A new season. High hopes and expectation. Wembley? Europe? Who knows what fate intends for us by next May? The football moves from the corridors of power and the pages of the newspapers and cyberspace to the pitch and it's here today at Clarence Park for the visit of Hampton & Richmond Borough. The stadium and pitch look very good to me after the Summer make-over. All credit to the volunteers.
The Saints new joint managers are Gary Roberts and Steve Cook. I've rejected 'The Gruesome Twosome' in favour of 'The Dynamic Duo' as they are nice guys. Today they selected Wilmott in goal, 4 at the back: Moran, Brown, Linighan and Rattle; 4 in the middle: Wraight, Metcalf, Evans and Smith; and up front Ansell and Bignall. On the bench were Campbell, Honeyball and Fenton. In the stand were Goddard (injured), Nabil (suspended), Ferguson and a new guy that I didn't recognise.
What an introduction to The Ryman for the new Managers and players. After 2 minutes one of the H&R strikers was given far too long 5 yards outside the box and drove a powerful shot past Wilmott. 0-1. For the next 30 minutes it was all Hampton as the visitors were first to every ball and The Saints could find no rythym or pattern. We began to join the game 10 minutes from half-time and Bignall was unlucky with a fine, dipping, long shot that deceived the visitors veteran keeper, Mackenzie only to be denied by the crossbar. A couple of City corners during this spell could not be converted. A penalty appeal was rightly refused. H.T. 0-1.
We neeeded a good start to the second half and got it. After 2 minutes, Smith found room on the left and into the box (looking back, the Hampton right back may have still been in the changing room finishing his tea - he certainly wasn't in position) and hit a super strike past the keeper. 1-1 and in the game. A minute or so later, it was undone when Wilmott fumbled an innocent looking cross into his own net although the goal was credited to the striker, Maskall. 1-2. 5 minutes later, it was all over for The Saints when Brown tried to dribble the ball out of the area and was dispossessed by the lone Hampton striker who gave Wilmott no chance. 1-3.
City brought on Campbell for Lineghan and Fenton for Metcalf. We lost discipline now and it got niggly. Bignall, Ansell, Smith, Rattle and Brown were invoved in a fracas (with the opposition rather than with each other) which looked worse than it was. Sometimes peacemakers only give the appearance of adding to the numbers. A couple of clumsy fouls were exaggerated and midway through the half, Brown was shown the red card for a poor foul, committed two passes after the whistle had been blown for an earlier infringement. Honeyball came on for Wraight. H&R shut up shop. F.T. 1-3.
Hampton will be pleased with their performance. Holloway impressed in the middle and the defence looked solid. Their strikers are quick and sharp rather than spectacular. I predict 7th or 8th. City will be disappointed. They were exposed and outplayed. The match sponsors, www.sacfc.co.uk, chose to make no nomination for the Safeway MotM award. I'm not surprised. I would have drunk the champagne myself and they probably did.
Entertainment 4/10. Atmosphere 5/10 (The boys have new flags and the drum is back). Technical Merit 3/10. Referee 5/10.
Report by Homer