A lot of very odd things happened today. It all started in the DW concourse…
As I approached the bar, I noticed that all the usual pre-match beverages had been replaced with a thick red substance resembling dark carrot juice. At the time I thought nothing of it – after all, there have been rumours about a change in match day catering company for some time now.
“Good to see zat zey vinally replaced ze -BLEH- lukevarm beer,” cried one extremely satisfied punter to nobody in particular except everyone within a 50 metre radius. Which was also quite strange, but only in hindsight.
And shortly after the match began, I became acutely aware of the fact they were playing with a different ball. In place of the bog standard plain white number was one similar to those used in the Premier League – you know, the awful over-designed one that resembles a blood-spattered murder weapon from certain angles. *This* was the first piece of evidence that pricked my suspicion… something weird was happening.
The spirit of Ali Al Habsi
My fears were confirmed when, after an initial period of pulsating action, Swindon reached for the pause button. But as they only pushed it halfway into its housing, the game continued in a slow, zombie-like state. No longer were the home side pressing with four front men, no longer were they feasting upon rich bloo- er, enforced errors – the visitors’ defensive proficiency ensured this would be no shameless Colchester re-run.
As soon as Ben Gladwin clattered the post on 25 minutes, the half fell into a leisurely holiday lull. Latics were passing to non-existent ghostly figures and dodging imaginary black cats scampering around the centre circle, while Swindon were more than happy to sit and await an easy passage to the afterlife. By which I mean, erm, the end of this match and a one-point reward.
The game would continue in this manner for well over an hour. In Lawrence Vigouroux, the hosts had found their equal, a man who loved nothing better than to admire the exceptional pattern work on the aforementioned ‘killer’ football. Look up from your programme or hot beverage at any moment and it is likely he’ll still be there with the ball at his feet, thoroughly reluctant to relinquish his prize. As well he should be!
While Latics fumbled around blindly like a drunken bat, the visitors were combining some exceptional tackling with a sprinkling of even better saves, lead actor Vigouroux complementing his own highly effective distribution (or lack thereof, in some cases). Observers cried ‘witchcraft’ as he miraculously fisted away Reece James’ mid-range attempt on 80 minutes – surely he was deriving some intangible other worldly superfuel from the ball every second he clung onto it!
Now the Robins were stalking Jussi Jack-O-Lantern’s area like a lone knifeman, a shocking turn of events lay in wait. But it would not favour them – their blocking and stymieing could not stretch beyond regulation time.
Vigouroux’s Equity Card expired on 94 minutes as ref Nigel Miller replaced it with a yellow one. “Fair enough,” thought the Swindon keeper. “We’ve done 94, so I think we can manage another two measly minutes.” But sadly, they could not. Furthermore, the preceding quote may well be carved into his tombstone.
I remember nothing of the final sixty seconds save 300 East Standers jumping around wildly with their arms outstretched. The tannoy man said Francisco Junior bundled the ball home, but I have no idea how it got there; I did see it happen, and looked at the linesman three times to ensure it was indeed a goal… but the memory has been replaced by quite a lot of shouting when someone screamed ‘he’s given it’.
And so Vigouroux’s men had met a grisly and largely unjustified demise at the hands of werewolves. It’s the only plausible explanation as to why Latics could only score after darkness fell and the moon emerged.
Then, all of a sudden, it hit me.
Not the reason for all this strangeness, but the match ball, which exploded in a horrible mess of green gloop and detached spider legs. Looking at my watch through my one remaining eye, I calmly rose from my seat and headed for the exit as I could see the Grim Reaper laughing at me from the corner of the South Stand.
“Blasted Bonfire Night,” I thought to myself.