Date: 6 May 2023
I’ve now seen two quite heavy defeats in a row, both against teams in the lower half of the table. So, evidently, Premier League survival isn’t a ‘given’.
If anyone was attending this match to try and avoid the King’s coronation they’d have been disappointed. As I entered the concourse I instinctively glanced at the TV screen that would normally be showing the end of a lunchtime match – but it was showing balcony scenes from Buckingham Palace followed by shots of flag-waving crowds in The Mall! Then at the start of the match proper we were invited to sing God Save The King – and many did, especially the Chelsea fans – but I felt it was unfair to expect all our squad members who are not British to stand in a circle and join in the singing.
Chelsea won the toss and decided the teams should swap ends. It became obvious, early on, that the wet pitch would affect this game; as players on both sides were sliding around. But we started spritely enough and the first few minutes were very much end-to-end. Unfortunately Chelsea then scored an early goal – a Gallagher header off an excellent cross from Chelsea’s right – which resulted in some gallows humour from their own fans (“We’re staying up” and “We scored a goal!”). Later in the half we equalised through a brilliant shot, in a crowded area, by Vina – right in front of the North Stand; it’s just a shame that in the final analysis this would count for nothing. It did, however, result in immediate chants of “sign him up” (he’s currently on loan) and subsequent chants of “shoot” every time he had the ball!
Chelsea had the best of the rest of the first half, but Neto was fortunate: many of the shots went straight into his hands with him hardly needing to move. Half time: 1-1.
We dominated the first 35 minutes of the second half, with shots from Solanke, Christie, Ouattara and Vina – though we just weren’t quite clinical enough today. We even had a penalty shout but the VAR decision didn’t go our way. With ten minutes remaining it was still 1-1 and many of our fans would, I think, have settled for the point – but the team pressed on for the win, inevitably leaving themselves somewhat open at the back in the process. And so the worst happened – we conceded from a free kick and then conceded again soon after that, and ended the match with a sad 1-3 reverse.
I remember feeling jubilant after our win at Spurs but I’ve now got to wonder, will that prove to have been the last win I would see – or even the last point I would see us gain – this season? After all, I’m only due to watch one more match, and that’s against Manchester United!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Senesi, Kelly, Vina;
Ouattara, Billing, Christie;
Smith, Senesi, Kelly, Vina;
Ouattara, Brooks, Anthony;