A Team of Two Halves

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All’s well that ends well, I guess…

I have to say, Dragon 2 St George 2 was the perfectly surreal end to a very strange ten days. That we could have come away from sunny (?) Cymru with all three points tells a rather bizarre story.

We could, and should, have been buried beyond redemption by half time. We could, and (perhaps) should, have done the almost impossible by the final whistle.

It was the Jeckyl and Hyde performance that sums up a Jeckyl and Hyde team. On this last Sunday morning before Christmas, none of it makes sense – even if it should do…

The actual game is as good as anywhere to start. The first half was, to be blunt, fucking shit. We were lethargic, clueless, plodding and looking like the latest clear-the-air meeting did absolutely nothing.

OK, Robbo going off for their first goal didn’t help, but Newport going ahead was coming anyway. The own goal just summed things up further…

Toonga started and was withdrawn for Akinfenwa, which did seem like a panic move. Especially as he then seemed to get in the way of everything.

As for the reaction at half time? More boos, unsurprisingly, and some people I would happily put in the pro-NA camp looking out for blood. Doesn’t matter whose blood, just somebody’s.

It was telling our current manager trapsed to the dugout about 3/4 minutes en solo before the team came out for the second half. It was hard to tell his demeanour from the other side of the ground, but I bet if you told him somebody in the SW19 comments section had shagged his missus, it wouldn’t have made him feel much worse…

We’ll never know what really went on in that dressing room at half time, just like we’ll never know what happened at Crawley in August. Or t’Stanley. Never have so many fans wanted to be insects on the dressing room wall, as they were at 1550 yesterday.

Whatever happened, it worked. Admittedly, Taylor pulling a goal back less than a minute after the restart helped, but it was as though something snapped.

Personally, I’m convinced the reaction in the second half was down to everything coming to a breaking point. The St. Evenage “performance” post NPL-decision.

The handling of the Xmas party afterwards. The MOTM debacle. The Ben Wilson stuff. The pre-training meetings. The very bad taste in the collective mouths since then.

And the first half clusterfuck managing to be the poop cherry on a cake made of horse manure.

This isn’t to say that we put in a swashbuckling performance that left Newport crying for their mother. They were just as likely to have made it 3-1 as we were to equalise, which would have exacerbated things this morning.

But they didn’t take their chances, and Lyle Taylor did. You could sense the relief right at the end, and it was telling that our double goalscorer got the biggest cheers of the lot.

So, what? Firstly, it’s nice that we showed a bit of fucking fight for once. I don’t think they dared doing anything else in the second period.

It was suggested post-game that NA told the players January was around the corner, and as such they would be put on loan to Woking if they didn’t respond.

I’ve just read our current manager’s OS comments, and if he didn’t rant and rave then you have to wonder what he did say. If indeed he said anything at all.

Your views on this will pretty much reflect if you’re pro-NA or anti-NA. If you’re in the former, you’d want to point out that he did get a positive reaction and he did change things for the better yesterday.

If you’re anti, you’ll ask why things had to get so bad in the first place to get a reaction. Not to mention us playing better with him putting in less input than normal.

Long term, this result and second half performance changes little, and there are some clear fundamental issues that are never far from the surface.

But at least Xmas will be a bit nicer now…

Plus points: The second half. Having a fucking go for once. Lyle Taylor. Could have won it.

Minus points: The first half. All round lethargy. Could have been buried by the break.

The referee’s a…: Hates the Welsh, apparently, and the home support didn’t seem enamoured by him. Didn’t do a lot wrong, at least not enough to warrant sending a yultide log with his Christmas card.

Them: Before we get carried away too much with the second half, they were 21st before the game started. That we made them look like world-beaters should give you an idea of how shit we were.

Needless to say, once we had a bit of a go at them, we proved why they’re down the wrong end of the table. And it also proved the notion that League Two is much of a muchness, and teams generally aren’t that good…

It sounds like the trains were buggered, apparently somebody decided to throw themselves on the line around Slough. Those who got there at half time have to buy drinks for those who endured the whole 90.

Newport is one of those clubs that I think are always destined to be in the lower reaches of the Football League. The “old” Newport County certainly were, and today’s incarnation are going the same way.

Mind you, their road back to the Football League was pretty tortuous, a lot longer than ours and as such I think we’ve got much more in common with them than FCUM.

