Accrington Stanley 0 Stevenage 1: I’ve phoned this one in

I apologise in advance. I feel like I’ve been awake for 87 hours in a row. I’ve watched everything the play-offs have thrown at me. I’ve seen drama (Huddersfield vs Bournemouth), intrigue (Swansea vs Nottingham Forest), misery (Cardiff vs Reading) and an extremely long line of mud (Torquay vs Shrewsbury). But I’d never seen this before – TEN straight muddy lines on the pitch. Welcome… to Accrington Stanley vs Stevenage.

Now, I admit I haven’t given this much of a build-up. There’s a reason for that. This was a stinker of a football match. Garbage. Rubbish. Horrific. You’re still reading. Why are you still reading? Well… seeing as I’m here and you, despite everything, are here too, let’s crack on, shall we?

Stevenage have Chris Day in goal. Christopher Nicholas Day, if you will (please do). Born in Walthamstow on 28th July 1975, I remember Chris Day as a young Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper. He is now 35. He didn’t have much to do here.

A hundred yards or so away stands Alex Cisak, a 6 foot 4 Polish-Australian who signed for Accrington after his release from Leicester City last summer. Alex Cisak once sent me a direct message on an internet messageboard. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to realise it might come in handy to pad out a dreadful match report so I don’t remember what it said. Anyhow, his username was “Fingersave”.

During the first half, Accrington defender Phil Edwards commits a foul and Sky Sports flashes up a graphic that suggests that it is his 13th booking of the season. Thirteen! What has he been doing all season? Kicking people?

The BBC hosted a blog last week in which Paul Fletcher focused on Accrington manager John Coleman’s admiration and respect for the style of play espoused by Barcelona and Spain. And, to be fair, this game did feel a bit like a League Two version of El Clasico. Sadly, it was that ludicrous El Clasico where both sides spent the vast majority of the game on the floor and there was a free kick awarded every three and a half seconds.

Perhaps the easiest way of explaining how silly things got in the first half is simply to tell you that there were seven minutes of injury time before the interval. No stretchers, no substitutions, no pitch invasions, streakers, air strikes or alien invasions – just the most niggly game I’ve ever seen in my life.

This was all played out to a soundtrack of a dull, repetitive thud of drums as though any viewers were being punished for crimes in a past life. I started to question my love of football around the 60-minute mark in all honesty.

Cricket commentator David Lloyd was in the television studio to analyse the game, which added to the surreal nature of it all. As was suggested by someone on Twitter at the time, perhaps Jamie Redknapp would make more sense if he expertly summarised a Pro40 match. Someone else made a good point that those mind-bending vertical lines of mud looked like an uncleaned George Foreman grill. If only this match had packed a similar punch (What’s the problem? Please let me. It’s all I’ve got…)

With just over twenty minutes remaining, former Cardiff left-back Joe Jacobson is given a straight red card for a desperate lunging tackle on the edge of the Stevenage box right under the nose of the referee. Within seconds, another red card is produced after Sean McConville twice pushes opponents in the face in the aftermath of Jacobson’s dismissal. Accrington go from fading hope to no hope in a heartbeat, sapping what little potential the match had remaining.

Stevenage attacker Stacy Long shrugged off both the challenge of Accrington keeper Cisak and the stigma of having a girl’s name to give himself an open goal to aim at, but he shot wide. Of course he did. It really defied belief but …GOAL! SOMEONE’S SCORED! THERE’S ACTUALLY BEEN A GOAL! Chris Beardsley has scored for Stevenage in the 90th minute. Heaven above, I never thought I’d see the day. Stevenage face Torquay United at Old Trafford for a place in League One.

Postscript – Haha! The referee blew for full time and sprinted off down the tunnel so quickly that no-one in the ground seemed to realise the game had actually finished! Stevenage were still waiting to take a corner. Never seen anything like that before. Normal service will be resumed the next time a proper football match takes place.

I do admire journalists who remain staunchly professional even when reporting on the most mind-numbing games of football they’ve ever seen. Well done to them. I don’t get paid for this. If you’ve lasted this long, the cheque’s in the post.

PS – Congratulations to Stevenage!

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

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