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Woking v a back 5, what a way to make a living

 Isn't football brilliant? One minute you're in despair after yet another defeat on Planet Vanarama; the next you're pissing yourself laughing at United's painful humiliation; the next, you're celebrating an injury time winner and you're convinced that Sheron is better than Shearer and John is better than Wayne.

I said last week that it wouldn’t be a disaster if we didn’t beat Boreham Wood, and while I was gutted that we lost, I wasn’t too downhearted either. It wasn’t a great match, far from it. We did have chances; looking back at the highlights, their keeper had more saves to make in the first half than I’d remembered. I thought we probably edged it for much of the game, but we didn’t take our chances and we got punished for it.

Fondop can be brilliant when he’s on top form, but it just wasn’t quite his day last Saturday, and he was arguably at fault for their first goal, going down too easily rather than trying to win the ball back. It looked like it was going to take something special to break the deadlock, and it was a great curling finish. The second goal came from head tennis on our goal line, something that often doesn’t end well for us. It was deflating to lose a game that looked like it had 0-0 written all over it, but the performance was nothing like the Halifax or Gateshead games. Green was impressive again, and I honestly think if Reid had been available we would have won.

The highlight of the day for me was Andy, bless ‘im, getting Chaddy to come and say hello to the little girl sat next to us, a moment that was caught on camera and tweeted. She was absolutely made up. This was after Andy had taught her the ‘we all hate Leeds scum’ song. I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Unsworth was keen to praise the players and claimed that the Boreham Wood manager told him “we didn’t deserve that”. Some have criticised him for being too effusive about how good he thought the performance was, given that it was a pretty rubbish game, but you know what, that’s kind of his job. It’s one thing to come out and say the performance wasn’t good enough when it really isn’t, but maybe trying to boost the players’ confidence after they’ve lost a fairly even game isn’t the worst strategy. He did say that if they performed like that on Tuesday against Woking they’d win. Football genius AND clairvoyant.

Tuesday’s game was both one of the worst games of football I’ve ever seen and one of the best. Again, watching the highlights, we had more chances than I thought. John Ebbrell said after the game that playing 5 at the back was a good shape for us and made us more solid. I’m not totally convinced – I thought it made our midfield almost invisible and invited pressure. But I’m not the football genius. It did help nullify their massive bastards up front, but my God, it wasn’t pretty.

The second half was almost laughably bad – two teams point blank refusing to keep hold of the ball or play a half decent pass. I don’t agree at all with people who say that Nuttall is lazy; he’s lacking pace, sharpness and confidence rather than effort. Unsworth again defended him from the boo boys on Thursday, describing him as our ‘battering ram’: “I’ll show any fan the stats and the hard yards he puts in, the knocks he takes.” If you jeered him off on Tuesday, you’re a bellwipe.

Having said that, we were undeniably better when Fondop came on; him immediately shoving a Woking player to the ground as soon as he was on the pitch was an emphatic statement of intent. We looked more aggressive and positive, and the winner, deep in injury time, was fully deserved. After a great bit of skill to hold the ball up – or, as Sheron put it after the game, “John had about ten touches in the box” - Rooney floated in a great cross that seemed to hang in the air for about half an hour before Sheron’s equally space-and-time-continuum-defying header finally hit the back of the net. Another injury time winner, another almost-but-not-quite pitch invasion by the kids in the Rocky, happy days.

Sheron acknowledged after the match that 3 months ago he probably wouldn’t made the run into the box and would have tried to see the game out for a draw, but like the rest of the team he’s grown in confidence. Long may it continue. He also said that it was the best kind of game to win, and I couldn’t agree more. I remember thinking in the final minutes, after being bored and frozen half to death all night, “I’d fucking love it if we get a winner here, it’ll feel like we’ve all earned it”.

Think about how great that goal felt after 92 minutes of really quite shit football. Now imagine how great winning a promotion will feel after three decades of seemingly unstoppable decline and almost relentless shite on and off the pitch. Imagine the relief, the ecstasy, the communal joy. We’re (hopefully, inshallah) at the bottom of the slump now. Better times are on the way. Stay zen as fuck. KTMFF.


Written by Arlene Finnigan. Images © Luke Reynolds.

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