Home 2: Converts
Saturday’s game against Northwood was designated “Bring a friend fixture” which allowed fans to bring a friend to the game for a half price entrance fee with a voucher -a great initiative by the club.
Given that yet again “Non League Day” is due to fall on a day when the Terrors play away from home, this provided an opportunity to show off the talent of the young men in black and white stripes. So until the prospect of a nationwide “alternative non league day” appears - unlikely due to the logistics of this for the teams it affects - this was a big day to introduce the club to new prospective fans. There were plenty of activities for the kids and the bar was busy.. Local MP Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan - The Shadow Minister for Sport, herself a keen player, was in attendance along with her family. She even had a penalty saved at halftime by the club mascot, Terror the Tiger, who may well be nailed on as the new 3rd choice keeper. A reporter from the Isthmian League was on site, to write an (excellent) article for their website. Perhaps more importantly, however,
I’d brought 2 friends - both had watched Tooting before, but a good while ago. One had seen an awful game in our relegation season and the other had attended a cup game where we had won but played a more “rotational” side. I had promised both a vast improvement in the quality of football by a young, hungry side.
However, In the back of my head there was a niggle - recent history had not been kind to us in meetings with Northwood. On one hand, this season we had won 3 in a row whilst they were winless. On the other, we hadn’t beaten them at home in the last 6 attempts. They had “potential bogey team” written all over them. And so the start proved. Northwood came out of the blocks at a ferocious tempo, and coupled with some misplaced passing by Tooting, it felt like it was going to be one of those days. Indeed, it took until a Northwood had the ball in the net (a disallowed goal) until the stripes started to get a foothold in the game. And just as those previously wayward passes and lost second balls and 50/50s started to rectify themselves and become a forgotten memory, Northwood scored. In truth it was no less than they deserved.
They silenced the crowd. But not for long. The Bog End found its voice again and the Terrors started to feel their way back into the game. The Northwood keeper made a series of double and triple saves and although the halftime mood was just about optimistic, there was still a sense of “one of those days” in the back of my mind. We needed to be more clinical.
Off the field, one of my guests won the 50/50 draw at half-time, taking home the princely sum of £41. Which is enough for 20 patties from the Shak plus 3 pints in the bar. My guest was not up to this challenge. Mug.
After half time, the lads regrouped, and started to show their class and the pressure on Northwood was increasing. Again, their goalkeeper made some saves, until Danny Bassett scored the equaliser with a low shot from the edge of the area. Tooting were back in this. We were in the ascendancy, but Northwood were holding firm.
And then the heavens opened. Horizontally. The fans in the stand ran up to the back for cover, and the fine people of the Bog End ran underneath the roof for shelter. But having the crowd together under the roof made for an electric atmosphere. Im not an acoustics expert, but I reckon the physical togetherness of the crowd and sound bouncing off the respective shelters increased the volume about 10%, just as the boys on the pitch did the same.
A few changes in personnel and positions from the management team seemed to really up the impetus and Tooting began turning the screw. They were the dominant side here but before long 90 minutes were up. It looked like it would be marked down in the books as a “heroic effort”- “a game we should’ve won”... that was until Razzaq Coleman received the ball outside the box. He took a touch, ran a few paces then thundered it home into the net. The Bog End where sent into raptures. Apart from one of my guests - He screamed in joy and then despair as at that very moment he received a notification on his phone that told him that his beloved Leeds had conceded a last minute goal against Swansea. At least he had something to cheer about that day.
On a day in which we welcomed prospective fans and neighbours, we came from behind and scored an injury time winner. My guests both agreed that Tooting had improved and were impressed with the quality. And make no mistake, it was not an easy tie. Northwood reminded me a bit of us, to be honest. A young side trying to play football the “right” way. They won't be near the bottom of the table for long. They were excellent on the counter attack, and looked genuinely dangerous at times. But it was a professional job by the terrors. They kept focused and ground out the win.
Including pre-season and cups we’ve lost one game out of 10 (?) and we’ve started to really control the tempo of games. And more importantly you can see the growth in some of the players from last season. We’ve won our first 4 league games for the first time since 1958. It is of course much too early to talk about final league positions - I’ve always said that you shouldn’t bother to look at the table until after 10 games. Nevertheless, I allowed myself to whisper that hallowed sentence under my breath: “We are going up”
Before I was a believer. Now I’m a convert.