Please note that our Derby report will be at this location Volume 3
The general consensus of Charlton fans watching the 1-1 draw against Southampton was that the refereeing was as bad as they have seen, even in the Nationwide. The referee clearly thought that he was a saint, but in fact ruined the game for the fans who had paid to watch it and attracted criticism from both managers. Nevertheless, there were serious deficiencies in Charlton's performance. A number of players seemed to be out of sorts, and in the first half in particular, there was too much reliance on the long ball to Hunt and Lisbie who deserved better service. It also has to be said that Southampton were better than most expected. Results aren't determined by the form book, and we probably underestimated the Saints, just as Manchester City underestimated us. I was also less convinced by the argument favoured by most people that we would have won or drawn at Goodison Park if Tiler hadn't been sent off. This clearly had an impact, but Everton increasingly outclassed us, as did Arsenal. We need another central defender and an announcement could be imminent. On the positive side, we salvaged a point, thereby depriving another member of the Premiership Relegation League of two points they hoped to take home. And Johansson's goal was excellent and shows (as he did at Lyngby) why he is worth the money we paid for him. He must surely start at Derby.
I have had a lot of contact with Saints fans in the past few days. One I have not heard from for ages E mailed me to say 'I hope you lose tomorrow'. A friendlier message came from the prospective godparent of our granddaughter, Joe the Saint, with whom I toasted the Millennium by Southampton Water. Our youngest daughter said that, if she could get a baby sitter, she would turn up - in the Southampton end. And on the way to the ground we met a Saint who wanted to share with us the day he had spent at the Dome. The pre-match atmosphere in the ground seemed rather subdued as it often is with an evening game, with people rushing from home or work to get there a few minutes before kick off. Some of the fans who were there were sauntering about trying to set up business deals.
After Steve from Sidcup had lent me a marker pan so that I could note down the players on the laminated cover of the smart new programme, the match got under way. Steve Brown had to put in an early stop, and then a curling free kick from Jensen was just headed away. The Dane then blotted his copy book by giving away the ball in midfield. A poor spell for Charlton in the opening minutes of the match saw a Southampton free kick and then a corner, quickly followed by one for the Addicks. The ball was going all over the place and Steve from Sidcup and myself were trying to work out the formation being used by both sides. If Charlton were following their usual 4-4-2, it was an odd version of it.
Pressure from Lisbie which required Moss to tip a header over the bar produced a Charlton corner, followed shortly afterwards by a second. Robbo put in a cross, but there was no one to connect with it. Ten minutes into the match there was a scramble in the Charlton goalmouth which showed signs of panic in the Charlton defence. The words 'nervous start' went down in my notebook. Referee M Halsey, who was determined that no one should enjoy the game, then delivered the first of his little homilies to Rufus and Rossler.
Rufus put in a pass to Hunt who nodded it down to Robbo, but his accurate shot was collected by the effective Moss in the Saints goal. We then entered a phase when it was difficult to get any flowing football because the referee was so fond of the sound of his whistle. However, when football was allowed to be played, Charlton seemed to have too many men in the middle of the park. Either they couldn't break down Southampton - who were a tall side who looked a lot more effective than when they were beaten 5-0 two seasons ago - or they had been told to play Hunt and Lisbie way out front with the intervening gap being filled by long balls which it was difficult for the forwards to control as defenders danced in attendance. Rosler put in a dangerous cross across the front of the Charlton goal.
What happened next was one of the turning points of the match. With Pahars advancing on goal and Brown initially back pedalling, he decided to try and put in a tackle which was mistimed and he received a yellow card for his pains. A free kick was justified, but a yellow card was harsh. Charlton then had a shout for a penalty turned down when Stuart was brought down in the area. Watched in slow motion on video, it looked like a marginal decision, but there was a stronger case when Rufus was brought down shortly afterwards.
