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FA Carling Premiership, 15/1/00
Getting there
By Martin Blanc

This report would have been the same whatever the result of this game. All right, there might have been considerably more euphoria if we'd taken three points, or relief and satisfaction if we'd taken one, but from the minute the teams were read out, there was a palpable sense of mellow contentment in the air. We may have been playing our second team, but on paper this was the best second team we've seen this season, and sure enough, on the pitch they were too.

Oh sure, the drawer where Alec keeps his miracle saves is pretty much bare now. And yes, the "No, old chap, after you" in our penalty box when the ball is on the ground still has the power to make grown men weep, and of course it cost us the first goal. But the sight of old Gibbsy passing the ball beautifully forward to ... hang on, Des Lyttle? That was great (and probably because it's a one-off). Bizarrely, Des made an endearing right-half, if it's possible to get emotional about such a position. It was inexplicable, as was so much on this brighter afternoon. He played his part as best he could when the only way to escape being surrounded by six men in green, as muted Charlie Miller was, was to hang out near the touchline like Wooter used to do. Relieved of any defensive responsibility (by someone else instead of himself, as earlier in the season) he played like he was on the training ground, and sprayed it about when he got it, including that Fashanu-esque volley that was no more than a few inches from being a serious goal of the season.

Once again it was Johnno who commandeered what forward movements we made, and fed Helguson and the splendidly splenetic Gravelaine as best he could surrounded by six green men. And they maybe could have done more with it in between the first two Liverpool goals, but heck, he did it himself, fed right back by Gravelaine, in a move reminiscent of the last two seasons, not this one. Which was just what we needed, so we carried right on after the break. It looked for all the world like Perpetuini's cross was too close to Westerveld, and it would be invidious to imagine what our other strikers might have made of it. But in it went, sweet as a nut, and we were heading for our lucky scoreline....

No, we weren't. But collectively it felt like we were all walking along, smoking a bong, in a Palmer Wonderland, so we were giggling instead of shrieking at the usual cock-ups, missed opportunities, simple outclassings that carried the game away from us. And back to the realities of the 5pm table, not the "only three wins will get us clear" fantasies of 3pm.

All seven missing would have been in the sixteen, that's what GT said. Yes, on current form I'd love to have Kennedy over Robbo. And you know Cox would have done a bit more than old Nigel. But rusty Wright and the rest? No, after that, we were all right. We did okay. We acquitted ourselves. Come on, let's love the boys up a bit.

Because right now, they're all we've got.