Monday, 27 July 2015

Road to Promotion

Half way through the season no one expected it to come down to the very last match. From August to December we were flying. We looked unstoppable. We had only lost one game in four months in the league and we were sailing through. The lads where scoring for fun! Confidence was high and we all expected to win the league with ease.

Boxing Day 2014. We had the Derby match at Haverhill. I always love this fixture. All the supporters full of enthusiasm; still in the Christmas spirit by showing off our new scarfs and shirts we had been given. The sun was shining but being January there was still a chill in the air but no one cared. This was the Derby match. This was the match we expected to win. So armed with our scarfs, warm tea and beer we were ready to cheer on the mighty Bloods.

It was a long and frustrating first half. Haverhill had a particularly enthusiastic keeper who was good with the crowd banter, never easy with us lot standing behind you giving you grief. He pulled off some great saves but eventually, bang 1-0 – a sweet goal from Reid just before the end of the half. Here we go, I thought, let's make it 3 or 4. The second half was even more frustrating than the first. We just could not find that second goal to try and kill the match off. It got to the final minute where Wiggy put pressure on the keeper and the keeper went down. Free kick to Haverhill with literally 30 seconds to go. Keeper punts in down to our 18 yard box. Their forward found some space and hits one at goal. Floyd makes a great save but punches it straight at our centre back. You have guessed it. Own goal 1-1. What had happened? We controlled the game but just could not finish them off. However we are Bloods fans and win, lose or draw we always cheer on our team.

After getting over the 1-1 draw we still felt confident we would get back to winning ways. We were still unbeaten since August and were enjoying a fantastic FA Vase Cup run. We would bounce back and we were miles in front of Long Melford who we had to play (date). It was another away match. The weather was freezing and windy. We took a good crowd and outnumbered their own supporters 3 to 1, a sea of Red and Black greeted me as I walked into the club house to meet up with the other supporters. The match started and we were all over them. Louis got the first. Graham played out of his skin and scored 2 goals within 10 minutes. We were 0-3 up and feeling confident. The home crowd started making excuses telling us that it was the reserve keeper. Graham had both centre backs in his pocket and used his speed and strength to full advantage. All of a sudden we had warmed up from the bitter chill and were looking forward to the second half.

For the second half we stood behind the goal as we always do and felt a huge difference in the wind coming from behind us. The ball was slow to pass forward and you could see the team getting frustrated because they couldn't find their usual pacey rhythm. Melford came out all guns blazing and had no intention of throwing in the towel. After about 20 minutes they had scored to make it 1-3. That's okay, we thought, as we were still working hard and still trying to push forward. Bang 2-3. I started to feel sick and began willing the time on. Martin our chairman turned to me and said, ‘It’s fine as long as we don't lose.’ A Melford player went down about 30 yards from the goal. We all held our breath as we watched the ball sail into the box. All I could hear was the cheer from the Melford fans, head in hand time for us Walden supporters. I have to hand it to Melford, they never gave up. We still talk about that match today.

Then came the run frustrating run of 2-2 draws. That seemed to be the flavour of the month. Don't get me wrong, we won matches as well and we were still unbeaten since October so it was not the end of the world. The away teams parked the bus and were marking Wiggy 3 to 1 most of the time. Scoring became harder and we grew frustrated. We played well but couldn't get the win. We even came back a few times from 2-0 down. We kept pushing and fighting for that win and on most of those draws we were the better team. Shaun had got his shooting boots on and was and is never afraid to have a go. This was backed up by some brilliant work from the team. I think everyone at some stage earned ‘Man of the Match’ throughout the season.

7th March - we would entertain Swaffham Town at the Meadows and we were still on our unbeaten run. They were at the top of the league and we were sitting 3rd. Since our decline in the league they hadn't put a foot wrong and deserved their place. This was the one to win. Gain ground and get back to the top where we had enjoyed being for so long. I do not know what happened that day but we just couldn't get in the game. They were full of confidence and no matter how hard we tried they had an answer for everything. We lost 0-3 and felt we had blown it. Near the end of the match we missed a penalty and realised that all good things come to an end. At the end of the match we stayed behind to clap our players. We had just achieved history and went on a 23 game run without losing. I have never been prouder of the team. So what if we had lost 0-3? Swaffham Town deserved the win on the day and that was that.

14th March - we had an away match with Great Yarmouth. We knew a win would almost secure us 3rd place and promotion but we still had a chance of winning the league. The ground at Yarmouth has a lot of great history and has a running track around it so you were at least 20 metres from the side line, which personally I don't like as I like to be in the heart of it. It was a windy day and the pitch was very hard. The ball would not sit and would bounce high. We were a team of speed and wing play. We struggled to get into the match and you could feel the tension in the players. I don't think I have ever been that quiet in a football match. They went 1-0 up in the first half. We kept battling as hard as we could but couldn't find that goal. I would have taken a draw at half time. The match finished 1-0 and we left. A very slow subdued drive back home.

18th May, the penultimate match away to Woodbridge. Yarmouth had been on an excellent run and we were now 4th. We needed a bit of Lady Luck if we were going to get promoted. The match started and we came out strong. We knew we had to win as no other result was good enough. We went 1-0 down but never stopped willing the lads on. Nigel was on Twitter waiting to see what happening with the Yarmouth match. We heard that one of their players had been sent off and were on the back foot. The players upped their game and played with passion. Wiggy scored and we now had a chance. At this time we found out that Yarmouth was losing. This was our chance! Greg was on brilliant form that day and scored a beautiful goal that put us 1-2 up. We knew it was going to be a long and tense second half. Nigel was constantly checking Twitter for the Yarmouth score. Yarmouth was now losing 3-0 and we were winning. We started singing 'We are going up!’ All we needed to do was beat Yarmouth at home and we would be promoted. I felt that the players heard us singing and went up a gear. We ended up winning 1-3 and Yarmouth had lost 4-0 with 2 players sent off. Finally we had it back in our own hands. Bring on the Seasiders.

I was not at the final game as I was at a charity event in Edinburgh to raise money for my friend Kirsty who had Pseudomyxoma. I had stayed sober for 100 days and rose over £700. The club helped me raise £125 by doing a bucket collection. I was extremely grateful and proud to be a Blood.

25th April. Judgement Day! I was in a lovely hotel in Edinburgh but that morning I was wide awake. My wife Sonia took some pictures of me with my Walden replica shirt on with views of the Edinburgh castle. I posted them on Twitter and Facebook to wish the team luck. I had some great comments from Martin, Nigel, Jamie and Shaun. After spending the day as bag of nerves we left Edinburgh to go to the hotel in Whitburn where the event took place. We left around 3pm and I was glued to Twitter waiting for Nigel to give me some good news. I was supposed to be navigating as well but was far too focused on any update. Finally I heard that we went 1-0 up and the legend Shaun 'he scores when he wants' Avis had scored. To say I cheered would be an understatement.

More tweets came as the game went along. My heart sank when I heard we were down to 10 men. I told myself it didn't matter because thanks to midweek 1-1 draw for Yarmouth we now only needed a draw. Time went by and Yarmouth went 1-1. I could not speak I was so nervous. Near the end of the second half they had a player send off for a nasty challenge on Jamie 'Rocky' Solken. I called him ‘Rocky’ on Twitter as he was never afraid to take a kick for the team. There was over 5 minute’s injury time. I kept yelling at my phone to blow the whistle. I stopped hitting the refresh button and made a cup of tea as I couldn't handle it. I was pacing the room and hit the refresh button for the very last time. I was greeted with the best tweet ever. #wearegoingup.

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