AND NEXT UP AT GANDER GREEN LANE...
..were the Sports, who went one better than Leeds United by securing a 2-2 draw at Sutton. No, it was just a friendly on Wednesday. But rather flattering to be sandwiched between Leeds and the Arsenal! Here's a little website report:
The Sports enjoy a cordial relationship with Sutton and their affable manager Paul Doswell, and for both clubs it was chance of a little variation on the usual training routine. Incidentally, the morning kick-off was another little victory for both clubs' policy of daytime training. It's what proper footballers do....
Tommy took a mixture of first team regulars, squad players and a couple of triallists, with the accent on youth. Indeed, in the Borough starting XI only Lewis Carey and Elliott Romain were above 22, and after substitutions the side which finished the 90 had only Carey and Nat Pinney over that age. The match was nicely competitive, as well as most enjoyable for the quite sizeable crowd who had found their way to Gander Green Lane, for what was nominally a "closed-doors" friendly.
Elliott Romain saw his early penalty saved before himself giving borough a 1-0 lead, but Sutton then equalised for a half-time scoreline of 1-1. United went ahead just after the break, but the Sports restored parity at 2-2 - through a triallist - and that was how the score remained, despite what the Gaffer described as a "perfectly good goal" from Pinney being disallowed.
"I think quite probably the linesman was on the promise of an Arsenal ticket, because it was several seconds after the goal had gone in, and been celebrated, before his flag was raised." The wise words of Dos are not recorded - but heck, as they say, a good time was had by all.
All at the Borough do, of course, wish Sutton United congratulations on their terrific FA Cup run, and all success on their great day when they receive Arsenal in the fifth round. It shows what can be done...
Well, actually we were away at the Beveree the last time our two sides met - and the time before that, we were both away.... But a warm welcome to Hampton and Richmond Borough. The Middlesex (?) Surrey (?) club sit eleven points above the Sports going into this fixture, having played one game more. After three weeks frustrated by the weather, they notched a win last weekend over strugglers Bishops Stortford, while Borough were blasting Hemel Hempstead 4-0 away from home.
Alan Dowson's side enjoyed a blistering start to the season, and despite one or two more recent wobbles they still have eyes on a play-off place. For a side newly promoted from the Ryman, of course, that must be a bonus rather than an essential target. The Sports have recently been in play-off form themselves - don't be misled by those New Year points dropped, for anyone who has been at Priory Lane in recent weeks will confirm that performances have been outstripping results.
It was still mid-August when the Sports arrived in the leafy suburbs, and one or two of the party had even done the cultural bit first, with a regal tour of Hampton Court before fetching up at the temple of pure football which is the Beveree. (Me, I'd just come hot-foot from a Bertolt Brecht matinee at the National Theatre, but then I'm no royalist.) Anyway, we fancied our chances that night but were blown away by an exciting, front-foot Beavers performance and we lost 3-1. Credit to the freshly-promoted home side, who have since then enjoyed a really fine first half of the season. Our nemesis that night, the eager front runners Lowe and Kabamba, have moved on, so maybe things will be a little less frantic this afternoon. Borough's other grouse in that August defeat was the bizarre sight of the referee pulling up within minutes of the start, to be replaced by a rather hapless assistant who was miles off the pace, made a couple of match-changing decisions, and allowed the Beavers to sit on their lead by taking well over half a minute for each goal-kick and throw-in! Ouch. My counterparts on the Hampton press bench were a bit peeved on that night, that I dared to be putting the stopwatch on it.... Kev's view: if you are playing as well as the Beavers were playing in that game, get on and score a fourth or fifth goal. No hard feelings, chaps.
But memories go back further, to a weird night at Stevenage in 2008, when the Sports - arriving only minutes before the scheduled kick-off - clinched their Conference Premier place with a 2-0 victory over Beavers. The goals came late, through a Nathan streak-away and an Armo bullet. It was probably undeserved on the night, for Hampton had most of the play and Borough rode their luck - but most would agree that the promotion was merited on the strength of a fantastic season, when Eastbourne and Lewes had been the only two real contenders. I was on the mic that night together with co-commentator Kevin Smith - who gets a mention because his Dad features a little way further down this column....
LIVE AND UNSCRIPTED
Oh I say. This week we celebrate 90 years of sports commentary on the BBC. Yes, it started back in 1927, from a little wooden hut at Highbury. They used to print a grid of numbered squares in the Radio Times, so that listeners could follow where the ball was, on the pitch. Now it's all about technology, reverse-angle replays, summarisers, tracking software and instant tweets. I have been privileged to be a tiny, irrelevant part of that proud record of service to sport. I chalked up 25 of those years, but I'm not a proper reporter, just a supporter like all of you. And my little bits of reporting were broadcast, so to speak, perched on the shoulders of giants. Nobody will ever surpass Wolstenholme's "They think it's all over. It is now..." line, but others have come close....
Martin Tyler is here in the Beavers dug-out on Saturday, and has some cracking lines in his locker. Mind you, Martin gets all the best gigs. He was there when Aguero-o-o-o scored that title-clinching goal for Man City against QPR. He was there in the Olympiastadion and "England are in again - Heskeyyyyyy - it's five!" And Martin, wasn't it you in Istanbul 2005 (this one's from memory): "and Steven Gerrard sows a grain of doubt in AC Milan's minds" then "two in two minutes - this is impossible" then "Alonso! Mission impossible accomplished!"
- Clive Tyldesley's added time: when Man United beat Bayern in 1999 "Can United score? United always score... Solskjaer! Manchester United have reached the promised land!"
- Or dare I mention Peter Jones, Wembley 1983: "Robinson going strong - finds Smith - and Smith must score....."
- Maybe Mottie on a great Tony Currie strike: "A quality goal from a quality player".
- David Coleman in the build-up to Carlos Alberto's goal in 1970: "Clodoaldo's dribble - beats one Italian - another - another - they're taking it in turns.."
- And Bjorge Lillelien, the unforgettable Norwegian: 'Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Attlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher - can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher! Your boys took one hell of a beating!
There have been comedy moments too, intended or otherwise. "The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey...." "Mansell can see him in his earphone..." "For those watching in black and white, Liverpool are the team in red...." And perhaps we should turn the fader down on Jonathan Pearce at the last World Cup, demonstrating that even professionals can get in a tangle.
Here in bland print, they might seem quite ordinary. But the essence is that phrase "live and unscripted". The common thread? First, those commentaries say a lot in a very few words. My BBC Sussex producer has a maxim: think fast, talk slowly. Second, the words paint a picture - the great Andrew Raeburn (a man who first sat there as my sidekick and went on to surpass me by a mile) never lets me forget my August Priory Lane sunset "like a washed-out Barcelona shirt..." Third, the words trigger memories - yes, you saw that goal! yes, you were there that day!
So, let's keep it local. Remember this momentous final-day-of-a-season? Oxford United, and victory or relegation. "Twelve yards from penalty spot to goal-line. Twelve yards that stand between Simon Weatherstone and a 1-0 lead. Twelve yards between Eastbourne Borough and Conference Prem survival... Weatherstone stands. Hands on hips. Runs up. Right-footed. Into the corner!"
And then those final eight minutes. "Wilson. Turns to the crowd and lifts his arms. Shout us home, he says. Turns back to his players. Lifts the arms again. Come on boys, you have to play us home..." And they did.... Enjoy the game, everyone!
Updated 23:21 - 2 Feb 2017 by Kevin Anderson