Road to Hell
Living in South London means I don’t have much use for a car. I’m lucky as I live on top of a tube line and I usually have a plethora of choices of public transport when navigating the city for work or pleasure.
For me travelling to watch the football is synonymous with the 280, the double decker that links Tooting to Belmont and everything in between. Jump on outside the Boots, opposite the McDonalds, roughly 30 minutes (before they managed to collapse the bridge next to the ground!) and I would be deposited right outside of Imperial Fields.
So, although I don’t have much need to drive, I do enjoy where I get the chance to get behind the wheel. I have driven trucks, sprinter vans and RV’s professionally, hauling artwork around the UK and parts of Europe in a previous career. I don’t own my own my car, but am insured on my parents motor. So when I visit them I can share the driving duties and it’s useful when I need to drive somewhere further afield.
All this is to say that I enjoy driving, there something about it that I find pleasurable about it, maybe it’s because I don’t have to drive that often, whatever it is I enjoy getting behind the wheel.
There is one exception however. It’s when I have to drive around the M25, doesn’t matter clockwise, counter clockwise, I find the loop of road that surrounds London and its suburbs jarring.
So the fact that nearly all of Tooting & Mitcham’s away games this season seem to involve driving around that bloody motorway is somewhat frustrating. Cheshunt, Chalfont St. Peters, Harlow Town, Ware, FC Romania and Waltham Abbey (this weekends opponents) are some of the journeys that will involve slogging around the ‘Road to Hell’. Hours spend crawling through traffic lay ahead this year. That or multiple hours sitting on public transport navigating multiple changes.
This Saturday, after working with the under 23s, I jumped into my car and started the journey to Waltham. Creeping around the 25, sitting at the Dartford Crossing. Not crossing at the Dartford Crossing, sitting at it.
This never ending expanse of road does allow time to think. On route to the Waltham Abbey match there was time to contemplate the undefeated run (11 matches in all competitions). Could it be maintained against a side who have scored plenty of goals in the opening weeks of the season? How would the team fair without their captain Sol Patterson-Bohner, who would be serving a single match ban after his red card v Dorking in the FA cup? Would ‘Didi’ Castanho or Issac ‘Lartey’ Sarpong start at number 10? Or would the management go without a number 10 and play with three strikers? A system we saw them use at times in preseason. Would Tooting’s Keeper (and South London is Black and White contributor) James Shaw be able to add another clean sheet to his collection? Would Nebay Haile’s absence from the matchday squad (away at a family wedding) alter the teams impact from the bench? How many of the Tooting & Mitcham faithful would make the trip? And always, returning to hopefully questioning, would we get the win?
In short the answers to the above run as; Yes, very well, Didi, nope, Yes, kind of, loads and again, yes.
The match pasted with little incident, three goals later, a quick celebratory drink in the bar and back into the car and straight back on to the M25 going back the way we’d come. Time to think more in detail about the above.
The undefeated run. Now 12 unbeaten across four competitions. The win v Waltham being the 6th victory in the league with the draw with Harlow being the only missed opportunity to secure three points. An important away victory versus a top half side, that was convincingly secured. Waltham offered glimpses of the approach that had led them to have scored 18 goals in 6 games. Tooting’s defensive line though was the most impressive part of the victory. Shaw was reassured in goal, as he has been throughout the season so far. Forced into a couple of smart saves, Shaw’s clean sheet wasn’t ever truly in doubt and was well celebrated after the match.
Daryl Coleman, affectionately called the Grey Iniesta by the fans, and somewhat affectionately called ‘Rooney’ by the other players and management, fitted into the back three alongside Daly and Deano with ease and never looked out of place. To have that option, to drop an incredibly experienced player into the back three, and to not notice any drop in quality and assuredness is a privilege that most managers at this level would bite your hand off for. We are lucky to have the defence we have at the moment and need to make sure we remind the players how grateful we are to have them at Tooting. Winning teams are built on great defences, and it seems we have a great group of defensive players.
The win also seems important on reflection, as it might be a while until we next play a league game due to our potential continued involvement in a number of cup competitions that will fill up our calendar through most of October. Next up is Whyteleafe tonight at home, in the revamped Velocity Cup and then the big'un v Poole, again at home in the FA Cup.
A lot to think about. Good thing I’m still only sitting at Junction 5.
Up the Stripes!