A family birthday dictated a strange two part viewing of the action from Loftus Road. I was in real time for the opening half and then had to wait some four hours to watch the second. It is evident now that watching the second half knowing the outcome was a lot less stressful than viewing it live.
We could not have made a better start. Theo Walcott’s goal was the result of a combination of excellent interplay and some comical defending by former Gunner Armand Traore and his colleagues. Twenty seconds in, although we didn’t know it at the time, the game was over.
For much of the opening half we controlled the play and dominated possession, but human nature being what it is I have to confess to fearing what might happen if we did not convert that superiority into a second goal. Theo almost had a second but was denied by a combination of Green and the goalpost. That aside though we were unable to fashion the chances that such domination should produce.
Rangers, perhaps surprised to be still in the game found their feet and started to get forward with some menace themselves as the end of the half neared, with Townsend to the fore. Arsenal’s defence however remained pretty assured and we got to the break with the advantage deservedly intact.
Now this is where people will presumably have stronger feelings than I. As the second half progressed I followed the live text on the official club app, checking in every five or ten minutes whilst supping contentedly on some fine Wiltshire ale pre-meal. Returning home those typed words came to life.
Rather than risk your wrath with my take on the half long after the whistle I will make just two points more. Firstly, whatever ailed Wojciech Szczesny as he struggled for form earlier in the season seems to have been largely cured by his enforced rest. His astonishing save from Remy capped a very good display. His best was needed today and he did not let us down.
Secondly, at this stage of the season the only thing that matters is that we get three points. Today was a lot closer than some would have hoped given the nature of the start we made. I understand a degree of frustration when we struggle to close out a game we should have won more comfortably. but we won by scoring, largely securing ownership of the football, and defending competently. I have seen us when those things have not been the case.
Frankly I could accept us having an absolute ‘mare, being under the cosh throughout, and having an undeserved winner deflecting in off the referee’s gonads if that is what it takes. We were a little more secure than that in Shepherds Bush. Third place is ours again but we face an agonising ten days out of action before entertaining Wigan at the Grove. Before then Chelsea play Manchester United, Tottenham and Aston Villa, while the neighbours follow their trip to the bus stop in Fulham with a trip to Stoke.
I would say it is likely that we will be out of the top four after that little lot, but we will have two games to play while they will have just one. This is going to the final day. You know it, and I know it, and letting that eat you up won’t help anybody. We do decisive last days rather well, and that is what I will be clinging to for the next fortnight.
Be strong, all.
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