Jensen put in a shot that was way off and then a shot from Lisbie was deflected off a defender leading to a Charlton corner. Charlton pressure was building now and a second corner followed before long. This was not good news for the referee whose favourite colour is clearly yellow and it was Rufus who was the unfortunate receipient on 34 minutes. Charlton then won a free kick, but the otherwise fussy referee showed little interest in enforcing the ten yard rule. The kick led to a Charlton corner, taken short, as too many of them were in my opinion and that of many in the crowd. Another Charlton corner followed and, with the pressure mounting, yet another. The ball was cleared, but soon came back in again. A free kick from Jensen had to be punched out by Moss, leading to a break for Rosler. It was Charlton who looked the most likely to score in the closing minutes of the half, but the home crowd's rising hopes were dashed again when a well placed Stuart shot straight at the keeper.
At half time we were 'entertained' by the Broncos cowgirls who provoked a debate on the list about whether they were naff, retro, a sign of creeping Americanisation etc. Certainly it was all too much for announcer Brian Cole. His proximity to the cowgirls, combined with his new 'Deano' haircut, led to fears that he was about to lose his voice.
Reaching half time at 0-0 was greeted with a mixture of relief and disappointment in the Charlton camp. The Saints were clearly up for it and Deano was quickly called into action to make one of his textbook saves in front of the Jimmy Seed stand. The referee, who was defended on Match of the Day against 'a crowd on his back' then showed once again why the home support had reason to be angry. Southampton were given a corner when it was clear to players on both sides that it was a goal kick. This judgement was later confirmed by watching the video. The ref, who had all the arrogance of the petty official who doesn't know what he's doing, waved the protests away and Deano was required to make another great save. If that ball had gone in, it is difficult to think what the consequences might have been. When the Saints started to chart the name of their own 'Deano' (Dean Richards) for inclusion in the England squad, Kiely is reported to have replied 'I'm Irish'.
The referee decided it was time he had a Saint and Rosler was booked. A Southampton corner came to nothing, but the worst moment of the game followed. Brown tackled Rosler as the charm merchant advanced on goal. Southampton had shown all evening that their location near water had honed their diving skills and Rosler responded to the limited contact by rolling almost all the way to the Dome in agony. The officious Mr Halsey produced his red card, despite the protests of captain Mark Kinsella, and a disconsolate and stunned Brown trudged off to a standing ovation.
An intervention by Kinsella stopped what threatened to be a quick Southampton goal. Much activity on the Charlton bench led to a below par Robbo being taken off in favour of Todd who gave Charlton more height. Draper then received a yellow card. After Kishishev had been shoved to the ground by Marsden in front of where I sit, the referee, after consulting his assistant, decided that both of them would receive a yellow to add to his collection. Goodness knows what he would have done in a match that was really dirty.
Southampton then went for a double substitution, taking off the yellow carded Marsden and Rosler in the hope of preventing the ref from giving out his second red of the evening. Beattie and Kachloul came on. After another Southampton corner, Curbs decided on 71 minutes to change things around. Lisbie and Jensen (who never seems to last a match, although why I'm not sure) came off and Johansson and Newts came on. JJ's apperance was generally welcomed and seen as a little belated, but I heard doubts expressed in the crowd about Newts.
Kishishev rather casually gave the ball away, but the situation was retrieved by a good tackle by Graham Stuart. Rufus, who had continued to have a good game despite the yellow card hanging over to him, put in a great tackle which ended a threatening Southampton attack, putting the ball 'out of bounds' as the Americans say.
Charlton continued to battle away despite suffering the handicap of playing with only ten men. Shaun Newton made a couple of great tackles and Deano made another great save. But the pressure was showing with Southampton winning corner after corner. Finally, Pahars put the ball in from a narrow angle. Kiely raced across the goal to cover it, but despite his valiant efforts, the ball came off him and went into the back of the net (where it was headed anyway).
This was the bleakest moment of the season so far: 0-1 down to relegation rivals and neither the time nor the players to get something back. In Atlanta, Ga., a Charlton fan sadly shut down his computer. Then Kinsella put into a ball to Hunt who fed it on to JJ. Although the flying Finn was surrounded by defenders, he managed to evade them and beat Moss with a firm shot into the corner of his net in front of the Covered End.
