Do the Slutts

At least we’re in the fourth round hat tomorrow…

Not for the first time, I end up elsewhere in the South East and I come back thinking I’ve got a better deal than those who went.

This time, it’s the little matter of the FA Cup third round. STTA got a ticket, though only he can answer whether it was worth the aggro…

Two ways of looking at our trip to Gander Green Lane, a banana skin avoided or another shit performance. I would have taken a draw walking through Collingwood Rec so I guess I’m in the happy camp.

One thing is for sure if Sutton’s finishing hadn’t been so non-league we’d be finding something else to do at 7pm on Monday.

Because they had the best 3 chances in this game. Fatty Tubbs had the perfect opportunity to silence the Womble masses as he was put through early on but he sliced the chance wide.

Another through ball gave Maxime Biamou an even better chance, he raced away from Bully, Jimmy fell over coming out … but the Sutton man still couldn’t find our net.

Our main threat in the first half came down the left side with Andy Barcham looking a bit too quick for their right-back. We didn’t get the ball out to him often enough but it’s definitely an area we’ll look to exploit in the replay.

No doubt Sutton were making it difficult, they had more energy, more desire and they were savvy in how they played the officials. As the second half got underway it felt worrying like an upset might be on the cards.

And their opportunity to win the game arrived on the hour mark as Biamou again went through, this time he hit the target but Jimmy got down well to palm it away.

Our number 1 has been in very good form the last month or two, which is handy given his ever increasing workload. I don’t think he got enough credit for the save against Millwall, the shot that deflected off Robbo was one of the best stops I have seen at our place.

The one from Biamou yesterday was not in that league but equally important in avoiding defeat.

As Sutton tired we enjoyed our best spell late in the game. Robbo had a half-chance from a corner, Tom nearly got on the end a Barcham cross and we had a decent penalty appeal turned down after a clumsy challenge on Fuller.

We never really looked like scoring though and when you’re regularly firing blanks 0-0 isn’t such a bad result.

Plus points: nobody died on that pitch. We should win the replay. Darius. Jimmy.

Minus points: when did we last score away from home, when did we last look like scoring away from home.

The referee’s a…: card happy wanker. Thought they played him better than us.

Them: Reminded me of being back in League 2, they pushed and shoved, pressed and harried and put in one or two enthusiastic challenges.

To be fair they did their job of giving us an uncomfortable afternoon very well. Their defence was very well organized, they showed great energy and commitment to try and win the game and easily bridged the gap in talent with their effort.

Anything else: bit of a crap atmosphere wasn’t it. Not the easiest ground to make much noise but I expected a bit more given it was a ‘local derby’. An occasional squeaky horn from them and not-a-lot from us (maybe because we were spread over half the ground).

So we’ve definitely lost our mojo and I’m not sure it’s coming back any time soon. I expect us to beat Sutton comfortably in the replay, we may even get a plum draw in round 4 but I think we’ll struggle to win another league game in January.

It’s becoming clear to most of us that we do need to freshen things up in the window and top of our shopping list should be a right sided midfielder/winger.

To be blunt Francomb isn’t good enough, Whelpdale isn’t fit enough and Parrett isn’t a wide man.

Our other problem is energy, can we afford to have Fuller, Robinson and Bulman in the same team for part 2 of the season? Robertson did well when Darius was injured and he can play right back, this gives us options to rotate our ageing players and see how we do with our average age down by a year or three.

Meades was decent in centre midfield last week, I like the physicality he adds in the middle and his lack of pace isn’t the same problem it is at left back.

Is he Bully’s replacement next season? And if he is would now be a good time to bring in another full back?

Seth Owens needs at least another year with the under 21’s and although I’ve been impressed with Sean Kelly in recent weeks I’m not convinced he’s good enough to be our regular left-back.

And will we need to replace anyone leaving Kingsmeadow? I’ve heard rumours that Lyle is attracting attention, Ian Holloway is a big fan and a bid from QPR would be hard for player and club to turn down.

I’m equally concerned about Tom Elliot, easily our most-improved player in 2016 and arguably our best forward. As I left our last home game I walked past two Millwall fans discussing how they’d love to sign him, I doubt they’re the only ones.

