Game 16 – Southend

img_1562_webYou could tell that today was a bit different.  On the approach to the stadium you could actually see large numbers of fans walking in the direction of the ground.  Even the authorities were expecting something else today, as the presence of the police horses showed.  (I wonder if anyone cleared up after them?)  The away section was packed solid with support for the opposition, and as expected there were pockets of infiltrators dotted around the ground – including directly behind me in the West Stand.  For the most part they were anonymous but one unfortunate event (and that was all it took to spoil the afternoon) ‘outed’ them as them couldn’t restrain themselves from cheering the solitary goal that graced this hard fought local derby.

img_1564_webAn unexpected event happened after just 12 seconds when the match ball was liberated from the stadium over the East Stand.  I don’t recall losing a ball that quick at Layer Road.  Later in the game there was an attempt to clear the West Stand, which is a good deal higher, but it didn’t quite make it to the TV camera gantry.  Perhaps we need to consider using the beach ball that was being tested out in pre-match entertainment?

img_1568_web2The crowd (8,651) made this a memorable afternoon.  Clearly the biggest crowd for a club game and only eclipsed by the Under-19 international last year.  There was noise throughout the game atmosphere was terrific and you couldn’t hear the ref’s whistle at times – neither could some of the players and more than once a segment of play continued after a ‘blow’.  Mind you the ref was hardly in control of much today.  He didn’t take a lot of notice of his assistants and was clearly influencing their decisions before appearing to go along with them.  He did allow an extraordinary 6 minutes of added time at the end  of the second half, but that probably reflected the blatant time-wasting yet again by a visiting team, from as early as the 14th minute when they scored their goal.

img_1570_webThe bigger crowds do bring other problems.  First one for me was finding someone sitting in my seat.  His justification was that someone was sitting in his seat and perhaps I’d like to deal with that little problem for him!  Get lost!  Then there was the little tantrum in the 7th minute between Southend’s captain and the whole of E8 when two balls collided (see the club’s match report for more details).  That caused a bit of a stir for a while.  Later on I spotted a man with a knife in the crowd.  OK it was a pen-knife and he was slicing an apple for his half-time refreshment, but with some Southend fans sitting quite close behind him, anything could have happened.  A few rows behind him a lady fell when emerging onto the staircase while trying to make a hasty exit before the car park got busy.  I thought the North Stand looked quite empty in places but on closer examination it there was a large contingent of schoolchildren wearing invisble shirts, so that the seats showed through and you could only see their heads!

img_1568_web1Even though we lost it was a great atmosphere which I know won’t be repeated for the visits of Stockport and Hartlepool in the coming week.  Bragging rights transfer to Southend temporarily until the final stages of the season and then we’ll see where we really stand.  The good news is that we are still ahead of them, we are still in the top half of the table, and thanks to other results we are still only 10 points from the play-off places.  All is not yet lost, but it does hurt when you lose a local derby at home.

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