Well, it was quite a day.
Recent results and performances had seen a strange feeling known as optimism creep into our thinking. Combine that with cheap train tickets from Dorchester South and the importance of the game, the numbers of travelling fans had swelled to a recent high of ten! Two new faces joined us in the form of Ed W (a Dorch fan but away day virgin) and “Manc Tom” (a Citeh fan and mate of Tom) whilst Pagey represented the older faces and showed us ‘younger’ lads up, by getting the 6 o’something train from Yeovil and arriving in Waterloo before any of the pubs had opened.
Both Cameron and I had actually managed to arrive on time as faces new and old gathered in the surrounds of the Wellington. The train from Dorchester carrying our travelling lot was not only packed, but late. So packed that they had to sit in first class. This left Steve Hill with a long walk to the toilet for his 13 toilets trips on the way up, but they arrived nonetheless.
After breakfast, conversation lurched from our expectations for the game, to Cam’s opinion that if a woman has small breasts then a boob job would be appear no different than putting tennis balls up her top. Odd. Thoughts on the game were surprisingly upbeat considering; a) we all moan, a lot, and b) we are second bottom. One of the more truthful and sensible things my Dad said to me was “I can handle the despair, it’s the hope that kills you.” Had we fallen into the trap of expectation and would we now see a good day ruined by 90 minutes of football? Amazingly, no.
In Tonbridge, we soon found ourselves a good spoons to drink in. This was after Steve spotted a pub, which as Cameron told him, “looked shit”. Steve’s response as “not as shit as your jeans” was a moment of comedy not usually associated with him. With views of the castle, a garden that had a 3G lawn rather than grass (providing a beer garden all year round, rather than one that gets waterlogged leading to a beer garden fixture backlog) and Fred’s doppelganger from his 2006 emo-phase behind the bar, the cheap pints (and eventually rum and shots) soon flowed.
(Forking the pitch. Geddit…..forking. Nevermind.)
The two Tom’s had their very own ‘Lady and the Tramp’ moment as they both munched on each end of a hotdog (read into that statement what you will). It was then off to the sunny surrounds of the Longmead Stadium (for the admission price of a student for Fred and I) for a pretty important 90 minutes.
With no physio at the game, massage duties fell to Nathan Walker. A worrying thought and a possible explanation for a sluggish start. After an even first 15 minutes, we found ourselves behind as Michael Bakare was allowed to run pretty much unchallenged, and slot past AWH. Bollocks.
In previous months, going a goal down early would have led to an almost predictable collapse/surrender, but with confidence gained from recent games we deservedly got level just before half time. Nathan Craig’s free kick was parried by Tonbridge’s keeper (who looked like an unfortunate combination of Floydy, Spud, Ed Sheeran, and Ron Weasley) and Critts followed up to level it. We went mental. So much so that Cameron re-injured his back and I fell over, pulling my hamstring still sore from the splits at Eastbourne.
The second half was more even. Tonbridge hit both posts, one after an excellent AWH save keeping it at one each. The industrious Warren Byerley, who was “up and down the line” all game went close with a free header, Nathan Walker hit the bar and the worst award of a goal kick after an obvious save by Ed Spud Floyd-Weasley.
But in the very last minute, it happened. Again.
A corner into the box, pinball, and then the ball in the back of the net. Cue utter, utter pandemonium. Celebrations described as “OTT” by the Tonbridge fans included much hugging, shouting, Nath Walker hanging off the crossbar and an advertising hoarding mysteriously detaching itself from the wall. Fortunately, whilst we were going mad, Manc Tom had the foresight to whip out his phone and snap us all going “apoleptic” – as Cameron would say.
There was originally some debate as to who scored – some saying Nathan Walker, others Mark Jermyn (or indeed Mark German as Tonbridge’s PA system told us), and a couple believed it was in fact Clive Makoni who had got it. Three players who are very easy to get confused, it must be said.
But it was Jem who got it, and the players and fans celebrations at the final whistle showed just how much it meant to all involved. We’d cut it close, much like the haircuts available from our own Jack Twyford (@Twarbers #PhreshCuts), but we’d done it.
This is now a team that not only has the ability to stay up, but has the belief to do so as well. There is a long way to go yet, and the recent wins mean nothing if form is to soon drop off again. But for now, there is hope, belief, wins, and beer. Lots of beer. Ideal.
After the game, things predictably got somewhat messy. A drunken Fuge somehow crept onto the team coach (quite a feat considering he is a giant), and after a short while asleep, he announced his arrival by throwing up all over himself. Back on our travels home, Steve Hill was firstly wrapped in a flag and later loaded into the luggage shelf of a train. As the chant of “Lie down if you love Weymouth” jokingly aired itself around the carriage, Steve decided that that was his cue. From said shelf, without any word of warning, he fell down and broke his fall on a mix of a table-full of beers and Cameron and I. One of the most side-splittingly funny falls since that Weymouth fan, Oozzie, dramatically fell from grace having sparked out a street pastor whilst on the lash.
Either side of that, Ed kicked a supposedly empty can of cider, which of course turned out to be full and covered yours truly, Cameron winged the flag over the balcony of Waterloo with a horrendous overthrow, only for it to land literally on Welchy and Tom who were wondering around the lower reaches of Waterloo in a drunken haze, having mistakenly got the wrong train from Tonbridge. (Cam would later wake up this morning wrapped not in bed sheets but the part-mould, part-curry sauce caked flag) whilst Tom fell asleep on the overground home and woke up in Dalston.
Great day, great win, and belief we can stay up. Bring on the rest of the season, and if it’s not the hope that gets us, the beer certainly will. SV.