POST MATCH RAMBLE: Middlesbrough -v- Wednesday

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Middlesbrough -v- Wednesday

I woke up at 5am. It’s always the way, isn’t it?

All week, your alarm is needed several times over to get you up but as soon as you can sleep past 6am, what happens?

You wake up over an hour before your normal wake up time.

Typical.

Sleep didn’t come again, so I got up and decided to take up my mate’s offer of an early gym session at Ponds Forge.

Gym, steam room and shower later and I was set. A quick nip back to the flat to drop stuff off and pick up my iPad to keep me entertained for the two-hour drive to Middlesbrough.

I also decided that a McDonald’s was needed.

I earned it with the gym session and nothing sets up an away day like some artery-filling food.

I thought I’d best cover myself and text matchday companion and driver for the day, Alex (also known as Paul Stomach or Paulo in the message board world), asking if he wanted anything.

I was just about to leave when I realised I didn’t have my watch. I need my watch. I’ll need to know the time during in the game, I thought.

You just don’t know with some away grounds, where seeing a scoreboard is not always an option. What’s more, you can’t rely on phone battery to last more than a few hours without a charge. I’ll find my watch. I have a spare five minutes and it can only be in the flat.

Five minutes later and it’s nowhere to be seen. I’m losing McDonald’s time here. That needs to be the priority, so I gave up the watch search. But I couldn’t resist one more search around the flat.

JP looked *everywhere* for his watch

JP looked *everywhere* for his watch

It was annoying me as it has to be in flat, it can’t be anywhere else.

You do that thing where you look in stupid places, where it’ll never be. The bathroom cabinet. The cupboard under the sink. My underwear drawer.

No, that’s it I really give up. I pick up my phone and head out.

With still no text from Alex to confirm whether he was parked in the pick-up point or if he wanted to join in with the Maccy D’s action, I assumed he was on his way and wasn’t bothered.

Service at McDonald’s appeared to be optional. This was making me late.

I hate being late. Even by a minute.

The annoying thing was that there was a queue and loads of staff but one serving.

I tell myself it doesn’t matter. It’s not like I’m getting a train and there was no reply from Alex, so he might be late too.

Finally I get served:

Me: Can I have a Chicken Legend meal with salsa and coke, please?

Fast food person: Is that large?

Me: No, normal (in my head: if I wanted large, I’d have, you know, used the word ‘large’).

Fast food person: And what drink?

Me: Coke, please. (In my head: you know like I said the first time)

Fast food person: Is that salsa or mayo?

Me: Salsa, please. (In my head: Seriously!!!??)

Eventually I pay and there’s a stupidly long wait for the actual food. She put the drink on the desk, which was overflowing as I put the straw in.

Oh well, better on their restaurant than Alex’s car.

Finally I get the now much-needed food and head over the road to meet Alex. I get in the car to a reaction of ‘Where’s my food?’

Alex was busy looking for pussy on Instagram...

Alex was busy looking for pussy on Instagram…

‘I sent you a text’, I replied.

Alex protests, ‘No, you didn’t.’

‘I definitely did.

‘Ah so you did, I was too busy looking at girls on Instagram’, he explained.

We set off. Alex says, that he has no idea where he’s going. ‘Me neither’, I replied.

It’s time for Alex’s fancy in-built BMW satnav to do its job. We’re on our way and Alex continues to criticise me for eating where he has nothing.

‘It’s your fault’, I reminded him. He knows. My turn to be smug.

There was a lot of rain on the way. It got heavy enough that seeing out of the windscreen was a struggle.

‘You’re going to get wet’, Alex says.

‘What do you mean?’

He points at the back seat where his coat his.

Oh, so you mean that you actually looked at the weather forecast before leaving? What sort of crazy planning ahead man are you?

It’s August, there’s should be no need for coats. The smugness was switched to him. I’ll be fine, I have a hoody.

Before long we’re almost there and pass the special Owl bus (Inter City Owl) on the way. Before long, Alex’s satnav says that we’re within ten miles, which is odd as there’s no sign of life anywhere.

Then it’s five miles.

Nothing.

I swear you can see the ground before you see any kind of urban life.

Finally we’re in Middlesbrough and Alex ignores the satnav to the ground to find some street parking with a decent spot to get away from after the game.

We park but I point out that he’s facing the wrong way for getting away. There’s a spot across the road. Alex insists that he has a cunning plan and takes the spot.

Perfect.

We set out and realise that it’s only 1pm. Alex is hungry and moaning. It’s also raining, so I start to think there must be a pub we can find to watch the Newcastle v Villa game, I’ll have a beer and he can have food.

