Friday, December 4, 2009

There will be a few 'stattos' out there I'm sure who will know the answer but I cannot remember the last time we not only lost three games our of four but failed to score in any of them. Losing RVP is not just coincidence of course but having scored goals from all over the pitch all season I'm not sure any of us thought it would cause such an immediate problem.

Sunday was a very difficult day in what was for me personally a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Four friends and Norwegian Gooners (Lars, Anne, Magnar and Anita) had travelled and stayed for four nights and consequently good fun was enjoyed by all.

Included in the activities on offer was the chance to join us Maidstone Gooners on our History Walk. With so much planning involved and 30-odd hardy souls arriving in deepest Plumstead so early in the morning that even public transport offered no means of getting there, all we could hope for is the weather to be kind. OK, England in late November was always a risk but calling it horrendous is a severe understatement!

It started well enough, leaving the Star Inn, the only pub still standing where players were known to have changed before matches, with a stroll across Plumstead Common in dry and relatively warm conditions, the location for our first home back in the late 19th century. After seeing the remains of the Invicta Ground terracing located in the gardens of Hector Street's terraced housing we moved on to take a look at the location of both the Sportsman and Manor Grounds, the latter being our longest-serving home before moving north of the river.

By the time we reached where it all began way back in 1886, the famous Dial Square located in the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, the heavens had opened and were to do just that dozens of times for the remainder of the walk. It certainly made the whole affair more of an endurance test than enjoyable and for want of a better phrase, put a bit of a dampener on things.

Frank Stubbs

Before the rains came at The Star Inn Plumstead!

Frank Stubbs

Where it all began, Dial Square, The Royal Arsenal

Frank Stubbs

14 miles on, soaked through to the skin!

Some 14-odd miles later we reached The Angel Islington and spirits were raised considerably when Perry Groves made a brief appearance and Bob Wilson joined us for the final stage of the walk. And the rains still fell down!

Aching, wet through and freezing cold we took in our two most recent grounds and looked forward to the game ahead in hope that at least that would warm us all up a bit!

With the way the whole day had gone so far we really should have known better! The current league leaders came, were clinical, the big decisions went their way and they left with the three points, it's as simple as that.

Until they scored we had definitely been the better side but we also have to be honest and admit our visitors defended well and were rarely troubled to any large extent.

Sometimes I feel we perhaps suffer due to our incessant desire to attack, entertain and score goals. For me it seemed every time we attacked with width our opponents had five or six players in the box, just in front of the goalkeeper. Inevitably, trying to break down that degree of defensive numbers is extremely difficult, especially against the very top teams.

For both of their goals however, when the ball came from wide we only had a couple of defenders in that same kind of position. As I mentioned above, with our flair and great longing to attack, sometimes we suffer by not defending in numbers as a team and in my opinion Sunday was a perfect example.

Of course, if our goal early in the second half had been allowed as in the vast majority of cases it would have been, the outcome just might have been different but overall it just wasn't our day.

A trip to a Manchester City outfit boasting nine multi-million pound buys in their starting XI and yet three more warming the bench is probably not the best game to be facing to try and bounce back, especially having made nine changes from Sunday and one of those playing out of his favoured position!

With an inevitable cold lurking under my skin, the long trip north didn't look particularly inspiring but to see how our developing talent could fare up against an almost gratuitous array of expensive superstars was an opportunity I didn't want to miss.

For much of the first half we held our own, in fact as the half wore on we looked the stronger side and to go in level at the break was no less than we deserved.

In the league game back in September I remember commenting that when you buy some of the game’s most talented individuals there is always the chance they will produce something of high quality and unfortunately for us we saw it again last night. With the game at its most even it took a couple of such moments to take the tie away from us.

Another extremely beneficial Carling Cup campaign comes to a close with a similar outcome to many other years. Eventually, in the last two, four or eight as has been the case almost every season, if you meet one of this league's top sides and they choose to put out their strongest possible XI, it has proved one step too far if of course another hugely important lesson in our younger players' continued development.

We all need to pick ourselves up quickly as we take on a Stoke side enjoying a start to their second top-flight season that mirrors the success of their first.

Finally a massive thanks to all those who took part in our walk on Sunday and to each and every one of you who donated to the cause. When we see the totals involved it makes the drenching seem worthwhile!

Come on you mighty Gooners!


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4 Dec 2009