On the positive side, we kept another clean sheet, and we didn’t get beat. On the negative side, we let Donny stop us playing the game we wanted to play. They’d obviously learned a lot from our win at the Keepmoat and set out their stall accordingly to get the draw they came for.
Friday isn’t matchday, not by any stretch of the imagination. That the Tree was absolutely rammed at half five was more to do with it being BIsh Vegas “lowse” time rather than an SAFC game, but we had a full bus - and we all wanted an unchanged team. Which we found out about in the traffic heading into town. As the Wheatsheaf and the Hilton were bursting at the seams, we took the easy option and had some liquid refreshment inside the ground – perhaps we paid for Will Grigg’s Sunday dinner, who knows?
O’Nien Willis Ozturk Lynch Hume
Maguire Wyke Gooch
… and we took it from there. Donny started proceedings towards the North end, and the first of our players to show any sort of contribution was Dobson (which is champion by me) as he spent the opening ten or twelve minutes winning tackles and making canny passes. Unfortunately, the opposition were hunting us in packs, not giving us an instant to think about which pass to make and doubling up on Hume. They’d obviously done their homework on us, or simply remembered what we did to them a couple of weeks back. Unfortunately, so had the ref. Or perhaps he was doing somebody else’s homework, as, after at least four hours in Hair and Make-Up, the preening prat decided that this was his Big Night. There were four absolutely nailed on fouls committed by Donny that he waved by in the first four minutes, with Charlie Wyke being battered and hauled all awwa the shop. Not a single foul was committed in the first twenty minutes, according to Mr Spraytan, but when we won the game’s first corner, on 21, Maguire chopped it short to the near post, Wyke’s header was into the side netting, and the visitors stayed in the game. Damn and blast. And bugger.
The game’s first foul was actually called by the linesman, out on our right, as the ref adjusted his make-up. There was some decent interplay between Hume and Maguire, but our general play was lacking in basic things, like passing to a team-mate. Too many times we won the ball back from the visitors, only to give it back to Donny with sloppy passing. How many times did our George win the ball only to have it taken off his toes? Loads, that’s how many, and it wasn’t always the bairn’s fault - you need a willing and able target. Donny chased and harried us – sound familiar? – and didn’t allow us to play the game that had worked so well for us in the last few weeks. Maguire managed to work a bit of space to get the ball onto his left peg, but fired it a yard wide – and that was about the sum total of our first-half threat. As Charlie was challenged with a boot across his midriff, the ref decided he’d dived, and booked him. Ha’way, man, Wyke gets battered every week and has yet to go down even when struck with a shovel. My uncle Bob was a ref’s assessor years back (Bob Hodgson, AKA Tashy the ref) and would probably have chucked this bloke in the sea by eight o’clock, such was this evening’s display of ineptitude. Our three at the back were preforming reasonably well, but Willis managed to produce a few passes straight out of the Steve Hetzke school of defending. Power and Dobson sort of lost the plot as the visitors got right in our faces and we struggled to make any inroads at the South End.
Thankfully, there was only a single added minute, and we in the seats hoped that Parky would use the half-time interval to put a proverbial boot up a few arses. Maguire and Gooch had been kept out of the game by the visitors, but surely, between them, we had enough footballing tools to open up the Donny defence.
There were no changes for the second half, after Stretch Armstrong had done the draw, which I didn’t win (again, SAFC? Sort it ooot, Quinny), but we looked a whole lot more up for it. I reckon Donny had run their peck out in the first half and just decided, or planned, to take a great big deep breath and soak up whatever we hoyed at them - which they did. Whatever we’d put in Gooch’s tea worked, as he pestered the life out of them down the left, dinking passés back and forth with Hume. Anyway, they sat a lot deeper and let us run at them, which we did – but not with much success. When O’Nien got into the box, he very obviously remembered the bollocking he’d received at MK Dons for not heading it back across and fired in the daftest cross since John McGinley went back to laying bricks. Huge space, Luke, and you found it. There were more fouls given in the second half’s opening ten minutes than the entire first half, and the ref even managed to spray the curve for the defence the wrong way round – hey, this bloke would probably wipe his face after going to the lavvy.
Off went Wyke for Lafferty, as expected, with twenty to go, then Maguire for Watmore – I don’t like to see Maguire going off, but, like most of the players tonight, it just hadn’t clicked, and we need something a bit fresher. Unfortunately, Mr Spraytan decided that a Donny defender sticking his arse into Dunc wasn’t a foul after our man skidded (like he does) past the visiting defence and got to the edge of the box. We didn’t make the free-kick work, and Gooch was now in control of the corners and frees, as, in terms of pressure, we couldn’t have done much more. With Lafferty being a nuisance, Watmore got in front of him with a near-post header that went the wrong side of the post, and soon after we blasted a couple of chances just off the target and forced a toe-end save from the keeper.
Five added minutes were announced, which was scant recompense for the amount of time their goalie had spent taking goal-kicks, their number ten did a job on Power then played dead (did the ref fall for it? You decide before putting in a few more naughty fouls without punishment other than the free-kicks before being subbed. There were a number of close calls in the Donny box, with one being cleared off the line, but the visitors had done their job well. They’d seen us coming and played us at our own game to stop us playing our own game – aided and abetted by most of our team having a below-par night. Upfield of the back five, nobody had a game that could be described as anything other than moderate, and, with only one midfielder on the bench, we didn’t have the wherewithal to change things where it mattered.
Five added minutes were barely enough compensation for the general wandering about their keeper had spent most of the second half doing, but we spent most of it going forward and really should have won it. But we didn’t. It was an interesting contest in terms of us having to deal with a team who’d worked out how to deal with us, but – and I know we also have to deal with his – one of the worst ref’s we’ve seen, from an admittedly ever-lengthening list of hi-vis idiots.
Man of the match? Ozturk did well, even avoiding what would have been a VAR red card for handball, after which their man simply fell down when clear on goal, McLaughlin had precious little to do but produced a good double save in the second half, upping his sale price (I’m not daft) despite hoofing a clearance straight ot a visitor in the second half, and both wing-backs did reasonably well. Willis was defensively sound but struggled to pass the ball accurately, while Lynch generally (apart from almost gifting Donny a chance with a loose clearance) was onto everything.
In summary, a poor day at the office, when the opposition took advantage of a dip in form throughout our squad to claim a point. Oh, and it’ll have to be Lynch.