There’s a great blog out there in the Interverse, called Two Men in Search of the Beautiful Game (you can find it here; http://beautifulgame2015.blogspot.com/) and it’s jam packed full of random non-league encounters with wistful reports on things like the state of the burgers and the fencing, and a level of detail I can only dream about. I see them as two crusaders, eternal optimists in the big wide world, on a holy quest to find football as it should be played. It’s a tough gig, quite frankly, and if I ever have the pleasure of meeting them, I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to give them a manly hug and tell them everything is going to be alright, because they must’ve seen some sights. it’s bad enough travelling home and away to follow the fortunes of a team you care about, risking a stinker, without travelling all over the place to watch two teams you really don’t have any vested interest in at all. Thankfully, there was no sign of the Beautiful Gamers at Alderbrook on Saturday, as this encounter certainly hit the top spot on the Stink-o-meter, regardless of the surprisingly upbeat match report posted on the City website here ; http://www.canterburycityfc.net/teams/148259/match-centre/1-3644382
Have a read, as it’s actually not too bad for a City report. They certainly squeezed a positive spin out of a game that we should probably refer to as “El Grumpico” as both teams (and supporters, to be honest) spent large parts of the game moaning and complaining about the tiniest thing. True, the officials made a boo boo quite early on, with Connor Edmunds easily getting his head to a hopeful goal kick to flick the ball on for Richard Wetton to chase in vain as it ran out of play. The resulting throw-in was strangely given to the Crows, despite being very clearly a City ball, but of course everyone laughed and just got on with the game, as the officials are only human and it was clearly just a silly mistake – except that’s not what happened at all. The City players, possibly exhibiting signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from their FA Vase semi-final exit the previous weekend, were incensed and you’d have thought someone had shot their mothers and let all the tyres down on their coach, because they just wouldn’t let it lie. They went on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, giving the young linesman in particular a hard time for the rest of the game. The upshot of this was mainly that everyone, on and off the pitch, just got grumpier, with City in particular deciding that they would appeal for everything, however random, as a kind of protest vote about not winning that meaningless throw-in. As a tactic, all this really does is wind everyone up, and as a result, some of the Crows faithful in the cheap seats started shouting back because the constant tirade of indignation just went on. It all got very unnecessary, it’s pointless and to coin a phrase, its not big and its not clever. I’m sick of it and I’m sick of some teams adopting “the phantom appeal” as a legitimate attempt to try and influence matches. If we ever get to a point where referees are properly respected – and lets see what next seasons “sin bin” idea does for that – we should move on to pulling up teams for ridiculous appealing. The beautiful game still has an ugly side.
As a result, the first half as a game of football, was an absolute shambles with neither goalkeeper especially troubled and we moaned along towards half time until suddenly, on the cusp of the referees whistle and out of absolutely nowhere, the City 9 seemed to have some kind of epiphany, collecting the ball on the left hand side of the Crowborough box before feigning to shoot twice to work a better position to really let fly, and then hitting a beautiful curling shot that gave Billy Johnson no chance in the Crows goal. We all looked at each other in disbelief before breaking out in spontaneous applause for what was a cracking goal. Everyone seemed shocked, and that shock was enough to get us through to half time almost without further comment, thank god.
The second half wasn’t much better although we had an early sniff of our own wonder goal when Rhys Bartlett copied the City No.9 by shimmying in from the right hand side and spanking an absolute screamer against a City post, a brilliant attempt at an equaliser. With Boro generally improving, Ollie Welbourn joined the fray from the bench and everything changed. Suddenly, we had a player who was prepared to run at the City defence through the centre and this did not go down well with the boys in green. Time and time again, Ollie would skip around the City midfield leaving players training in wake before eventually one of them would bring him down. After this happened for a third time, the Ref finally remembered he could book players and took a name but Ollie had galvanised a sleepy Crows performance and we started to press. On 68 minutes, we were level, and Richard Wetton surprised all of us, taking an early shot when we expected him to look up and find a decent cross. Instead, with the angle getting tighter and tighter he unleashed a shot that went in behind the City keeper and his near post. The keeper got a hand to it but could only help it along. It was another great goal and another piece of fine finishing totally out of character with the rest of the game. City, as you might expect, appealed for everything they could think of at the award of the goal, until the City centre-back also had his name in the refs notebook before we could restart the game, such as it was. He’d been a little special all game anyway but I guess it was good that he’d finally had the opportunity to get a few things off of his chest. There’s nothing worse than pent up frustration, and by Christ, was he harbouring some deep-seated unresolved issues.
We trundled on, and the City report mentions a dubious offside “goal” – looked very offside to me, obvs – and a touch of the Tom Daley’s in our box but in truth neither team deserved to win it based on the football alone.
Where I do take issue, surprisingly not referred to on the City page, is with the punch thrown at Connor Pring in the last five minutes of the game, which should’ve resulted in a red card. I can only assume the ref didn’t see it, as he ended up booking both players for some bizarre reason, a bit like sending both your kids to bed when you arrive in the front room to find your best vase smashed on the floor but no one’s owning up. I don’t know what the issue was but putting your hands on a player aggressively is completely unacceptable and that player knows he’s a lucky boy.
So, not a game to wax lyrical about but let’s finish on some Crowborough positives. Chris Lawal was our man of the match for me, with a commanding performance alongside King and Boddy in the centre of defence, limiting City to a handful of half chances; Billy Johnson, who’s come across from Jockey Farm to help our goalkeeping trials and tribulations, also looks a decent find, very assured although not really called upon to make any tricky saves; Welbourn, as already mentioned, was a breath of fresh air off of the bench, and Richard Wetton was looking very useful right up to the point he had to be carried off of the pitch through injury. Fingers crossed that’s not serious. We’ve signed a helluva lot of players this season but if we can keep the ones we’re ending this campaign on now, we’ll be in good shape for 2019/20.
Other commitments saw me miss the 2-1 win over Hollands last week, but reports are that we just about shaded it, despite large periods of Blair possession. I’m struggling to get to Cray Valley on Saturday too but will dig in for the last four games after that. It feels like it’s been a long campaign but we’ve come along way since last year’s depressing AGM and mass exodus. I’d have certainly taken finishing above Rusthall and Wells as a realistic goal when we were all sitting there last June.
In terms of the sharp ends of the table, Croydon are all but relegated – I hope it’s not our visit that finally nails the coffin down – but Rusthall have managed to stay in touch with the teams above them. Guess who plays who on Saturday? At the top, and as in previous seasons, the best footballing side (in my opinion) could miss out but it looks like a straight fight between Corinthian, Fisher and Cray, with Chatham hanging on but really needing the others to implode. Cray’s fixture schedule is also very silly following their Vase exploits, but Fisher still need to play Corinthian so it’s still all in the mixer.
As for us, if we remain in exile in this league, and purely for selfish reasons, it’ll be nice not to have to travel to Croydon or Fisher, in terms of distance, but we then face the frightening prospect of trips to Welling or Charlton, in the teams coming up. Joy. It still looks likely that a Kentish team will be relegated from the Isthmian league, but Guernsey are right in there too, spoiling my cunning plan to move the Crows home to the SCFL to make way for the Kent descendants. Three Bridges also need to be careful not to spoil any Kent relegation parties, but who knows what the FA will do in their infinite wisdom if a little jiggle around of teams is required. I’m sure some bright spark will argue that as Guernsey have to fly to away games, Crawley Down Gatwick is as close to a derby game as they can get, and stick ’em in the SCFL, should the worst happen. I say “fly them to Rochester International” and let them enjoy the delights of Chatham, Hollands & Blair and Lordswood!
Chocks away and forza Crows !