The game was far from over, however. The ref made sure that there was plenty of time added on and during this period, a shot went just back Deano's post. Finally, he had to blow up, to be confronted by an understandably angry Graham Stuart. The legendary Bloke Behind Me had been subbed for the evening, so I was not deafened by shouts of 'Sort it out Curbishley.' Instead, I heard the comment, 'I was cautiously optimistic after Arsenal, but I am not so sure now.'
Our ace match analyst Bob the Dog has given the coveted Silver Bone to Dean Kiely for another superb performance.
Deano, photographed by Roland Silcox before his new haircut. Deano grew up in Warwick and Leamington and his parents live half a mile from us. Watch out for this page's new Warwick and Leamington banner at Derby.
Kishishev has been criticised by some fans for going too far forward and then exposing Charlton at the back. I did think that he gave the ball away too easily on two occasions, but he is still a good acquisition. Paradoxically, some fans criticised Powell for not going forward far enough, fast enough, but I thought that there were a number of occasions when he was able to effectively move the ball forward. Rufus is our rock, but as I've said before, he can't do everything. Brown was sent off on the basis of two marginal tackles. Even Hoddle advanced the idea afterwards of a 'green card' which would serve as a final warning, not realising that the coveted 'green card' turns you into a 'resident alien' in the United States. Perhaps we shall hear more of the sin bin idea, but at the end of the day, Steve was harshly treated and will now miss a game in the Worthless Cup. Stuart was inclined to drift out of position too much and, as is so often the case with him, lacked consistency. But, as always, at his best, he was very good. Kinsella was everywhere, in defence, in attack, urging the team on. I am a great Robbo fan, but I think that he has been below par in the last three games. Playing Belarus may have not helped much. Jensen put in a great free kick which had to be cleared off the line by Dean Richards. But he seemed to fade as the game went on. Hunt was below his best, and didn't seem to be in the game all that much, despite his role in the goal. But, then, particularly in the first half, he got poor service. Lisbie's problem is his finishing and that is a big problem for a premiership striker: he had two chances to score, and once again the ball didn't go in the net. Todd made a couple of good defensive headers after he came on, but didn't make a great impression. Newts is a controversial figure these days. I'm not sure that his presence added much this time. Johansson showed that he is a quality player. He impressed me when I saw him at Lyngby and he should start at Derby.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the loudest Hiss of the Match so far this season to the referee.
Following pressure from the Association of Canine Match Analysts and their sister organisation, the Association of Feline Match Analysts, it has been decided that this site will remain independent. ACMA president Homer the Cherry Hound stated from his kennel in Hythe, Hants 'Our members were barking mad about this.'
Site editor Wyn Grant stated 'The offer was well intentioned and generous and we have faced a difficult situation this season. The standard of the now re-designed club site has continued to improve with superb reporting from Mick Collins and other contributors. There has also been a proliferation of amateur fan sites. The challenge facing the long established amateur sites is now a considerable one, but crystallised earlier than I thought it would. The strong representations received from the patron of AFMA, top cat food taster David Hatch, was one factor in our thinking. The decision is to carry on until the end of this season and then review the situation once again.'
When we look at the 5-3 defeat by Arsenal at Highbury at the end of the season we will probably remember it as a great day out which won more friends for Charlton (like the Arsenal fan who rang 606 to congratulate Hunt and Lisbie and the team generally on standing their ground). At present it is disappointing to reflect that after twice being ahead we failed to come away with at least a share of the points. But in the end the pace, the flair and the experience of Arsenal's team of world class players managed to outshine Charlton. But, as a Charlton fan listening in a cold and wet Falklands pointed out, not many teams will go to Highbury this year and score three goals. Unfortunately, we let five in and questions must be asked about a defence which left wide open spaces for Arsenal to display their creativity in. But whether we survive in the Premiership will not be determined by unlikely away victories against teams playing in the championship section of the league, but whether we can beat Southampton at home in the relegation section (sorry, Joe the Saint if you are reading this: I still remember our toast at midnight on New Year's Eve to Charlton and Southampton in the premiership).
