Tuesday 21st January 2019
Rivalries are there in all age groups and at all levels. Even in lower league or grass roots football. They can be for a number of reasons of course. Challenging for trophies. Particular famous incidents or matches. Even manager feuds. But more often than not they tend to be simply geographical.
Being in London that dictates we have many many ‘derby’ matches to negotiate in every season, some of them more intense than others of course. And this week, in 2 very different situations, we can be considered Kings of London!
On Thursday night I made the journey from the Isle of Wight to Borehamwood as our youngsters entertained our nearest geographical rivals in the FA Youth Cup. And if ever evidence was required that these rivalries exist at every level this was the night.
My abode being where it is these days I’m far from a regular at youth or under 23 level matches but if there is one competition I have attended quite a number down the years it is this one. Being youth football’s premier cup competition still to this day, it has historically been considered a prestigious tournament to win. Throw in the game was against that lot from Middlesex and it had been made an all ticket affair, I just couldn’t resist.
On a freezing cold night our opponents definitely saw the better of the first half and deservedly took a 2-1 lead into the break. Where have we seen that before I wonder.
Come full time, after becoming much the more dominant team, it was level and extra time would follow and possibly penalties beckoned. Until we scored a 3rd that is. And a 4th. And a 5th. Thoroughly entertaining, well deserved and into the 5th round we go.
It is safe to say we have been on a difficult run of late. Frustrating after our pretty decent start. So when the likes of Chelsea come next you can’t help but fear the worst. But I had an air of optimism around me on Saturday afternoon. Admittedly I generally always do and the evening kick-off meant my pre-match refreshment might have been clouding my view a little!
And on the day we played well and were deserved winners I felt. 2 good goals, the second with an element of fortune about the actual finish of course and a 2nd period where I felt our game management in a winning position was excellent.
So, 3 big points then before another match where the atmosphere will be simply crackling I’m sure. That Friday night feel, the beginning of the weekend and an FA Cup tie at home to one of them rivals I mentioned earlier that is nothing to do with geography.
Having gone on an impressive run since their manager departed, there is no doubt it is a hugely tough game.
And we can play our part as always.
Come on you mighty reds!!
Saturday 12th January 2018
Sometimes, in defeat, you can argue it hasn’t been your day. And in 2 short periods during the course of today’s game we created enough decent chances to have scored. But in the vast majority of the 90 plus minutes we cannot have any argument or excuses for our performance.
That’s not me saying our hosts were great. They were no more than mediocre. Yet we lost to them.
Sometimes I’m full of words. But not this afternoon. Our recent away performances have very much mirrored virtually all of last season’s. And although I am very much a believer our manager needs to build and nurture his own squad rather than totally rely on the one he has inherited, our performances need to drastically improve. And quickly.
Chelsea at home next then. I would like to describe that one as a tough fixture on paper. But I wouldn’t put Brighton, Southampton or West Ham in that bracket and we’ve picked up one point out of nine against them. So tell me any easy game right now.
Keep the faith.
Sunday 6th January 2019
Any Premier League side who plays a team from a lower league in the FA Cup is expected to win. But the competition is what it is for its lengthy history of shocks. So the TV companies turn up longing to be providing coverage of the next one. And when it doesn’t happen the higher ranked club gets zero credit for putting in a professional performance and getting the job done. Instead words like ‘strolled’ and ‘routine’ make up the match reports.
For me FA Cup 3rd Round day is right up there as one of the very best on the football calendar. Especially when you are away from home. Why this is the case is difficult to put into words. But there is certainly a buzz about the day. And a sense of a full ‘army’ of travelling fans turning up for the day.
My journey started when I left my house at 6am yesterday morning and after a brekkie at Euston it was onto a direct train to Blackpool North, one that almost felt like a football special.
A few beers with my fellow travelling Gooners saw us arrive in good spirits and we checked into our hotel located actually in Bloomfield Road on what was to be a strange old day.
Blackpool fans are very unhappy with the current owners of their club and amongst other things they have shown their anger by simply not turning up. If the stadium had been full yesterday it would have gone totally against the beliefs of the majority. But it wasn’t and fair play.
It made it a strange old atmosphere.
One of the huge attractions with an away day in the cup is a ferocious home following full of excitement and doing their utmost to make it as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for the visitors. Like at Preston and Nottingham Forest in recent seasons for example. So although I support the Tangerines’ fans in their plight, yesterday lacking any of that was a shame.
On the pitch the players out there did their job and no matter how we analyse and look at how we played, on a difficult surface, with everyone outside our club wanting us to fail, 3 nil is thoroughly satisfactory. Into Monday night’s 4th round hat we go.
Post match we enjoyed a few beers, some questionable karaoke in an even more questionable pub and a late night curry bringing a fine trip to a satisfactory conclusion.
And that brings me to my train journey home today and my thoughts turn to West Ham away this coming weekend.
Up the Gunners!
