Read that headline. Read it again. Then let it sink in…
In a season which has already used “you’d thought you’d never see the day…” to the nth degree, Merton College 1 Merton Council 3 has to be the on-field equivalent of getting NPL approval.
And it wasn’t even a scraped win either. No last minute deflection off somebody’s arse. No backs against the wall for 90 minutes. For once, we go to Oxford and win.
And we did it almost convincingly.
Before I go on – as you can tell from the picture above, being in a press box doesn’t give the same perspective as going in the away end. Feel free to make your own snarky comment here.
I won’t be able to tell what the reaction on the concourse was at half time, though if it was anything like the press area, it was probably “fuck me, we’re 3-0 up”.
Although I bet those in the picture above didn’t get the moaning about the second goal from the locals 😉
Obviously, Charles’s own goal made it a fair bit less comfortable in the second half, although once Fuller cleared off the line I think the three points were ours.
And thinking about it, if we’d gone up that gear it could have been more for us. But it’s an unwritten rule in football that a team scoring three in the first half never adds to it in the second…
I won’t mention the game, as most of you have seen it already. This being SW19, there are the usual buts. We still under-hit the ball too often, and we could have come a cropper on another day because of them.
Lyle Taylor’s dive was embarrassing, and managed to look even worse on the cameras. Yes, we did some great blocks but our defence still shits its pants too often.
And at some point, our “robust” approach will see us get a red card or two.
But right now, who gives a fuck? We’ve beaten Oxford for the first time ever as AFCW – and the WFC era wasn’t much better against them either.
What was the run? Twelve games before yesterday? Mind you, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking how before the match we seemed a fair bit confident.
Not the bravado sort, the kind that tries to be convincing but usually isn’t. But almost like a matter-of-fact confidence.
Part of it I guess was down to everyone being just a bit fed up of getting reminded that AFCW hasn’t ever beaten Oxford. And OK, there’s always law of averages – we would have done so at some point.
But remember how we never used to beat Southend? Or t’Stanley? And yes, I know it works the other way too – Fleetwood will be licking their lips if we face them in a poor run of form…
Speaking of form, we’ve only lost one in about nine League games. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by yesterday’s result after all.
It has to be said that despite the niggles mentioned above, there was otherwise a calmness and professionalism to our play that has been missing too much this season.
The third goal in particular no doubt sexually excited some of our supporters, and maybe – just maybe – we’ve finally got to grips with this division?
We’ll see in the upcoming weeks, but for now…
Plus points: We beat Oxford – no further comment necessary.
Minus points: The OG.
The referee’s a…: A very popular guy within the Oxfordshire area this morning, if you count voodoo dolls getting made of him as such.
I don’t think he had his best game, though given the utter shitfests that his officiating has caused us in the past, he did owe us one eventually.
Thankfully didn’t give a penalty when Fuller upended their bloke, and most other referees would have blown up for Parrett for our second. And more on that in a few paragraphs time.
Them: Didn’t like it up them, and for once their hoodoo over us didn’t work. Perhaps we got a local priest to perform an exorcism involving an ox last week?
Played nice pretty stuff, which got them no further forward, and didn’t seem to cope with us getting physical with us. Needless to say, Appleton was a bit narked after the game.
It’s odd to think that Oxford themselves got promoted like we did last season, as they seem more of a “typical” League One outfit.
The Kassam isn’t a bad stadium, considering it’s still three sided, and the main stand seems as well furnished as I expect similar at NPL to be.
Mind you, imagine the NPL NIMBYs if they saw the traffic queues to get out…
Point to ponder: OK then – so what about the second goal that threatens to cause a diplomatic incident? Firstly, we forget that referees only get one chance in real time to make a decision – and it was in front of Deadman.
Admittedly, I thought he would blow up as soon as it was made, but it was a classic case of playing to the whistle. Oxford still had a chance to close down Charles anyway.
Lest we forget what a great strike it was, by the way.
I’ve watched it again just now, and I’m still not sure it was a foul. If anything, the defender kicks the ball into Parrett. That’s with TV replays and a lot of time to look at it. I wouldn’t have been surprised it was given, but equally I’m not surprised that it wasn’t.
Which leads us onto another question – whither our style of play? It’s not exactly total football, and it can be a bit of a tribute to League Two at times, but again – so what if it is?
We’re still finding our feet in L1, our budget is at the lower end of the table, and it’s a results based business. It’s needs must, cutting one’s cloth and any other such trite cliche you can think of.
Our defence may have given the ball away too much for my liking yesterday, but our midfield mopped it up more often than not. And considering how powder puff it’s been for too long, that’s a welcome change.
If we get a reputation for being tough bastards, then so be it. I grew up with 1980s WFC, so I’d love that comparison to come back.
The nicey-nicey approach just doesn’t work, it’s cost us vital points early on in the season, so we go to the next best thing. It’s much better being that than lightweight.
And it means we have a good chance of being L1 again this time next year. Just wish we wouldn’t time-waste so much though…
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) We’ve beaten Oxford. Continue to let it sink in. 2) Decent turnout by us, especially considering our record and kickoff time etc. Maybe people sensed something was going to happen? 3) Not that I’m complaining, but I wonder why Sky decided this was a fixture for the football starved masses this weekend? Unless it’s to do with the mob who played after us…
Anything else? And speaking of which…. we’re above Franchise, and will be until we play Swindon at least.
Needless to say, the outside world sees that as the big story, with even the ESS bothering to write about one of its clubs that isn’t in the Prem.
Yes, part of it is a massive achievement, especially ramming the “pub team” jibes down their throat. They’re metaphorically looking at our pert botty cheeks, while we’re planning to drop a repugnant fart down their nostrils.
Yet part of me feels a bit non-plussed by it. Some of that is down to the fact that I find a lot of Franchise v AFCW stuff these days distracting, that it’s the main thing that matters.
It isn’t. At least, not these days anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some moments when the old ire gets raised again. Us playing them at the Frenzydome in December almost seems old hat these days, but the game at KM will be yet another cathartic moment.
And when I had to cover them at Fulham last season, that was a mindfuck and a half.
But other than that, it feels like I’ve moved on from them in a way. It’s weird but also strangely liberating, as though we’re not tied up forever with what they achieve.
True, today is the first time that we’ve gone above them. But there will other times in the season when we do that again, and by then it becomes a bit meh.
Just like the second time playing them at the Frenzydome proved, or the second time we face them at KM will be, once the psychological barrier gets broken down you get over it quite quickly.
It’s that stage when you realise that we’re more than just being defined against an inauthentic franchise from the Midlands. Much more.
So yes, us being above them is great, and the league table will look nice until at least Saturday. But as somebody from AFCW put it yesterday, beating Oxford was far more important…
So, was it worth it? Do I have to answer that question?
In a nutshell: Sometimes, life is good.