Every year I seem to say to myself, this will be the day the run ends. Then I always wake up and realise that no, I had not been losing my marbles, just having a daft dream. Today’s match had everything and everyone leaving the ground – at least at our end – with a smile as wide as you could wish to see.
In truth, the game started poorly, with neither side seemingly capable of passing the ball to each other. It got so bad at one stage that I was beginning to wonder if the majority of the players were colour blind. There were very few efforts on goal, one good save by Ed de Goey from Sicknote and that just about summed up the first forty-three minutes. John Terry then had to go off. He got injured earlier in the half by a Spurts player but managed to carry on. Big Ed then tried to give him a lobotomy from behind when trying to punch the ball clear and that finished him off.
Into first-half injury time and an excellent cross from Frank Lampard on the left gave Jimmy Floyd the simple task of heading into the empty net very similar to our goal at Southampton in fact. Maybe it is something we have been practising. So 1-0 at half time but difficult to call whether we deserved to be ahead although we certainly did not deserve to be behind.
Spurts started the second half strongly with Teddy Sheringham hitting the bar just two minutes in with a real screamer. We slowly got our game going and for large chunks started to dominate. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink should have had a stack of free kicks – or a stack of yellow cards if not – and former tractor boy Taricco was lucky to stay on the pitch after throwing a punch at the excellent Graeme Le Saux. That was something the referee missed, and he seemed to miss plenty today.
However, despite our chances – and the dominance of Marcel Desailly at the back – Spurts equalised. A Sheringham shot was well saved by big Ed, but sadly the rebound went straight back to him for him to level the scores. Spurts had massive appeals for a penalty turned down when they were two on one with Mario Melchiot and he seemed to bring down Les Ferdinand. Nothing given, big sigh of relief.
Five minutes later and it was our turn. A ball from Gianfranco Zola put Jimmy Floyd through and he went down in the box – penalty. From the award until the kick was taken and scored off the post there was a gap of three minutes while the Spurts players went mad, the ref had tea and biscuits with the linesman and Sheringham got booked for something he said, probably “What the —- am I doing playing for a side like this?”
The last ten minutes – starting from the eighty-fifth – were what made the whole game. Sheringham equalised and then made a run and jump towards where we sat in the away end making a great play of the fact that they had pulled level. Luckily for him – and me probably, as I was right at the front – the stewards quickly pulled him away. Within minutes, a stronger call for a penalty was turned down by Steve Dunn and the Spurts players surrounded Lampard who had been felled. This ended with handbags between him and Chris Perry. The Spurts players then got the ref to go over to the linesman, Lampard was shown his second yellow and off he went. This incident puzzled me. If the linesman had seen something he should have flagged – he didn’t – and if he told the ref what had happened then Lumpy should have got a straight red. Still, only a one-match ban so I can live with it.
Down to ten men, deep into the five minutes added time and I guess the Spurts thought they had a chance. However, Jimmy made a great run and cross which a defender headed out for a corner. An excellent ball in and there is Captain Fantastic, Desailly, to head in at the far post. What a feeling – ten men and they still cannot beat us.
A couple of quick points: good performances all over the pitch today, but man of the match would have to go to Le Saux who was outstanding. If you were not lucky enough to see the game then try to watch a recording if possible for one superb piece of skill from Melchiot. Trapped in a corner, two lovely touches and a back heel and the ball was flicked over the Spurts player who was left wondering where the hell it went. Even their fans stood and applauded that.
Final word, excellent piece in the programme, a double page spread of all their songs. The quality was incredible. One brief highlight – for all you budding Spurts fans – “One Gus Poyet, there’s only one Gus Poyet, one Gus Poyet, there’s only one Gus Poyet”. Guess we would all agree with that one. Luckily for him he is still to play on a losing side in games between the two clubs. Lets hope that he is not suspended so that record gets broken next February.