Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sometimes in life things come along that feel beyond unexpected. Writing these thoughts on a Thursday afternoon, our trip to Berkshire still has me scratching my head in disbelief!

The night itself was always going to be slightly different to the norm for our party due to our travel plans. Virtually all away games we travel as a group by road, sharing the costs for a car, people carrier or minibus proving considerably cheaper than going by rail.

On this occasion however, we managed to get some very reasonably-priced day-return rail tickets and set off at lunchtime to enjoy the pre-match delights Reading had to offer.

The only 'problem' with this plan was getting back! Those Gooners who have been to the Madjeski Stadium will be aware it is a good bus/taxi ride from the main railway station.

If the game finished in normal time we had plenty of time to get back, extra time and/or penalties made it all a bit 'tight'! It was very much a case of 'we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!', a phrase many a football fan will know they have considered down the years!

Our journey negotiated comfortably, pre-match was thoroughly enjoyable, taking in some of the local establishments offering real ales and heading up to the stadium to join the four thousand or so travelling Gooners just in time for kick-off.

To try and describe the next couple of hours in my short blog feels almost impossible.

Pretty much everything our hosts threw at us in the opening half ended up in the back of the net and with the atmosphere in the away end coming somewhere in the middle of anger, frustration, disbelief and disappointment, I don't mind admitting my thoughts turned pretty quickly to my journey home.

Some fans left, of course they did, but it is worth mentioning at this stage that it was nowhere near as many as the media constantly reported. The majority that left their seats simply retired to the refreshment area down below the stand, Theo's fine goal on the stroke of half-time probably persuading most to hang in there a little longer.

Some are more negative than others but there is no doubt we all have (sometimes deluded) optimistic thoughts, even in diversity. I found myself thinking if we can get a second goal early in the second half then you never know.

Probably just as that period seemed to be ebbing away Olly's fine header had us all looking at our watches to see if there was still time to do the improbable.

Chances came and went and time was very soon against us, the lack of time available to make our return transport leading to our group making our way towards the exits with a few minutes remaining. I would never leave before the final whistle all the time I felt we had a glimmer of hope so there was no chance of me missing anything but it was during this walk towards the exit stairs that Laurent's header had us thinking, 'we couldn't... could we?!'

The equaliser was an amazing moment of completely mixed emotions. For much of injury time the ball seemed to remain at the other end of the ground, a million miles away from where we needed to be.

Then the ball broke and we poured forward in what was always going to be the last action in the game. Theo shot and from our vantage point it was totally crystal clear the ball had crossed the line. In the next split second however, it became apparent the lino had not waved for a goal and Jenko smashed in the rebound!

It was total and utter pandemonium, all Gooners in a writhing mass of bodies leaping around like complete lunatics! There is no other way to describe it. It might 'only' be the Capital One Cup but that feeling is rarely so intense.

So... we made our way back to our seats for extra time!

The drama continued of course with Marouane's strike being cancelled out late on leading to the second crazy 'jostle' of the night.

Once again we poured forward with time running out, another desperate block cleared the Meerkat's strike off the line and Theo smashed in the rebound causing another major eruption in one end of the stadium.

Dusting ourselves down, Marouane's second was met with a little less carnage but put the icing on the most unlikely of cakes.

Football never ceases to amaze me even after all these years. Tuesday was simply crazy and a total pleasure to experience.

Did we make it for our train? Of course not... but we didn't really care!

A long midweek trip to Bradford is the prize, one to look forward to in December. Before all that there is the small matter of an away game at Old Trafford to attend on Saturday lunchtime.

Time to make plenty of noise once again.


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1 Nov 2012