The forecast was grim, the travel plans uncertain, but I just knew it would be a good day when strolling into the pub door at ten on the dot. The ‘holics were first to arrive, and as Ollie has recorded elsewhere, the last to leave.
In between was one of those days that goes some way to explaining why we go through the roller coaster of emotions to follow our side. A veritable swarm of goals and a dearth of dissenting voices made for one of the better days at the Grove.
I was fortunate to view the action from a privileged position. On such a bitter day I am grateful to the good folk at Gunners Gaming for their hospitality. Barely had the game started and we were on our feet cheering the Walcott to van Persie, 1-0, moment. Arsenal were playing with the pace and directness lacking of late. For a fleeting few minutes around the half hour mark we were stunned when Pedersen flighted a free-kick into the top corner. Where did that come from?
Just as we wondered what the reaction might be if the visitors somehow held out until half-time Walcott fed van Persie again, 2-1. Rosicky in the centre, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain out wide, were running the show. Two minutes later van Persie turned provider for Oxlade-Chamberlain and the scoreline at last reflected the chasm in quality between the sides. Any hope Blackburn might have had of salvaging something probably ended with the red card for Givet, a fair award from our vantage point.
A little produce from Scotland warmed the cockles and helped pass the break. Considered opinion was that my punt on 3-1 was heading south, and even unashamed begging would not persuade my hosts to pay out on the half-time scoreline. The floodgates remained wide open in the second-half. Arteta scored via a deflection, and talk turned to Paul Robinson, unable to stem the tide and taking longer and longer over each set piece as if to reduce the number of efforts pouring down on his goal.
I’ve lost count of how many goals we have scored against him now, but it must be around the seventy mark. Another arrived when Walcott set up Oxlade-Chamberlain for his second. The skipper seems to enjoy playing against Blackburn, and his hat-trick was secured when he converted a cross from the very impressive Coquelin. It was time for Henry to make what may be a final farewell appearance at the Grove. With the last kick of the match he finished off the skipper’s unselfish work. What remained of the crowd roared in approval.
Titi seemed to take a very long time to acknowledge the four sides of the ground and stroll off. Almost a teary moment I don’t mind admitting. Back inside we had a last reviver, and studied the stats on the screen. Thirty-one attempts at goal tells a tale. Were we that good, or were Blackburn that bad? In truth, there was a big helping of both. This may or may not be a turning point. Much tougher opposition lies in wait, but it was great to see the side play with pace and swagger after recent frustrations.
Back at the pub friends old and new made for great conversation and fabulous company. Bald was over from the Cape, and Waldorf and Statler were re-united all too briefly. Aussie Arse said hello and goodbye. Steve T made an appearance and forced Guinness down me. Then as I should have been thinking of returning I was introduced to the truly excellent Irish Gooner and his friends. Bushmills flowed like water. Life was good.
For a day at least the Grove was a fun place to be again. Can we keep it up? A great big please from me to that.
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