Charlton ran out in red shorts and the new white away tops, making it quite difficult sometimes to distinguish the players from the two sides. I wonder if this was a problem for the players themselves? The game started on a worrying note when Stuart gave the ball away, but Rufus supplied for the first of a number of good blocks. A Charlton attack ended with the ball being collected by Seaman, possibly the one person in the Arsenal side who was not world class, to say nothing about his hair cut. (When he came down the Charlton end, he got a chorus of 'there's a girlie in the goal'). Three minutes into the game, Arsenal were awarded the first of nine free kicks in the half against Charlton and one had the impression that any fifty-fifty decisions went the way of the home side. As the ball came in from the right of his goal, Deano was required to make his first important save, stretching his hand up and palming the ball away. As it came back in again, Rufus made another important block. Robbo then over hit a cross. There was then a spell of tussling for the ball in a crowded midfield. On seven minutes an Arsenal free kick from about thirty-five yards out in front of the goal came off the Charlton wall. Kanu then sent the ball way over the Charlton goal, but a minute later Deano was required to save from him.
Charlton then had their first corner of the game, delivered as is usual these days by Claus Jensen, but the ball was easily cleared. With the game moving at a fast pace from end to end, it was the turn of Arsenal to have a corner a minute later, but Deano caught the ball cleanly. Hunt was then in with a half chance, but a mistake by Kishishev required Deano to save again. It is worth noting that the much criticised Tiler made a couple of good stops, and then put in an excellent long ball to the man up front. Charlton seemed very vulnerable to attack through the middle and this was how Vieira scored some nineteen minutes into the game. Kanu had no trouble in beating Tiler and putting the ball through to the corner. Charlton won a free kick to the left of the Arsenal goal, but an expected corner was overruled by an offside decision. Four minutes after the Arsenal goal, Charlton equalised. Kishishev played in an excellent ball to Lisbie, who (contrary to some reports) did connect with it as he raced it at an angle. He played the ball into Hunt who put the ball past Seaman (who seemed to be rooted to the spot) into the corner of the net.
Andy Hunt scored the goals in the Nationwide and now he is doing it in the Premiership. Photo by the Financial Times.
Silvinho was then greeted with shouts of 'who are you?' as he went to take the first of two Arsenal corners, Carl Tiler eventually getting the ball away. Around the half hour, Andy Hunt made good use of an excellent long cross from Robbo to put Charlton ahead with a header. A free kick awarded to the home side for a hand ball some thirty yards out caused some controversy and did not please Robbo who walked past the referee saying nothing in a display of calm. The Arsenal shot went over, and shortly afterwards Deano had to make a diving save. Nevertheless, Charlton held on to their lead with poise and discipline.
No doubt some of the books in Wenger's phoney study used as a backdrop for his pre-match interview were thrown around at half time and Arsenal came on with a new discipline. Arsenal kicked off and kept possession, forcing the Addicks backwards. With Adams as provider, Thierry Henry was then able to send a forceful volley towards Kiely which gave the keeper no chance. The score was level again at 2-2.Deano was then called on to make a save in front of the North Stand, Kanu diving spectacularly and looking around in astonishment to see play continuing. At the other end Stuart controlled the ball effectively in front of goal after he received it from Lisbie and made it 3-2 on 58 minutes. Rufus once again showed his worth by putting a dangerous looking ball out to the side in front of goal. An Arsenal corner came to nothing. But then around 60 minutes Vieira made use of a ball provided by Kanu (who had easily evaded Tiler) to put a fierce shot past Kiely to make it 3-3. An Arsenal corner ended on top of the net. Arsenal reinforced their striking power by bringing on Bergkamp on 63 minutes. Kinsella received the only yellow card of the match for fouling Vieira. An Arsenal free kick when just past Kiely's post. Charlton pulled off Jensen, who has never completed a game, and he was replaced by Newton, a decision that some found surprising, but may suggest that Jensen is carrying an injury. In any event the substitution was quickly followed by the fourth and decisive Arsenal goal, scored by Henry from a narrow angle.
