By a Thread
Monday 15th May 2017
Saturday evening felt like an almost unique experience. I say almost because it wasn’t as if the atmosphere, the tactics or the play of our hosts was any different to previous visits. But on this occasion we not only matched them on that side of the game but our football was sharp, dominant and incisive. And given how many times we have walked out of there disappointed it was altogether thoroughly enjoyable.
Results elsewhere at the weekend suggest we now need a minor miracle if we are to secure Champions League football once again. With the situation out of our hands however, all we could have done is finished the season strongly by winning our games. And that’s whilst recognising totally that we are in this position due to our far too often inept performances during the middle part of the season.
Our previous 2 wins and clean sheets gave us all a little bit of hope as we headed up to Stoke and there certainly was an almost party atmosphere at what was our last game ‘on the road’ for another season. We all know what it is like however. If we found ourselves viewing a poor performance or being beaten yet again in that part of the world, the atmosphere would have quickly turned sour, toxic and/or volatile.
From the very first minute I felt we looked switched on and ready. Our passing, movement, shape, desire etc etc etc were hugely prominent. So much so in fact it looked only a matter of time before we scored. That moment came eventually of course and we took a thoroughly deserved lead into the break.
Despite the clean sheets in our previous 2 games I always felt we would need 2 goals on Saturday if we were to take home the 3 points. And when it came it was a thing of beauty. More dominance, an exquisite through ball from Alexis and a brilliant finish from Mesut. Get in!
In a move that as much as it can prove effective can hardly be called tactical brilliance, Stoke threw on another couple of man mountains in a bid to get back in the game. And with a succession of corners we found ourselves under a bit of pressure for the first time in the match against an attacking line up that now resembled the New York skyline. Defending stoutly and admirably we survived that aerial onslaught with a goal kick bringing that period to a close.
Our host’s goal came after a midfield melee so typical of this fixture followed by a decent cross into the near post. That was met by a very tall man slapping the ball home with his hand. I don’t really have a problem with the scorer for attempting it (admittedly with the benefit of knowing it didn’t influence the overall result) but in the modern game it is incredible that between the 4 officials a quick ‘word in the referee’s ear’ could not have led to the correct decision. He was clever, or cheated, depending on your view but he certainly got away with it. And if he hadn’t football would be a better place for it.
Fortunately we dug very deep and went on to be convincing and thoroughly deserved winners on the day with Alexis and Olly grabbing the goals to top off an excellent overall performance by the whole team.
So it was a happy journey back from Stoke, not something I have said before.
Tomorrow we welcome Sunderland down for their last league game in London N5 for at least 18 months or so. And all we can do is everything in our power to make sure we take the fight for the top 4 to the very last day by winning the game. Simple.
In a week where that oh so difficult battle to try and source cup final tickets is underway I am going to finish with the following and excuse my language. I feel I am right to assume that prize prick who keeps on flying his disrespectful, opinion carrying, childish little plane over our matches doesn’t want his ticket for the final. On that basis please can you put it my way so I can give it to someone who is desperate to see his beloved club grace the Wembley turf once again.
Victoria Concordia Crescit