Friday, 28 January 2011

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Yeovil Town 2

One of the most doolally games I’ve seen in a long time. On one hand, Wednesday’s performance was so generally abysmal that they didn’t deserve to take anything from the game at all. On the other, it’s fair to ask why they didn’t take all three points against relegation-threatened, nine-man Yeovil who could scarcely believe their good fortune.

These 90 minutes encapsulated the season, it was all here: the endemic defensive jitters leading inevitably to the opponents seizing the advantage, the lively fightback based on no shortage of attacking energy, the wastefulness in front of goal which makes the locals tear their hair out and, at in the final reckoning, scant reward for all the huffing and puffing.

Struggling to maintain sanity in the light of looming NCTJ law exams, Alex and I sneaked out to Hillsborough on another January night which demanded layers and thermals. I don’t quite know how he does it; I don’t know how any Wednesday fan does it. They are infuriating, even for part-time fans like me.

There are a few discernible parallels between the Owls and Boston United, obviously taken in the context of our respective levels. The sense that our opponents are beneath us, the lingering odour of injustice at not being where we should be, the pain from being kicked in the teeth on and off the pitch, the large stadium in a league of tinpot, the unswerving loyalty of the support, the yearning to go back to the good times at any cost.

But when Boston win, you usually think they’ve earned it, and when they lose, you usually think they deserve it. When Wednesday play at the moment, it’s usually all just screwed up somehow – totally bonkers.

Name-from-Premier-Leagues-past #135 Dean Bowditch gave Yeovil the lead on the quarter-hour with a shot which ballooned over goalkeeper Nicky Weaver. It was indicative of the kind of luck Alan Irvine seems to be experiencing right now, the kind of screw-job from Lady Luck which is keeping Wednesday marooned in mid-table.

The hosts had been abject throughout the half, but at least went back to the dressing room level. Annoyed at myself for booking tickets on the one row of the Kop where the view of the opposition penalty area was blocked by the crossbar, I hadn’t missed a great deal of action as Wednesday’s attacks seemed to drift lethargically sideways rather than forward, particularly when Jermaine Johnson received the ball. I did manage to see Gary Medine’s brave header to pull Wednesday level, however, and the strangely flat atmosphere picked up a little.

The second-half had everything. Yeovil fired the first salvo when Paul Huntington headed them into a 2-1 lead, to the delight of the travelling supporters. Only football could prompt the 200-mile displacement of dozens of people on a chilly Tuesday night in January and much respect to them.

Having been boosted by the goal, Yeovil proceeded to lose the plot in a kamikaze 15-minute spell. Luke Ayling had been tormented all night by Gary Teale and eventually received his marching orders for a second yellow card, before Adam Virgo joined him in the showers in the process of conceding a penalty. With two men gone in quick succession, there were shades of when you’re taking a hiding on FIFA and pummel the R1 button to commit professional fouls and get the game abandoned.

It was getting a bit steamy for ref Trevor Kettle and there was a bizarre five-minute delay while water was found to wash blood of the pitch. I’m no expert, but you’d have to be pretty damn unlucky to contract AIDS from grass. And so Giles Coke was left with a penalty to square the game – it curled beautifully into the top corner, from page one of the spot-kick manual. 2-2 then, salvation and game on. But wait, the referee, in direct contrast to the other 16,000-odd people in the ground, has spotted some sort of encroachment.  

The pressure got to Coke and he promptly placed the re-take on the seat two feet to my right. Not good for someone who is so inexplicably paranoid of being twonked on the noggin by a ball at matches he studies the pre-game -up shooting exercises with the hawk-like attention of a scout. “You nearly bloody hit me Coke!” I yelled at him.

Wednesday peppered the goal for the final ten minutes and six additional ones, but thanks to a combination of goalkeeper Stephen Henderson’s heroics, dreadful finishing and general misfortune, netted just the once, through Reda Johnson. It was not enough to appease the locals and the debate over what exactly is going wrong more than occupied me and Alex through our chip shop supper and beyond. I suppose he’s used to it by now.

Next Match: Boston United @ Stalybridge Celtic on Saturday. Away Day!  

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