Mind you, the Franchise are going down. They’re 2000/1 on to do so, apparently…
Some while ago, around January or February, I was always going to use last night as the time to predict once and for all whether we’ll extend our season.
After Definitely Conference 0 Possibly League One 2, I think the answer has to be – probably.
I know that there’s still the chance of a fuckup, given two of our last four fixtures are against bottom feeders, but something became apparent last night.
People are starting to sense not only the playoffs, but the possibility we could do well in them.
OK, I know it’s “only” Dagenham, the same relegated team who dicked us at KM. But on the field, bar Fuller’s off the line clearance, and some saying we looked as loose as Crawley, it was pretty comfortable otherwise.
This could have easily been the proverbial banana skin, but we managed to walk past it without falling on our arse. If we needed to, we could have probably gone up a gear.
Off the field, people are starting to properly believe. When people sung that “Wombles up/Franchise down” song with as much gusto as I can ever recall, it’s hard not to resist the giddyometer’s charm.
And at this stage of the season, that’s all you need – belief. Admittedly, it’s taken me until last night to believe the playoffs are now a real possibility.
There was that buzz of expectancy afterwards, that self-confidence that seems to be around whenever a team is on course for something. It was like that when we got up from the Conference, although our performances then were better than they are now.
You can’t ignore that. And I bet anyone there last night has been humming “Yellow Submarine” to themselves this very morning…
The game? Job done, really. Once we went ahead I don’t think we were in much danger. Once again, Taylor and Elliott are the main reason we’re doing so well, although many are praising our defence.
One suspects that Elliott needs a rest though, and if we can secure the playoffs sooner than later, there’s no point in playing him until it matters.
Meades going off didn’t seem to affect things too much, though you never want or need injuries at this stage of proceedings.
All in all, last night was the sort of evening that changes things from hubris to genuine belief. Hell, even your editor now believes the playoffs are possible after all.
Mind you, if I think that I shudder to think what our dangerously optimistic types are doing right now…
Plus points: We won. Clean sheet. Lyle Taylor again. Looking relatively comfortable throughout. The realisation that the playoffs are well within reach.
Minus points: Were there any?
The referee’s a…: I didn’t write anything down about him, either positive or negative, so no real need to do unspeakable things to him in a darkened car park.
Them: I feel a bit sorry for Daggers, as I think the rigours of Football League life were ultimately too much for them. Culturally, they’re a non-league club, perhaps a more successful version of Woking, and as such they’re going back to their natural position.
There is a sense of them being a backwater, especially considering they struggle to get support in West Aaaam territory, so unless John Still does his usual we really might not play them again for a long while.
£21 to get in is a bit of a pisstake, although the bar under the stand at half time was welcome. Even if it did serve only Carling products.
Oh, and perhaps a sign of the changing times – Jamie Cureton didn’t score against us. Wonders will never cease…
Point to ponder: Haven’t the likes of Daggers, York, Newport etc proven just how much work we’ve needed to do over the past three years?
Or indeed, how until December last year?
I know that with the (dis)honourable exception of March, 2016 has finally seen us fulfill our potential, but when you consider York got promoted just one season behind us, it puts that into perspective.
In their case, they’ve been pretty shit since their FL return, and Newport only need a point this Saturday to send them back from whence they came. And that will probably be the case for more and more recently promoted sides from the Conference.
With us, it’s only been this (half) season where the strikers have performed, that the tactics have finally looked like they apply in the real world and not the stat-driven UEFA coaching manual bollocks.
We might be acting like our current form has always been like this, but the Bad Old Days™ weren’t that long ago. Plenty may be sucking NA’s cock right now, but there were many this season who would have equally kicked him there instead.
Mind you, we’ve had so many reality checks since we returned to the Football League, so maybe we might have finally learned from them…
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Always good to see a load of us turn up to a venue. I miss London away games, especially those in the evening. 2) The “Wombles up/Franchise down” song. Those there last night will know why I keep mentioning it.
Anything else? I see Wycombe are gunning for us. Well, their skipper is anyway. The choice quotes:
“Wimbledon haven’t experienced being in the driving seat until recently. They’re sitting comfortably at the moment, but let’s see how they can handle the pressure. We’ve been there last season, so we know what it’s like.
“We have no pressure on us. Other teams have more finances and more pressures. We want to get into the play-offs, but it’s not the be all and end all like it is for the Wimbledons, who have spent a lot of money this season.
“Likewise Leyton Orient, who should be hitting the play-offs. Their pressure is a lot greater than ours. They call it squeaky bum time – who can handle it the most? Wimbledon haven’t experienced it as such, and the pressure is on them as they have spent money.”
So, how did big spending AFCW handle the pressure last night? Well, we clearly stumbled by winning 2-0 away from home. Meanwhile, paupers Wycombe came fast on our tail and exposed our brittleness by, erm, drawing 0-0 to Yeovil.
Sometimes, players should just shut up and let their football do the talking.
Look, we can still bottle it, and it certainly isn’t confirmed until the mathematicians give the thumbs up. But when you try playing mind games like this, the first thing you do is back it up yourself.
To our credit, we’ve got on and got the results. We’re four points clear with a game in hand because we’ve done exactly that. We’ve also been fortunate that the other sides around have been bottle jobs as well.
Wycombe last won a game on Good Friday. Exeter have tripped up the last couple of outings. Leyton Orient is less a football club and more of a soap opera.
But then, as somebody put it last night, nobody seems to want to win games. We’re now a point behind Pompey – Pompey – and now they’re finding results hard to come by as well.
Losing 3-1 to York is the sort of thing we used to do. All of a sudden, our game with them becomes not a race to get in the playoffs, but to get a better fixture in them.
And that’s how the unlikely has gone past the possible and now into the probable.
I know NA gets somebody else to read this place, so I have an idea for them – print out that article, give it to our manager and tell him to put copies in the dressing room beforehand on Saturday.
It may not even need an explanation…
So, was it worth it? Indeedy.
In a nutshell: Wombles going up…