Tuesday 1st January 2019
Happy New Year everybody. May it be healthy, happy and prosperous for each and every one of you. Four goals and three points today will certainly help on getting the middle one underway.
Sorry if this sounds a bit miserable but I’m not a massive fan of New Year’s Eve. The ‘once a year’ merchants tend to be numerous and can often go on to spoil it for those of us that go out most weeks just because they’ve had a couple of shandies. Harsh? Maybe. But you know what I mean.
Right up until about 11am yesterday morning, partly as a result of my feelings detailed above, I genuinely had no plans. But my sister was hosting a bit of a shindig back in Kent. Generally I don’t take too much persuading when it comes to such events. And my sister and her family can certainly party!
So a train journey later and I was in Kent. And turning in just before 5am was par for the course when it comes to my sister. Ouch.
Getting in a taxi just 4 hours later was painful. Very very in fact. But, New Years Day means football. Certainly most years. And I thanked my lucky stars we were at home.
A few pre-match liveners helped the nausea. Not big or clever I accept. But essential if I’m honest and had me at least feeling back on the straight and narrow for the game ahead.
It could be said we rode our luck a little in the first period. But I counted 5 clear cut openings for us and 3 for our visitors. On another day we might have been 2 or 3 up or 2 or 3 down. But Granit’s strike was enough to see us go in with a lead and something to build on.
Laca doubled that lead midway through the 2nd half after a fine passing move and we looked pretty much home and hosed. But with every 2 nil scoreline we all know the next goal can be hugely influential on the final result.
Fulham went hell for leather and without sounding too condescending, deserved to get something for their efforts, even if potentially there was a foul in the build up. But we stepped up a gear having conceded and went on to win the game fairly comfortably. Pleasing and on we go.
Blackpool away next in a fantastic FA Cup 3rd round example. Historical and mouthwatering, especially for all those neutrals out there hoping for a big upset. Focussed and professional we need to be in my opinion. And with that attitude we will progress.
If we are complacent however, history demonstrates, even with our great club, you can come unstuck.
Another road to Wembley begins.
Come on you mighty reds.
Sunday 30th December 2018
We will score goals with this team. Even yesterday we created enough chances to have scored more than just the one we did. But we are very weak at the other end of the pitch right now and any side who is top of the league will find that easy to expose. All the more worrying perhaps is the fact our hosts won so comfortably without really needing to get out of second gear.
For the second away game on the bounce travel from London was difficult, this time due to TV’s chosen kick-off time making it impossible to get back by train after. So with that, holiday traffic and the miles and miles of roadworks, the M6 looked even less appealing than usual. An early start however, saw a far more comfortable journey than feared and we were quickly in our chosen pre match hostelry after checking into our hotel located in the Albert Dock area of the city.
Optimism wasn’t to the fore it has to be said and we can hardly be blamed for that. But football is totally unpredictable so we headed up to Anfield with hope if nothing else.
And when we started well and took the lead that positive vibe briefly increased.
Looking at the goals we conceded individually I think we were a tad unfortunate with the first but the 2nd and 3rd showed some totally inept defending. The 3rd in fact was like something from a local park. Disappointing, frustrating and annoying, time and time again right now we are showing examples of just how much work is needed to get it right.
The penalties were somewhere between soft and a joke and demonstrated again how easy it is to fool someone who has never played the game. Next time you are walking down a busy street, stop dead and see if the person behind bumps into you. It’s not rocket science.
My head this morning confirms we did what is commonly known as ‘drowning our sorrows’ in various parts of Liverpool city centre last night.
A bad day at the office but there’s no time to cry into our beer. Fulham arrive after hitting a little bit of form in their bid to survive. We’ve played 4 teams in a similar position in recent games and we have unconvincingly beaten two of them. Evidence enough that we will need to earn the right to pick up our first three points of 2019.
For now, it’s back to the roadworks. Triffic.
Wednesday 26th December 2018
Sometimes I don’t really fancy writing a blog. Especially anything detailed. Tonight is one of those nights. I enjoy Boxing Day football. And everything about the day has been spot on. Except the result. Not a defeat. But not a victory either.
Travel the day after Christmas is never easy. But we booked a bus. From Pompey to Brighton. And that bit, along with our chosen establishment in Brighton city centre for our pre-match refreshment, could not have gone any smoother.
But, having taken the lead, and looking extremely comfortable, to go in at half time level from an equaliser that came about from a hoof away from one of our corners was disappointing and extremely frustrating.
I knew we were capable of winning the game in the second period but we are certainly not setting the world on fire so I knew we had equally as good a chance of losing. And by letting in yet another stupid goal we put ourselves in a position where a clean sheet in the second half would not see us victorious.
A point to ‘enjoy’ with the cold meat and piccalilli then. I say piccalilli, but I use that in the traditional sense of the word rather than the fact I’ve got any in my house. But I do have cold meat. Loads of it. And I will enjoy it because tomorrow I’m having root canal treatment on a dodgy tooth. Happy days.