After this some of the life went out of the match and the Charlton fans. Johansson was brought on for Lisbie and 72 minutes to try and provide some more fire power and on 78 minutes Kinsella was replaced by Parker. This decision puzzled fans, but according to Curbs in his post-match press conference, Kinsella was 'treading water' having been exhausted at Everton, a factor which also affected other players. Arsenal continued to look menacing with a shot across the front of goal and another corner. 4-4 still seemed possible, however, and the best chance fell to Newton who blasted the ball over from in front of goal. In the 89th minute Silvinho made it 5-3 to the Woolwich rejects by running from from midfield and easily evading Newton's challenge. (We didn't get the forceful 'Woolwich rejects' chants we had on our last visit and one elderly person behind asked, 'why sing that?' when someone tried to start the chant). Hunt missed a chance to score in injury time when good work by Parker led Stuart to put in a high ball which the striker just failed to head down. The Arsenal supporters started to sing 'You're going down again', but this performance had many positive features to it, as Alan Curbishley noted after the game.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has no hesitation in awarding the Silver Bone to Andy Hunt for his brace of goals. He was a constant worry to the Arsenal defence. One might want to ask questions about any goalkeeper who lets in five goals, but not yet about Kiely . He was exposed too much by his defence. Not in general it has to be said by Rufus who made some excellent blocks. Tiler is in danger of becoming a Leaburn like figure with the Charlton crowd. He did make some excellent blocks, but on occasions he made errors and a high level of consistency is necessary in the Premiership. Two of the Arsenal goals involved errors by him. Kishishev did made a couple of errors but was generally excellent and very much involved with the game. Some fans criticise him for going forward too much, but I like his style and play. Powell also played his usual full and effective part, although some thought that he was more subdued than usual. Kinsella was everywhere as usual and particularly effective in shoring up the defence. Stuart did make some errors, but he took his goal well and was usually in the thick of the action. Although he provided the assist for one of the goals, I still thought that Robbo was below his top level of performance, although it was good to see him controlling his temper. Perhaps that took the edge off his performance. Jensen was as skilled as ever, but seems to have a problem about lasting ninety minutes. Lisbie showed no fear of Arsenal and made some very effective runs into threatening positions. But when will he score a Premiership goal? Newts missing a great chance to score and one senses that he is not quite Premiership class, although his pace is an asset. Johansson didn't have long to showcase his talents, but looked impressive, at one time controlling the ball despite the attentions of three defenders. Parker was capable, but did not make a great impression on the game.
Juneau the Soccer Cat did not have any strong candidates for Hiss of the Match but was annoyed by the second Arsenal mascot which appeared to be a kind of cross between a cat and a dinosaur and had a curious mincing walk.
The essential story of Charlton's 3-0 defeat by Everton can be told in one paragraph. The first period of the game was fairly evenly matched, although the Addicks squandered some good chances. When Carl Tiler was sent off for a second bookable offence, the whole character of the match changed. Steve Brown replaced Kevin Lisbie and the Addicks settled down for some doughty defending. They were still holding the line at half time, but Everton, who were a class above Manchester City, were increasingly dominating the game. The inevitable happened and the Toffemen went 1-0 ahead eight minutes into the half. Charlton continued to play insipidly for a while, but then mounted a series of threatening attacks which had the faithful in full cry. Inevitably this opened Charlton up to counter attacks on the break and thus it was that the game ended 3-0 in favour of the home side.
After establishing base camp at our hotel, we went to visit the Albert Dock area where we met some other Addicks on a boat trip. After taking the ferry across the Mersey (I can remember when the Gerry and the Pacemakers song came out), we walked into the centre of the city where some Everton fans directed us to the right bus. A passer by had already wished us good luck. On arrival we went to the club shop to buy a badge for Maggie's collection and a security guard, 'I hope youse win tonight, I won't say it too loud here, but I am a Liverpool fan.' As we were about to enter the ground, a passing Evertonian said '3-0 to the Blues' which I dismissed at the time with a smile.