Oh, and as typical per every visit to South Wales – the weather was shit. Although at least this time we didn’t get snowed upon

Point to ponder: Is it fair to say that yesterday was the whole NA tenure in a 90-minute microcosm? A lot of shit, an ability to fight and get a result when we really have to, and then wondering why we don’t see it more often.

And yes, we managed to struggle against a bottom-feeder as well.

Actually, this raises another issue that has never been properly explained away – now we know we can occasionally fight back, doesn’t that make the passionless clusterfucks even worse to swallow?

That has been a question that has been asked for about three seasons now, of course…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The almost obligatory minute’s applause before the game. For once however, it was for somebody genuinely connected with one of the clubs playing. 2) “It’s a shit song” to that “everywhere we go” chant with the drum. Which strangely got silenced as we sung it…

Anything else? Not really. I think we ought to give ourselves a mental time-out, at least until Boxing Day. At least we’ll have plenty to talk about when Brizzle Rovers beat us 😉

So, was it worth it? Yes, although as they say in Ireland – I wouldn’t start from here.

In a nutshell: Merry Xmas.

17 thoughts to “A Team of Two Halves”

  1. I’d like to think that the senior players at half time told NA to get the fuck out of the dressing room and let us deal with this now….
    Yet again we can’t put away a team in the bottom 6 but as you said Mr Editor, bit of fight in there somewhere and it was very welcome.
    Perhaps the squad raged against the machine 🙂
    Merry Christmas

  2. Shame the OS sight headlined “dons battle back in style” instead of “Players kick NA out and did it their way”

    Well done to the players for absolutely ‘avin a go in the second 45, unfortunately the first 45 after the last 3 weeks and all these “talks” just proves they’ve stopped listening to NA and when the robot tactics don’t work, a bit of rolling the sleeves up and playing to their strengths does. The gaffer actually said he told the lads to get the,selves out of it. I.e “you’re not listening to me and I’ve given up so do what you want.”
    So it’s not only a big percentage of fans who’ve had enough of NA, sounds like the players have too.
    just one last little bit, Last 45 v satanage and another 45 today without a shot. What does the FA Manual say to do then NA?

    What was highly amusing is that 95% of people were certainly having a serious whinge and rant about NA and the other 5 all said pretty much the same thing…. “We need to support him and have faith, all we need is a few results, besides who would we replace him with?” There was also the few who seemed happy with his style of play.

    Well I’m not going to say much about that last bit but it does bring up an interesting point. IF/WHEN we lose to Brizzol and Erik does the unthinkable and asks for NAs resignation, who would we replace him with?
    A few say Jon Still and perhaps Alan Reeves. I do however find it impossible to believe there isn’t a single manager in the country who isn’t better than the current regime. NA isn’t the best of a bad bunch of the best we can get… WE CAN GET BETTER.

    Stealing other people’s thunder slightly, these were also posted and made much more sense than the usual comments;

    “How much longer are we gonna paint over these cracks before tearing down the wall and rebuilding it properly?”

    “I wouldn’t keep using a shit plumber to repair the toilet just because he’s distant family”

    But my favourite from Old Isthmanian;

    “Apparently NA got lost in the tunnel and gave the Newport players their half time team talk”

    Quite literally spat my tea out at that one. as mentioned, we need a break from this topic and can “sort of” enjoy Xmas. Looking forward to seeing what happens on Boxing Day, it could and should decide what happens the rest of this year. Well done the 247 who went, but I like many others wasn’t and glad I didn’t waste £50 on this one.

    Happy Crimbo all.

  3. It’s patently obvious now that NA can’t handle League 2. It’s not rocket science – and I think that’s the problem for him… in some weird way, he needs it to be!
    Some might have laughed at Mad Dog Allen, when we sent the goalie up for a full five minutes at the end of their game against us. It did mean we ended up scoring a breakaway goal right at the death, but fuck me, he knows what League 2 is all about. He’s got teams out of the shit, and he’s also got them promoted. He understands that it really doesn’t matter if, over a season, you end up with a minus 28 goal difference, but somehow also gained an extra 4 points…. because you scrapped and wrestled, you chucked the kitchen sink into the penalty area, along with your goalie, when you were just a goal down.
    Ardley, on the other hand, would find that style of play “distasteful”. He’d rather lose 1-0 and have bossed the stats (apart from the shots on goal one).
    I continue to have no doubt that NA’s tactics would be a good fit in League 1 and higher, but he’s got to fight and battle to get there first. And when one is holding a former franchise manager in higher esteem than your current one, then you know something’s very, very wrong.

