Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Up, Up And Away, In Our Beautiful (Blue) Balloon (As Long As It's A Big One That Can Hold The Whole Team. And Backroom Staff. And 8,000 Fans.)

It had to be done. I skipped out of work early, hired a husband-shaped taxi driver and careered down the M40 to Adams Park for the Big One: if we won our last game of the season we were UP. If we did anything less and fourth-placed Shrewsbury got a better result, we would be dragged - like Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man, screaming ‘NO! Oh Christ, NO! Oh GOD!’ – kicking and trembling, into the fiery belly of the play-offs.

It was eerily silent in the walk up Hillbottom Road, the oppressive humidity seeming to portend our potential fate. It was too previous to be lording it up, despite the attempts of WWFC to create a carnival atmosphere in putting beer tents and bouncy castles out in the car park, like some sort of crap village fête. At least we hoped that our players were stoked up, daubing their faces in sky/navy blue à la Mel Gibson in Braveheart in the tunnel and roaring ferociously at wispily-quivering Southend, who, mired in mid-table murk, were hopefully just looking to play out their last game without fuss nor fight.

Hhm. In fact it was Southend’s manager who turned out in a kilt (truly! He saw the Braveheart analogy coming!), and Wycombe, seemingly stymied by the heat, confused by the kilt, and blown away by Southend’s totally natty hot pink away kit (Everton are leading the charge for the resurgence of this supposedly girly colour; hurrah!), began the match in heart-jigglingly lily-livered style. The opposition was full of attack dogs, particularly their no. 6, Mohsni, a loping Afghan hound of a player who attracted the eye with his range of winning headers and flamboyant tumbles. As Southend swept forward again and again, I couldn’t believe that ours was a team who needed to win: Nikki Bull seemed unruffled by two thundering shots so close to the bone there were probably a couple of hairline cracks. The whopping crowd of 8,500 meant an unusually noisy atmosphere, with 'OOO!'s and 'NOO!'s sounding like the depths of an Elizabethan bear-baiting pit.  Wycombe, sadly the raggedly ursine ones, eventually buckled: though Anthony Grant is reported as the scorer, it really looked like an own goal from where I was standing. 1-0 down; the pessimistic fug descended on the terrace and we all perspired with nerves. Thankfully, before we all drowned in our own sweat, the chaps recovered, and five minutes later plucky little Donnelly popped one in, and not long after that Ben Strevens got on the end of Foster’s cross. At 2-1 up, the tension melted just slightly, though the stands were hardly buoyant with joy. Bull still looked rather forlorn towards the end of the first half; clearly we all felt that, ooo, about five more goals would make us feel safe.

In the end, one more at 8 minutes into the second half, was just about enough to give the whole ground the effect of a 40-minute deep tissue massage. Betsy’s shot was saved (the Southend keeper did pretty darned well to keep more out in the second half) and Rendell (who resembles Ye Olde Dave Carroll, if Dave had eaten more protein and visited a dentist regularly) slotted it in. Hallelujah. We had plenty more chances, and Southend still didn’t entirely submit, but it was enough to see us through. Our scorers all played very well, though I can’t help doting on the two most zealous team members:

1) God love Captain Gareth, the sort of passionate talisman like Scott Parker of West Ham, when fit, or Charlie Adam of Blackpool, who is so gung-ho that he lunges head-first towards a ball which is being high-kicked by an opposing player with not a whit for the potential brain-damage which might follow, and seemingly blocks free-kicks with his very mind and being. He should probably have his wild lour chiselled into the hillside behind Adams Park, perhaps Mount Rushmore style, alongside…
2) Nikki Bull, whose double ‘k’ and Twitter-style should surely suggest a Rhianna-lovin’ 15-year old girl and not a fervid Bear Grylls/elite military assassin-type.  He brought on his kids at the lap of honour (not before an unnecessary pitch invasion, which briefly polarised the fans into two sets, one looking down on the other: a) those who remained behind the barriers, waiting patiently for some proper celebrations, who were eventually shouting ‘WANKERS!’ at b) the embarrassing prongs lording it up on the pitch, who then ran towards the Southend fans in a worringly rabid manner. FOOLS!), his little tottering daughter with ‘Daddy’ on the back of her shirt. Super-cute!

So anyway, hurrah. We have set forth aloft (obviously after a previous rebound or two, ahem), up into a glorious new (well, not new, we’ve been there twice before) world. Well, up into a slightly higher (lower) league. Woo hoo!

PS I absolutely love Twitter's enrichment of my WWFC-life: Check out Nikki Bull's tweet some time after the match yesterday - it doesn't get any more sweetly lower league than:

 Nikki Bull 
 by WWFCAdvertiser
Me & Mr Ainsworth having a celebration meal for two at Pizza Express in Windsor waiting for all the other lads to show up to get on it!!

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