Part 3 – Matchday.
Following on from my extravagantly fabricated scene-setting in the previous post, this is how my afternoon might have panned out as I paid heed to the five games on which £45.36 was riding on September 24th: Wigan v Spurs; Coventry v Reading; Wycombe v Sheff Utd; Notts County v Rochdale; Plymouth v Macclesfield.
No less than all five results coming in as wins would pay out. Pick some winners … easy money, no?
14.52: My cup of tea is steeping nicely and snacks and remote are all within arm’s reach. It’s about to get interesting.
14.57: Adopt the ‘wallowing’ position and prepare for a couple of hours of ups-and-downs.
15.00: The 3pm games kick off. Come on the Spurs/Royals/Blades/Mags/Pilgrims!
15.02: Instantly things are looking ominous. Gary MCSHEFFREY continues to disappoint me despite having left Birmingham – this time by beating Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici from a tight angle.
15.03: Rafael VAN DER VAART scores a belter from the edge of the box to put Tottenham ahead. At least Spurs are holding up their end of the bargain.
15.10: Adam Le Fondre sets up Simon CHURCH for Reading, who restores parity at the Ricoh Arena from close range. It’s as-you-were with just 10 minutes gone.
15.19: Cyrus Christie brings down Jobi McAnuff – Reading have a penalty! From a goal deficit, the Royals have the chance to take the lead…
15.20: Conor Hourihane tees up Warren FEENEY, who smashes home from close range to put Plymouth ahead against Macclesfield. Wait… to put Plymouth ahead?! Unlikely, for a team that has only mustered one draw this season. But I didn’t back them for nothing!
15.21: … but Noel Hunt fluffs his penalty, which is saved comfortably by Joe Murphy. Still 1-1 in Coventry – a real let off for the Sky Blues (and potentially my bookmaker).
15.22: However at the DW Stadium, a headed goal by Gareth BALE gives Spurs a two-goal lead to hold onto against a thoroughly rubbish Wigan side. Lots of goals getting scored early on in these games.
15.26: Steve Gohouri has his name taken by the referee after scything down goalscorer Bale. Well how else are you going to stop him?
15.30: Here’s a twist: Wycombe have gone 1-0 up against Sheffield United through Stuart BEAVON, who finds the top corner from inside the box. I’m sure any Blades fans would have been able to tell me not to trust their team to make things simple.
15.34: Goal-fiend Lee HUGHES latches on to Ben Burgess’ pass and drills his shot into the bottom corner, giving Notts County the lead against Rochdale. That man is a machine.
15.44: The Chairboys are unlucky to not extend their lead against Sheffield United after peppering Steve Simonsen’s goal, who makes a good save and sees the ball headed wide from the resulting corner. The Blades are all over the shop.
15.45: The referees, in poor sync, blow up for half-time across the country. As things stand, things are looking a little fragile: HT Wigan 0 Spurs 2; Coventry 1 Reading 1; Wycombe 1 Sheff Utd 0; Notts County 1 Rochdale 0; Plymouth 1 Macclesfield 0. The two single-goal leads are still a bit edgy, Reading blew a bit chance from the spot and Sheffield United aren’t looking up to much…
15.46: The half-time interval allows just the right amount of time to make another cuppa, construct a gargantuan sandwich and relieve the bladder to return to the sofa in time for the restart.
16.00: And in an act of charity, Wigan boss Roberto Martinez withdraws attacker Jordi Gomez and replaces him with right-back Ronnie Stam. An interesting tactic from a side trailing by two.
16.04: I have all the nibbles I need, but the Latics are shovelling humble pie down my throat. Mohamed DIAME strikes from outside the box (set up by Ronnie Stam, no less) and pulls Wigan back to 2-1 against Spurs.
16.07: Plymouth, on the other hand, put themselves well on course for a first win of the campaign under the guidance of new boss Carl Fletcher. Robbie WILLIAMS – seemingly not the same one of Take That fame – finds the net with a freekick from distance.
16.11: No shortage of action at Home Park. Will Atkinson and Ross Draper both get cautioned after having an argument over who has the prettiest handbag.
16.17: Steve Gohouri scuppers Wigan’s chances by earning a second yellow and reducing the Latics to 10-men. Apparently he didn’t learn his lesson after hacking Bale down the first time, and sees red after repeating the offense on the Welshman.
16.22: Victor Moses draws a good save out of Brad Friedel. Spurs are adding value to the fallacy that is it ‘more difficult’ to play against less men. Which it isn’t.
16.23: With his team trailing at Adams Park, Blades boss Danny Wilson brings on Swindon Town reject Lecsinel Jean-François and antique striker Richard Cresswell.
16.36: Reading have reshuffled their strike-force as they look for all three points against Coventry. Noel Hunt has been replaced with much-hyped talent Hal Robson-Kanu, while Adam Le Fondre is withdrawn in place of a lorry-load of units in Mathieu Manset.
16.40: Nikki Bull has to make a save from Harry Maguire after Stephen Quinn’s corner wasn’t dealt with by Wycombe. The Chairboys are still leading 1-0 with five minutes to play though, to the frustration of the Blades fans that have made the 150-mile journey. And me.
16.42: Wigan are resorting to desperate tactics now, having failed to rattle Spurs. Substitute James McArthur tries (and fails) to test Brad Friedel from 35 yards, before fellow sub Connor Sammon flashes a shot harmlessly wide. Tottenham look good for a win.
16.45: Ched Evans is denied a chance to equalise for Sheffield United, having strayed offside. Not the first occasion that the striker has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
16.47: Coventry have a penalty. Lukas Jutkiewicz is brought down in the box by Kaspars Gorkss, who gets a booking for his troubles. Jutkiewicz elects to take the spot-kick himself…
16.48: … which he misses emphatically.
16.49: Sam SODJE heads home Alan Sheenan’s cross from close range, finally cementing victory for the Magpies in the fourth minute of stoppage time. However, in the context of my betting slip, it is likely to be nothing more than academic.
16.50: The referees are all satisfied that they’ve played the allotted injury time, and the full-time whistles sound. Let’s see how close I wasn’t to winning a cool £45.36: FT Wigan 1 Spurs 2; Coventry 1 Reading 1; Wycombe 1 Sheff Utd 0; Notts County 2 Rochdale 0; Plymouth 2 Macclesfield 0.
In sum, I never had a chance. Calling Plymouth to win was brave, and added generous weight to the odds. But Reading’s failure to beat a relegation-tipped Coventry side and Sheffield United’s predictable unpredictability rendered three good wins completely meaningless.
Still. It was only £1.