Lawro’s words

FA Cup, 1st Qualifying Round (replay) – Carshalton Athletic FC v Pagham FC
Tuesday, 11th September 2012, 7.45pm
War Memorial Sports Ground
Distance 10 miles, Attendance 151 (see that one, that’s me that is)
Driving home through Sutton I started to consider what I’d write about the good cup game I’d just seen. Many moons ago, at the time of writing about Gander Green Lane, had been the first time I was truly happy with my writing prowess (ok that’s a bold claim but let’s go with it). Now, passing said road I felt uncertain I would be able to match the standards for Sutton’s near neighbours Carshalton, and it wasn’t the team’s fault or the game’s; it was mine.
The game was an entertaining one where either side could’ve taken advantage. There was lots of end-to-end action. Three goals were scored (most of which I’d seen) and a possible match-changing sending off (which I totally missed). But leaving the ground I was wondering what was special about this Cup tie…

Arriving in Colston Avenue – at the second attempt – the sun was setting behind the ground and the floodlights were already on but I was warmly greeted by the car park steward and his promise of “a couple of spaces up the end”. Entrance paid I wandered pitch-side and spotted a few familiar names on the team sheet but, looking out at those warming up it was clear the names I thought I knew belonged to other people, in other places, not that this could put me off.
On the far side, behind the dugouts, was a fantastic covered terrace the length of the sloping pitch. Behind the downhill goal to my right was a small covered area, toilets and – as I turned to take in the full effect – the start of an array of temporary accommodation all the way round to the half way line where I was standing. This “temporary” set up, I’d read, has resided here since a fire and a failed planning application for the Isthmian League Club. To my left, past some wonderful gates to the pitch, stands an impressive main stand stands and further round is another untidy covered area behind the goal. All too often I have witnessed such eclectic Non-League attractiveness – caused by numerous unforeseen circumstances – but given that I’m not an architect I find myself enjoying the quirks that “real football” throws my way.
The evening started with a warm welcome announcement over the tannoy to Pagham staff and their fans, and an introduction on the visitors for the home support, before adding that real ale was available in the bar. Then as the game kicked off, with The Robins shooting downhill – once my amusement at a fan failing to control a stray ball had passed – I wandered up to watch the action from “Fred’s End” at “the top” of the ground.
Carshalton were having the best of the opening minutes with good work from Alton Thelvell, Danny Mills (no not that one), and Luke Pigden, but I had a sneaky feeling The Lions would roar tonight. As things turned out it would be a couple of wasted Carshalton free-kicks before the game evened out, but I was proved right.
With the ref yelling “keep it fair” with increasing regularity, Pagham started to get a foothold, and their opening salvo saw some superb pinball action right before me, with defenders throwing themselves in the way whilst attackers didn’t quite get the touch they needed. It was clear The Lions were from a lower league but they weren’t letting that get in their way. Moments later – after the home side had shot wide from the edge of the D – the visitors created the best opening of an untidy yet exciting game.

Some great touch-and-go football lured Nick Hamann from his goal but the final Pagham chip shot just cleared his bar. I’m certain that if that had gone in, the whole evening would’ve been very different, and the intense shouting would’ve become a lot bluer. Instead the end-to-end action continued, with its intriguing idiosyncrasies and frustrating inconsistencies.
The whole evening, like all our footballing aspirations, is/was an issue of consistencies. I’m positive we can all “bend it like Beckham” but sadly whilst he can do it often the hoi polloi (that’s us) are lucky to hit the top corner once in a while before Halley’s Comet returns. And this is how the game hinged. Pagham had had the best chance thus far and Carshalton displayed no better skill in the battle, but they were far more consistent. Ten minutes from the break that consistency pretty much settled the game.
As I was being quizzed by someone who had no idea he was at a FA Cup match whether my son was playing (no its not the first time), The Robins went ahead when Harry Harding hit a low drive in off the base of the left hand post. Shortly after Pagham wasted their second great opportunity as James Temple shot wide (nearly hitting me behind the goal) when two team mates were free in the six yard box. Moments later a precise Tom Bird free-kick was easily headed home by Ola Sogbanmu and, even though the visitors had a couple of late chances the task of winning was clearly hurtling away from them. I on the other hand was hurtling towards the tea bar before heading for the covered terrace behind the dugouts, where I’d spend the next half missing some key moments.
In an attempt to get back into the game Pagham continually pushed forward but left huge holes at the back. Fortunately for the visitors – as the pacey game moved to and fro – Carshalton decided to waste all the breaks that came their way. In the frustration heavy tackles flew in from both sides, and benches and fans alike started shouting amongst other things instructions (though screaming “HEY LINO!!!” was the favourite line, try as I might I failed to see what he was doing wrong). So distracted was I by all the yelling that I missed Dawayne Campbell’s dismissal, reducing the home side to ten men.
Again Pagham pushed forward and again chances went begging. The home bench yelled even more at their troops to hold firm and the players yelled back. “I can’t stop him” implored Robins’ captain Lewis Taylor, “I can’t physically stop him!” In some ways it was a fair comment. This IS sadly what the game has come to. I wish it weren’t but, football’s such a non-contact sport now that tackling clearly has players worried.
Within seconds however Taylor went from villain to hero, celebrating with team mates and his bench after netting the third shot when defenders had blocked the first two hammered in by team mates. The game was well and truly over. The higher place team had held out, shown greater consistency, and got the goals they needed to get to the next round; a plum home tie against Chalfont. Not even the threat of a consolation goal would dampen their evening, or mine, and eventually the whistle went. Checking I had everything I was gone, leaving this family club to celebrate their win.

In the car I switched on the radio to hear the end of the England match. At first it clearly seemed a mistake, not because of the players, but because of the media reporting. Then suddenly Gerrard was off; a second yellow. I have no idea why and don’t particularly care but the pundits clearly did. “ANYWHERE ON THE PITCH, THAT’S A YELLOW!!!” squealed Lawro. And that’s when I saw the light; I knew exactly what I’d write.
We’ve spent a summer justifiably united in celebration of sporting endeavours, some with and some without success, but that feel good factor for the media clearly doesn’t stretch to the England team. As the numpties announced the imminent airing of 606 (or whatever the hell they call that hour of moaning) I put some music on and aptly Ian Dury screamed the opening lines of Plaistow Patricia. Most of the time I’m fairly ambivalent towards our “star players” but now I actually felt sorry for them. Who would really want a job where such know-it-all experts berate your every move?
With Harrow’s finest crooning in the background I pondered for a while whether my night had really been any better than that of those watching England. I’d seen goals and heard complaints but was it really that special? I turned through the pages of the ninety minutes, where replays were non-existent and where no commentary teams had bored me silly. I’d seen two teams who both really wanted to win, and their managers who urged them on, and the fans who whilst frustrated still cheered on their heroes; for ninety minutes and three good goals, for a chance in the next round, for the £3,000 winner’s prize fund, and for pride. For me that was special enough; that was worth every minute.

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