To help raise the expectation, some thoughts and memories:
1). Gunn & Ullathorne. Not a great game, prior to the denouement I can only really remember Marshall's excellent, but largely unremembered, goal. Long ball forward and a volley from the edge of the box. John Wark having Akinbiyi in his pocket all day before Cureton, on as a sub, showed the promise he never fulfilled to score a good equaliser. And then an innocuous backpass...
The close up of Ullathorne's face afterwards is utterly hilarious even nearly 18 years on. The celebration, probably the most completely ape-shi t, over the top one since PR went all seater.
2). 1992-93 season. Somehow, Nodge managed a good season in the worst kit they've ever had, they even qualified for Europe would you believe. Just that one time though. Anyway, come December they were unbeaten at home, top of the league and we turned up to Carrow Road on a Monday night having not having played a league derby for a few years. Kiwomya's header early in the second half was good but Thompson's late second, hammered across the keeper even better. He pretty much ran the length of the pitch in celebration. http://www.tmwmtt.com/page.php?page=matchReport&level=1&tablename1=extended_resu
We fell away after January,a t one point we had been fourth and were looking over our shoulders before the return game. Dozzell hadn't scored in months and was getting the usual abuse from certain Town fans who expect every player to run around like a headless Lee Martin all game.
An early Gunn fumble (a little warm up for three years later) and Dozy scored an easy first, they equalised but Stockwell scored a goal that epitomised him as a player - no little skill, but incredible tenacity to shrug off tackle after tackle before finishing calmly. Then Dozzell ran forward from the half way line, confident again after his early goal, and placed a third right in the corner, just beyond Gunn. http://www.tmwmtt.com/page.php?page=matchReport&level=1&tablename1=extended_resu
3. April 1997 Yes, I know what happened the following season, but this was a masterclass in it's own right. It could have been four or five goals very easily, a demonstration of just what Burley's side could do football-wise and would continue to do over the next three years.
The first goal is an absolute beauty, Sedgley's excellent reverse pass finding Taricco who just passed the ball into the net. Even in that kit, it's wonderful. A typical Mason volley into the same corner after we made a mess of a free kick and 2-0 at half-time was somehow all the goals we managed. Back when Suffolk Police could cope with us playing on a Friday night too.
4). Megson in the last minute. In truth this wasn't much of a game, we were well and truly into the crapness of the McGiven era but still a few weeks short of the awful calendar year of 1994 and Norwich were threatening to repeat their (relative) success of the previous season. John Wark scored early but when Norwich equalised just before half-time we didn't show very much after that.
And then, Lee Power on for barely two minutes made a 'tackle' on Phil Whelan so late that half the ground missed it. An emphatic mocking of the downcast budgie as he trudged off looked like being as good as it got for us. And then, a corner and the best thing Gary Megson has ever done on a football pitch.
5). November 2006. Magilton had taken a while to settle, but after three months had got the team playing some great football. It showed in this game, despite the early setback of Luke Chadwick's ugliness distracting the Town defence an excellent equaliser from the outstanding Legwinski soon followed. A lot of good football but no further goals until Haynes came on.
Gary Roberts in the one good month of his time at Town sent in an excellent cross and Haynes headed home - from my seat in NS5 I just saw him appear from behind a defender, he wasn't going to miss. Another, even better goal, wrapped things up and the future looked bright. Oh and Robert Eagle and his shiny hair came on as a sub, that was probably his career highlight too.
The DD for this year says Perform FLI then a number and the cost. That looks different to last year but, in any case, I'm posting it here as it's taken me a few minutes to work out what the payment is for.
Predictable as defeat was last night, I'm still bloody annoyed about it. That our recent record in this competition is poor we already knew but I really wish we would stop making it worse. An extra couple of games and a chance for younger players to get more experience should not be a hardship for this club.
A lot's already been said but a few thoughts:
- Berra and Chambers looked a class apart last night. Crawley huffed and puffed but weren't a threat until two chances right at the end of 90 minutes. Not sure exactly what happened with the goal, scrappy one with strong appeals for offside.
- Clarke made a very assured debut, definitely the highlight of the night. Without a cup run his next opportunity in the first team will be in January. It's one thing for players to be younger than me but he's less than half my age!
- Henshall looked bright, ran at defenders, worked hard but rarely looked up in possession and consequently made poor use of some excellent positions. Young enough to improve.
- Wordsworth and Bru worked hard, passed the ball well but created very little of note. Wordsworth's glorious throughball for Nouble the stand out moment. WIll one of these two alongside Hyam or Skuse really give us an extra dimension? It would help a bit though.
- Nouble. Well I'll defend Frank and give him the benefit of the doubt but he was really poor last night. One awful miss, and lots of abysmal control. He is still young enough to improve but that was so far away from the Derby performance in April.
- Taylor. Reading back many will disagree,but it was a game when Taylor had a chance to impress, looked good with the ball at his feet but didn't really achieve anything. The usual headdown, lack of awareness is too much of a flaw. Even when he had chances he made a mess of them too, the one just after half time one he should have scored from. I still think he flatters to deceive.
- Marriott. Hard to judge on one match but he did nothing to suggest he should be pushing for a start. Another loan spell is surely the best thing for him at present.
If our first choice side lacks creativity and relies too much on the strikers for goals then it isn't surprising that those flaws are much worse in notably weaker side. Nevertheless I thought we were doing enough to win the match within the 90 minutes and, with a little more composure, we might well have done.
Extra time on the other hand was a non-event, we got more tired and more ragged and Crawley got stronger. I still couldn't see a goal coming at either end but I suppose we were spared another defeat on penalties. It is disappointing that we couldn't show any more than we did.
Only three runs of any note, and 08-09 was so memorable I had forgotten about it, and even when we got to the semi-final we made hard work of beating Exeter and Crewe.
It is quite an extraordinarily poor record, eight exits to lower division teams in 12 seasons.
Is there any chance of that improving tonight? It depends largely on how e play in the centre of the pitch, for all the criticism of Skuse and Hyam (mainly as a partnership granted) we were a lot better with them than without them on Saturday. On the plus side, the defence should still be strong and Marriott will have something to prove.
If that fails, then at least it's a new ground.... Who else is going then?
All week I've been thinking that it's a bit early for the season to start, the World Cup finished barely a month ago.
And then, this morning, it feels a bit different. Really looking forward to 17:15 and the sense of anticipation as the teams come out; always so much more at the start of a season than for any other match.
We might not have improved the team over the Summer but we go into the second consecutive season knowing we have a competent and competitive team and an outstanding manager. Now, if we can only add a little more quality in the next few weeks we might be a little better than competitive.