Due to needing to spend a little time with my son (he being five weeks old at the time), I decided to miss Plymouth away. By all accounts, not a classic game but a professional and an enjoyable encounter which could have seen us with a bigger margin of victory than the single goal from Noel-Williams. But away from home, results are what count and after the disappointment of the Preston game it was good to get back on the right track.
Wycombe Wanderers at home was special affair. Not so much for the game (which was okay but nothing to get all that excited about), but for the return of Elton John. The reception he received from both sets of fans as he made his way to the directors box will remain in the memory of everyone who was there for some time to come. The fact that he came to the game at all following the death of Princess Diana shows the strength of the man.
This was another game where we should have had the points well and truly in the bag long before Wycombe pulled one back and left us with a nervous last twenty minutes. A goal within six minutes for Micah Hyde and the bar being rattled twice before the break should have meant an easier second half. A second goal (this time for Lee) after 62 minutes paved the way for a comfortable win..... except it didn't work out that way. Wanderers pulled one back and despite a few anxious moments we held on. We could have won by four or five, but it would have been a little unfair to Wycombe who had given us a good game.
Chesterfield at home was like deja-vu. It was Wycombe without Elton John. The goals were scored at slightly different times but the same nail-biting ending meant plenty of clock-watching by myself and those around me. We seem to have a problem with this third goal thing. It seems to be by-passing the brains of our players. Now lads... look into my eyes... you are getting sleepy..... third goal... THIRD GOAL.
But we survived. I can't say the same for my fingernails, though....
Fizzy cup time next and what a cracking game it was. Sheffield United at home and a chance of a bit of giant killing (okay, slightly taller person killing, then). Let's face it, we should have been going up to Bramell Lane with the luxury of being able to put out the reserves. We murdered them... except we didn't get the goal. United came with the intent on containment and counter attack. And they did it well but we have only ourselves to blame for not scoring more. And it looked like we were going to get nothing out of a game which would have made the Great Train Robbery look like a bit of casual shoplifting. Getting the picture?
But cometh the hour, cometh the man. With time running out and 1-0 down Peter Kennedy hit a beautiful left foot free kick into the top corner off the upright. It was no more than we deserved, but we really had deserved better.
Gillingham away was a day to remember for many reasons. First it was hot, very hot and Rupe was drunk; but there's nothing new in that. Kevin Birdseye was drunk. A little more unusual but acceptable. Andy Barnard turned up with the bushiest beard you have ever seen. Now that was a little odd. Not for the beard itself, but for the fact that last time I had seen him he was completely clean shaven.
The day had started in the Cricketers pub near to the ground. Fairly friendly mix of Horns and Gills fans. No problem. In the ground it got a little bit more tense. Particularly when the goals started going in. Bits of concrete, coins and the like being thrown over from the home fans' side of the fence into our enclosure. All a little pathetic. I had made a strategic withdrawal only minutes before this started happening, but was close enough to see what was going on.
The game itself was a frantic affair. We could have been three goals down at half time, if the Gillingham forwards knew what a goal looked like. A number of identical attacks down the left wing ended in the ball being dragged across the goal and wide of the post. You would have thought after the first couple of attempts that our defence would have twigged as to what was happening. Millen wasn't playing and we really missed him. Pluck did an okay job at the back but is definitely one for the future. He looked a little out of his depth. Melvang was, well, Melvang. Dodgy at the back and good going forward. Sorry, no, he wasn't good going forward in this game. So generally a waste of space and was duly substituted later in the game.
We were 1-0 down at half time and lucky to be only that. Ronny got a dodgy penalty in the 50th minute which drew us level. We then went 2-1 down eight minutes later, followed shortly by the dismissal of Jason Lee for a second bookable offence. At this point it seemed that we were heading for a defeat. But Melvang was dragged off and Slater brought on and things started to happen.
A great run and a shot by Slater, which was tipped onto the bar and over by the Gills keeper. From the corner the ball was cleared and then played to Johnson about twenty yards out. You knew it was in from the moment he hit it. The keeper had not a chance and we were level.
The arrival of Gibbs at the same time as Slater had plugged the gaps in the defence and for the rest of the game it was Watford that looked the better side. We could easily have won it and maybe should have in the end. But a draw under such circumstances was a good result.
The fizzy cup second round part two saw us... well... blow it. To be honest, we had lost the tie in the first leg. A 3-1 win (which is what it should have been) at home would have made this interesting. But in the end it was all academic. Went up with Pete and Rupe for what, despite the result, was a good day. Away matches are more than ninety minutes watching twenty-two men kicking a football about. It's about having a good time and we certainly did that.
The game itself was won and lost on a single decision. We had been keeping it quite tight and the game was fairly even but the incident in the eighteenth minute changed all that.
The ball was played in from the right wing and Mooney stuck out a leg to send it looping what appeared to be safely into Chris Day's arms. Chris was deputising for Chamberlain who had been rested. But as he jumped up to catch it, Brian Deane impeded him and Day lost his balance. He caught the ball, but as he was coming back down it popped out of his grasp and over the line for an own goal. It was an obviously a foul seeing it again on TV. But unfortunately the referee didn't spot it.
Though we survived to half time without conceding another goal, the damage that had been done was too much. Sheffield United came out after the break and scored three more and we lost the tie 5-1. But that doesn't tell the true story. They were not that much better than us. And had we put away our chances in the first leg we could well have won the tie.
York on the Saturday ended the month in an unsatisfactory way. They came with the intent to contain and, until Slater came on midway through the second half, they did that. He made the difference again and we levelled the game in the 72nd minute through Lee's persistence if nothing else.
So a poor way to end the month. But still top of the table and that is what counts.
Best moments: Johno's goal at Gillingham, Kennedy's free kick against Sheffield United, Slater coming off the bench to cause havoc, seeing Rupe drunk and the away game in Sheffield despite the result.
Worst moments: The York game for being so boring and the idiots at Gillingham who threw various objects at us.
Funniest moment: Has to be watching Pete Fincham dragging back Kevin Birdseye from the hostile Gillingham fans after "Oh, Captain; my Captain" decided he wanted to climb the fence and take them all on. Magic.