At 7am on Saturday morning Stan awoke, rolled over, gazed into Mrs Stan's eyes and declared with total sincerity. 'Do you know what dear? Today is the most romantic day of the year…'
Mrs Stan blinked into wakefulness, staring back, her head full of Mr Darcy emerging from a lake, candle lit dinners for two at Tattlers and barefoot walks on a deserted Holkham beach. Stan immediately sensed an expectation on him to leap athletically from the bed and produce croissants and fresh coffee.
Sadly, for Mrs Stan this was never going to happen because Stan's mind was long since filled with sepia-tinted memories of Sutton United, deflected goals off Rosario's arse and a beaming Flecky sitting in an oxygen chamber.
God! Stan loves the FA Cup, and as for Third Round day?well, that is something special. Thinking back, that early misunderstanding was probably an indication of how the day would pan out, nobody seemed to be quite on the same wave-length from first minute to last.
Stan's romanticism was fuelled by a deluded belief that the afternoon's entertainment would be just that, entertaining. Our ball's return to the velvet bag was a mere formality. Sadly, once the whistle blew at three o'clock, the afternoon became about as pleasurable as if one was having a testicle or two welded to a park bench.
It was like spinning the clock back nine, long weeks. Peculiarities in the starting 11, a subsequent slow but certain ebbing away of confidence followed by the taking of a sucker punch square on the snout. In honesty, the big difference between Saturday and earlier debacles was that there were chances to miss, and boy oh boy did we miss them.
Martin's miss in the opening minute was laughed off. 'Ha ha ha ?this is going to be a doddle, there'll be plenty more chances…'
And there were, and they all went the way of the first one? wide of the left hand upright. Stan did muse that maybe an extremely fat bloke was sitting in the front row of the Barclay, just Snake Pit side of the post, causing a gravitational pull in his direction, much like the moon does with the tides. However, unable to spot John Hartson in Row A Stan concluded that it was just cr@p finishing!
We did create plenty of chances, indeed as Glenn stated 'enough to win two games' but chances are worthless unless they end up in the back of the net. As has so often been the case over the years, we just weren't ruthless.
Literally, from minute one to minute 94 we blazed chances high, wide and not so handsome. At other times we seemed to have slipped back to the days of John Bond, seemingly intent on trying to walk the ball into the net.
When shots did head off vaguely in the direction of the goal they were inevitably straight at a Bury player or the folicly-challenged keeper.
Norwich's confidence, and with it their ability to seriously trouble Bury, slowly died. By 70 minutes you sensed that the Bury keeper could have lit a fag and leant on the post and City would have failed to beat him.
And so it came to pass that City contrived to gift Bury a goal. Substitution made seconds before the ball was floated in, the rather confused defence granted, not one, but two Bury players all the time and space in the world at the far post.
The net bulged and Bury and their travelling fans celebrated their rewards as every FA Cup goal should be celebrated? As if it's just taken them straight to Wembley. Offside or not, it was criminal.
City's response was unconvincing, but ultimately effective. Russell's return to the middle of the park, Dublin's return to the front line and the quick feet of Bertrand caused Bury all sorts of trouble. However, it took the Ginger Pele himself to show Martin et al how to find the net with a Channon-esque finish.
Thereafter we reverted to Keystone Cop's type, and missed a number of excellent opportunities to bury Bury!
A rather crestfallen but mightily relieved Stan headed home to the lick his wounds. The evening passed and Stan's mood remained glum, and then on came Match of the Day.
More importantly on came the demise of the Blue Satan followed by a bitter and beaten Jim Magilton whinging about officialdom? 'Ahhh?isn't the FA Cup wonderful…' declared Stan glancing at his long suffering partner. Whoever said romance was dead?
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