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Scunthorpe 3 Swindon 1 - The Iron-On Line
April 29th, 2013
01:50 am

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Scunthorpe 3 Swindon 1
We had a chance - slim, but undeniably a chance - of avoiding the drop. We had to win, and hope Colchester lost in such a way that the combined goal difference was three goals or more. I declared loudly that I had come to witness our relegation, that we were about to become a League 2 team, that the drop was inevitable; the truth was that as long as a possibility of escape existed, I couldn't help but hope.

The club had slashed prices to just five pounds in the hopes of drawing a crowd. It worked so well that my dad and samholloway had to join Fluffy and me on the terrace, the only remaining seats being restricted view. We were surrounded by a fairly cheerful crowd, the usual Glanford Park nay-sayers drowned out by fans determined to roar the team on to survival if it was remotely possible. And the team responded with a performance that was bursting with energy, if not always particularly sharp in front of the Swindon goal.

Fluffy was one of the many fans trying to keep track by smartphone of how Colchester were getting on at Brunton Park. No matter how diligently she refreshed, the BBC website always said 0-0, which would relegate us whatever we did. As many people were urging Carlisle to take the lead in that game as were urging the Iron on. And still both games remained scoreless. Sam Slocombe gave another brilliant performance in goal - eventually earning him the MotM award. Swindon had the ball in the net, but to my immense relief, the referee's assistant had his flag up for offside.

The second half continued along the same lines as the first. We were playing much better than we had for most of the season, we weren't scoring, and the news from Brunton Park wasn't encouraging. The referee ignored an obvious penalty claim, and we howled with outrage. Then the bad news began to filter through the crowd. The BBC website was slow to update, but others had more reliable ways of getting the information. Their faces, their grim mutterings, made it all too clear: Colchester had taken the lead. Whatever we did, we were going down.

Bad became worse a few minutes later when Swindon took the lead. A bunch of people who had been hanging around at the front of the terrace all match spilled onto the pitch, with who knows what intention. It was such a pointless act, achieving nothing except bringing the club into disrepute and probably earning us a fine, that we cheered heartily for the police officers who chased them down, tackled them, and dragged them off the pitch in handcuffs.

The match finally restarted, and news came through that Colchester were now winning 2-0. There wasn't even enough time left to hope for a double miracle, although we did quickly equalise. I wondered whether I should drown my disappointment in whiskey or allow myself, for once, to cry.

We cheered the six minutes of stoppage time - mostly down to the pitch invasion - even though our fate was being decided for us in Carlisle. We were still pressing; the players couldn't know, as we knew, that all their efforts were useless. James Alabi made a run into the penalty area, and a Swindon defender tackled him. The referee walked over as Alabi lay on the ground. "He's going to book him for diving," my dad muttered. The referee observed the scene for a long moment, then pointed to the penalty spot.

Mark Duffy stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. We cheered just as if the goal meant something. As Tom Hark played, Fluffy and I sang a song from another time when we went down with our heads held high: "We're going down, we're coming back." Nobody else joined in.

Someone made another run down the right, brushing off defenders in a way I half expected the referee to object to. The whistle remained unblown, he crossed, and Karl Hawley stuck the ball in the net. Once again, we celebrated, although my eyes were distinctly prickling. How typical of Scunthorpe United was this - to put in one of the performances of the season when it was too late to save us.

The final whistle blew. People with smartphones confirmed that Colchester had won 2-0 and we were going down anyway. We applauded the performance and tried, for a few minutes at least, not to think about the string of distinctly lesser efforts that made it all so futile.

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