Well, it was never going to be much of a parade, especially given the prevailing gloom after the electorate’s aberration on AV. Jose’s gong and the issue of whether we could manage to avoid our lowest league finish since the 30s (it seems we have) weren’t exactly burning issues, while Hartlepool were suitable opposition for the occasion; big, strong and entirely limited (with fans to boot), they looked like a team that had as a man voted ‘no’.. But it managed to rain on it anyway.
That was the cute intro I’d planned before the game, on the basis of a forecast of rain or the prospect of a last-minute winner for Hartlepool. Like the UK electorate deciding in favour of a move towards democracy, neither happened. Instead we sat through what was the very essence of a final match devoid of meaning. We secured a 2-1 moral victory in terms of crossbar strikes – Wright-Phillips’ deft touch over the keeper just failing to come down enough and Bessone’s blistering drive in the second half coming back off the bar against one for them – but nobody was really that bothered. Their keeper made a good second-half save with his feet and for a while before the break it got tasty after Semedo and one of theirs clashed with boots raised. The free kick was given our way, but Jose picked up a yellow along with two of theirs, including the muppet that tried to make more of it. That made a case for taking Semedo off at half-time, just on the grounds that the last thing we wanted was him banned for the start of the next campaign; but he stayed and played out the game sensibly.
They offered nothing bar height and strength from set pieces, we offered guile and greater intricacy but without the change of pace or drive to make it count. In my book Stewart and Wright-Phillips looked a class apart for most of the game (Stewart did tail off badly towards the end, spending more time moaning at the ref) in terms of control and vision, Semedo had the sort of game we expect of him, Bessone stood out again with interceptions (and the shot), while Harriot was a threat with his pace and unpredictability before tiring and giving way to Racon.
There’s no point in ratings or details. It’s done. Just like the referendum. Who stays, who goes and who comes in are now the focus. All we can do is sit and wait – and of course naff off to the Continent (where most countries have decent electoral systems), drink wine, smoke cigars. We all know what next season’s about and with that in mind all I want to see is that when it all kicks off we have a structure to the team (in terms of good partnerships in the key areas), a style of play, and the courage to stick to the plans. Plus total commitment, motivation and fitness, and a winning mentality. And luck. Cheers to all. May it come to pass.