Monday, 28 May 2007

13/05/2007 - Braintree Town 0 Salisbury City 1

My final game of the 2007 season was the Nationwide Conference South playoff final between Braintree Town and Salisbury City, which was played at Stevenage Borough's Broadhall Way Stadium.

This was the second play off final that I've ever attended, the first being the Division One playoff between Leicester City and Derby County at the old Wembley back in 1994.
Derby had taken the lead in that one before Leicester equalised just before the break, and I left the stadium at half time.
I knew the result was going to go the wrong way and I couldn't face the prospect of the Wembley traffic jams when we had lost.
I'm not proud of myself, but there you go.
And just like that match this was an agonising affair which ultimately ended in the wrong result as far as I was concerned. I'd had that sinking feeling for most of the day and half decided not to go.
But in the end I went for it, partly because it was a tick, and partly because I hoped I couldn't be a playoff loser twice.

But lo and behold, Salisbury picked up the one-nil victory which secured them Conference football next season and Braintree saw all their effort disappear having arguably had the best chances of the match, particularly a shot from James Baker which squeezed past the wrong side of the upright.
At that point, I knew.
I thought about leaving, but it was only nil-nil and I didn't think I'd be stuck in any traffic despite the good sized crowd.
Playoffs are football at their rawest, where the emotion is a hairline from euphoria to abject misery. And this match was played in that vein.
I didn't get the impression that either team was happy to go out, stamp their domination on the tie and demand victory.
Both sets of players were too concerned about making a mistake.
Unfortunately it was the Iron that made the mistake.
The Salisbury goal came in the last ten minutes, one of those breakaways from a slack loss of possession in the City half which left me shutting my eyes, praying that if I didn't watch it, it wouldn't go in.

I'd like to write more about the Stevenage Borough ground, but frankly I didn't pay it too much attention being swept up in the event.
Anyway the pictures show about as much as I saw...