More through necessity than anything else, I still have the pleasure of holding the microphone at The Dripping Pan for every home game I attend. Whilst the job isn’t that hard, you are forced to pay a little more attention than most fans to what is going on on the field, and such luxuries as having a pee, eating anything that requires two hands or even tweeting add an extra layer of complexity to the job. It is a thankless, mostly dull job really but one that is essential. In the three years that I’ve been doing the job I have had to deal with two lost children, five lost wallets, numerous cars blocking access in the car park and one request to “ring home”. Alas, I am still waiting for my first marriage proposal or the nadir of a PA announcers career, “Mr x just to let you know you are the father of a new baby boy/girl”.
When I agreed to take it on I wanted to do it my way. No sitting up in the stand, no cheesy announcements, no muffled voices. It had to be big and bold, whilst still standing on the terraces with a pint of Harveys. Of course this leads to problems, especially when I can’t get to the bar until we have kicked off and am scared to turn my back just for a second in case I miss a bit of action. I should do my research on pronunciation of player names but rarely do (apparently I’m still pronouncing Gus Sow’s name wrong), breaking it down phonetically and hoping I’ve got it right. You can get too cocky though and announce something without referring to the team sheet such as the announcement of Tooting’s fourth goal scorer yesterday, Adam Cunningham….for Adam read Alexander.
Standing on the terraces does have issues though – it’s not that easy to see what’s going on at the other end. I’ve lost count the number of times an opponent has scored and we have no idea who got the final touch. In games when the reliable Rookmeister isn’t Tweeting in the stands I have to make a brave decision, knowing that the name I pick will be added to Football Web Pages and go down in history. Of course we can try to find out from the opposing keeper, but they rarely know or even bother to respond.
And then there are times when you simply forget that you are doing the job as was the case yesterday when we conceded the comical second goal. We were all so confused as to what happened that it was a good five minutes later before I remembered that I hadn’t announced it, although the handling of an own-goal is always a difficult one to decide what to do. Should I say “own goal by Lewes number 4 Lloyd Harrington”, adding fuel to the fire of an already fuming midfielder, or should I give it to the “supplier” of the final ball? In this case the Tooting player could hardly claim any credit for it. Perhaps simply not announcing it was the best option, although if it was the first goal, what should I have done then as the Golden Goal competition is resting on my announcement of the time. During the second half I bumped into an old friend, Gary Hancock, down from Tooting and started chatting to him, only realising a few minutes later than both sides had brought on substitutes unannounced.
Now that’s one aspect where I have the power of life or death. Well, sort of. Yesterday we sold out of Golden Goal tickets meaning that two lucky punters would win £25. I’m a bit conflicted here as I always have two tickets although I never open them until the first goal has been scored and I’ve announced the winner – I’m sure there would be a stewards enquiry if I did ever win, despite spending a King’s ransom on it over the years.
Announcing the teams is a challenge in itself. They don’t put pronunciation guides on team sheets these days – was Tooting’s left-back “Ade-bow-ale”, “Ad-ebo-wale” or “Ade-bowal-e”? The temptation to adopt Alan Partridge-style exclamations has so far been suppressed but it is only a matter of time before one or two slip out.
The rules keep on coming – Don’t announce the man of the match or official attendance too early – my rule is during a stop in play once we get into the 89th minute. Three years ago versus Brighton & Hove Albion in the Sussex Senior Cup, Sam Crabb was chosen and I announced the award when we were 1-0 down but then two Tom Davis specials saw us win and would’ve had won him the award. Yesterday there was an audible groan when I announced Charlie Coppola as Man of the Match, with comments like “you sure?” and “what game are you watching?” but I don’t choose the winner, I just announce it.
And finally you need to thank the away fans for attending, even if they’ve smashed up half the ground and invaded the pitch, and wish them luck for rest of season and a safe journey home. Yesterday I made the “mistake” of suggesting we would see the Tooting & Mitcham United fans next season despite them sitting proudly on top of the table. Or was it a mistake?
So let’s get to the game itself…
Lewes 1 Tooting & Mitcham United 5 – The Dripping Pan – Saturday 18th February 2017
Let’s start with the positives. Our matchday poster got national media attention. We scored the best goal of the game and the crowd of 769 was the second biggest in the Ryman League South this season and the third biggest at step 3 and 4. Reasons to be cheerful 1, 2 and 3? Alas the 5-1 scoreline where we actively contributed to four of the goals didn’t make for a happy post-match analysis.
It could have been so different as we should have taken the lead inside the first two minutes, as Charlie Coppola found Jonté Smith in space in the penalty area, only for the striker to see his initial strike and then his effort on the rebound saved by Kyle Merson in the Tooting goal. Then the roles were reversed and we almost saw a Coppola headed goal as he got his head to Smith’s excellent cross.
Alas, we couldn’t take our chances and fell behind in the 26 minutes when Chace O’Neill cut inside from the right and saw his long-range effort appear to take a deflection and loop over Winterton into the top corner. Tooting’s lead was doubled in bizarre circumstances nine minutes later, as Winterton called for the ball as he looked to claim a cross from the right, with Lloyd Harrington ducking to get out of the goalkeeper’s way, only for the ball to hit him on the back and end up in the back of the net.
We needed to score the next goal and started the second half positively but when chances presented themselves we couldn’t quite find the final touch. On the hour mark Stacey Freeman fouled Mike Dixon in the area and former Lewes player Jordan Wilson sent Winterton the wrong way from the spot to make it 3-0 and effectively end any hope of a come-back.
Tooting increased their lead further with ten minutes remaining, as substitute Adam/Alexander Cunningham capitalised on hesitant defending to run through and finish past Winterton. The afternoon went from bad to worse four minutes later, as Lloyd Cotton was shown a straight red card for hauling down Dixon in the penalty area as the striker looked to get his shot away with only Winterton to beat. Wilson was pushed aside with Dunn desperate to score his first goal since returning from Greenwich Borough and he chipped the ball down the middle to make it 5-0.
Despite a small exodus of fans when that goal went in, the biggest cheer of the day came when Stephen Okoh danced through the visitors defence and rolled the ball through Merson’s legs to give us some consolation. It was certainly a kick in the teeth but other results mean that a win on Wednesday against Dorking Wanderers (only!) could still see us rise to fourth place, our highest league position this season.