But not all our memories are good ones, especially in more recent times. Short of our FA Cup win earlier this season our previous visits have seen some painful defeats. Fortunately last night falls well and truly into the former category and it was more than enjoyable. 2 down, 3 to go.
Born in Muswell Hill and spending most of my life in Kent, an Arsenal away trip to Pompey or Southampton has only become my most local game relatively recently. But with the opportunity to be home indoors well before midnight a rare one with midweek games, they certainly make up for some of the more difficult trips when they come around.
And with the sunshine streaming down all afternoon the opportunity to enjoy a ‘few early ones’ was simply too good to turn down! So a ‘tour’ of a few establishments was enjoyed, sampling their wares ‘al fresco’ before congregating in our usual pre-match haunt.
Sunday afternoon’s victory had just about kept us in the hunt for a top four spot. But it only achieved 20% of what is likely to be a minimum points target should we have any chance. Last night of course, could double that to 40% but only if we came away with all three points.
The mood in the away end was pretty positive I felt. Probably more so than for quite a while. And indirectly I feel that was hugely important when our hosts enjoyed their best spells during the first half in particular. The Saints played well, nobody can deny that. But defensively I felt we were disciplined and kept our shape well on the night. Petr Cech saved well from their best opening and also tipped a rasping 25 yarder over the bar.
But the longer the game stayed goalless I felt we had a real chance.
Then it came. Arguably the best move from either side throughout the game gave Alexis the chance to put us in front. What followed however, was sheer class. And the travelling Gooners loved it believe me.
From that moment there was still a long way to go of course but we had put ourselves in a winning position and had that to fight for until the end.
Another great move and Olly’s header put the icing on the cake on a fine night.
If Southampton away has proved tricky, our total bogey fixture (certainly since Sheffield Wednesday away back in the eighties, nineties and noughties) comes next. In all the many many times I have been to Stoke, be it their old Victoria Ground or their current abode, I have only ever seen us win there twice. A Niall Quinn header saw us narrowly victorious in an FA Cup tie back in January 1990 and in 2010, on the weekend of my 40th birthday, we brought home 3 crucial points. Even that day however, is remembered for the terrible news that Rambo had broken his leg.
On Saturday evening we return and once again it is trial by television. Our last 2 games have given us a glimmer of hope. But arguably Saturday promises to be our toughest test yet.
As always we can help by sticking together and making some noise.
See you in The Potteries.