Don’t panic. The headline is not meant to scare anyone. It just sums up an evening of football in SM4. The Terrors in this instance refer to Tooting and Mitcham United, the Northern Line, well, that black tube line that runs down from Borough to Morden. Back from behind the sofa? Good, then I can begin.
This was no ordinary midweek game for Lewes. Well actually it was. Let’s start again. This was no ordinary midweek game for the Lewes away fans. It would be the first time that the Danish fan club would be seeing The Rooks. In theory the fan club, formed back in July 2009 numbers over 60. In practice making everyone in my Copenhagen office watch a Powerpoint once a month of the highlights of Lewes’s games probably didn’t endear many of them, and I think that one or two of them may have been responsible for grassing me up for importing Marmite and thus putting in place the ban as retribution.
So six weeks after I returned to the UK here I was taking a small group of them on the tube to watch Lewes play. Apparently they had been a small core of fans who missed their monthly slices of life in the English non leagues and so they used some excuse to wangle some time in the London office. They may say it was co-incidence as they said they were really here to get up close and personal to The Shard, which is already Britain’s finest erection.
And also making his debut was my Partner in Carlsberg infused Crime Ben, aka Excession1, who used to live just a stones throw from The Hub and had managed to repair his relationship to the lovely Christina since I had come home. Despite being a Spurs fan, he did know a thing or two about football and purred with excitement about seeing Nanetti in the flesh.
So off we hopped after work to the Market Porter. Where else in London serves a better pint of Harvey’s Best to get us in the mood (well, apart from the Royal Oak)? It is against the law to “only have one” at the Porter and so we departed a little bit later than expected. 7pm to be precise. And one thing you have to remember is that tube and bus timetables in London do not exist. The stated 33 minute journey actually took over 50 minutes so we were not walking into the ground until ten minutes into the game.
Tooting & Mitcham United 2 Lewes 2 – Imperial Fields – Wednesday 14th September 2011
And what had gone on in those eight minutes we missed? In the words of Frankie Goes to Hollywood – “Absolutely nothing”. What was a pleasant surprise was the turn out from Lewes. A very impressive number of fans, and quite a few neutrals who were slowly being converted to the ways of the Rook. Game-a-day John had popped down, this being the only real option in the south, as too had Lizzy Ammon who loved our banter so much that by 9.45pm had signed up to be an owner of Lewes FC (as you, dear reader can too). With her was a new face. And what a lovely face to have watching our game – Sarah Flotel, aka SarahHotScores. Her video pods are legendary and I was very encouraged to see her whip out the camera at various points, perhaps for a special Lewes episode. Not that there was much to write home about in the first half.
The great thing about Imperial Fields is the view you get from behind the goals. Quite steep terracing and old fashion crush barriers meant that the Lewes fans presented a wall of black and red for the team to kick towards. Even with King back on the touchline after his ban, Nanetti and Ciardini working the wings well nothing really went to plan in the first period and for the first time this season The Rooks went in at half time without scoring a goal.
Results elsewhere on Tuesday night had meant that a win would take Lewes to within one point of the top of the table. However, the talk in the bar at half time was of more pressing matters. James Boyes and his fascination of going to a game by tram. As a Manchester United “die-hard” you would have thought that he had been on countless trams to get to Old Trafford but apparently not. So whilst he waxed lyrical about the nostalgic trip he had to get to the game, we disappeared to get some food. Now here is a strange thing. A football club deciding to stop selling food at the end of half time. Not after 50 minutes or an hour, but as soon as the whistle went. We had to persuade him to put on a few more burgers and even then when four more people arrived he couldn’t be arsed to cook them.
With a burger in hand it was the sign for the game to come into life. Tooting, who had looked as blunt upfront as a the knives BA give you to eat your inflight meal these days all of a sudden realised that they were allowed to attack at home and from a dangerous cross that was cleared initially by Stuart Robinson but the rebound fell to Hall to drive the ball home. In the time it took us to walk around the edge of the pitch to the far end it was two nil as Hall again smashed the ball home on the volley from distance.
Were the wheels coming off the Lewes machine? After all Tooting had shipped six at the weekend, yet here they were comfortably holding a lead against one of the promotion favourites. What we needed was a spark, and as if by magic it arrived. The old Ciardini/Malcolm partnership struck again, as the centre forward did all the hard work in beating defenders in the box and playing a great ball across the six yard line for Ciardini to smash it home.
Just two minutes later it was all square as this time Ciardini didn’t need any help as his shot from twenty five yards took a slight deflection (although Nic claims the sound was his boot kicking the defenders – one for the dubious goals commission I think).
Lewes were on top and with just seconds left should have wrapped the game up when Nanetti’s cross was met by Malcolm inside the six yard box but his effort someone managed to go over the bar. Sickening, but Malcolm has been on top form in the past few games so we cannot hold that miss that could cost us automatic promotion and a return to the Blue Square Bet South against him (Only joking MM!).
Full time and with Sarah kindly offering me a lift home it was all in all a mixed evening. The Danes really didn’t know what to think, comparing it to a second level game back home, but not impressed by the lack of a sausage or two. Our growing band of neutral Rooks still hadn’t seen us win but had at least see us score, and we had gained one more owner. Bring on Chertsey and the magic of the FA Cup.