Short version: I am absolutely fuming.
I was very pleased to hear that Preston North End’s final game against Colchester United would be on Sky Sports; it would certainly be better than repeatedly checking the stats on my phone. Of course, I was nervous: we had to assume that MK Dons would beat Yeovil – who had already been relegated – which meant that only a win would keep us ahead of them and in the treasured automatic promotion spot. There was the unfortunate complication that Colchester were fighting to get out of the relegation zone and could do so with a win, so they were unlikely to sit back and let us at their goal.
As with England at the last World Cup, I tried to think positively. And as with England at the last World Cup, my faith was not rewarded. With a vengeance.
It was an absolutely horrible match to watch, an exercise in frustration. Play was inelegant and scrappy throughout, with few clear-cut chances. Colchester, to their credit, defended superbly; every time PNE got the ball near the goal, a Colchester player would be there to smack it away.
Things got even worse in the second half, where Colchester were awarded a penalty – but we breathed again as it went over the bar. Time and again, PNE looked like they might get the ball into the box, and it came to nothing. And then, with less than ten minutes of normal time to go, Colchester scored…and we never really looked like replying.
Colchester got out of the relegation zone – and PNE dropped into the playoffs.
I was so angry, and still am. Granted, it’s not a total loss; we still have a chance of getting into the Championship through the playoff route. But a) PNE have an abysmal playoff record, and b) I’m going away soon so I won’t know what happened until I get back. There would be plenty of scenarios where we would be delighted with a playoff finish – but not when we spent a fair chunk of the season sitting in the automatic promotion spots! It was right there, ours for the taking, and we bottled it. I love PNE, but sometimes it feels like they can’t help but bottle it when it counts.
Oh, the agonies of being a football fan.