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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
Poor old Slough Town. Once residents of the Nationwide Conference, they were demoted in 1998 (the official reason was that they chose not to install 49 seats in their ground to bring it up to standard, though the rumour has persisted that it was more to do with massive financial irregularities) and crisis upon crisis has been lavished upon them since then, too. In 2003, they were evicted from their Wexham Park stadium after failing to agree on a site for a new ground (this is what it looks like now, in case you were wondering), and have played at nearby Windsor ever since. Last season they narrowly avoided relegation, but with financial problems compounded by not having a ground in their own town, the wheels have spectacularly fallen off the wagon this season. With just sixteen points this season, their relegation was confirmed last Tuesday night. It possibly wasn’t the best time to be playing a club that was disbelievingly still celebrating the FA verdict that gave them back fifteen of the eighteen points that the Ryman League took from them a couple of months ago, over the Jermaine Darlington affair.
Thanks then, to Southern Trains, for delaying my train from Shoreham-By-Sea for just long enough for me to miss my connection to Norbiton. As we were walking up to the entrance to the ground, a huge cheer erupted. They’d scored inside two minutes. We needn’t have worried, though, because it was fairly clear that this would be the most one-sided contest that I would get to see all season. They were, due a mixture of clinical finishing and terrible defending, four up inside twenty minutes, before taking the foot off the pedal for the rest of the first half. At half-time, we retired to the bar and met up with some people that we’d agreed to meet before the match, and I was standing outside the entrance to the it finishing our pints and discussing my irritation at having missed the kick-off when another huge cheer went up. The second-half had started, and they’d bloody scored again. The second half was much more of the same. You have to credit Slough’s players for never quite giving up completely, and making Wimbledon work for every single goal. By the end, though, their defenders were largely spectators as they piled forward, exhorted by almost everyone in the ground to “shooooooot!”, and playing with sufficient confidence to turn almost every attack into a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
Meanwhile, though, the Slough supporters were making the best of a bad situation. They sang for the whole ninety minutes – “The Ryman League is upside down”, “10-9, we’re gonna win 10-9″ and “You are my Slough Town, my only Slough Town”. The day had been ear-marked as a relegation party, and they weren’t going to let the fact that their team was putting in a display of staggering ineptitude get in their way. To say that they deserve better than they have had to put up with over the last few years would be one of the understatements of the season. We can hope that their relegation gives them the opportunity to re-group. At the very least, isn’t it about time that Slough Council buried the hatchet and made arrangements for them to move back to their home town?
At the end of the match, the celebrations continued. Other results had also gone in Wimbledon’s favour, and the gap at the top of the table had been closed. They’re now back up to fourth place, and are just two points off the top of the table. Other teams around them have games in hand, but they have the easiest run-in, though it’s likely that if they are to have any chance of winning the championship, it’ll go to the last game of the season. More importantly than that, the margin of victory yesterday could prove to be critical – they’ve gone from having one of the worse goal differences in the top five to having the best. It was, in that respect, a four point win for them yesterday and, even if they were to miss out on the top spot, their form seems to indicate that they might well be in the best frame of mind for the upcoming play-offs.
Video highlights are, as ever available here.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.