Topic: Solihull Moors at home.....FA Trophy
FT: 2-2 Att: 798
I’ve had some wobbles recently.
If I’m honest, there’s been a few Saturday nights when, long after Hannah’s gone to bed and I’m writing up the day’s experiences, I’ve wondered whether this mad journey following Town was just a novelty.
Would it continue or would the whole thing grind to a jaded and disappointed halt?
Even with all the fun and laughter, would it eventually be buried under a Tsunami of poor results and even poorer performances?
Well, if I needed evidence that my fears about Hannah’s enjoyment watching Town were unfounded, the blissfully-simple sight of her by the tunnel high-fiving the players as they left the pitch was pretty conclusive.
And I reckon I needed to see that.
Our trips to The Shay have been the most incredible adventure but, I’ve got to be honest, the last 24 hours saw me have some pretty impressive doubts and found me questioning the whole thing.
Now I haven’t had a season ticket at Elland Road since the mid-90s.
But the whole Derby ‘spying’ affair made me realise just how lucky I was and am to be a Leeds United fan.
It’s easy to dismiss it as just an accident of my birth in a particular city. Trust me, given that we’re effectively the sole exiles in the family from a Middlesbrough and Stockton-based clan, never has an accident been more fortunate.
I was born in Leeds. Leeds United are, and will always be my club.
My club were playing last night.
And truth be told, more than ever, last night made me homesick.
Watching clips of the crowd online and reading the ensuing fallout from the madness had me wondering whether I should have said b***ocks to all this ‘local team’ stuff and dragged Hannah to south Leeds every other week.
Tempting. So tempting.
Let’s be right about it, if all goes well this year, it would end up being an incredible second season for her to experience.
But it would be more about me than her.
Whatever it did or didn’t mean to her, she’d have to play along as her old man went mental. She’d have to listen to countless tales of how it used to be. Watch as I sing songs I know that she doesn’t. Hear of things I saw that she didn’t.
‘Go on Gary Speed’, ‘have you ever seen a better goal?’ I could go on. And every week, I almost certainly would have done.
She’d have to listen.
Make her follow my team and the reality is she wouldn’t be that far from the Man City and Liverpool fans that surround her at school.
Not quite Barcelona admittedly, but an ‘out of towner’ nonetheless. The only connection being someone else’s love affair.
The decision to make it her decision was the right one.
Seeing her standing there with a big grin and an outstretched arm after enduring 90 freezing-cold minutes of driving rain watching what, according to the FA’s website, is the ‘country’s premier non-league knockout competition’ (are there any others?) proved that beyond all reasonable doubt.
She was happy. And she knew that Town should have won this one.
The fact she wasn’t alone was a reflection of the effort and grit Town displayed today.
In the past few weeks, the only ones milling behind the home dugout at the final whistle have been the angry mob brigade berating Fullarton and calling for his head.
Rather than trudging off with heads down, it was genuinely refreshing to see Matty Kosylo and Cameron King laughing and joking with the kids today. I’m not sure Kosylo’s managed a smile in the last couple of months to be honest. Equally not sure I could blame him.
Even after over 40 years of watching live football, I’m pretty sure I’d not been to an FA Trophy game before Hannah decided to be a Shay(wo)men ‘til she dies. It offers the chance of a trip to Wembley and, this season, a distraction from the league.
Hannah missed out on Town’s winning run in 2016. After today’s result, the dreams of a repeat are still alive. Monday’s draw for the third round is still ‘who’ve we got’ as opposed to ‘let’s see what you could have won’.
Town started with Berrett in midfield. I’ve never rated him. For all he doesn’t seem to get anything wrong, he doesn’t get a lot right. Anonymous in midfield when you need the opposite.
I shouldn’t be too harsh. He’s lucky to still have both of his legs. Turns out that what seemed to be a painful but fairly innocuous dead leg from a clash with ex-Town forward Tom Denton led to a blood clot and a close shave with an amputation when Chesterfield were the visitors.
There were changes in the starting eleven.
Fullarton had Quigley on his own and put Southwell out on the right wing. Jacob Hanson was on the bench.
Given that Hanson played right wing as a kid and Southwell is, in the humble opinion of this correspondent, wasted there, the signs weren’t good.
True to form, in the early stages, neither were Town.
