The weather forecast over-estimated the likelihood and timing of showers. A relaxing pre-match tincture, followed by a gentle stroll to the ground, and I joined the throng basking in the sunshine at the Grove. A very special pre-match snack lulled me even deeper into the relaxed mood all around. The crowd were mellow, neither too critical, nor fulsome in their vocal support.
It was a chilled mood that seemed to transmit to the twenty-two participants in the principal entertainment of the day. With so much at stake the two heavyweights of London stood cautiously off each other, flicking out the occasional powder-puff jab. It was a day not for taking risks, nor for making the one mistake that may prove crucial.
The only time we were pulled out of our seats in the opening half came when Laurent Koscielny looked to have headed us in front, only to be denied by the crossbar. Tomas Rosicky picked up the first of seven yellow cards in a game surprisingly lacking in any real spite until Cole’s petulant kick at Alex Song in the closing stages. As usual, Mr Dean wanted to be noticed.
I would have thought the half-time talk would have been delivered by a fire-breathing dragon, but in truth the second-half brought more of the same. Chelsea defended deep, and in numbers, relying on Torres to operate largely unsupported by team-mates who appear to have given up on the £50 million pound man. The introduction of Abou Diaby at last gave us a more visible midfield presence. Ring-rusty he may be but he did look to get us on the front foot.
Ahead of him the skipper was having another one of those days. He’s earned it. We cannot rely on him and him alone to deliver. Typical of his day was a wild slice wide of the mark with his chocolate leg. There was another substitution nightmare when Theo folded with what looked like a hamstring niggle on the hour. To Pat Rice’s obvious exasperation Gervinho was not ready to come on. Theo was sent back on, chased a ball down the right flank, and pulled up again having clearly worsened the damage. Two costly delayed replacements in two consecutive matches. Sort it out please.
The clearest opportunity for us to secure the points was missed when our favourite referee chose not to see Cahill’s blatant shove on the skipper. Even that was received with an air of resignation. It was as if we expected not to strike from the spot anyway.
In the warm-down afterwards the feeling was that whilst the point was not a disaster it did mean that we have no room for leeway when making the difficult journey to the Potteries next week. Most were also confused at Chelsea’s lack of ambition. They appear to be hanging their hopes of qualification for the Champions League on winning this season’s competition. If Newcastle get any sort of result at the Bridge in the first week of May it is hard to see Chelsea making the top four.
Still, that is not our concern. As the post match pints were swilled we followed Tottenham’s latest humiliation by the cheers, boos, and hysterical laughter coming from inside the pub. The ‘holics were not inclined to go inside and witness the comedy at first hand. This was, after all, a day for lazing in the sun.
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