Thursday 16th May 2013
Nerves of Steel
Traditionally the last league game of the season has often seen many of us travelling Gooners arrive in fancy dress or other ideas. A fun way to end another campaign in years where the fixture has been largely irrelevent. With so much riding on last year's visit to The Hawthorns, anything like that went out of the window.
Twelve months on and for a while now an idea had been muted that we all headed into St James' Park on Sunday afternoon wearing masks. Results since I last recorded my thoughts mean we might just have to shelve that for another year!
Tuesday night was always going to be a nervy affair but by and large we put in exactly the performance we were all looking for.
Considering my memories of home games late in any season consist of short sleeves, sunglassses and pink faces, it could not have been further away from that on the night. Pouring with rain and with a gusty wind to boot, it was more like a game in winter than mid-May. Still, it gave us something to moan about and us British do that with gusto when it comes to the weather!
Our position was extremely clear before a ball was kicked. Nothing less than a win would do. The league table doesn't lie and Wigan were third from bottom for a reason. Having just won the FA Cup however, and in their own 'last chance saloon', we all knew they were a dangerous opponent on the night. Without being disrespectful to the clubs involved I also felt they were a far stronger outfit than the other two that have gone down.
So, on a dirty horrible night in north London, there was a atmosphere full of tension and fortunately noisy positive support inside the stadium.
We started the game extremely brightly and Poldi's opener was thoroughly deserved and went some way to easing the nerves present. Our visitors certainly enjoyed a little more possession later in the half but I felt our defensive shape was excellent, emphasised by the fact that Chezz had little to do.
That thin dividing line we all talk about became extremely evident however, on the back of two incredibly harsh free-kick decisions going against us over a few seconds. One all and those nerves were back come half-time.
There are alway crucial points in any game and Chezz making a fine save early in the second period was definitely one of them. Within ten blistering minutes shortly after, we were home and dry and unfortunately for them, our visitors were relegated.
A great result for us, again making our requirement on Sunday very clear. A win and as far as Champions League qualification is concerned, we are home and hosed.
Newcastle away is always a great experience. The Geordies are hugely passionate as we all know. Throw in the fact that they safely negotiated another top-flight season last weekend and it promises to be quite a party atmosphere.
Masks or no masks, for us Gooners we will only want to join in should we get the result we all want.
For one last final time... 'Come on you mighty Reds'.