Missed passes, a lack of movement. We’d been here before. God, had we been here before. The first five posts on Town’s Twitter feed tell you the tale of the first ten minutes.
All about the visitors.
Solihull Moors are currently third in the Vanarama National League. This was only going to end one way, wasn’t it?
If the magic of the much-loved FA Cup upset is Dynamo then the Trophy’s is probably more Ali Bongo.
Fitting that I mention that stalwart of 70s light entertainment, as it was his name that was taken in vain when one of the East Stand faithful tried to recall the away team’s forward, Adi Yusuf’s, name. There’s still a long way to go in the lower valley kids.
The visitors started well.
There are some big units in their team. If they decided to hang around until next month for the start of ‘Fax’s season in rugby league’s Championship (the football team are never, repeat never, to be referred to as ‘Fax), I reckon they could field a half-decent pack.
Tim Flowers (I know, that Tim Flowers) has them playing a decent attacking style of play.
Fullarton went with his usual formation.
Effectively six in defence and Quigley ploughing a long furrow up front. I found myself longing for Town to go 442. Does anyone anymore?
Quigley will get better. He can trap a ball and has a decent touch. It’s a good job as, despite being 6’4, he can’t head a ball to save his life. Whatever his skills and his failings, if you’re going to play a lone front man you need a midfield that gets forward and provides service through and behind the opposition’s defence. Town don’t have that. And that makes Fullarton’s approach frustrating. And largely ineffective.
As the half progressed, Southwell moved up and in. And all of a sudden Town were making chances and looking by far the better team.
At halftime, we were disappointed they weren’t ahead.
Two minutes into the second half and Solihull were.
It felt like Town were still warming up. Ten minutes later and we were wishing we’d put on that extra layer and wondering what we were having for tea.
The players weren’t though.
63 minutes in and Fullarton brought on Cameron King. We’ll never know why he didn’t make the starting eleven for the first few months of the season after an impressive start. We’d been told midweek that his injury was back and he’d be out for a while. He wasn’t.
None of that mattered as, within minutes, he was in the thick of it and the whole feel and flow of the game changed.
‘He’s good, isn’t he?’
Hannah had that right. He is.
Comfortable with the ball. Whatever your job, you should be comfortable in it. Your house is in darkness with smoke coming from a socket? Leg bending a way it shouldn’t? Signed a contract containing words you can’t say let alone understand? You want someone to come in who knows what to do and likes doing it.
That’s all we football fans want if we’re honest. We can live with losing. We just want people to try.
The sad thing is that football at this level is full of people that sometimes seem like they’d rather be doing something else.
King isn’t one of them.
As he started to put his mark on the game you could tell Hannah loved remembering when we’d spoken to him briefly as he made his way to a seat in the stand when out injured.
He was changing things and a couple of weeks before we’d asked him how his leg was. He’d walked up the stand and bothered to talk to us.
Of itself, it’s nothing. But that connection matters.
Sadly you don’t get that the further up the league ladder you go.
Just a few minutes after the change and Town halved the deficit. Southwell deserved his goal. Released by a decent through ball, he kept his composure to chip the keeper.
The crowd woke up.
The visitors were chasing the game. They made two changes.
Quigley was taken off and Edwards came on. I’ve talked before of him being a Marmite player. I still reckon there’s a decent forward there somewhere. He’s been showing more of that off the bench this year. Fullarton takes some stick, but keeping Edwards hungry that way just might work. He was up for it. Taking people on. Looking for the ball and to do things with it.
He beat one man and was brought down for a free kick.
Step up Matty Kosylo.
For all of the bookings, the tantrums, even the ‘man bun’ and the beard he’s decided to grow, he’s still the one that gets you out of your seat. That makes you think something good might happen.
And it did.
His shot for the equalizer was a peach. Beat the keeper at the near post. Tim Flowers, Solihull’s manager, must have been spitting.
Town were up for it.
There was a late chance to win it. Kosylo has that selfish approach that creative and skilful players do. He’ll back himself even when the crowd think others have a better chance. That made it all the more frustrating when, with probably seconds left, he elected to pass to an apparently offside Edwards when 99 times out of a 100, he’d have crowned his breaking free from the visitor’s defence with a shot of his own.
The final whistle sounded.
And Hannah standing there with a big grin and an outstretched arm……..