“Are you watching Darwen Town?” is not a chant we’ve used too often as SAFC supporters. One hopes we won’t need it again, unless they also hold the record for the most number of consecutive wins – a record we must surely be pushing now with that crazy bank-holiday weekend of victory after victory.
I am sorry that this report is late. Your roving reporter in the field has been busy literally roving in a field. Giving us Preston (some 14 miles off Blackpool) for bank holiday Saturday was a welcome gift from the fixture list god (and also made a change from all the other gods who have spent the last couple of years weeing on us from a great height). So we packed the tent in the car and made a weekend of it, allowing us the relatively easy hop over the Pennines for the Watford game. Preston is of course renowned throughout the footballing world as the place where Brett Angell scored his only competitive goal for SAFC. As well as that, I’ve always liked Preston: proper town, proper football team, proper supporters. In the way that the sixties were my formative years at Roker Park, the seventies were my formative years going to away games and Preston seemed to hang around the same sort of divisions as us. It is a three quarter changed Deepdale since then mind, with three superb stands, including an excellent one behind the goal for away supporters. Surprisingly we’d be given the whole 6,000 stand. While it was nowhere near full it was probably over half full and the rest of the ground wasn’t full. Hence, I guess it made sense to do that rather than just give us the normal 3,000. It also meant that the stewards were telling people they could sit where they wanted and could ignore their tickets, which meant we got a topper seat in the middle of the stand.
The big surprise was of course starting with Arca. Mick Mac’s cunning plan of playing McCartney in pre-season and early season then toying with Mickey then, with both of them fit and available, switching to a player who wasn’t even with the first team squad and had never played in that position for SAFC was cunning indeed. Many people in the pub beforehand expressed such a view: “what is the cunning up to?” is what I think was said, although reading that back it doesn’t seem to make sense. I’m not Arca’s greatest fan, although I enjoy the moments of joy he brings. However, we desperately need a hero that we can all get behind, instead of bitching and whinging, and the crowd seem to have chosen Julio so: so be it, I’m prepared to “Hhhhuuullliiio” as loud as the rest of them.
So what of the game? Well once again the bliddy thing was on the telly so most people have a much better idea than me. Strange thing was we actually played some canny football. I would have settled for a win – sod it, I’d have settled for a draw – so this was an unexpected bonus. It’s all down to scoring and then having a two goal cushion of course. Can we do such things when we go a goal down? We’ll see. Unfortunate thing is we scored down their end – I always feel short-changed when that happens. At the SoL, it doesn’t matter but away there is nowt better than the ball hitting the back of the net in front of the massed ranks. By the second half we were passing the ball to each other on the ground (honestly). Thirlwell in particular did well. Thirl never let us down in the prem and actually turned in some good performances so it is unkind to call him a natural first division player. However, he clearly is able to stamp his authority on the game against such sides and that is nice to see. Healy came on and looked as though he might be a good buy. Interesting if the collapse of the Davies move from Fulham to Everton means Reyna ends up with us (although of course Reyna to Everton could be the more natural consequence) then we’ll have some difficult central midfield decisions to make. Another of Mick Mac’s signings, Breen, also had an assured game. “Mick Mac in non-Jeff Whitley signings sensation”. But the player I enjoyed the most was Kyle. In a physical, sometimes bordering on nasty, encounter, Kyle didn’t give a poo. He was pulling and stretching the Preston defence all over the place. This is what he does best. When the ball comes in pretty much the whole of the defence, and the goalie, are worried about what Kylie is going to do. This creates great opportunities for the others. Kylie seems to have been put in the “Kevin Kilbane” basket by many, and, like Killa, he certainly has some poo games and many poo moments. However, he is going to get credit where it is due in these reports and he certainly deserves that for Saturday.
Who else deserves a mention? Poom continued to look like the Derby Poom (and not the one Wilko signed) by making a couple of outrageous saves from the isolated shots Preston had in the second half. McCartney looked better coming on as CH sub than he has this season at LB. Stewart is starting to look like a dangerous striker again and it was great to see him score. Wright made a tackle, I think, but I’ve decided to stop having a go at him for a short while as he is, post-Watford, a goal-scoring sensation. But I have to give a mention to my friend and, …. well, my friend, Kevin “Killa” Kilbane. Killa is not gifted with a Julio-like ability to look like he is playing the beautiful game. Frankly he plays a messy, ungainly game, many times bordering on crap, followed by a massive charge across the border into central crap. However, he does often have a positive impact on the game, despite many supporters refusal either to see it or, if they do see it, admit it. Watch the end of season videos from our two seventh place prem seasons and see how often Killa is crucially involved in our goals. Same on Saturday. He didn’t have much of a game. But four minutes in who charged into the box with the ball and got it to Stewart (Thornton scoring from the rebound)? Our Killa of course. Without that, we wouldn’t have got that early goal; we might not have started to build up our confidence. We might still be on as many points as the British Eurovision entry. Although it is beyond my remit to comment on home games, I’d also point out the superb vision and, from a crowded central midfield in our half, weighted pass down the wing to Stew for him to cross for Wright’s goal against Watford, from … guess who? Why that man Killa.
And so the game ended. As did our losing streak. And our run without a victory. We were over the moon – last time we won I’m not sure that phrase had even been invented. The travelling supporters went mental – it may have only been one victory against a poor first division side but it really did feel like a corner being turned – the return of hope. I’ve seen every stinking minute of crap since we beat Liverpool at the SoL. You know what? That victory on Saturday makes it all seem worthwhile. Strange thing supporting a football team isn’t it?
Bradford on Saturday and nee telly cameras. Whoo-hoo! I can write anything I want and only the travelling support will know what crap I’m talking. It’s a nice run to Bradford (whether you’re coming from Hertfordshire or the frozen north) and there are good pre-match boozers so get yersels along and sing your hearts out for the lads.