Westleigh Park, Havant
Of course, there was always a danger of this. As we slide ourselves gingerly along the relegation tight rope, a cord stretched taut over a pit of infuriated, starving tigers, there was bound to be a moment where we wobble and perhaps lose a shoe. The tigers have been whipped into frenzy by this, and the beads of human marinade dripping from our foreheads, but yet we remain atop the rope, arms outstretched and shaky. This is not over.
After two jollying, post-sacking wins, a check on reality has cuffed us firmly around the chops. Given the fact that Dover Athletic have been in astonishingly good form away from home of late, this always looked to be a troubling one, and so it proved. Yet, it could have been different.
As it was, as soon as Dover’s striking long-shanks Rob Edmans scored in the 22nd minute, the vitality that had characterised our efforts of the first 21 minutes collected its coat and strolled out of the gate, possibly to attend relegation rivals Staines 3-0 away win at Dorchester.
The killer blow had a feeling of marshmallowy softness about it, although the striker did well to be alert to the angles. The ball came floating into the area bouncing in the gap between defensive line and keeper Dan Thomas, who was perhaps a little hesitant coming forward. As the ball bounced up towards Dan’s hands, Edmans suddenly appeared like a Whack-A-Mole to dink it over him and into the empty net.
Prior to this, we had put on a pretty dominant showing, winning corners and creating chances. The one that will really haunt us is Ryan Woodford’s header early in the first half. The ball was crossed in by Steve Ramsay, and as it hung invitingly in the air, like bunting in the breeze, Ryan had time enough to complete an intermediate level Sudoku, before putting his forehead to the task. The ball bounced within the six yard box and looked to be heading into the roof of the net before Michael Ruiz performed his fingertipped intervention. Gah!
Chances comes and chance go, but what it comes down to is, our main creative combo, Chris Arthur and Christian Nanetti, did not collaborate as well as in our two prior games, and the midfield engine room lost the battle for hearts and minds. Tuesday night’s win featured a strong performance in the middle of the park, particularly from Eddie Hutchinson, but there was not the same strength of will on display today.
This is especially the case when you consider we played just over half an hour against 10 men after Michael Corcoran was given a straight red for cutting down Christian Nanetti like a runaway combine harvester going through a chickenwire scarecrow.
It is to be hoped that this has not knocked the recently rediscovered confidence out of us completely. We still have a game in hand on some sides, and that game will take place on Monday night when we host Basingstoke Town. Big games coming along thick and fast, and the Basing game becomes that bit bigger still on the basis of this result.
‘Stoke, of course, beat us at their place only two weeks ago, and it was this 3-2 defeat that caused us to sink into the relegation zone and sack our long serving manager. This information does nothing for the nerves, and neither does the fact that Hampton & Richmond Borough, just inside the relegation zone, which is now just one place below us, still have a further game in hand. Still, with plenty of other clubs riddled with sweat having only two games to play, our destiny remains in our own hands, despite this setback.
I suppose if you want to be reading a story that has a fairtyale ending, you must expect the ‘scenes of mild peril’ along the way. Rapunzel is showing the first signs of alopecia. We don’t have much time.
Holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night…