A trip to the league leaders next then and a team that couldn’t possibly be more cock-a-hoop right now. Our chances of winning the game are slim I would suggest.
But not impossible. And the challenge is there to end their unbeaten run.
Up the Gunners!
Saturday 22nd December 2018
Anything other than a victory today would have been extremely frustrating. Not just because we would see it as important points dropped but three matches without a win would look increasingly like the wheels have well and truly fallen off. And in a game where we always looked in control, there was a spell in the second half where we were in danger of throwing away a two goal lead. There was a 4th goal of course, and Alex Iwobi’s strike makes sure we go into Christmas Day on the back of a good victory.
In a week that has seen us paired with Blackpool and Bate Borisov (again) I decided to spend an afternoon at Ally Pally for the darts on Friday and a good few jars afterwards meant getting out of my pit for an early kick-off was a tad uncomfortable. But a full English and a couple of liveners had me back on the straight and narrow as I made my way along an unseasonably warm and sunny Gillespie Road.
Two bad results doesn’t help the mood with the majority of football fans and the stadium wasn’t exactly rocking but after a number of chances went begging we were happy to be treated to something that is as rare as rocking horse shite this season, a half time lead!
Burnley play the percentage game. Lumping balls into the channels or into fifty fifty areas and backing themselves to win those battles. So, at times it was a bruising encounter. And after Auba had smashed home his and our second, the Clarets’ goal was a perfect example. The ball pinged about our box as the challenges went in and ended up in the back of our net.
Game management when you have a lead is hugely important and by and large I felt we did that pretty well this afternoon and I’m saying knowing we were not at our best.
And in the end I felt winning by a two goal margin was just about right. Three points, that will do nicely. With bells on in fact.
Merry Christmas everybody, see you down in Brighton on Boxing Day.
Wednesday 19th December 2018
If I had left from our league encounter the other week having got beat, I would have been pretty gutted. Yet tonight, despite absolutely hating any defeat, I don’t. And I guess that sums it up. There are 3 domestic competitions in this country. And although every season we enter them hoping to be victorious, the League Cup, especially in the modern game, is the one we are least bothered about.
So tonight, although a defeat isn’t great, genuinely isn’t something to lose sleep over.
Analysing the game, there were few clear cut chances. And they took their’s, we didn’t. And that was pretty much the summary of the game.
We have about 100 season ticket holders who sit, in our group, week in week out. And about 20 were there tonight. And If that doesn’t demonstrate the importance the majority put on this competition nothing does.
I remember when Matty Flamini volleyed home a winner over at White Hart Lane a couple of years back. As enjoyable as it was, the victory was taken with the pinch of salt it deserved. I’m assuming our delightful neighbours will take that on board this time round. Probably not though. Because every victory over your superior neighbours is hugely important of course. A bit like Notts County over Nottingham Forest I guess. (Sorry Magpies fans but I guess you get my point).
Burnley at home on Saturday is hugely more important as we all know. And we need to take 3 points into Christmas from that fixture.
But that’s no gimme.
Come on you mighty reds!
Sunday 16th December 2018
Frustration in defeat comes in many forms. Luck not being on your side, missed chances, dodgy refereeing decisions or simply a poor performance. Southampton were in the relegation zone for a reason. And today, defensively in particular, we were not good enough.
Sure, we went into the game with only one recognisable centre half available and he was starting his first game for 9 months. But I genuinely don’t think we can use that as an excuse.
Overall, it was a stupid game to lose. You simply cannot concede 3 soft goals and expect to get something from the game.
After the final whistle I got drenched. That doesn’t seem to ever happen when you win. And it pretty much summed up the day.
Defensively our resources are stretched right now and that is unfortunate. But fixtures don’t get cancelled as a result. And we have 2 home games in 2 competitions in quick succession to try and start another unbeaten run.
See you Wednesday.
Thursday 13th December 2018
I could be accused of being a miserable so and so but I’m not a massive fan of this time of the year. Many of us enjoy the social side of life most weeks. Others come out at Christmas. You know the kind. Those that feel it is a good idea to either offer me the rotten end of the manky roll they’ve just bought from one of Waterloo’s establishment or if not ask me if I think my team are ‘a bit shit’ because we only beat Qarabag 1 nil.
Add in the fact I am standing on my 10.30pm train on a Thursday night and its not altogether pleasant. Happy Christmas everybody.
Tonight was always going to be a bit low key football wise. Any match where a 25 nil victory either way doesn’t matter is always going to be that way. A European league format negative I guess.
But I had a fine night. Good food, drink and awesome banter in a Christmas spirit filled London meant we attended our sparsely attended fixture in fine spirits. And whilst our victory in a poor game won’t persuade anyone who didn’t attend that it was the wrong decision, we made sure we enjoyed every minute with a smile.
Southampton away next then, and a squad full of players looking to impress their new manager. A difficult and unpredictable mix for me.
Make some noise!
I’m going to bed. On a Thursday. And I’m not dressed as an elf.