The faithful were in good voice, including a rare rendition of 'Alan C's Barmy Army'. Until they scored, the Toffeemen were surprisingly quiet and only really got going when Ferguson came on. 'We only speak English' was one Charlton chant. The bloke in front of us was wearing an '8' shirt, the '8' placed between 'We' and 'Millwall'.
Charlton kicked off and Robbo fired a shot over. An Everton corner was taken by Gazza and the resultant header was only just over. During the opening period of the match, much of the play took place in midfield, often being rather scrappy with neither side clearly in command. Charlton won a corner on eight minutes. Rufus connected with Jensen's ball, but his header went over. A near miss, but, sadly, near misses can be expensive in the Premiership. Everton seemed to be getting the benefit of the doubt on free kicks, leading to a chant of 'Same old scousers, always cheating.' Fourteen minutes into the game good approach work by Charlton produced a half chance for Lisbie, but he blasted it over. Lisbie then used his pace to create another chance, but shot straight at the keeper, instead of passing to Hunt who was keeping up with him. Faced with a one-on-one situation, Deano made a great save that featured later in the short excerpts on Match of the Day. A Charlton corner followed, but was easily cleared. Robbo was then provided with a good cross, but put the ball over. Stuart then shot straight at the keeper. Twenty-six minutes into the game there was a fateful moment when Tiler received his first yellow card. The free kick was moved forward ten yards for dissent, but the ball came off the wall. Everton pressure continued and Deano made a fingertip save to keep Charlton in the game. The following Everton corner produced an off target header.
Everton were making more of the running by now and an Everton corner meant that Powell had to clear the ball from near the goalline with Deano making a brilliant save. Tiler then got into his clash with Hughes who received a yellow. Tiler's second yellow meant that he was off. It was difficult to quarrel with the referee's decision: Tiler should have been more careful when he was on a yellow already. After some hesitation while Everton made a substitution of their own, Curbs made the substitution being recommended in the crowd and brought on Steve Brown for Lisbie. Everton didn't look very threatening in the concluding minutes, one shot going way over.
Everton seemed more determined in the second half and one doubted how long the ten men of Charlton could have held on. Jeffers made use of some creativity from Gascoigne to put the ball efficiently past Kiely eight minutes into the half. Kinsella tried to even things up two minutes later, but shot straight at the keeper. A good Charlton build up was thwarted by the linesman on our side and the same thing happened four minutes later. Twenty minutes into the half Parker was brought on in place of Robbo. The appearance of Ferguson as a substitute two minutes later roused the Toffeemen for the first time in the match. Rufus picked up a yellow card for being a centre back and, as the half hour approached, Jensen was replaced by Newts, presumably in the belief that what was needed was more pace.
What followed was one of the brightest spells of the match for the Addicks which roused the faithful to a frenzy of cheering. Charlton actually won a free kick, followed three minutes later by a corner through the good efforts of Powell. Parker collected the ball and played it neatly through to Stuart who was off target. Two minutes later a Charlton free kick won by Newts ended in a goalmouth scramble which failed to produce the hoped for equaliser. This more attacking mode by Charlton exposed them at the back and Ferguson effectively ended the game by making it 2-0. Further corners and free kicks gave Charlton the hope of doing something about the goal difference, but instead Ferguson evaded Rufus and with the ball taking a deflection it ended up in the far corner of Deano's net.
Last Saturday we were playing in the Premiership Relegation League. This was our first match against a club from the mid-table section. One cannot say how the match would have gone if Tiler had not been sent off, but my assessment is that Everton played well and would probably have beaten us. Poor finishing let us down, showing how we have been hit by having so many strikers injured.
Northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch has awarded the Silver Bone to Chris Powell for a series of penetrating and effective moves down the wing.
