Worst case scenario

Saturday 29th November 2008 FAC2. Gills 0 Stockport County 0.

“Futile…” whispered Chris gravely at the final whistle of this engaging FA Cup tie. He was referring to our chances in the replay and at my desperate efforts to chivvy up enough support to fill a car for a Tuesday night in Stockport at short notice. It had not been an enjoyable afternoon for me, not because we didn’t win despite dominating the first half, nor because we lost because we avoided that too, but because a draw meant a long midweek trip against a higher division club which given our wretched away record over the last five years could mean only one thing. Sadly the compulsive edge (disorder?) to my personality then kicked in with a vengeance, I had to be there, I HAD TO BE THERE come what may, crazy really… I was left ruing our missed chances in the first half and Stockport‘s inability to sneak something in the dying moments at the other end.

That’s the problem with the early rounds of the FA Cup, since it was controversially de-regionalized in 1998, odds are you end up sulking because you’ve been handed a stinker of an away game against a team in the same division two hundred plus miles away two weeks before you go there in the League a la Bury or a tricky home game against a northern team on the up that you are capable of avoiding defeat against but no more… They’d stuffed Yeovil 5-0 in the replay in the previous round, the inevitable news being greeted with a sigh of resignation from our little group of Gills in a bar in Berlin the night before England’s game. Stockport it was, I hadn’t been so convinced we’d draw an FA Cup tie since Darlington at home in 1999 (we won 3-1 but they got reinstated due to Manchester United’s withdrawal and got to go to Villa Park whilst we got to go to Bescot…). I even got Wolfie to put a whole £1 on it at the bookies. I knew if it was still level with five minutes to go I’d be left cheering both sides on to break the deadlock (anyone please, anyone) wishing my team to win or lose here and now rather than having to go through the rigmarole of making it to Edgeley Park then getting clobbered in Greater Manchester – madness really. My fellow Gills sitting around me well aware of my mental anguish just sniggered, albeit sympathetically.

Thankfully the Gills showed a bit more determination than me when it came to the crunch and battled their way to a creditable 0-0 draw. We’d looked half decent in the first half but went off the boil a little in the second but still it was a modicum of further encouragement that little by little, inch by painstaking inch the team are finally showing a few signs of genuine improvement having been on the slide for five long years. It was “only” Stockport and they were in League Two this time last year but still, nevertheless they are freshly promoted and still have a bit of the post-Wembley promotion shine and momentum that has propelled them into contention for the play-offs in League One due in the main to their superb away record.

As to the actual game, well most of my ire was aimed at the referee Mr Miller. A picky, pedantic dolt, he as much as the County defence was the main reason the game ended up being a frustrating afternoon. Bentley missed a decent chance in the first half but his free header went tamely wide (16). Six minutes later the returning Barcham saw his header saved. The signs were good but were we capable of making the break-through?

The referee caused no little consternation failing to adjudicate in our favour when Jackson was clearly clattered by Tunnicliffe having been put through, Miller saw one pot shot tipped over brilliantly and Bentley sent a second header into the side-netting when a goal looked probable. Still 0-0 at the break, not the end of the world but I could just sense it was going to end with the worst case scenario for me, a 0-0 draw and we all know what that means don’t we pop pickers…

The second half was more even, the Gills huffed and puffed gamely but some doughty County defending, some slipshod finishing and wrong decision making when delivering the final ball brought the cold clammy reality of a draw ever closer. County’s chances were few and far between and invariably off target, albeit by inches, Richards did head one corner straight at their keeper, but it was at the other end that the best chance of avoiding you know what occurred but twice Gleeson could and should have put me out of my misery, firing one just wide and seeing Royce get enough on another to send me to Edgeley… The final whistle brought decent applause from what had been a surprisingly vibrant and enthusiastic home support but tinged with resignation that whether you were planning to go to Stockport in person in ten days time, listen on the radio, stare at Ceefax, text your mates, keep half an eye on the internet or forget about it all until the final whistle down the pub and then phone home we all knew it was going to be futile…

Champagne Moment:- It happened on the Sunday afternoon, resigned to defeat in the replay I still experienced the old frisson of excitement as the third round draw was made, Villa at home, hmm, a tasty tempting carrot for the team and supporters to chew over…

The Resigned Binman.

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One Response to Worst case scenario

  1. Michael Tim says:

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