Monkey Hung

hartlepool25mar16

It never rains but it pours right now, does it? And I don’t mean the weather forecast for Easter…

It’s probably not a bad thing that I spent the last three days in sunny Newcastle. And yes, on Good Friday, the North East got one of its three days of summer per year.

After what has turned out to be a shitty week, Jeff Stelling 1 Elton Welsby 0 was rather fitting. And we still have Pompey in front of the cameras tomorrow.

It’s hard to get much of a handle on this game. At least we could claim fatigue against Brizzle Rovers and Morecambe. So I’m not quite sure how to explain this latest defeat.

To be blunt, we never got going. It was like one of those pre-Stevenage games, back in the Bad Old Days™ of this season and before, where you had to wonder what the plan was beforehand.

A couple of people afterwards suggested that Murphy has managed to change the team dynamic, and not in a good way either. While it’s unfair to blame him, we haven’t looked as effective since he arrived.

That’s as much down to Taylor a) losing form, and b) having his partnership with Elliott disrupted. Both got reunited for a short time on Friday, and it was no coincidence that we looked the most effective we have all game.

Of course, lack of goals is one thing, but our midfield and defence haven’t helped. Especially with Robbo missing, Whilst it can be argued that we’ve looked weaker without Osborne, it just took one defensive mistake to lose us this game.

And when they did score, for some reason it felt that the game was over there and then. They hit the post, we forced a number of corners which did absolutely nothing, and that was more or less that.

Which considering we’re a team still (officially) well in the playoff mix, is a bit odd.

More on that later. Back to our forward line, and after the brief Taylor/Elliott cameo, we got to see Azeez and Akinfenwa alongside Elliott.

To be honest, I can see at least two of those three moving on in the summer.

I guess BMO himself knows he’s not going to remain with us, and his performances at Victoria Park and even the development game last Monday hint it’s a bit too far for him now.

Which is understandable – he’s not getting any younger, or fitter, and it’s been mutually beneficial for both him and us. I just hope that he’s not kept on purely for his marketability – his wages will come in handy elsewhere.

Azeez? I expect to see him in the Conference next season, primarily because I’m not sure he’s rated by the management team. He’s only coming on as sub, and even then finds himself benched when there have been times his pace could have caused problems.

Given the “project” comment made about him when he signed – maybe his departure is going to be engineered that he “didn’t quite make the grade”?

The sharp eyed amongst you may have picked up on the “at least” comment a bit earlier. And that’s a reference to Elliott – for some reason, like Azeez, I’m not convinced he’s a favourite of those in charge.

We know he can be a bit of a sicknote, though he’s undeniably been a part of our stonking run. Yet he’s somebody who I can’t help but think will be ousted in the summer if somebody else became available.

I have no inside, or even outside, knowledge about this. But it might not have been just the fanbase surprised at how him and Taylor clicked.

Anyway, it’s been a shit March, and the good news is that we only have to get over Pompey tomorrow. And at least it’s an early kickoff…

Plus points: The sun shone.

Minus points: Most of it.

The referee’s a…: It was Darren Deadman, and therefore for obvious reasons this particular section will not need to go any further.

Them: Your editor inadvertently caught the sports roundup on BBC Teeside on t’radio yesterday, and their manager said how organised their defence was.

That wasn’t the sole reason why they got three points and we didn’t, but I can’t begrudge them. I think they simply wanted it more than ourselves.

It was their fifth game in a row without a loss, and they’re clearly growing in confidence. I expect us to be visiting them again next season.

Hartlepool is definitely a “traditional” Northern town, it has to be said. Those standing to our right during the game were greeting us with great hospitality, at least I think that’s what they were doing.

Seriously – I’ve travelled a fair bit over the years, and there have been genuinely very few times when I honestly couldn’t understand the dialect. It made the Wearside accent sound like received pronounciation.

Their supporters club bar had more than the air of the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club about it. Hell, I was even offered a hard boiled egg.

Gratis.

To be fair, it was friendly enough, though the local police were still seen cruising around at 6pm. Either it’s a rough place at night or Cleveland coppers were justifying their overtime.

