The Lads went to deepest Lancashire and took on Accrington Stanley having never played them in any sort of game… and came away still without a game to trouble the record books.
It being deepest, darkest Lancashire, we stopped off at Colne, once home of the Dynamos- the club who, thirty years ago, were going to subsume Burnley but didn’t, and gave up completely in 1990 without ever playing us. Accrington Stanley had never played us either, although their neighbours Accrington (Plain Old) did – for the last time in 1893 or so. Even I wasn’t there. If you’ve never been to Colne, our Ian described it when we visited en route to Burnley as “a hill with a bus station and a Wetherspoon’s” and he’s not far wrong. Lancashire’s answer to Royston Vasey does have three neighbouring micropubs, but as none of them open until 1pm on a Saturday, they weren’t much use as places to discuss Watmore’s comeback, Bainbridge’s promise possibly saving Ross buying another centre-half, the rain, Accrington's giant centre-half, the pitch inspections, and the newspaper talk of interest in Flanagan. Look, I know we paid next to nowt for him, but Ross signed him because he fitted the “model” player he wanted- and that includes now wanting to be off at the first sign of interest. Tuesday’s Checkatrade game also gave us another sighting of Mumba and Kimpioka, and they both showed that they could play a role this season. Oh, and there was the small matter of the live draw for the next round of that other cup – and you all know how that panned out. Mind, it didn’t half rain on the short journey to Accrington, and the marquee, complete with live music and proper beer at decent prices, leaked. The netties were portaloos, meaning that you had to stand in the rain to wait. Live music in a tent, portaloos, mud, and puddles - Glastonbury!
Once inside, we found that even being four rows back in the covered bit only provided partial protection from the rain, but a lot more than the open terrace. One look at the pitch brought back memories of Sunday morning football, as only the nettles were missing. McLaughlin Matthews Baldwin Flanagan James Power Honeyman Gooch McGeady Maguire Maja
Stanley elected to attack the goal to our right, as it had the muddiest surface and the presumably thought they could take advantage of their more detailed knowledge of clarts, and it didn’t take long for us to realise that the game could be called off at any time, as the ball was either flying off the surface or stopping dead in a puddle. Consequently any criticism of the players for not producing flowing (pun intended) football is completely out of order. It looked bad in Reece James’s corner, but poor Adam Matthews was operating in an area more suitable for Shrek. Power fired just wide from distance, which seemed the best place to try from , but it was an unlikely source for our next chance, with Maja working enough space to get a cross in, but McGeady, who took on his chest and hit it before it landed in a puddle, put it just over the top. Quarter of an hour in, and Matthews succumbed to plodging about as something went as he cleared under pressure, and Oviedo replaced him. A real pull on Baldwin’s shirt was missed by the linesman, despite it being no more than two yards from his nose – look bonny lad, if it’s pink it’s his back, so if you can see that, somebody’s pulled his shirt. McGeady slid into a challenge and took a while to shake off the resultant limp, which was a bit of a worry, as his clever feet looked to be our best option for doing something creative with the ball. A couple of half chances went Stanley’s way, but they couldn’t hit the target, and neither could Gooch as his effort skidded (inevitably) wide. As the break approached, a free kick from about twenty yards out was cleverly fired under the wall by Ovideo, and it skidded across the surface of the water but Connor Ripley (son of Stuart, and who made his debut as a repellent for Jason Steele. You can have that piece of nonsense for free) managed to get down and make the save. I didn’t see if any added time was announced, but there was probably a couple of minutes, and we spent the break wondering if they’d actually come back out. Did I mention it was raining? Hossing it down. Tanking it down. Hoying it down. If only it had rained on their bloody drummer.
No changes for the second half, and the game was - how shall I put it? – a bit of a joke. If we thought conditions in the first half were bad, those after four o’clock were atrocious. Players were arriving at the ball then tripping over it, or having to stop and try to get their toe under it to flick it somewhere. Somehow we got to the hour, and there looked to be nothing on as another attack broke down and Ripley cleared – but Maguire’s habit of closing down the keeper’s clearances paid off when the ball hit his arse and flew in. Hahahahahah! Just the sort of goal that a game like this deserved, and we spent the next five minutes celebrating, while some in the open end gave up and swam to the pub, hoping we’d see the game out.
Nah. With another goal that suited the game perfectly, a Stanley attacked ended in a puddle in the goalmouth, we tried to hack, chip, and boot it clear but it just kept bouncing back, and was inevitably poked home by Hall. Sunday morning at its finest, but that was almost turned on its head soon after with a clever effort by Maguire which hit the frame of the goal – and that was it, really. Despite Ross describing the rain as the Scottish equivalent of light drizzle, he and his opposite number agreed with the ref when he suggested ending the soppy, drippy, clarty affair with sixteen minutes left. To be honest, we couldn’t argue with that decision, so we plodged through the building site outside the ground, with their fans still drumming and singing like they’d won the cup. The journey home, on a full bus of folks wetter than an otter's pocket was pretty uneventful apart from giving us all the shivers and showing that some folks had, rather cleverly, brought a change of clothing. What?
Still a canny day out – friendly locals, cheap food and drink (and petrol, apparently), a new ground and team to tick off (it still counts, doesn’t it?) but the news that Luton have snuck ahead of us in the league. The two games we have in hand will be very important, especially as the replay of this one will almost certainly be late in the season.
Man of the Match? It’s hard to say anyone played good football today, but McGeady and Maguire were probably the only two who did anything other than work extra hard to get the ball to do anything. They were the two who tried to keep the ball off the deck and out of the puddles, and I’ll give it to Maguire, as he scored with something other than foot or head.