An uneventful week on the injury and selection front gave rise to the realistic hope that the selected side might actually take the field against Slough who are the current League leaders. However it was not to be as news arrived from Burcot on Saturday morning that Robbo (our only drag flicker with any sort of pedigree), had spent the night chundering down the big white telephone. Therefore it was back to the drawing board and making the difficult choice between le petit entrepreneur or the returning Stotty as principal short corner taker - both as good as each other.
Slough arrived in numbers with most/all of their big guns and Monty Panesar in their squad. The chums had lost the reverse fixture in October and were all too aware that the visitors side contained a number of very sharp, skilful operators. Pressing them tight and early was the plan and passing around them seemed to be quite a good idea.
The strategy worked pretty well for the first 20 minutes as the chums played the ball around quite effectively. If anything the 2's were on top, playing smart hockey, but once inside the visitors 25 the plan began to unravel with possession being surrendered, turnovers conceded and attacks being repelled without engaging the keeper. On the occasions that we did strike the ball in his general direction he made a couple of fine saves to keep the game scoreless.
Short corners were also won but, perhaps predictably, our routine carried the threat of a half consumed jam donut. I've also noticed lately that we don't seem to have anyone in the side who can hit a hockey ball hard along the deck. You might think that should be a fundamental basic skill but, if it is, we haven't mastered it. I assumed also that slapping the ball (which everyone does tolerably well) was deployed as an additional skill but obviously it's not because it is only "additional" if you can hit the ball as well - in other words it is an adjunct to hitting - if you see what I mean, which you probably don't. I actually reckon I can hit the ball more cleanly than the bunch of jokers who are currently masquerading as the mens 2's - which makes me a better player than all of them, I think - albeit slightly less mobile.
Anyway, after about 20 minutes Slough demonstrated that they had players in their side who could hit the ball - which produced their first goal - and drag flick a short corner - which produced their second goal before half time. So at the interval the chums were 2-0 down - a scoreline which reflected Slough's sharpness in the chums' circle more than any marked territorial ascendancy.
By then I had lost a bit of interest in the proceedings and was keeping in touch with rather more cheering events in SE London where the 1's were continuing to enjoy their season more than I have been enjoying mine lately. Nonetheless after some words of encouragement to the chums at half time the boys briefly raised their game again and James Cutter blissfully struck a shot into the backboard, which travelled entirely along the ground, leaving the Slough keeper open mouthed in amazement. In view of my comments above I can only assume it was a mishit.
Briefly we seemed to be back in the game with a real chance of salvaging a point or more. It was, however, not to be. Slough of Berkshire put away another short corner to go 3-1 up and consign me to the Slough of Despond. They then picked up another goal to give the scoreline a rather distorted reflection of the game.
In between those goals two things of note occurred. Firstly I was delighted to learn that the 1's had sailed to the top of Prem 1 - which lightened my dark mood immensely. Secondly Ward J was entrusted with hitting a rare short corner awarded in the second half and distinguished himself by smacking it with great force straight into the knee of the first Slough defensive runner - thus about three feet in the air - see what I mean about hitting the ball? We just have no idea how to do it - not a Scooby.
The game ended 2-4 with Stotty putting away a reasonable drag flick with the last strike of the game. By then half the crowd had left the main stand on their way home.
Very disappointing and I can't help feeling we should half done a bit better. We could have done - but failing to get our noses in front in the first 20 minutes did for us. Worryingly for me that's now 4 points out of the last 15. Next week it's MK 2's away - I've had a vote of confidence from the Chairman (which is, of course, the kiss of death) so anything less than 3 points next week and this could be my last report. Is Tony Pulis still out of work?
Finally I bring readers of this column some better news in that the Paddy and Wardy Wine Appreciation Society has enjoyed a renaissance. Your correspondent gave to Ward J - who, by the way, has confessed what I always suspected to be the case namely that he is actually running a Ponzi scheme ( Brookes students - don't worry you can always look it up on the Internet) but it explains why he seems to be loaded and never actually does a stroke of work. Sorry I was saying that I gave him a very nice bottle of Chilean Merlot - soft and subtle, expressive and complex with floral tobacco notes complemented by a hint of vanilla from partial aging in French Oak.
In return I got a scabby Rioja which is over 15 years old and has obviously been going stale in a dusty corner of his cellar. It even has Gran Reserva on the label so nobody even checked the label as the Gran should clearly have been Grand. I think I'll give it to the newspaper boy next Christmas.
MoM - Connor Payne - how can that be?