I must admit that the sight of a tapir’s penis wasn’t something I was expecting to see last Saturday afternoon. It had been a German football night the night before with 1.FC Koln triumphant away to St Pauli, a night spent in a german pub in Vauxhall. So I followed this up with a trip up to Scunthorpe on Saturday. A trip I made, as the Official site reminded me, almost ten years before. It wasn’t a good day back then in 2003. Train delays meant that I missed my connection at Doncaster and I didn’t get to ground until 5 minutes into the game, despite the best efforts of a local Taxi driver who even made an outrageous short-cut through a local park in order to beat the traffic. An awful game. We were 1-0 up and Scunthorpe were down to ten men. Yet we still managed to gift them, with the aid of the referee, an equaliser before Alex Calvo-Garcia hit a 25 yarder in the top corner to earn the Iron an improbable victory. Nothing more miserable than a train ride back home after a poor away defeat.
I also didn’t have fond memories of Scunthorpe United from the late 1980’s either. After 44 games in 1988 we needed a point from the last two games to go up automatically. A Tom Kelly back-pass led to a 1-0 defeat at Burnley before we faced Scunthorpe United at home in the final game of the season. It wasn’t to be and in a feisty and rather hostile match that involved a couple of Scunthorpe players being stretched off (and being gobbed on), the visitors ran out 1-2 winners which dropped us into the play offs. Have a guess who we got in the play offs? Yep, Scunthorpe. So a week later we met them again and ran out narrow 2-1 winners. My abiding memory is Torquay centre half John Impey shouting “Fucking hell” as Andy Flounders grabbed a late goal back. But we held out in the return leg (The last game at the Old Show Ground) only to lose 5-4 on aggregate over two legs against a Swansea City team containing current Torquay manager Alan Knill, who joined us after being sacked by Scunthorpe. A small world, innit?
We enjoyed a nice breakfast (bacon and egg butties) in North London first before making our way up the A1 (M). JB losing his bottle of flavoured water (the screaming metrosexual) in a bizarre incident in an Texaco Garage. Somehow the bottle had been transferred from passenger area to roof. As I pulled out of the garage I heard a mini thud. “What the fuck was that?” I said. JB shrugged. Then half a mile up the road “Where’s my fucking bottle of (flavoured) water”? Mystery solved. We pulled in at the next garage for a couple of cartons of 59p Ribena instead. We turned off at Newark (or Wanker if you will) with the Beta Band in our ears and headed to Lincoln on the A46. Lincoln by-pass and then hung a left onto the A15 past RAF Scampton (once the home of the Dambusters, Guy Gibson’s dead dog, and now the home of the Red Arrows) before emerging onto the M180 and short hop into Scunthorpe. We stopped for a pint at the Sam Smith’s pub near to the ground. Pint of mild costing £1.34 served by a sturdy young lady who would do me very nicely. A friendly bunch though, one Scunny fan even decided to take the piss out of Pikey, which produce a stifled giggle from the great man.
£21 quid to get in, which is naughty this far north, even if Scunthorpe is an “Industrial Garden Town” that was the birthplace of Tony Jacklin, Liz Smith, Graham Taylor and Howard Devoto from the Buzzcocks and Magazine. The turnstiles were too snug for my hourglass figure. Even the slender JB gasped. But the stewards were relaxed and friendly. They’d (Scunthorpe) also put up small posters with ex Scunthorpe (and now Torquay) Striker Karl Hawley saying “Thanks for travelling 298 miles for your team. Enjoy the game and have a safe trip back”. Quite a nice touch really.
Essex Kev turned up. “Guess what I saw in Budapest?”. The Escape to Victory stadium? Nope, Tapir porn from Budapest Zoo. Including a fair sized but flaccid penis. This only happens in my circle of misfits. This photo was shown before the one with the Torquay scarf wrapped around a statue of Ferenc Pukas. Priorities.
The game kicked off after a minutes worth of applause for a Scunthorpe fan who’d recently passed away. A little bit of Torquay pressure. Then a little bit of Scunthorpe pressure. Simple run, simple pass, simple cross, mini mix-up, simple finish. 1-0 down after 6 minutes. “Fucking hell” I groaned inwardly. Then we gave away a cheap corner after Aaron Downes got caught out again. Downes, our player of the season last year, has awful positional sense which forces him into making last gasp “get out of jail free card” challenges. He seems, since his last injury, to have picked up a strange looking physical reaction to these positional mistakes which I can only describe as being like a pissed-up and blindfolded giraffe trying to run away from a lion in suction mud.
From the resulting corner the ball got whipped into across the 6 yard box, got missed by everyone including our keeper rooted firmly in his usual place (on his line) and inadvertently thudded into young Anthony O’Connor’s face and into our top corner for an unfortunate own goal. 2-0! It was an awful shame for the lad as he’s done very well since joining us from Blackburn Rovers on loan. Not one of our senior pros went over to him though which I found hugely disappointing. It doesn’t feel speak volumes about our team spirit at the moment. A poor show.
We had a couple of half chances and played a bit of football leading up to half time, with Nathan Craig hitting the bar with a vicious free kick. You got the feeling that one goal would get us back in the game as the home side weren’t that great. A first half formula consisting of gifting the opposition two quick goals, a complete lack of confidence and lack of belief to pass the ball at the tempo which might bear some fruit, then add a lack of ability to finish the few chances that come your way then you have a recipe that is only going to get you relegation. How a side that continually gift-wrap awfully soft goals to the opposition hope to win games is beyond me.
The second half was a little better. We enjoyed a little bit more possession and passed the ball a little bit better. Nathan Craig brought out a good save from the Adam Ricketts-esque Scunny goalie Sam Slocombe who turned the incoming shot around the post. On the hour Aaron Downes got done like a kipper and Scunthorpe’s youngest ever player, the wonderfully named Hakeeb Adeola Abiola Ayinde O. O. J. Adelakun raced clear to slot home and score his first ever goal. 3-0! A really good finish.
To be fair to our lot they kept plugging away and got a merited goal back through the useful looking John Marquis (on loan from Millwall), who turned acutely and smacked a low shot into the corner. But too little, too late to make a real difference to proceedings.
Off the pitch the atmosphere in the sparsely populated away end got a bit toxic. Lots of voice calling for Knill’s head. Some of our lot joined in after Scunthorpe fans started signing “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. A lack of class all around really. Singing “it’s a miracle, it’s a miracle” and sarcastic cheers when Knill made a substitution, and then singing the signature song of the player (Elliot Benyon) who’d been substituted but without booing him being substituted.
So, beaten 3-1 by another average team. I feel very sorry for Alan Knill at the moment and I’m very concerned about the direction the club is heading in. The #knillout brigade on Twitter are in their element at the moment but I really don’t think that they are really grasping the actual situation. Sacking the manager and having to pay him and his assistant off for the next year and a half isn’t going to provide his prospective replacement with any room for manoeuvre. Unless of course the board are resigned to life in the Conference and we’re about to appoint Lee Mansell and Kevin Nicholson as the new management duo. Time will tell and the January transfer window will tell us all we need to know. A keeper who comes off his line and a centre half who doesn’t run around like a pissed up Giraffe would be a huge step in the right direction, or perhaps a few senior pros who actually give a shit about playing league football.
Haddock, chips, curry sauce and Vimto in Gainsborough on the way back. Maybe not quite up to Chesterfield standards but not very far off at all.