The Luke Fairweather report
By Luke Fairweather
I couldn't get to the game last night. Okay, so I could have, but I didn't, all right. Something to do with being married, two kids, alleged responsibilities, an early start for work in the morning…and when I thought about it – and this is the really sad bit – I couldn't be arsed. It is not even as if I have joined Sky's digital revolution and can watch from the comfort of my sofa. Sheffield Utd away, and to my shame I had low expectations.
I put the Fairweather Multi Media contingency plan into action. This is arguably more complicated than the 375 mile round trip to Yorkshire. It involves getting the kids asleep by 19.30 (precision timing is everything) ensuring that the wife has the TV in the bedroom working so that I can patrol the ground floor of the house unimpeded. My lovely Roberts digital radio is tuned to Five Live in the kitchen and Sky Sports News is left to prattle forth its inanities from our Freeview box in the living room. The new issue of the wonderful When Saturday Comes arrived this morning, and with a can or two chilling in the fridge, by 19.37 I am almost ready. And then a miracle, well, something rather nice. My phone blinks and buzzes and when I check, it is a text message from a mate who has joined the aforementioned digital revolution, and despite the fact that he lives a twenty-three minute drive away - and is a Man Utd supporter - he wants to know if I want to come over to watch the game. Remarkable, as some would say, and I might only miss the first seven minutes!
In less time than it takes Big Ron to put foot into gob, I am hurtling out of Croxley (perhaps I should have told my wife I am leaving? She later tells me about her Marie Celeste experience, coming downstairs to an empty house, abandoned TV, Radio, Magazine and Beer). In a world record time of seventeen minutes I walk into the sitting room of aforementioned mate to see Chris Eagles being mobbed by team mates. My mind can't take it in immediately. I attempt to rationalise a delayed start and that we must be watching old footage, and it takes fully nine seconds to realise that we are one up! The replay confirms some wonderful passing and movement by the 'Orns, cutting through the Sheffield defence, and a great near post header from the United loanee. "We'll 'ave him back next season," mutters the southern Manc sitting calmly beside me.
So far this season I have seen the 'Orns doing what is usually described as "grinding out results", "winning without playing well" or "killing the game" as the lovely Mike (The Bung) Knowall is wont to suggest. However, here we are playing some great stuff. United are also playing well, until that is, Unsworth, in a petulant frenzy, pushes Eagles in the face and is red carded. After that Eagles has a superb goal-bound shot deflected and well-saved and the 'Orns continue to cause problems.
If the first half was a welcome surprise, the second half is nothing short of exceptional, perhaps the finest forty-five of the season. Within moments of the restart an excellent looping ball out of midfield gives Marlon something to chase and he charges past the hapless defender, brings the ball inside and crashes it into the net. 2-0! I am kneeling in front of the TV arms aloft, vaguely aware that Mate and Wife are probably making faces behind my back, but who cares. 2-0!
United rally and pull one back after some truly "park standard" defending by the Yellows, the tension rises, but we resist the storm, breaking away and scoring again. 3-1. The ball pings around the penalty area and their defenders decide they would prefer to watch rather than tackle, and Marlon eventually prods the ball home. Cue solo conga type activity around Mate's living room.
From here on the game is won, United don't have a clue and we tear them apart, attacking at will. Somehow Young's scorching shot is saved and a neat free kick goes awol, before Bouazza completes the rout, scoring from a tight angle. With the game won and the clock ticking away, I find myself, for the first time ever in my life, looking forward to hearing what Neil Warnock has to say.
At the end, the players run to the travelling faithful and celebrate as if champions. TV pictures of this mutual "love in" take us up to the advert break and now the guilt at not attending kicks in – big time. I am close to tears as AB confirms the progress this side is making. Neil Warnock, it transpires, was at a different game, but never mind. The gap is now only eleven points and we are ready for Reading.