Well - it's good to be back. An impromptu holiday in Europe followed by an enforced period of quarantine meant that I managed to miss the first four league games. From my selfish perspective it was just as well that the 2's fouled up their visit to Amersham last week otherwise the clamour for my head on the block might have been hard to resist. In the hierarchy of ignominious exits an enforced departure in favour of leaving Dunners in sole control of the side would have been too shaming to bear.
Woundingly, one member of the side saw fit, in my absence, to mimic my match reports but I'm pleased to report no one seems to have been taken in. In fact the derisive reaction from all to his lamentable journalistic style has been very heartening.
Other than that, it was only too obvious on Saturday that nothing much has changed. The week saw the customary last minute drop outs late on Thursday into Friday although the reasons provided were at least, if anything , more inventive than ever. Take your pick out of (1) I've got a mystery illness (putting a cotton bud up your nose may provide the answer) (2) I can't get back from Cornwall or (3) and my particular favourite - I've got to get a plane to India for the IPL. I jest - probably in poor taste - and I don't suggest that these were not genuine reasons but "customary last minute drop outs" is a carefully chosen phrase as the late rush for the exit door now routinely occurs every Thursday and Friday and results in untold chaos down the XI's. I have rhetorically questioned in previous match reports whether the issue is as acute in other clubs. I suppose it must be but who knows.
Anyway - to Saturday. Our much derided coach turned up in what I thought was particularly bouncy form. It might just be that I had not been exposed to his chirpiness for over a month. Out came the white board and counters as he outlined his game plan which was in two parts - one plan for the first half and another for the second. Taken individually I can't criticise either stratagem but I did mentally question whether changing things at half time was a good idea. I had particularly in mind that Dunners had adopted a similar plan in the pre season at Northampton when we went from 2-1 up (bossing the game) to 2-4 down within 10 minutes of changing the tactics.
I also noted Boggs' eyes disappear into the top of his head as Dunners expounded how things might pan out. See what I mean - nothing much had changed.
As it turned out I needn't have worried. Dunners explained to me, entre nous, that he would only make a change if circumstances warranted it and he was really just laying down a marker as to the next stage of his grand scheme to conquer the world (which he couldn't do on Thursday evening training because so few of the squad had attended). So that, I thought , was fair enough and I actually found myself feeling some sympathy for him - which was the first time that has ever happened.
The match itself went pretty much according to plan. Newbury and Thatcham fought hard enough but were always chasing the game once Olly Doggett (snatched from the 3's that morning) put our brave boys ahead after 7 minutes. We didn't score again till after half time but then stuck 3 more in through Matt Knox, JLS and Dan Andrews. Boggs in goal had very little to do so his expansive celebration of a second clean sheet in the same season was, I thought, well over the top. Special mention, however, should go to Cutter who really put himself about to great effect and deserved to have his name on the scoresheet. He does work hard that boy.
The splendid pics of the match are the work of Evelyn Hargraves - to whom go our dribbling thanks.