According to Google Maps we’re 20 minutes’ walk from the ground, which means ten minutes in reality.

I see a North Ormesby Working Mens Club.

Somehow I’m not sure that’s the kind of venue we’re looking for. We keep walking and the rain gets heavier.

‘Ah, there’s a pub’ – it just looked like a normal pub and claimed to do food and show ‘live sports’. That’ll do.

The Jovial Monk. Anything but jovial.

The Jovial Monk. Anything but jovial.

The Jovial Monk. We walk in. It’s dark. There’s men in there looking at us. There’s not much talking. It’s like a scene in one of those westerns. We’re not from round here etc etc.

We get a drink and sit in the corner where the Villa game is on but not on a normal channel. It was probably Slovenian. I felt like we were in Slovenia too.

As we have our drink there’s this tension. Most people there were just drinking out of cans.

This silent tension exists.

I try to tell myself it’s not there but it’s there, a constant presence. It’s a silent fear.

We finish our drinks and we leave in search of food to ease Alex’s hunger.

As we walk down there’s a Greggs and we start to wonder if that’s as good as the food on offer will be.

We keep going and the food options are limited at best. Then from nowhere there’s a decent looking chippy. If there’s one thing that rundown areas that feel like Eastern Europe do well, it’s chippies.

I decide that the chips look good and get chips too out of pure greed.

We’re asked if we want Splash. I’m so confused about Splash that I assume it should be capitalised. What is it? We daren’t ask.

We walk on and eat chips towards the ground.

We get into the ground, have another drink and watch some more of Villa v Newcastle. It’s clearly a terrible game. We see some familiar faces. There’s nobody we actually know, but people that you see at games a lot.

The team news comes through and to our surprise both Atdhe Nuhiu and Stevie May are playing.

‘We can’t play 4-4-2 here, we’ll get overrun’, I  insist. Alex says that it could be 4-4-1-1 with May playing the deeper role to pack the middle.

But it’ll probably be 4-4-2. I don’t understand the obsession with 4-4-2, it’s obsolete and outdated.

The ground was far from full as kick-off approached

The ground was far from full as kick-off approached

We find our seats and wait for the game. The ground is empty with 10 minutes to go. The Wednesday end is filling out and you know it’ll be pretty full.

Their end has a couple busy patches but mainly empty seats. This is a typical ground of overambition.

It’s clearly too big for their fanbase.

FIRST HALF

The game starts and we’re playing 4-4-2.

We insist this is a mistake and it looks it as they’re all over us for the first five minutes. We barely touch the ball.

Then we get some possession and go forward. The ball gets chipped towards the area but it’s an easy catch for the keeper.

I switch off and look at the halfway line for the kick from the keeper. What? It’s a corner apparently. Their keeper must have fumbled it. This is a bonus corner.

The corner is taken and it’s nicely in the box. It’s hard to see when you’re in the opposite corner but their keeper appeared to drop the ball and they couldn’t clear it.

Then Nuhiu took advantage and it’s in.

A quick check that it’s not a free kick as often keeper’s mistakes are seen as a foul…it was given.

Atdhe Nuhiu makes it 1-0 to the Owls

Atdhe Nuhiu makes it 1-0 to the Owls

GET IN.

We cannot believe it.

It was a seriously soft goal from their point of view. The free corner, the failure to clear the ball and fumbled in. But we don’t care.

After this it becomes a very even game, although they’re doing well in midfield.

We have some nice play on the right-hand side and Liam Palmer breaks through in the box and beats his man, heading for the byline, but he’s taken down, clean.

PENALTY – it must be!

Sadly, referee incompetence comes back to haunt Wednesday as it wasn’t given. It looked clear cut.

They break and get a cheap free kick, level with the six-yard box and about five yards from the box, just in front of the Wednesday fans.

This is dangerous. Grant Leadbitter takes and hits the bar! Phew.

Eventually half time nears. We just need to see this out. We’re not good at seeing time out.

There are times in football where you need to be ugly. Kill the clock and play time. We’re getting ourselves into trouble by being over-ambitious.

But some nice play leads to a chance for May – a clean strike at goal.

Could this be his moment?

The shot was knocked onto the post by the keeper. BASTARD. 2-0 would have been amazing.

Stevie May doubles Wednesday's lead

Stevie May doubles Wednesday’s lead

Soon after, May gets a break into the box, there’s an opening but it doesn’t look dangerous.

May gets a deft touch and lobs the keeper from about 5-8 yards out.

2-0!!!

We go mental.

