Nick Kiddle (ksej) wrote,
Nick Kiddle

Watford 0 Scunthorpe 1

On Friday afternoon, a Concerned Person asked about my plans for the weekend. I explained that I was going to Watford for a football match, and the Concerned Person demonstrated that the ways of football fans are unknown to her. "Are you looking forward to it?" Of course I wasn't looking forward to it. I fully expected we would struggle as badly as we have in every other match I've seen since last October, emerging with no points and yet another blow to our pride and goal difference.

We set off in good time for the station, and it was only while we waited for the train that I realised I'd forgotten to copy down the directions from Watford underground station to the ground. Still, we would be arriving in plenty of time, and there was sure to be someone we could ask or follow. When we arrived at Kings Cross and discovered that the Metropolitan Line wasn't running to Watford, something like panic set in. There were replacement buses, but would they get me there in time?

Why did I bother, anyway? Dragging Andrea on and off trains, up and down stairs, not to mention the hell on earth that is replacement buses through London traffic, is hardly my idea of fun. Next season, I decided, I would save my money and my energy and stay at home.

When the bus finally got into Watford, I started having second thoughts. I found the way to the ground by the time-honoured method of following someone in a yellow shirt, and the signs for the stadium parking restrictions warmed my hardened heart. The finding of new grounds was still fun, at least.

The travelling Scunthorpe fans were another reason to think again. The prevailing mood was that since our time in the Championship was coming to an end, we'd better make the most of what we had left. So there were a few last choruses of "Championi" - the new League One champions were still uncrowned, pending a legal challenge by Leeds - taunts for the home side that they were staying down, and the truest summary of our feelings, "Going down, we're taking the piss."

The sun shone, the chants ranged from light-hearted to surreal, and I realised I was having fun again. On the pitch, we produced our usual feeble attempts on goal - at one point, I wondered how much the Watford keeper was being paid to pluck our soft shots out of the air - but it didn't matter. The worst had already happened, and we were free. Relegation is a wonderful thing; everyone should try it.

The by-now-customary opposition goal just before half-time failed to happen: the score after 45 minutes was 0-0. I texted the codhead with a couple of chants I hoped would amuse him and spent half-time swapping anecdotes with Karen. I was high enough on the atmosphere to applaud the Scunthorpe players out for the second half, and the chants continued.

And then, a glorious thing happened. Scunthorpe started to play like a team full of confidence. We passed the ball, we went on runs, we created chances the keeper had to work to save. We won a corner, flicked the ball this way and that around the box, lashed in a shot - an agonised "Oooooh!" as it went the wrong side of the post. "You see that?" I told Andrea. "That was nearly in the goal."

Another shot, a few minutes later, went just as narrowly wide. But Andrea, of all the travelling supporters, wasn't interested in the match. She wriggled, scrambled on and off my knee and finally irritated me so much that I lifted her into the empty seats of the row behind and let her run up and down. For a moment, I thought I would instantly regret it - Watford went down the other end and gave Murphy something to think about for a minute - but we were soon back to attacking and I could concentrate on the action.

Another attack. Forte ran the ball in on the left, whipped a cross into the crowded box, someone connected with it - the ball was in the back of the net! I think you have to go back to 2004 to find a goal I was as nakedly pleased about. I grabbed Andrea from the row behind so she could join the celebrations. The goalscorer's name was announced: Paul Hayes. Three in two games - he's almost living up to the song we burst into: "He gets the ball and scores a goal, Paulie Paulie Hayes."

For a little while, we looked so gloriously in control that I almost believed we'd improve the scoreline and bring some respectability to our goal difference. We began to fade as the match wound down, and Watford - who are still chasing a play-off place and really didn't need to lose at home to us - started pressing. But what did it matter if they equalised? We were down, and we were free. The fans started singing "We're proud of you", and a song that brought tears to my eyes even as I sang along: "We're going down, we're coming back."

Four minutes of stoppage time saw us running the ball into the corner and doing a reasonable job of holding on to possession. There were the obligatory nervous moments, but the referee finally blew for time - greeted by a roar from the away end. We stood to applaud the players, didn't stop clapping until they'd all left the pitch. If only we could have managed a few more performances like that before we got relegated.

The return journey to Kings Cross was no less tedious, but I was too happy to care. I was floating on rosy waves of victory. I had a song in my heart, and the song was "We're going down, we're coming back." I won't hope for anything, not yet. But it's a good song to sing.
Tags: match reports

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