Since Colchester is our closest approach to Ely this season, I arranged to stay the weekend with Fluffy and go to the game together. The night before we set off, I dreamed that I was flipping through slow-loading web pages in a desperate quest for our score. Fluffy told me she already knew the score: it was "Jesus Christ." By dream logic, this apparently meant we'd drawn yet another game we should have won, so I duly headed for betfred and backed the draw.
I took my shiny new digital camera along to the match, and amused myself before kick-off by snapping a few shots of the players warming up. The players who had annoying stubble the last time I saw them now have even more annoying beards, most notably Mike Grella. I suggested he was unable to shave because his poor coordination prevents him using sharp objects, but Dan said that he's doing some sort of challenge to not shave until he's scored a goal. At current rate of progress, he'll have a beard down to his ankles before he finds the net.
Colchester were just above us - we were all keenly aware that a win would lift us above them - and sure enough, they were about as bad as us. I cracked wise with Fluffy and Karen, complained about the cold, and predicted a Colchester goal from each attack, but never really feared another humiliating defeat. My bet seemed quite a safe one.
Mike Grella found a burst of form, and ran the ball from our half, past virtually the whole Colchester team, to their penalty area. We all expected that the final shot wouldn't live up to that promise, but we were wrong: there was no final shot at all. In the penalty area he stopped dead - shocked and surprised by the strange white rectangular thing in front of him, I suggested - and fumbled the ball this way and that until the Colchester defence managed to clear. Perhaps I should have been disappointed, but I was too busy laughing at the absurdity of failing to even get a shot off.
Just before half time, Jimmy Ryan did what could be described as the opposite of Grella's effort. From an unpromising position, he shot - straight into the Colchester net. As his teammates surrounded him, I joked that Grella was whispering in his ear, "How did you do that kicking the ball in the goal thing? Could you teach me?"
As the half-time whistle blew, I was very cheerful: I thought I could look forward to either three points or three pounds with some confidence. This mood lasted until news reached us that a certain South Coast team were winning, and I spent the rest of half time kicking seats and cursing the name of Aston Villa.
Scunthorpe kicked off the second half, and I silently hoped that would be the only kick-off we were required to take. Almost immediately, we went down to the other end of the field, and Karl Hawley doubled our lead. Instead of cheering, I looked in disbelief from the goal to the scoreboard and back, and when Colchester assembled for the restart, I pretended to wonder why they were kicking off the second half when I clearly remembered them kicking off the first.
This made the prospect of three points look even better, but someone suggested that my bet was hopeless unless Colchester managed a truly heroic fightback. I scoffed at such fate-tempting, especially since we've already let slip a 2-0 lead once in 2013. Colchester had brought on ex-Iron Freddie Sears at half time, and he quickly started putting us under pressure. And then the normally superb Andy Barcham gave the ball away in midfield, Colchester broke, and all my cries of "Shit shit shit, they're going to score" couldn't prevent Sears from obeying the Law of the Ex.
You might have thought that I, with a financial interest in the draw, would have been the calmest person in the Scunthorpe end. I was not. I'd set my heart on three points, and winning my bet wouldn't even provide me the cash necessary to drown my sorrows. I fell into an anxious funk, rousing occasionally to cheer on an Iron attack or whimper at a close defensive call. Several times, we looked horrendously vulnerable at the back, but Colchester didn't have what they needed to take advantage.
The minutes ebbed away, and I began to entertain fate-tempting hopes that we would hold on. We kept possession a fair amount, helped the the officials' belated decision to clamp down on Colchester's attempts to sneak a few yards at each throw-in. The fourth official signalled three minutes of stoppage time, which the scoreboard reported as four, five, and six, before finally settling on five. We brought Vladimir Mirfin on, probably just to waste a few more seconds. Dan counted down the remaining minutes, and Karen reminded him that the substitution added still more additional time.
Finally, the referee blew the sweet, sweet double blast. By this point, I felt more like heaving an enormous sigh of relief than celebrating, but I got to my feet to applaud the players. We had, after all, lifted ourselves out of the relegation places.