They’ve had more possession but we’ve scored twice. One ugly and one beautiful goal.

Half time comes and we can’t believe it. I think to myself that we’ve never won here. I daren’t say it. It WILL jinx it.

I remember when we were 2-0 up at Bramall Lane in 2008 and thinking I’d see history but it wasn’t to be.

Games where you lose a good lead haunt you for years to come. Please don’t let this be one of those moments.

SECOND HALF

The second half starts and we’re playing better.

They switched to three at the back in order to get back in the game but it doesn’t work. We’re totally outplaying them.

It was almost scary to watch, we were seeing this one out by keeping the ball. They were doing nothing.

Wednesday were in dreamland when Nuhiu made it 3-0

Wednesday were in dreamland when Nuhiu made it 3-0

We get a free kick on the right hand side. Jacques Maghoma takes and it’s a nice ball, beating the wall and finding Nuhiu’s head to land perfectly in the far corner.

3-0!

We go mental. This is just incredible.

Surely we can’t throw this one away?

Initially it looked as though it would be straightforward for once. We’re dealing with everything.

But then Glenn Loovens collides with their player on the left hand side of our box. It looks like a 50-50 at best.

The referee points to the spot. Typical.

It was far more innocuous than Palmer’s foul in the same spot in the first half.

Leadbetter converts well and it’s 3-1.

Bollocks.

Grant Leadbitter's penalty brace made it a nervy finish

Grant Leadbitter’s penalty brace made it a nervy finish

We have a two-goal lead but it only takes another and it’s panic stations.

Come on Wednesday, see this out.

And we did see things out at first.

Gary Madine came on to replace the MOTM so far, Nuhiu.

This seems an odd decision and Madine is proving that he’s not good enough at this level. Soon after a Giles Coke header hits the bar, the ball falls straight to Madine.

This is it.

All he has to do is fire the ball in the net and we’re home at 4-1.

But his effort is lazy and straight at the keeper.

It wasn’t good enough and we need better than him. He offers nothing and loses almost every header going.

Within ten minutes left a ball is fired at Tom Lees at point blank range and hits his hand.

Tom Lees was unlucky to concede the second penalty

Tom Lees was unlucky to concede the second penalty

Penalty. WHAT?!

He would have to have Superman-speed reactions to get out of the way.

It was extremely harsh and the wrong decision. Now it’s 3-2 and squeaky bum time approaches.

They didn’t deserve this at all. The referee handed them two penalties and given then a chance at a point.

There’s a frantic end and they have a really good chance to level as the ball flies across the face of goal.

Thankfully, we clear and they lose their chance for an undeserved comeback.

Eventually the full time whistle comes and the noise at the end from the Wednesday fans was incredible.

Stuart Gray came over and got a huge rendition:

STUART GRAY’S BARMY ARMY!
STUART GRAY’S BARMY ARMY!
STUART GRAY’S BARMY ARMY!
STUART GRAY’S BARMY ARMY!
STUART GRAY’S BARMY ARMY!
STUART GRAY’S BARMY ARMY!

Stuart Gray celebrates Middlesbrough Wednesday 2014

A very gleeful walk back to the car and through Slovenia ensues.

Everything we criticised Gray for worked. That’s why he’s an excellent manager and we’re not.

Dave Jones said that whoever took over from him would have the same players and budget as him. Gray has had the same squad and budget and proved what a better manager he is too.

We played 4-4-2 with two up front but it wasn’t a rigid two wingers 4-4-2.

We’re fluid. Without the ball we’re more like 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-1-1. There are times where Maghoma is the left back. Or where Jose Semedo is at centre half.

Gray has made these as one and the fans know it.

They sing his name and they understand the job that he’s done.

Gray appears to have an understanding of modern football and a brilliant way of getting the best out of what he has.

Alex’s prime spot was a stroke of genius as we missed the post-match traffic crawl and were soon out on clear road.

It was a much quieter car ride back with 5Live on both of us knackered.

Surprised JP didn't go for this Riesling...

Surprised JP didn’t go for this Riesling…

It’s amazing how tiring watching a football game can be isn’t it? Non-football fans will never understand this.

Alex dropped me off just by a shop to get a celebratory bottle of red wine. I even broke the £5 barrier, albeit by £1 but it was a great win that called for it.

I go and pick up the gym bag, where my watch is!

Typical.

I didn’t care though because three points from the Riverside is absolutely fantastic.

OWLS ALIVE circliar yeller SPACE

JP
Owls Alive
E-mail: admin@owlsalive.com

Twitter: @jpowls and @OwlsAlive


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