It’s all getting pretty surreal now, as the Crows reversed the form book yet again and trounced a team on an eight-game unbeaten run, six places above us at the start of play, to register our fifth win of the season from 12 games. Wow, there’s a lot of numbers in that sentence. We’re pulling rabbits out of hats when most of us would be happy simply to wear them, and it’s fun, supporting an improving team who are always trying to surprise you, even if my private Cardiologist is buying Bentleys purely from the income generated by treating me after Boro games. I’ve had so many ECG’s, I light up after dark.
Before kick-off, I’m sure most of our number would’ve settled for a point given Bearsted’s recent good form, and at 0-0 going into the half time break, we were all feeling pretty optimistic of just that. Bearsted had shaded the first half on football, although the Crows had had chances, the most notable being a Luke Leppard drive from about 30 yards out just before the break that caught everyone out including the Bears keeper who raised a very casual hand to it to push it over the bar, but massively under estimated the ferocity of the shot, the ball only slightly parried and still carrying enough venom to loop up and land ominously on the top of the net. The Bears really should have learnt from that, because to under estimate the Crows at the moment seems about the worst thing you can do. While the first half was largely dull, we did have two bookings, one for each team, and I mention these because the ref had a very good game, demonstrating a consistency that I can’t say we had ourselves on the side lines. Firstly, the Bears 11 was reprimanded for kicking the ball away in frustration, a little excessive for 25 minutes into the game, and then 10 minutes later Kion Parchmont had his name recorded for pretty much the same thing, although of course we all protested from the cheap seats. While the game was far from a classic, and the spoils remained even for the first 45 minutes, had this been an International Moaning and Appealing contest, we would’ve been absolutely slaughtered. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those teams down at Alderbrook, by my god, did the Bearsted team want to pick a fight with the referee. They appealed for absolutely everything; if the ball went out for a Crows throw, they would appeal for a foul throw when we threw it back on; in one hysterical incident, they universally appealed for handball and then berated the ref when he agreed, as the ball had looped up kindly to their forward and now they wanted the advantage played; we had players down injured and they moaned that the ref had to wait until we kicked the ball out before checking that the Crows player hadn’t died, but when it was a Bears player, that was a totally different story. The upshot of this was that it got the home crowds collective “back-up” and raised the level of vocal support for the Crows, shall we say, which could only have helped the team on the pitch and almost certainly did. The Bearsted bench also received a long lecture at one point, so you must assume that the pressure of an eight-game unbeaten run to maintain and the Crows not following the script, was seriously upsetting the “emotional wellbeing” of the team and we were seeing the result. Oh dear, and disappointing because in between the bitch-fests, they looked a decent side.
The goals, when they came, were especially sweet as the first two came from stressy Bearsted errors (and possibly the third if you consider giving away stupid free kicks on the edge of the box when you’re hunting a point to be an “error”). The Crows had a free kick just inside the Bearsted half which was disappointingly just hoofed into the Bears box and should’ve been easily cleared by the Bears skipper. Unfortunately for him, he had far too much time and turned that time-bubble into a casual swing of his boot at the ball which saw it sliced backwards past the out-of-position keeper, and onto the far post. We all groaned (and I’ll be honest, I think we would’ve celebrated an own goal like an England World Cup win) but a loose ball in anyone’s box is Leppard territory and the first player to react was obviously Luke who hammered it into the net for 1-0. We were very pleased. Now here’s a stat for you – we’ve not lost a league game this season where we have taken the lead and we’d finally got a reward for 64 minutes of hard work and graft, albeit via a cock up. We were not in any mood to give that lead up easily.
The Bears skipper got himself booked for a poor challenge seconds after the restart from the goal, and the Crows worked the ball into the box for Kion Parchmont, who collected nicely and tried to round the full back who pulled him back. Penalty. I’ll be honest again here, and say it was soft, although it’s one of those ones where it was an obvious foul anywhere else on the pitch, but very cruel to give a penalty for, just because it’s in the box. Given against us, we’d have been upset, but credit to the ref again, it was the right call however harsh. Kion was keen to take it and stepped up but here’s where the team are starting to think like a team; Jack Funnell, scorer of a match-winning free kick at K Sports, took the ball and the responsibility and hit a fierce penalty straight through the Bearsted keeper, low and hard down the middle into the net. That’s how to take a penalty.
2-0 now and the Bears pressed again looking to get something from the game, the Crows defending resolutely but tiring. There was a flash of the excellent football that the Bears had shown in the opening ten minutes and a slick passing move eventually ended with the ball in our net for 2-1. We were hanging on a bit now, and I think we all expected an equaliser, especially when the Bears missed an open goal right on the 90-minute mark. As they pressed forward, the Crows started to exploit the spaces and cracks appearing in the Bear’s defence as a result and Elvis Onyenze missed his own sitter in time added on. His mazy runs had been a problem for Bearsted down their left-hand side all game and another Elvis shimmy and shake saw him tripped a couple of times but still manage to get a shot away. The Ref quite rightly pulled the game back for a Crows free kick as the advantage had come to nothing, and once again, the Crows thought like a team. Tom Penfold stepped up to take the kick – you may recall he scored an absolute stunner at Beckenham – and we were expecting at least another time-sapping effort on goal, and possibly even a grandstand dream finish but Tom just brilliantly tapped the ball sideways and Elvis hit the required screamer into the bottom left corner for 3-1 and game, set and match. Off went Elvis down the pitch, hotly pursued by the entire Boro team, shirt whirling above his head, for a great moment and a great way to get off the mark for the season.
Bearsted, now beaten, ended the game on a typically sour note with a straight red card for their No.8 for hammering the ball at the head of a Boro player laying on the ground. Nice. By the time he’d reached the dressing room, the game and the Bears unbeaten run were over, and we’d seen yet another gutsy, whole-hearted performance from the Crows against a side that will do ok in this division this season, if they can shake the bad moods and focus on the football.
As far as the Boro go, we had stand out performances and moments all over the pitch again. Certainly, Kion Parchmont and Tom Penfold deserve massive credit for seeing the bigger picture at the penalty and the free kick incidents, and both had excellent games in their own right. Lee Jules is looking more and more assured at the back the more game time he gets, and Elvis should be very happy with his goal and his overall performance too. It was great to see Ryan Burbridge back between the sticks, our fifth keeper already this season and then of course, in a category of their own, you have Tom Boddy and Luke Leppard leading the lines. It’s certainly starting to come together, we can all see that.
We had a groundhopping guest at Alderbrook for the game, and you can read his report here. It’s a good report but I must confess, it’s good to see another blogger with photo’s as dodgy as mine;
Anyway, Mr Rainham End will find the Crows much closer to home on Saturday as we trek up to Gillingham for a match against Hollands & Blair, another big game for the Boro as we must get something from the teams around us. I know the lads won’t let us down, so travel if you can.