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Hallelujah!

Well I said we needed a win from somewhere, anywhere, I didn't care where. And it came from an FA Cup qualifying round replay, at the club that's 16th in the 6th tier, on penalties, having been 2-1 down in the 119th minute. You know what? I'll take it.


Yes, we should have beaten them in the first game. We started brightly enough, taking an early lead through Mike Fondop, and could easily have been 3-0 up by half time. Chaddy the Owl did his best, popping into the prayer room in the first half, but alas, even divine intervention can't help us hold onto a lead at the moment. We were defensive yet again in the second half, and the equaliser was inevitable. It definitely looked to me like a lack of confidence rather than a lack of effort - it's like we're terrified of attacking in case we lose the ball. It's frustrating and horrible to watch, but getting on the players' backs is only going to make it worse. All in all, a crappy deflating day. Even the fighting in the car park after the game was half-hearted rubbish.


We were off work this week, so naturally we jumped at the chance to go to the replay. A lovely day out in a beautiful historic city, ruined by some terrible football? Yes please! We followed Chaddy's lead and went to the cathedral (which is very nice). We're all atheists until it looks like our team isn't going to make it to the first round proper.


Getting our hopes up by taking an early lead, is it, lads? Failing to capitalise on our first half dominance and not taking our chances, is it? Second half equaliser? AGAIN? Oh, the gut-wrenching, spirit-crushing predictability of it all. Naturally, we conceded again in extra time (it was a cracking goal to be fair), and it looked like we were heading for yet another new low, we might not make the last train back, and this week's blog would be titled I'm Sorry, You Were Right, This Is Fucking Dogshit. And then, in the last minute of extra time, Mike Fondop rose like a phoenix, buried an absolute bullet of a header, and celebrated exactly how you should celebrate scoring in the 119th minute. Penalties loomed, and I said another decade of the rosary. Norman is a better shot-stopper than he gets credit for, and I had a feeling he might be the hero of the shoot-out. Chris Porter scored the winning pen, and I'd just like to apologise for all the nasty things I ever said about him. To put the icing on the cake, our mate Mark gave us a lift home and saved us the panic of trying to get back to the train station then getting a taxi from Piccadilly at 2am. Cheers Mark, you're a star, we owe you a few pints.


Yes, taking a replay, extra time and penalties to beat a team of part-timers isn't great, but if you can't celebrate equalising in the last minute of extra time then winning on penalties then what the fuck is the point of football? Allow yourself to be happy. Christ knows we've earned it. Hopefully this is the turning point, and the players will gain confidence from it. Fondop especially looked like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders; Norman looked like he was going to collapse with relief. Get behind the lads, and God willing we'll kick on from here. In Unsworth we trust.


Written by Arlene Finnigan. Photo by Luke Reynolds.

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