Oh, anyone know what tune they came out to? Had quite a good riff to it…

Point to ponder: A question that has been asked on here quite a few times in recent months : can we make the playoffs? The answer remains the same as it did then – of course we can. We’re only four points off seventh.

The inevitable follow up is also applicable – will we make the playoffs? And the answer these days isn’t as positive.

As NA has found out the hard way quite a few times, stats sometimes do lie. Yes, we’re only two good results (ourselves and elsewhere) from being in the mix, but the vibe now is markedly different.

It’s four points, but given the way we’re playing and failing to convert chances, it might as well be fourteen.

Losing to Brizzle Rovers might have been predictable, but losing to Morecambe and now Hartlepool isn’t the sign of a legitimate playoff contender.

Could it be that we’re going back to what we really are? Namely, an inconsistent upper-midtable side that has good runs but no more than that?

Our performance on the 25th March 2016 could have been on the 25th September 2015. They’re not once-offs, indeed it almost felt reassuringly familiar.

Which does suggest we’re finally running out of steam. And one has to think the players are knowing it as well.

Obviously, you’re not going to get anything else bar the usual platitudes when you interview them. Hell, NA himself has given a target of 71 points for it.

Whether that will be needed remains to be seen, though Wycombe are on 60 and they’re more likely to pick up the four wins that will take them past that total.

A win tomorrow will undoubtedly lift what is a pretty grumpy mood right now. And anyone in the playoff pack who hits form again will probably clinch seventh spot.

Could that indeed be us? If it is, it will require the same sort of form that got us to this stage to begin with. And while some downplay his influence in our previous good run, perhaps we need that psychologist back…?

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The real ale “pub” (as in, room) in Hartlepool station. Our CAMRA lot were spunking their keks at it, which sounds like the name of one of the drinks. Probably tastes like it too. 2) The amount of “adult stores” on the A1 – not one, but three, and all part of the same chain. Guess either the big road gives anonymity or people on the east coast really are wankers. And no, I didn’t stop at any of them.

Anything else? Yep. NPL, Boris, called-in applications and just about anything related to the big news at the club this week.

Needless to say, there was a defiant air on Friday, with plenty of “Show me the way…” and a few anti-BJ chants too. That will doubtlessly get ratcheted up tomorrow, and then some.

But after the Pompey game, once we’ve all collectively vented, we’ll need to know what to do next with a clear head.

It’s pretty obvious now the dust is settling that it’s mostly down to local electioneering. As NA said about it this week, there’s clearly an agenda as it’s the world of politics.

The BTDH update was quite a telling one, because it seemed to suggest that having made it personal, Johnson may now be minded to host the consultation himself.

Looking at it from a purely political standpoint, if it’s delayed until July then Sadiq Khan (who is still likely to be the next Mayor) would have a free hit at his predecessor and LBW.

And you know damn well he’d like to take that.

After all, he could then say in his first consultation that Johnson had no courage of his convictions, tie to it the local Wandsworth councillors and make him look like the voice of reason in the process.

Come to think of it, he could do that in the inevitable Tooting by-election as well. And probably would.

Remember that this is politics, where everything is an agenda until proven otherwise. Especially in the buildup to an election, where the lust for power supersedes everything, including the truth.

We’ll undoubtedly get used as the metaphoric political football, although it might feel like it literally until all the votes are cast and the faux-humble acceptance speeches have been made.

But it may well be ultimately a side-show. What’s become clear this last couple of days is that those who have more knowledge of these things than most of us don’t seem unduly surprised or (more importantly) concerned.

When the club stated a day or so after the decision that we still planned to open by the summer of 2018, it was almost seen as an additional step rather than a roadblock.

Apparently, getting projects like this called in isn’t that unusual, and given the complexity of what this is, this might have been inevitable.

In his BBC London interview, Erik apparently said that he didn’t know why it got called in but he’s not a planner. And the problem right now is that very few of us are.

Collectively, we don’t understand it enough, which doesn’t help the mood and just fuels the feeling we’re about to be buttfucked yet again.

This is where (and when) proper professional guidance is needed, not to mention waiting for Easter to end and we can finally work out what’s what.