    Keep it simple, stupid.

  4. Newport were in 21st place but have been playing like a play off team since John Sheridan became their manager. So a good comeback against a good team, although we should’ve been 5-0 down at half time.

    In fact, I think we could learn a lot from Newport’s managerial situation. They employed someone at the start of the season who is patently NOT a good manager (Terry Butcher) then replace him after two months (in October) with someone who patently IS a good manager (John Sheridan).

    And Sheridan turns their season around (and was understandably very disappointed with throwing away two points against us).

    Let’s apply Newport’s managerial situation to ourselves. Managers of the calibre of John Still do not come around that often. It’s clear to pretty much everybody that Ardley is not the man to take us further and never will be.

    John Still is vastly experienced and hugely successful. And he lives fairly local. If you had the pick of other League Two managers at the start of the season, he’d be up there.

    Why not grab this massive opportunity (that has been laid before us by Luton’s recklessness) with both hands?

  5. You’re right to point out the difference in Butcher and Sheridan’s Newport, since he took over he’s picked up more points than us, 14 to 13.

    I can see why we might stick rather than twist at this stage though, any new manager would be a gamble and as bad as things might seem now relegation’s unlikely under Ardley… and Still? Why would the players that apparently don’t play for Ardley turn it on for the manager that got a team to 2 points below us?

    I think we’re using the ‘bigger picture’ to excuse our cautious approach but sooner or later we’ll have to take supporter unrest and dwindling attendances into that bigger picture.

  6. Yes, Newport are a bottom six club, but since Sheridan took over they are above us in the recent form table. The teams at the bottom generally struggle to score but that isn’t the case for Newport.
    The style they play is always likely to get goals and it felt to me as if we hadn’t scouted them. Last week they were 2-0 up at Notts County and lost 4-3 so they have an ability to score – even if they are also a bit iffy at the other end of the pitch. So a draw is probably what I would have expected though not the way it was achieved.
    NA must be frustrated beyond belief. Apparently he didn’t talk to any of the players or management until Tuesday afternoon so make of that what you will. Same at halftime yesterday I guess. If the players aren’t doing what he is telling them to do then it makes sense that he is frustrated. Some may say that it is a failing of NA if the players don’t follow instructions but I’m not one of those.

    1. In a scenario where one party is not talking to the other party you have one of three options:

      You change the members of the team;
      Or you change the manager;
      or you bag thief fucking heads together.

      Whether ES or anyone else has done this yet must be open to conjecture but one of those three courses needs to be done.

      If the players can and do perform without the managerial input (Chelsea any one?) then maybe we have to accept that and say the time for NA is right for him to go.

      I don’t like player power but if you have a shit boss and the company needs to do well, are you left with a choice?

      Companies go to their shareholders in times like these; is this an issue for us or just one we leave to the ‘management’?

  7. If Secret Agent has it correct and i don’t have reason to doubt you sir, unless NA had the clap, what was he doing ignoring/staying away from squad from Saturday 5pm until Tuesday afternoon? they either didn’t get off the lash until Monday nite or NA is a prat? yeah that’ll learn em Neal.

  8. Only legit reason NA could have had for not speaking to the players until Tuesday PM is that he had the lurgy.

    Other than that, he obviously intended to let them think things over, which would have worked if it hadn’t been for the dreadful first half.

