There are plenty of stories in the media in the lead-up to our top of the table clash with Carmarthen Town. However, none are about the game – various League 2 and Conference teams are worried about losing their manager at the end of the season and my name is in the mix as a possible replacement, although not the favourite for any. Bradford are worried they might lose Roy McFarland, Karl Robinson and Crewe, Gary Peters and Cambridge, Terry Brown and AFC Wimbledon, Chris Wilder and Oxford and (finally) Paul Holland and Hartlepool. I’m not too interested in moving on at the end of the season because next year will bring either Champions League football or the chance to put right not winning the title. Out of all of them I’ve been linked with, Hartlepool is the one I’d be most likely to take despite them being bottom of League 2; the chance to become Jeff Stelling’s hero would be difficult to turn down!
Game day. We travel to Richmond Park to take on second placed Carmarthen Town and I’m nervous – our last trip there ended in a 5-1 loss. Another loss at Carmarthen will see them level on points with us at the top. Despite this, the bookies have us as Evens favourites. To add to my worries, the conditions are icy and Lee Evans is the referee. The same eleven who recorded a 5-2 victory over Bangor City retain their places, so Darren Otten makes his 25th career league appearance and David Mooney makes his 200th career league appearance. My worries seem well founded as we’re slow out of the trap. Hicks, who scored a hat-trick last time out against us, slides in to meet a cross in the 5th minute and hits the post from 6 yards out before we’re able to clear it out for a throw. Hicks is at it again in the 9th minute when Standing plays him in, but Aaron McCarey is able to smother the ball. Standing has his own effort in the 11th minute from 25 yards, which ends up going behind for a corner. The breakthrough comes a minute later from Standing, who shoots from 30 yards and it hits the underside of the bar and goes in. It had been coming, so I can’t complain (apart from at the team, who haven’t yet turned up). Somewhat against the run of play, we have a great chance to level in the 21st minute when the keeper is caught in possession outside the area by Kofi Poyser. With an unguarded goal at his mercy, Poyser elects to shoot from 25 yards and puts it wide. It looks like it’s going to be one of those days, especially when Mooney shoots wide in the 24th and then hits the bar a minute later. We’re made to pay for our missed chances in the 27th minute when an inswinging corner from the right is not dealt with and Bailey extend’s Carmarthen’s lead from 10 yards out. A Marco Pelosi free kick from 25 yards in the 44th minute is spilled, but Carmarthen clear and take a 2-0 lead in to half time.
We’ve spent a half struggling to pass the ball 5 yards and generally looked poor and I tell the lads I expect much better in the second half. My words evidently have an effect and we’re quick out of the blocks – Wayne Carlisle runs down the right and crosses, but it’s straight at the keeper. But wait! With the icy conditions, the ball slips out of his grasp and into the net! It’s more than we’ve deserved so far, but it’s a lifeline so we’ll take it! Five minutes later, Carlisle has a chance to get a shot on goal, but McKillen slides in – penalty! McKillen gets a yellow card for the foul and Darren Otten steps up. He makes no mistake, putting it low to the keeper’s left for his 11th goal of the season. We were awful for the first half, but within six second half minutes have drawn ourselves level. We take control of the game and look a completely different team, keeping the pressure on as we start to search for a goal to put us in the lead, something that looked all but impossible after the first half. In the 72nd minute, David Mooney crosses from the right and the keeper spills it again, but Carmarthen are able to clear it for a corner. Conor Hourihane starts to pull the string in midfield and plays in Carlisle in the 74th minute (wide) and Otten in the 77th minute (over). With time ticking away, I’m pleased with a point after our first half (lack of) performance. We have a final chance in the 90th minute when Mooney crosses from the right and it reaches Poyser; he chests it down and volleys from 10 yards… into the corner of the net!!!! 3-2!!!!! We’ve managed to take the lead!!!!! We’re top by 6 points!!!!!! It’s his fifth goal of the season and his most important. But there’s still stoppage time. In the 4th minute of stoppage time, Roberts is played in hits a fierce shot. The net ripples. Heartbreak. After scoring so late, we haven’t been able to hold on for what would have been a massive win. Wait a minute. It’s the side netting! He’s put it wide! We’re still in the lead! McCarey take the goal kick (a bit quicker than I’d like) and Mr Evans blows his whistle. Full time. We’ve won 3-2! Standing is named Man of the Match with a rating of 7.5 and a goal. Whilst the 263 attendance (including Derek McInnes, the St Johnstone manager who is interested in David Mooney) may not be happy with the result, I don’t think there can be any denying it was an epic game. We’re top by 6 points after a last minute winner – what would Fergie say?