Deano made two outstanding saves and few keepers could have stopped the balls that went in. He will have to practice his kicking out: at least five balls went into touch. Tiler has never been too popular with some Charlton fans and is being characterised by some as the villain of the piece, it being argued that he is insufficiently skilled and too dirty. He was very foolish to wrestle with Hughes when he was already on a yellow, but before that I had noted a number of good defensive headers. Rufus was good but he can't be expected to stop everything. Kish played some excellent balls, although I also noted a few errors. But, overall, he gets 7/10. Robbo should have scored from one of his chances: it wasn't his best game. My worry about Stuart is that when he is good, he is very good, but the rest of the time, he is average. This was one of his average nights. Kinsella was contributing all over the park as usual. Jensen displayed considerable skill, but faded somewhat as the match went on. But I like his corners. Lisbie is the hero of the hour, but it has to be recognised that he is not a Premiership class finisher. Hunt wasn't in it very much, largely because he didn't get the service he can use, particularly with Tiler off. With one up the front, we resorted to the long ball which is difficult for Andy to deal with, particularly when he is being pressured by two defenders. Brown did his best, but I did wonder if he was out of position for some of the goals - he certainly wasn't there for one of his famous blocks. Parker played neatly and effectively, but didn't set the game alight. The player who made a real difference to Charlton's game when he came on was Newts . It is no coincidence that his arrival led to one of our best periods in the match.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has a fairly muted hiss for the linesman on our side of the ground who made some odd offside decisions.
It has been twelve years of oblivion for followers of the black and gold in Leamington since the ground of former Alliance Premier League club AP Leamington was surrendered to builders. It has been a long struggle for followers of the club to find a ground and build a team, but last Saturday 730 supporters turned up at the New Windmill Ground to see Leamington beat Enville Athletic 3-1. On Tuesday evening we joined hundreds of others (final attendance 532) driving down Harbury Lane to see them repeat the same scoreline against Earlswood Town.
We positioned ourselves by the away dugout where the Earls manager showed that worn jeans are coming back into fashion while their shaven headed and tatooed coach demonstrated his command of four letter words. After one complaint was greeted with derisive laughter, he gave a bow and said 'I've got to say something.' 'You're not talking to one another' and 'give us some options' were among the more repeatable comments. Referee M Garrett, accused of playing to the crowd by the Earls' bench, was rather ready with his whistle in the early stages of the game, leading one player to complain, 'Let's play the game, referee'. However, as tempers became shorter, he kept the match from boiling over.
It was clear right from the kick off that Leamington were the superior side and, indeed, belonged in a different league. They kept the ball on the ground, their passing was accurate, and they had considerable pace up front. They also seemed to have cohered as a unit. It was therefore no surprise that they went ahead in the first couple of minutes when the Earls' somewhat dodgy keeper, P Mc Guire, spilled the ball to allow local hero Josh Blake to tap the ball in. Twenty-three minutes into the game Leamington were 2-0 ahead after Billington took the ball from Ariss through what there was of the Earls' defence who had obviously been taking lessons from Manchester City. However, the brakes then started to relax a little, allowing the Earls back into the game. Leamington fans on the Kop, including one german shepherd dog, had the disappointment of seeing the Earls make it 2-1 after 41 minutes. Leamington's lady physio had to come to attend to Liam McGovern who had to be substituted with a nasty cut to his leg.
The brakes came out fired up again after the interval. Some fluent passing in front of the goal enabled the impressive Blake to find the net after 55 minutes. Encouraged by their ballistic bench, the Earls tried to give Leamington less space, leaving one Leamington player to point to his shirt and say 'Do you want it, as you are so close to it?
Leamington remained generally in command and there were some impressive attacks by Shearsby and Tim Romback. On one occasion Shearsby managed to take on four defenders and get in a shot. However, the standard of finishing sometimes let Leamington down and on one occasion the ball sailed over the fence and into the field beyond. The Earls put together a few attacks, but their manager sunk into a depression, leaving his coach to disturb the calm of a Leamington evening with a further burst of four letter words. The brakes have made an impressive start and must surely be in contention for promotion.
Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to Kevin Ariss for a great all round performance.
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