March 31st, 2012

Chesterfield 1 Scunthorpe 4

I had big plans for the day, first heading up to Sheffield to finally meet @incurablehippie from Twitter, then doubling back to check off Chesterfield's new ground, before heading back to Lincolnshire with my dad and Fluffy. But as I told Lindsay, the match was the important part. If I missed my train and had to walk to Sheffield, if it rained all day, if @incurablehippie decided she hated my guts, I didn't care as long as we picked up the all-important three points.

The first disaster was a shattering one: our Family&Friends railcard was nowhere to be found, and a more thorough search would have caused us to miss our train. I decided the lesser evil was to board the train and hope the guard was sympathetic; unfortunately she wasn't, and the excess fare wiped out all my cash and most of my remaining credit card balance.

The Sheffield part went OK, although I monopolised the conversation as I so often do, and I hopped back to Chesterfield in cheerful mood. As xCLP and I headed up towards the town centre in search of dad and Fluffy, they strolled station-wards with a similar aim in mind. Since they were flush with cash and willing to help me out, my only remaining worry was the match.

Chesterfield were firmly fixed to the bottom of the table, but any early hopes that we might find them ripe for the plucking quickly withered. The match settled into tedious stalemate mode, and I fell into conversation with Fluffy, interrupted every so often by expletives as Scunthorpe took unreasonable risks at the back. Fluffy was explaining her theory of cursing - that a swear word combined with an animal makes a much more powerful curse - when Cliff Byrne cocked up epically, Sam Slocombe made a heroic but ultimately futile dive, and the ball nestled in the Scunthorpe net. No curse on earth could sum up the bitterness of my feelings; I simply dropped my head into my hands and left it there until well after the restart.

We toiled forwards in search of an equaliser, but Chesterfield knew exactly how to defend a lead. They let us into the penalty area, but it was so crowded with defenders that we could do nothing once we got there. Fluffy pulled out her phone and turned to Twitter for a distraction. The Scunthorpe Telegraph sports editor, whose tweets I usually rely on for matchday information, considered the goal deserved and pointed out that we had done nothing. From this gloomy but accurate summary, we looked up just in time to see a ball being whipped into the Chesterfield penalty area for Jordan Robertson to put into the net.

Chesterfield immediately pushed forward looking to retake the lead, and our defending still wasn't impressive. But we made it through to half time with the score 1-1, and Fluffy led the way to the concourse for drinks and scores. News from elsewhere was not reassuring, and I returned to my seat muttering that we needed to score again and not really believing we would.

The second half, with Scunthorpe shooting towards our end, was much more fun. We had several chances that Chesterfield did well to scramble away, although Slocombe had enough to do at the other end that I speculated he might become one of our most valuable assets. Then the chance finally came that, instead of being cleared, was blasted into the net by Josh Walker. The fans behind me taunted the home fans with, "1-0, and you fucked it up," which made me wrinkle my nose at fate-tempting, and "We are staying up," to which I stuffed my thumbs into my ears.

Jordan Robertson cuts an unspectacular figure, and he's been out of the team so much that I haven't learned to recognise him like some of the other players. So when he pounced on a half-cleared ball to put us 3-1 up, I didn't immediately know who had scored. That didn't stop me leaping to my feet, both hands triumphantly raised, to acclaim the goal that made the three points rather more likely.

And we still weren't finished. Andy Barcham advanced on the left-hand side with the ball, worked his way into the penalty area, and shot from an improbably tight angle straight into the net. With under ten minutes to go, xCLP was certain the points were ours, although I pointed out in my usual pessimistic way that they still had time to come back and humiliate us.

In fact, the fight had rather gone out of Chesterfield. With their fans plodding towards the exits, the team couldn't do much to stop us stroking the ball casually back and forth, each completed pass earning a cheer from the Scunthorpe fans. Robertson had a chance to claim a matchball - and lift our goal difference from -1 all the way up to 0 - but it wasn't to be. Still, four goals was plenty, and other results went our way too. I returned home in such a bubbly mood that, when we stopped for groceries in Newark, I couldn't resist whizzing on the trolley. Three points, as ever, will do that to me.