Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Fight For Third Place (Starring Viggo and Russell)

I finally made it to Adams Park before the season was out, timing it perfectly for some top-table drama: with Shrewsbury winning their game in hand on Saturday, we had lost our footing on the automatic promotion place we'd been coveting on all season, and were in the murky quagmire of the play-off positions. YUK. So, with the blaze of glorious Easter sunshine illuminating Crewe's tangerine shorts and Wycombe's right royal blues, and the town's local red kites arcing a pretty pas de deux above the pitch, the scene was set for some 3-D, high-definition guts 'n' gore.

Unfortunately, no-one had yelled 'action!' to the chaps, and, at least from where I was standing on the terrace, the next 40 minutes were a plotless bore. Crewe weren't up to much, but nor were Wycombe; there was very little on target, endless hoofing, and only some short sharp bursts from Betsy breaking the monotony. The only player really giving it his all was the heroic Gareth Ainsworth, who with his ludicrously flowing locks, set jaw and endless worrying of the players on the right-hand side of the pitch, clearly thinks he is Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings; the method man of WWFC trying to galvanise all his confused but plucky little hobbits! Frankly, the most exciting moment was a barney to our left between an old guard supporter and a twentyish whippersnapper, who were arguing about an offside decision; their mouthy spat seemed to denote a deeper conflict between the doggedly pessimistic oldies, who delight in heaving a collective groan at the drop of a hat, and the sunny younger boys who constantly check their smartphones for score updates and think it's not helpful to rant at your players at every opportunity.

A different sort of battle to the one on the pitch, which suddenly flared alive at the end of the first half: Scott Rendell, Wycombe's blonde starlet, headed one in, and while we were still celebrating being 1-0 up, a Crewe player fell over in the box below us and our cheers morphed into 'WHAAAA?'s as a penalty was awarded. This is where I saw the wondrousness that is Nikki Bull come in to being; he started psyching himself up in gladiatorial fashion, chest puffing to twice its normal size and face all a-glower, as if Russell Crowe himself had suddenly teleported into the six-yard box. With a slavering Aussie filmstar taking up half the goalmouth, the cowering, starstruck Crewe striker could do nothing but turf the ball into a corner to be met by the Wall of Bull, who met the roars of the terrace with his own leonine yowls sent heavenwards. Brilliant stuff, which was topped by an almost immediate penalty up at the other end for us; Rendell, unruffled, popped it in and we were headily drunk on 2-0 elation as we went into half-time.

This seemed to be enough for Wycombe, who perhaps wanted to save Waddock's heart from seizing, and nothing quite came of the second half. We even got another penalty decision for a handball, but Spot Kick Man 'Ruth' Rendell (no mystery there, etc etc) couldn't muster the gumption to power it in, and it was saved. A shame, as we still need all the goals we can get to try and scramble above Shrewsbury's goal difference. It could still come to that, though Shrewsbury's goalless draw puts us thankfully back into third, teetering one precipitous point above the play-offs. Now all we have to do is keep winning! EASY! (Gulp.)