Cambridge United 1 – Newport County 4

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I was back at The Abbey last night. Last season, for various reasons, I wasn’t there enough and I missed not having a proper feel for the team and individual players, for the Club as a whole. And I missed out on too many games like Saturday’s against Notts County, which just isn’t acceptable. The Carabao Cup doesn’t fill me with much excitement generally but I was free for the evening and my children (7 & 8) were up for going. They’ve been a few times before but don’t get the buzz when it’s cold and wet and there are no goals. Yesterday was warm and dry, a late night was offered, and even they love the thought of possibly hearing Coconuts… Here are, in time-honoured football cliche, five thoughts on an evening at the Abbey at the start of a new season:

  1. The time. It was an evening game, and my children’s first that wasn’t on a Saturday afternoon. Floodlit games are special. It was dinner time and they had bacon butties and chips like we were having a picnic. Watching the sky darken and the slender moon poke through the clouds. And it’s August – short sleeves and a warm breeze beats numb feet and multiple layers in mid-February. All good!
  2. The game. We were absolutely dreadful. Awful. There are mitigating circumstances and it’s not like back in the day when game after game was like this but… There needs to be a reaction to this.
  3. The ground. The staff and volunteers who work on the physical stadium have again done a great job. There’s a good feel to the Abbey, and I liked the new South Habbin decoration particularly. Well done all concerned.
  4. The kit. On seeing the new kit in action I must say that the position of the sponsor actually makes complete sense and the gap below it doesn’t look odd it doesn’t look any better than online – why did they do that to the stripe/space/sponsor positioning? Move the sponsor down or continue the bottom stripes further up so they underlap the sponsor too, either would work. But this? I’ll make no further comment on this because what’s done is done but…poor.
  5. The event. The Carabao Cup element was actually a blessing. There was a relaxed feel because no one was too anxious about the result. And the crowd was small too – under 2,000. This didn’t lend itself to the greatest of atmospheres, and it’s obviously better when the place is full and rocking, but it did mean that there were no queues or crowding and I could get seats for us right at the front. And atmosphere is relative anyway. My children haven’t felt a play-off final at Wembley, holding Manchester United to a 0-0, or the joy of knocking five past Droylsden when every pass might lead to a goal, so a nothing performance in a minor cup competition is still exciting. Overall, despite the result, it was a very lovely evening spent with my children for less money that it costs to go and watch the Mamma Mia! sequel. Plus, the empty spaces meant Marvin could give some extra quality time to the young fans.

Mid way through the second half, when Newport had been three goals up for a while and it was becoming clear that we were never going to get back into the match I was asked if I was disappointed:

“Not really. I’ve seen Cambridge United play dreadfully more times than I’ve seen them play well. It’s just how it is.”

“Why do you keep supporting them then?”

“Because they’re my team and…”

I didn’t finish the sentence because what reason could I give? Two young children, who witnessed a truly abysmal display of football, jumped for joy when we scored a token penalty in the 90th minute to make it 4-1. They want to go again. The atmosphere, meagre as it was, got them. It does that.

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