    As it was, it just comes across as a communication issue, and not a particularly small one. I presume that there’s now going to be another round of upheaval in the squad come January…

  9. Ok. So, let’s say he’s had a full on dose of flu or Estonian brothel cough. We’ve not heard shit from his no.2. We just had a few words from the fun bus, how unacceptable stevenage was etc.
    No Bulman or Robinson coming out verbally throwing a few (Mr Slavin, bit late to text them after this to ask for a few OS/politburo words). Pray god not wheeling out the beast, bless/truss/in this together/fam/buy my t shirt bolox.
    Nail on head/communication and it’s not just broke. FUBAR.
    Right, where’s this chivas reveal…

  10. When Chris Slavin was appointed I felt he wasn’t quite getting it right. Anything pre 2002 didn’t seem to be on his radar. Must have been a couple of months in and he asked for inputs and views, can’t remember the exact details.
    I emailed him and said “stop making out we’re a new club”, thinking this was the biggest compliment I could possibly pay, plus giving the bloke a bit of a steer towards recognising our heritage a bit more.
    I got an email straight back saying “you’re entitled to your view but…..”. He’d completely misunderstood my point. Beyond that there was an aggressiveness to the response. I felt somehow transported to a virtual Merseyside, with all the attendant health and safety issues.
    I thought about it for a bit. Perhaps he’d thought I was something to do with MK muscling in making trouble. So I responded again, suggesting some aspects of the amateur cup final to go in to a feature he was putting together, thinking thereby he’d understand where I was coming from. Never got a response.
    We are where we are and we’ve all got our views. I’m generally a glass half full merchant in life. I wonder if the club’s PR had been more effective I and others might have found it easier to stay that way.
    Neal and the players have got their individual characters and ways of dealing with pressure. You’d like to think the club’s PR function would get hold of the dynamics of all this and endeavour to keep them on the straight and narrow and present them in the best light.
    So not selecting “smug” pictures of Neal to accompany match reports when we occasionally win. Such as pointing out to the players / club all the pitfalls associated with that Xmas party. Such as coaxing Neal out of the trenches when things get tough.
    Apologies to Chris if some of that is not in his job description. But then perhaps it should be. Of all those who need to “get the club” it’s the PR function.

    1. Interesting that communication and PR have been highlighted, as I have been unhappy about this for some time. As a ‘remote’ supporter (based in south Wales as it happens), I rely fairly heavily on the OS and other official club comms, and whilst they’re bound to put a positive spin on everything, it is all done in such a formulaic, predictable way that it becomes meaningless. This same comment could be applied to the match programme too, all you need to do is look at Newport’s as an example of a far less ‘corporate’ tone of voice.

      1. Putting my “professional” hat on for a minute, official publications more or less have to be bland – there’s a lot more fallout if an OS calls the ref a cunt than an unofficial publication.

        The other trouble for official publications is that it’s actually quite difficult to write with a “personality” while not veering into fan-mode. Coincidentally, it’s why writing tabloid style is the hardest writing skill of all (see Clickbait, Becky of the Wimbledon Guardian for an example of how not to do it)

        TBF to Chris Slaven, he is basically a one-man band, and as is usual at AFCW, anyone who is half-decent at what they do ends up doing the work of two people…

        1. Rob fully understood it’s not right or appropriate for your blog to be seen or used as a ‘dissing platform involving a fellow professional. Indeed I’d always be keen to see the merits of my fellow accountants.
          Thing is I think Erik is genuinely excellent at what he does, whereas I don’t think Chris is.

          1. I think that’s a bit unfair on Chris slavin. He works hard to generate the amount of stories that appear on the OS (all of which help generate revenue for the club), and I don’t think the players or management would be half as receptive to interview appearances if he was asking more probing/difficult questions. Better to have SOME content to publish rather than a media blackout if the players feel they’ll get a grilling.

  11. Well, we ain’t going down and we ain’t going up.
    Today there are 2 decent managers available for us/this level.
    Alexander and Still.
    We’re going to have to twist in April bar a bloody miracle.
    Are we likely to have 2 managers of that calibre available then…
    (and fanboys, yes both have previously been sacked but unless we get someone wet behind the ears again whose never managed a club that’s the way it is. Both have promotion experience and both very connected in the game. And Still/Luton? They think they are the Chelski of L2)

  12. I’ve always thought that we should have managers who ‘got’ what afc are about the way TB and Eames clearly did. Not sure if Ardley does and the more I think about it the less convinced I am that it’s so critical now. Taking off my rose tinted glasses, we need someone that understands this level and hopefully the level above. There are exceptions, Mad Dog and Evans for example but Still ticks the boxes for me. Is Sturrock still on the market? Take Mike J’s point, will they be about in the summer when the usual managerial merry go round starts? Not going up and not going down (maybe) so give them a chance to set the team up for next season?

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