I know I shouldn't feel this way but a big part of me feels as if the season's already over and that we'll be in League One again next season. I have to say I've loved this season. Of course, it's still mathematically possible that a couple of good wins for us combined with a hefty defeat for Barnsley in their final match against Bristol Rovers would put us above them and while I can see us beating both Fleetwood and Southend, I can't see Barnsley losing. There's also the small matter of Portsmouth having to trip up too. So, we're very likely to be in the play-offs and if I understand it correctly, fourth play fifth while third play sixth. In all likelihood we'll play Charlton twice and then, all being well, take on Portsmouth in the final and if that's the case, I doubt if we'll beat Portsmouth either. Strange things can and do happen, though, and I have the funny feeling that if Doncaster play Portsmouth in the two-legged section, then they'll beat them over two games and thereby we'd have a better chance.... Anyway, we should always try to win every game whatever the future may hold and I'm expecting us to win tonight. There are likely to be one or two players rested for the first-half at least but Jack Ross is clearly going there to win. I'll probably be watching the match in the company of our London-based fans and my match prediction is a 3-1 win for us.
I got to the bar just after 7.30 and the attendance was sparse. 7.45 came and went with no sign of the match appearing on the screen and it didn't come on till about five minutes into the game. There was no sound but the rock music in the bar wasn't bad at all. I was disappointed to see we were in our black away strip though this was more than countered by Maguire's presence. I could also see that Grigg and Flanagan were on. It only took about five minutes or less for the picture to go off and when it came on, briefly, I thought we were going to take the lead when Power met a low cross from the right and side-footed it goalwards only to see the goalie save it. During the match's next brief visitation Catts lammed one over the bar so we certainly seemed to be in the ascendancy. In the ensuing apparently endless gap when the screen was dead I shot the breeze with a member of the London Branch faithful whom I often bump into and we both agreed that we'd enjoyed this season, especially the away games where our fans had filled a large area of many small stadiums. Anyway, around 8.15 he checked his phone just after I'd said, “We might well be ahead by now” and he replied, “We are ahead!” Goal Machine Catts had netted in the twenty-ninth minute. Next thing a lad at the next table told us that Peterborough were 2-0 up against Portsmouth. Despite the technical difficulties around seeing the game, the evening was taking on a rosy hue, or maybe that was the excellent brown ale I was consuming. The staff were making considerable efforts to get the game on the screen and about eight minutes before the break they got the SAFSEE audio on so that was better than nowt. Good though that was, the first detail I heard was that Portsmouth had pulled one back. Finally the screen came alive and the audio was well out of sync with it so I got another brown ale in and ceased to care. It remained 1-0 to us at the break so our goal-difference was a mere six less than Barnsley's... If we finished above Portsmouth, would they see off Charlton over two legs? There was a lot to conjecture about.
During half-time six big police vans hurtled by the bar with lights flashing so it was all going on somewhere in London SE1.
Just before we kicked off again one of the Fleetwood players appeared to be yellow-carded for coming back on late – maybe he had something better to do. Could we extend our lead or would we end up drawing again? I fancied us for a second. Catts got a ticking off from the ref for bouncing the ball petulantly but he didn't get a card. The screen was holding up well as we passed the hour-mark and we were still looking the much more likely team to score. With a quarter of the game to go news came through that Portsmouth had got an equalizer but at least we had a better goal difference than them. Next thing Sterling came on for Grigg and I hoped for a bit of magic from him. Fleetwood were definitely coming more into it with Burns looking dangerous down the right. We brought on Honeyman for Maguire in the seventieth minute and he was promptly fouled a couple of times but five minutes later Fleetwood pulled one back when Madden shot home from close range. The way it was going it looked like we'd concede another as Fleetwood had been pushing forward more than us before they'd scored. Anyway, Peterborough were doing their best to help us as they went 3-2 up against Pompey so all we had to do was sneak one more goal in the remaining nine minutes. Sowerby was booked for a foul on Honeyman, I think, as we broke across the half-way line but the resultant free-kick was comfortably cleared. We were definitely getting the better of things again and we won a series of corners. With three minutes on the clock I felt we could still do it and then four minutes of stoppage-time were announced so it was now or never. We couldn't get that goal and to make matters worse Easton scored from a corner in the very last seconds to win it for them.
Our second-half performance was a shadow of the first, from what I'd understood from the summaries, and we suffered accordingly. Anyway, it's definitely the play-offs now. See you at Southend on Saturday.