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As long as I gaze on Boundary Park sunset, I am in paradise

Have you seen the league table? Twelfth! TWELFTH! Nosebleed territory. Maybe David Unsworth really IS a football genius.

We started brightly enough against Maidenhead last Saturday, and Reid’s early goal was a lovely half-volley finish. And it turns out it WAS onside. Well done, lino. And well done to the PA announcer for saying “he looks good, he looks fine!” when announcing Reid as the scorer. Unsworth assured us after the game that we haven’t seen the best of him yet, and he’ll be a better player after a ‘proper’ pre-season. Sambou, whatever his faults, put in a good shift, and you can’t question his effort. He does seem to be improving with each game.

Maidenhead were, frankly, awful, but so are lots of teams in this league and we’ve managed to throw away points against most of them. We had plenty of chances in the second half and it felt more and more nervy as the game went on. The feeling at the final whistle was mainly one of overwhelming relief; we’d finally seen the game out to take all three points, and, with Aldershot and York having to play each other, we were effectively safe.

It should have been a more emphatic win, but, according to Mark Kitching, there’s “nothing better than a 1-0 win as a defender”. This is why no-one likes defenders, Mark. This is why you lot never win player of the season.

Possibly the most significant thing I took from last Saturday was learning that the W in “W’s in the chat” stands for ‘wins’, and not, as I thought, ‘wankers’. The first time I saw Alex Reid saying it was after he scored in the 2-0 win against Maidstone in February, and he was posting screenshots on Instagram of tweets slagging him off and I thought he was calling them wankers. (Incidentally, does anyone know if Reid has brough his cat to any of our games?) Also, ‘dub’ is apparently short for W, and not referring to the subgenre of reggae, or to Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Dub by Apollo 440 or Dub Be Good To Me by Beats International. Every day’s a school day, especially when you’re a middle-aged woman trying and failing to keep up with popular culture. (If you need help with 90s music trivia, on the other hand, I am the absolute best person to ask.)

Did anyone else make the rookie error on Tuesday of thinking “it’s dead sunny and it’s been warm all day, I won’t need my big coat”, or are you not massive idiots? God it was freezing. The clear skies and good weather did make for a glorious backdrop to the match, though. Boundary Park looks lovely under the setting sun.

Southend were always going to be a tougher test, given that they’re still pushing to make the play offs. They clearly had the best of the chances in the first half – Unsworth commented after the game that they “pulled us everywhere” in the opening 45 minutes – which made it all the funnier when we took the lead after a howler by the keeper. He basically passed it to Alex Reid on the edge of the area, who coolly put it away. Earlier in the season we wouldn’t have had the players pressing up front to force the error, and if we had, they wouldn’t have held their nerve to take advantage. Progress.

(It probably wasn’t the funniest goalie error of the night though. Imagine if this had ended up being the goal that sent Rochdale down.)

We changed shape in the second half, having been overrun in midfield yet again. Norman made some good saves, and Sutton looked impressive. The win was sealed with an excellent move. Tollitt (who I really hope we see more of next season, he’s an excellent option to have) picked the ball up in his own half, made a great run down the wing and cut it back for Chapman, who passed it beautifully into the net. Reid then picked up a hilariously unnecessary yellow card for taking the ball past the keeper and lapping up the applause as he put it into an empty net well after the lino had flagged for offside. Where’s Reid? In the book, you daft get.

So, three wins on the bounce, three clean sheets, 9 points from three games, safety secured, and we might – MIGHT – be looking at our first top half finish in about 63 years. Is finishing in the top half of the Vauxhall Conference something that a massive club like Oldham Athletic should be celebrating?

Yes, it is. At the end of last season, I could only see another relegation or liquidation under the previous regime. I couldn’t help but feel for Scunthorpe on Easter Monday. There but for the grace of Frank go us. Celebrate the decline being halted. Celebrate the club being in safe hands. Fuck it, celebrate the fact that people are now complaining that the hot water in the women’s toilets is TOO hot. And, inshallah, in the coming seasons we’ll have success on the pitch to celebrate. The future’s bright. The future’s blue and tangerine. KTMFF.

Written by Arlene Finnigan. Images © Luke Reynolds.

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