I’m in no doubt that Galliard in particular have had their lawyers looking at this since Wednesday. They’re a big housing company, and I seriously doubt if they haven’t already had a plan of action when the consultation comes up.

Privately, the comment about them is that “they’re no mugs”…

From AFCW’s point of view, most of us are stung by this, and there’s a whole group of fans who are just waiting for the signal to do something.

The club needs to be pro-active, even if it’s a narrow target to get us through the consultation. I have to be honest and say that I’m not sure that’s entirely been the case previously.

We’ll need to get media and other supportive parties onside, as I think we were a bit too complacent about petitions from the stock car lot. While we know that they’re ultimately fucked, we can’t afford to be quite so dismissive about campaigns against us.

And perhaps we’ll need to communicate to our own fanbase a bit more now. It’s all very well for Erik to write up things in his programme, and maybe post it up on the OS a couple of days later, but that does seem to dilute the impact of some very important info.

I know the club does that to keep programme sales buoyant, but it’s no longer 1986 – people respond to online articles now, and it’s where most information is.

Trust me on this, being a journo type – the print media is dying off in its present form, and I’m afraid that does include matchday magazines.

The BTDH campaign needs to be brought in “officially”, perhaps through the OS, as it’s quite easy to not find out what they’re doing unless you specifically go looking for it.

And most people simply need it served on a plate to them. The OS is a great focal point, we need to use it more now.

Also, we’ll need to start pushing our case in local media especially – anyone noticed that the Wimbledon Guardian now suddenly seems to be fully behind us?

Do that, take the very real anger and desire to rectify this decision and use it in the best way possible and all this will simply be seen as a footnote.

It’s long been an SW19 mantra that we’ll get NPL eventually, because as a wise sage often says, a project is either feasible or it’s not fucking feasible.

And with just about everyone bar a few agenda-driven politicians have proven, ours is certainly the former…

So, was it worth it? At least I got to see Hartlepool for the first time.

In a nutshell: Happy sodding Easter.

10 thoughts to “Monkey Hung”

  1. Bang on Rob. No coincidence that we’re doing our usual disappearing act at the time of year where grit and determination become much more important than talent or pretty football. Ardley’s post-match interview was telling, he spoke of pursuing these 5 wins when we have 8 game, 7 games, 6 games… I’m not sure he believes we’re capable of top 7 any more.

  2. Can’t agree with the “Good Runs” bit – that’s exactly what we’ve lacked end Brown total Ardley. It’s because we lack consistency that we cannot put together any sort of run other than bad ones. Ardley had his one reasonable run and now we are at 5 matches without a win again. The pattern repeats itself over and over and the “Bogey Teams and Bottom Feeders”…

  3. “…an inconsistent upper-midtable side that has good runs but no more than that?”

    That’s a compliment to a side yet to finish above lower-midtable and with a traditional approach to safe run-ins that wouldn’t look out of place laid out at a Tesco fishmonger.

    Starting to worry that my prediction of 16th may still prove to be accurate. So much and so little…

  4. We do not have a ruthless edge.
    We’re playing better football now, but we’ll always start each season with one hand tied behind our backs under NA, with our continued toothlessness against the bottom feeders.
    Every game is a 6-pointer now, especially playing 4 of the playoff hunters, starting with Portsmouth. But just imagine if we’d beaten 2 or 3 of the shit teams…

  5. Beat skatemouth and the season is still alive and kicking.
    Take a beating and Erik will need to get the cattle prod out again.
    Can those in the John Piss stand shout the opposite of the logical substitutions tomorrow please-Neal is regressing again.

  6. It should be obvious that Murphy and Taylor don’t work together, but we all know that tactics are Ardley’s Achilles heel and this is just another example in a long list of well recorded tactical misjudgements. Even if Elliott is fit to start, Ardley will probably not play him.

    I’ve got a feeling we’ll slip down the table as the team regresses to the mean.

  7. Friday’s match was so predictably depressing we all know what happens at this s stage of the season when we come up against a side scrapping at the wrong end of the table. It has been so all through Ards time as manager. I predict another couple of wins and a 10th place finish. Enough to get Ards a 2 year contract as Erik can say there has been “improvement”.

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