Musical Chairs

wycombe1314

Eh? What’s this? A win? At KM? And a clean sheet to boot?

So many questions, but the only answer is that yes, it was Neal Ardley 1 Gareth Ainsworth 0. And it wasn’t a smash-and-grab, it wasn’t a case of us scoring but them coming onto us and us being extremely flukey.

It was, well, promising…

I’ve forgotten what this sort of performance is like, and it’s nice that the football won’t ruin your weekend. It was solid, and genuinely solid as well. Practically to the point where you thought it was a case of if Wycombe scored, and not when.

There’s still a long way to go, of course, and we’re nowhere near the finished article. The ability – or lack of it – to take our chances, the way we looked less lively and more flat when they went down a man and we went up a goal, that sort of thing.

But as said around me today and no doubt where you were too, we wouldn’t have won that last season.

If you were told before Torquay that our record in the first week was W1 L1 D1, you would have taken that – especially with the loss being the one you expected (albeit one that still annoys me). We won’t go far wrong with that run of form for the next nine months…

What does feel pleasing right now is that you know we’re going to improve. Our back line, for so long the laughing stock of the division, actually looks like something that passes the Trade Description Act.

Midfield? We’re certainly putting some tackles in these days, and we can only become more cohesive. Up front still needs sharpening up a bit though – we kept putting the crosses in, but we’re still waiting for somebody to get their foot/head on it.

All that will come in time though. There’s always a managerial post-match interview around the end of August which says that it’s only a matter of time before they start clicking and getting wins.

We haven’t properly clicked, but we got three points today – and lest we forget we were only one minute away from having a 100% record in the division.

Above all else, there’s a bit of confidence returning. And not just on the field either. We’ve done plenty of scraping through games which got us the points but didn’t do much for our blood pressure – we won a fair bit more comfortably today and it will get rid of our struggler mentality.

That was one of the (many) issues from last time out that don’t seem to have cropped up this time. Because we were struggling from the off, we were always on the back foot throughout the season.

This time, we’re one point and four goals better off. More importantly, we know this is a different team with a different mentality, and we don’t feel like we’re winging it. That’s weird to experience, but it’s not unpleasant.

As you bask in our first win at KM since the 27th April, here’s…

Plus points: We won. A clean sheet. Good header by Luke Moore. Solid at the back. Almost doubling it (twice) in injury time. Smith. Nobody played badly. Worner overcoming his fuckup against Millwall.

Minus points: Flat second half. No second goal. Still clearly a work in progress. Midson looks slow. Need more sharpness up front.

The referee’s a…: Had no real option sending their bloke off. Other than that? Hmm….

Them: I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with them, because on another day they’ll win these sort of games, but I was (pleasantly) surprised at how unlikely they were really were to scoring.

Bit niggly, although it says something about our new found brutishness that it wasn’t nearly as much of an issue. Their player getting sent off didn’t help them, though. Porter was a lucky boy not to get anything more than a few studmarks on his stomach.

Good to see Ainsworth getting a nice reception (and him reciprocating), it’s a shame his WFC career was practically ruined by injury. Their #3 was decent, but their Franchise mong wasn’t. Shame.

One final thing about Wycombe – their kit was bloody awful. Trust me, it looked better in the photo in that link. I’m not too sure who was more on acid – the designer of it or whoever it was who thought it would be a good idea…

Point to ponder: Just how important was it to get the defence looking like a defence? And perhaps more to the point how quickly we managed it.

Today illustrated something – we may not be blessed with much pace, but by god the likes of Benno and Frampton knew how to handle it. Fuller and Kennedy too, come to think of it.

When Wycombe did have crosses into the box, there wasn’t that automatic knee-jerkism of fear that we used to have. Christ, there were even one or two instances of us putting our foot into the ball and aiming for Row Z.

At Brentford.

We won’t always keep clean sheets, but it’s nice that something that was so worrying doesn’t need to be looked at quite so much now. This was the first real test* and we got through it pretty well.

* – if you assume that Torquay was first day nerves and Milwall was just a bonus

But then, should we have been surprised? We know how much Benno changed things in such a short space of time last campaign. The likes of Frampton, Fuller and Kennedy aren’t thumb sucking waifs who barely know what division they’re in. Ditto Weston.

They’re players who have played in so many of these types of fixtures at this level throughout the years that you can more or less leave them to their own devices. On the way down they may be, but they certainly know what they’re doing.

And I guess that helps Neil Cox too, because he can work with defenders who might understand their job description (in an unrelated bit of news, MMK joined Dartford this week). Obviously NC was a Premier League defender, but we might finally be able to see how good he is.

That can only help the likes of Worner as well, because I’ve no doubt he got slapped about a bit worked harder in training after Millwall. Come to think of it, our left footed shotstopper didn’t look particularly troubled by anything…

On the flip side – doesn’t the last four minutes prove what happens when attacking players actually, you know, attack? That could have been 3-0 in the end, and would have looked a lot nicer on the vidiprinter.

Midson, Smith and Sheringham really need to get on the scoresheet to kick-start their season. The sad thing is, especially when it comes to away games, they may still have to wait a while…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Returning to KM and not needing to shit ourselves about the result. That was almost relaxing. 2) Phillo back doing the PA? Figures with the music, although he did play Steam’s “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey” at half time. 3) OK, who set off the sprinkler after half-hour? Would have been funny if their Franchise dick had been down there though. 4) One D Barnard, Chelski secretary, coming out of the carvery beforehand. 5) Realising we played Wycombe when we were a Conference South side. Oh, how things have changed…

Anything else? It would be very easy to go OTT about today, and to give credit where it’s due, most of us are agreeing it’s a good start but more needs to be done. I do wonder though if we’ll still be bound by comparing everything we do at the moment to last season.

When Wycombe had their free kick towards the end, everyone hushed up because they expected it to be scored. Perhaps there was no reason why we predicted it to be so, only because we’ve had too many instances in the past of it.

And I guess it’s still going to be difficult to move on from that for a while. I think we’re only going to properly relax this season when we start using games like today, or last week at Plainmoor/South Bermondsey as points of reference.

This place compares what we do now to last season far, far too often. You probably do too, and it’s only natural. The scars from 2012/13 will still take a long time to heal. But one wonders if NA himself has half an eye on what the last twelve months have been too.

It might explain exactly why we currently play one up front away from home – it’s because he’s too aware of what happened when we didn’t keep it tight last time out.  We shouldn’t need to have that approach, but you can’t really blame him if he did.

That might illustrate there’s still a mentality of fear that only got partly lifted today. All wins are important, as is getting a good solid set of games under our belt. The three points today and keeping a clean sheet too might help us even more than we first think, because it will give the mindset that by going forward and having a go we get victories these days.

And not sitting back because, hey, remember last season?

I think this squad will be able to overcome that fear within ten games simply because they’re strong enough characters who don’t know how bad it was. We do forget it’s a lot of new players, although it’s interesting how much of a unit they already appear to be.

And if and when they do, perhaps NA will be able to plan without thinking to himself “the last time we played this lot….”

So, was it worth it? A win with a clean sheet? Nah…

In a nutshell: Warning – we might start enjoying games again.