I could get used to this. Playing decent football and winning games at home - it's the stuff of dreams after what we've shamefully become used to over the past five or so years. while the pre-match mood wasn't quite as euphoric as the Charlton game, it wasn't far off, and another large-ish crowd, including a big following from Scunny, were in the mood for a nice afternoon at the football - which is exactly what we got. We'd hoped to see McGeouch somewhere around the team, but he wasn't ready, and Catts got the nod at the base of midfield. As we discussed contracts for moving my pot plants around the yard, we lined up:
Matthews Loovens Baldwin Oviedo
Gooch Power Honeyman Maguire
If you've got them, and you're paying their wages, then use them. Which is exactly what Ross is doing with Catts and Oviedo, both of whom looked as comfy as your favourite pair of brogues all afternoon. We kicked off heading South, and quickly settled into our shape with Catts sitting in front of the defence and Oviedo getting forward whenever the opportunity arose - which was often enough. Without being too harsh on Scunny, they gave their fans absolutely nothing to shout about all day, and by about ten past three their players showed every sign of having backed us to win by at least two goals. We showed patience when frustration could easily have crept in, and the crowd appreciated that in vocal fashion. Possession-wise, it must have been about 70% in our favour for the opening twenty minutes, with the ball going back to Catts whenever anything didn't quite work out, and it starting all over again. Lovely stuff, and with him flying into tackles as well, the crowd were kept on the edge of their seats. When the goal arrived, there was a sense of inevitability about it, such had been our dominance, Oviedo found space once again down the left, and had time to adjust his man-bun before clipping in a cross with his wrong foot which Power met perfectly to head home. Twenty two minutes of pent-up anxiety burst out of the crowd, as we celebrated the possibility of winning two consecutive home league games, but that anxiety proved unnecessary. Barely three minutes later, Catts played in Oviedo again, and he quickly gave it to Maja in the box. Producing another of what is fast becoming a trademark turn, he twizzled past his marker and shot low into the net. Gerrin.
It would have made for a better afternoon for the visiting fans if they'd headed to the beach, as there was absolutely no way their side was going to get back into the game, and we settled into a pattern of possession which kept the crowd entertained. The third goal looked likely when Baldwin connected, but the effort was blocked, and we awaited the inevitable - which arrived not long before the break. Honeyman and Gooch exchanged passes, and the latter put his head down and powered away from his marker to fire in a hard, low cross which Maguire got on the end of, nicking between two defenders to apply a cheeky heel which turned the ball into the net. Well deserved, and well celebrated. Three nowt before four o'clock? What's gannin on? The three added minutes were three more than Scunny wanted, and they sullenly played them out, after which we in the seats tried to come to terms with being happy at a second consecutive home league game. In the words of James Brown, I felt good.
No changes for the second half, and we continued with more of the same - thoughts of sixes and sevens entered our heads, and justifiably so. Slightly unfortunately, that didn't materialise, but the comprehensiveness of our win shouldn't be underestimated. We continued to attack, and even when Matthews took a knock, to be replaced by the left-footed James on the hour, our shape and pattern of play remained unchanged. McLaughlin had to make a decent, but comfortable save, for a long-range effort from Perch, but that apart, his afternoon consisted of claiming the odd cross and back-pass. Just about the only time Baldwin didn't win a duel in the air, Novak headed over the top, and we gave Maguire a rest with twenty to go, replacing him with Mumba. The kid showed his usual twisty, turny stuff as we kept ourselves well on top, and should really have gone further ahead when Maja had a great chance, but scuffed his shot wide of the near post. O'Nien replaced Honeyman, with the captain’s armband being passed from Catts to Loovens, and ending up somewhere I didn't see, the ref added four minutes, we won, we were all happy.
Sounds a bit weird, doesn't it? A first 45 that we dominated in a style as comprehensive as I've seen in several decades of following, and a second that was equally as dominant but with the knowledge that we didn't have to break our necks as Scunny were less likely to make a comeback that Lord Lucan. In short, nowt to moan about, and plenty to be very, very happy about. In Maguire, we've acquired a supremely confident player. In Baldwin and Loovens, though they had precious little to do, we have a pair who can deal with the likes of Scunny with ease. In Power, we have energy to match that of Honeyman and Gooch, and in Maja we have someone who looks likely to score every week. And we've still got Catts and Oviedo, to whom this division is a bit of a stroll. I'll give Man of the Match to the latter, as he was probably our most dangerous attacking player.