As it became obvious that Salop could not get to grips at Wembley, again, I realised that this is what it would have been like in the second tier. Often unable to get into the game and create moves, perhaps scoring goals from special moves, and with only some games breaking the mould.
Met some Americans before the game in the queue for tickets, who enjoyed the Villa v Fulham match and decided to witness a Wembley play-off themselves. Moments of joy and optimism talking to new converts.
Bizarrely, having worked hard to get a centre-line seat, I was upgraded to Club Wembley – padded seats but a slightly distant and off-centre view. So I had a wide and slightly detached view of Salop trying to make progress by lobbing the ball over the midfield. Seemed out of character to me and was certainly futile.
Big surprise was finding Beckles struggling. Having been celebrated in the press and I think been nominated for a team of the league, he was overrun and conceded a penalty and might have conceded another.
By contrast, our keeper was on top form and saved the penalty. So poor was the performance, that many Salop fans booed, or maybe moaned, at half-time.
Which made the goal, when it came, such a surprise and such a delight. A free-lick, the bulk of players formed towards the corner of the box waiting for a cross, instead, a short pass across the line and a short stab into space six yards out and Rodham was there having run from behind the wall kinda Paul Maguire like) to lift the ball in.
The Salop manager has since complained about the play-offs deciding between clubs for promotion, on a hot day when they are worn out at the end of the season and may have to play extra time.
Indeed 3 Salop players at least suffered from cramp, 2 of them taken off.
However, as best as I can tell, Salop were still put through an intensive warm-up before the match.
And after all 9 months of toil and struggle, the 3 clubs promoted this year were the 3 clubs relegated last year.
Can I kindly thank those who have wished me good luck since hearing of Salop’s defeat, but point out that since then –
– the doors of our train carriage have broken and the smell of the toilet has been wafting into our carriage;
– the bogie under our carriage has developed a rattle;
– the fork provided by the shop that sold a delicious prawn salad has gone missing and I am using the film lid as a scoop.
Yeah, a bit self-centred given my Sister’s village was flooded in the morning.
(Quite possibly houses built in a flood plain against the council planning committee’s decision.)
It is just possible I am unreachable today.
Cos it was a one-off. Favourites for relegation. Unbeaten 13 game start. Top 3 finish. Two players in the team of the year. Manager of the season. But it all looks to be broken up.