Photo credit; Phill Standfield
Staines away sounds like a budget supermarket detergent, not a good way to spend a cold Tuesday night. But given a recent upturn in form and its close proximity to me, it seemed a decent opportunity to see if we had indeed turned the proverbial corner. Staines is a ground I’ve been to before, way back in the halcyon days of the Conference South in 2009. All for a early season 3-0 loss with a side that included starts for magpies heroes, Tom Mitchell and Ryan Northmore. Also on the minibus trip there, Floydy was sick out of the minibus window, which isn’t remarkable in itself but 3 years later, he’d be starting in goal for us. There is no danger of any Dorch fans at the game this time around ever getting a start for the club anytime soon.
Future number 1
After a very mundane train and taxi journey to Wheatsheaf Park, my first thought was there were a lot of people in the ground judging by the very full carpark. Turns out the place is also a leisure centre and the cars were all for a midweek spinning class with fuck all interest in the Southern League. As I made my way through the turnstile, I was told there were only hot drinks available, no hot food and that there was no beer available. This meant focusing purely on the football, which given my aggregate of a 10-1 loss so far over 3 games, I was a dreading. Eames seemed to have the right idea in having 2 pints at his local given he’d missed his train by 30 seconds and wouldn’t be arriving until 25 minutes after kick-off.
After a very pleasant chat with Josh Bailey’s Dad about the team and how he’s enjoying playing for us, Berry, Josh Lucas and Dev soon arrived. We immediately scuttled quickly away from the thumping sounds of Men At Work’s ‘Down Under’ that were part of the most eclectic playlist since the Kings Langley DJ of last season. Sadly, there would be no ‘Duelling Banjos’ on this night. Chats of boxing, chips and Floydy’s once weak stomach soon turned to the actual evening’s entertainment, the game. This with an honourable mention to Barry Silkman’s barnet, which is truly stunning.
Best seats in the house. Not the dugout, the ones directly behind it at ground level.
The only change to the starting eleven was Tom Blair up top in place of the suspended Ben Seymour, and we started well with Tom not able to get on the end of A Cameron Murray pass and Sam Jackson hitting one narrowly past the post. Despite looking a little vulnerable against the long diagonal ball, we took a deserved lead 18 minutes in when Ross bundled in after a small scramble from a corner, assisted by the fact the keeper went down in 4 instalments as the ball trickled past him. 1-0 up, playing well and no sign of Eames. All going well so far.
Eames arrival would coincide with 2 quick goals that gave us a sizable boost before halftime. First, Tom Blair glanced a header from a Diaz corner into the far corner, and this was followed by Antonio guiding in a header of his own 2 minutes later after an excellent cross by Kyle Egan. Half time, 3-0 up and time for a cup of tea and to see if any food might be lurking about. After getting our tea, Eames and I were told that there were some snacks in the club shop which much to our surprise and amusement turned out to be a solid selection of pick and mix, as well as Staines merchandise, crisps and to our delight, Lion Bars. Having passed on the Staines FC badges and 2013 league programmes choosing to go straight for the prawn cocktail Walkers, we took up residence at behind the goal for what proved to be an eventful second half.
More early pressure told as we got a 4th goal. After making a good save from Jackson, the Staines keeper made an even better save when he blocked the rebound from Tom Blair with his bollocks from point blank range. In obvious pain, he pleaded in vain for the ball to be put out, but as play cycled on for a good 90 seconds more, the ball eventually was played to Tom who was able to round and slot past the stricken keeper who was forced to pick the ball out of his net and await his own balls returning from his lower intestine when they had been residing since the second save. 4-0 up and those behind the goal had cautious optimism we would be able to get at least a point.
Tom would soon have the chance to complete his hattrick after winning and taking the resulting penalty after a foul in the box, but his effort was saved, but a 5th goal was soon in coming either way. After having another header disallowed, self-proclaimed “proper header-er”, Antonio nodded in his second following an excellent cross from Tom. Two minutes later and our 6th and goal of the game was scored by Cameron Murray. After breaking quickly, Murray cut inside and, in the process, sent one defender for a slide which may still be going, before lashing the ball across the keeper into the roof of the net. It was some goal and it’s quite possible the defender had to pay to get back into the ground he slid so far (credit Billy Lowes with that one, it was funnier than anything I could come up with).
He’s still going…
We had chances for more, most notably Tom Blair who fired over to such a degree it almost hit the 2146 flight into Heathrow from Berlin, but even a late consolation for Staines wasn’t going to knock too much gloss off the result. A 6-1 win, 3 wins on the spin all on the road and bit of a free hit away at Eastbourne in the Trophy on Saturday. As a team, we were excellent in terms of play and work rate, and the signs of the ill discipline that have proved literally and figuratively costly weren’t there either. Staines were a physically imposing looking side (which we failed to notice for at least 60 minutes as we were playing that well) and we dealt with that admirably. Pleasingly, Josh Bailey was obviously pissed off at full time not to have got a clean sheet from the game, which is encouraging as setting high standards of himself and the team is quality that is much needed.
Winning away is never easy but scoring 11 in 3 games is fantastic regardless of the opposition. It’s also worth nothing that Gosport, who we beat 4-1 on Saturday, won 3-1 away at second in the league last night andproved they are by no means a push over. Respectful nod to Lanners, who I’m sure had an enjoyable night. The league fixtures over the festive period will be challenging, and we could certainly do with improving at home, but I’ll take 3 wins in a row and moving up a few places after we found ourselves in the relegation zone not too long ago. The season has been a bit of a let down so far, but there is certainly cause for optimism as we head towards the new year. Hopefully a couple of players will come in permanently to supplement or replace the loans, given that a good part of the spine are all on short term deals. All have been very impressive as well, which means they’ll be missed even more when they do return. Here’s hoping we can continue on this good run and the players continue to tweet Steve Hill after his definition of character was different to some other. I somehow feel we haven’t seen the last of the character tweets but in the meantime, General Hill continue to enjoy a steady diet of his own words and Carlsberg. Up the ale house cloggers. SV