6 April 2014

Awaiting the finale

Whether stood side-by-side on the concrete steps of Dartford’s funny little eco conference centre, leaning edgily against the flipped-up seats of Kenilworth Road or sat at home with ears welded to radios and eyes peering intently through the internet, we waited patiently together this week for controlla-balls to find the back of non-league nets just a few more times.

The last week has felt like that weird, edgy bit before a party. Guests have been invited; they’ll be round about 8ish. You’ve given the flat a quick run round with the hoover, tidied up the kitchen and jumped in the shower.

*Checks watch*. Still a little while to go before anyone else arrives. Stick a bit of music on, grab yourself a beer maybe. Sit down on the sofa. Everything’s ready. *Checks watch again*

By now we know now that it’s all but done: The Conference are bringing the trophy and the cameras to the Braintree game and it’s barely possible for us to have an easier run-in on paper. If the name at the top of the table was any other than our own we’d be saying there’s no way that they can throw it away. But before the party can start, there are football matches to win against teams we should beat.

That Dartford game was weird wasn’t it? Not just the semi-rural setting or the 20ft high wooden statue of a bloke doing a star jump half way down the main stand. It was more than that.

Perhaps understandably at this point in such a fantastic season, it’s taking our team of champions a little while longer to break teams down at the moment and at Dartford for 80 minutes a strange nervous air seemed to emanate from the terraces too; a sort of tense force-field that welded hands to pockets and, barring a few token chimes of “Come on you Hatters”, rendered us a little bit quiet.

It’s to do with not wanting to moan or criticise I’m sure and it would be ridiculous to get on anyone’s back after the season they’ve given us so far, but we just want it so much and we’re so, so close that frustration at not being able to find the net has sometimes resulted in the absurd spectacle of thousands of fans who should be having a party, instead biting their lip for most of the game as our most dominant team in years marches on to achieve one of the tallest orders in football!

The long 80 minute stints at Dartford and at home to Aldershot eventually gave way to euphoria and relief of course as the onion bag finally bulged with Lutonian goals: Those final magical moments transforming an awkward lull that seemed like it would never ever end. Sound familiar?

The wonderful thing about this, the story of our sojourn to this faraway league, is that after five years of frustration, the ending is now near certain.

80 minutes. 5 years. The moment that we finally know we’re up, the elation of Pelly’s top-corner-ping in Kent will pale in comparison to the crescendo of catharsis and truly communal joy that’s on its way.

*Checks watch again*

Is that the doorbell...?

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