And finally this week a word for Mr. Ardley. Whether intended or not Neal’s managed to piss off some of our fans again with another ‘you don’t understand football’ comment.

You may remember he’s done this before saying something along the lines of ‘if you’ve never played football at a decent level you really know fuck all about the game’.

This time he said ‘if you don’t think that’s a good result on this pitch you don’t understand the game’. These comments may have been taken the wrong way but nevertheless they have offended.

Not many of our fans played Premier League, few have UEFA coaching badges but they all recognise a team that’s playing well from a team that’s struggling.

So while your team is going through a difficult period be careful what you say, because if our slump continues you may need that support in the coming weeks.

So, was it worth it? I’ll take not losing for now.

In a nutshell: We’re in the hat

Those who missed out on the ballot can obviously feel happier this Sunday.

It doesn’t sound very good, it has to be said, to struggle to put any efforts on target against a side two divisions lower than yourselves.

I wonder if we’re starting to regress to the AFCW we were in the first couple of seasons under NA? Namely a lot of nothing, not shit enough to go down but getting into a bit of a rut and staying there.

Following it on Twatter and occasional comments elsewhere, it appears we rode our luck a couple of times, and our game plan was to pounce when they were tiring.

Which is all very well – it worked at Curzon – but shouldn’t we be a bit better than that? In terms of both talent and ambition, that is.

OK, we’re not used to a 3G pitch. And Sutton’s home form in the Conference this season (and their results on the road) proves they have an advantage over most teams at GGL.

But for fuck’s sake, we’re in League One. We seem to be intent on stumbling to the fourth round, and the last time we got this far in the FAC the second half of the season was wank.

Mind you, if playing like we did yesterday was a once-off because it was the FAC, I’d happily accept the second chance we’ve got. We all know it isn’t, though…

And that makes NA’s comments just a little bit harder to swallow. Apparently, David “Stuck In First Gear” Pleat had a bit of a pop at our manager afterwards for saying it, and tellingly only the usual arselickers seem to be supporting him this morning.

One wonders if Ardley is feeling just a little bit of pressure over our away form right now? What is it – no goals in about nine hours or something? I’ll go and check…

*cue furious tapping and low-level muttering*

OK, I’ve just had a look at our recent results away from KM. Our goalscoring is bad, but I didn’t realise how shockingly awful it is – nothing in the League since Peterborough away.

And that was on the 22nd October.

We’re lucky that our home form is bailing us out, because otherwise we would be looking at a return to League Two. That’s not scaremongering either.

Why is it so poor at the moment? Have we been sussed out? Have we run ourselves into the ground and we just can’t seem to recover?

Shouldn’t we use Sutton – no disrespect, like – as a springboard rather than simply more of the uninspiring same?

Whatever the problem is, it doesn’t look likely to be solved anytime soon. At least, not without another good run of form or just a bit of freshening up.

Perhaps now wouldn’t be a bad time to blood some youngsters after all? If only to break the monotony of yet another game sans cutting edge.

If they prove to be ineffective, then so be it. At least we’ll be trying something different, because it’s hard not to think right now that we can only do more of the same.

One wonders if the players know that as well. It seems to be going on for a long time, at least since the Franchise game which was a month ago, and probably before that too.

Still, we’re not out of the cup, and maybe realising that will spark just that tinsy winsy bit of life back into things. We live in hope, anyway.

Oh, and one final thing – the FA Yoof Cup game is on Tuesday. It would be far too snarky of me to suggest that they could show the first team a thing or two…

12 thoughts to “Do the Slutts”

  1. As with every other team, it’s central midfield, stupid.

    Ardley needs to have long, hard think about what to do with the engine room.

    Ardley’s intrinsically negative philosophy of having two worker bees who sit back is limiting. We’re not very creative and neither Bulman or Reeves have scored a goal this season.

    And there’s no escaping the fact we have a lightweight central midfield.

    Bulman reads the game superbly, but he’s 38 in a couple of weeks. This could be a season too far for him.

    Reeves works hard and is talented but is easily beaten to the ball and is decision making is poor.

    Ardley needs a philosophical rethink about what central midfielders are actually…

  2. ^^
    What he said. We’re missing an imposing central midfielder. Jakes Reeves can pick a great pass and when he’s playing well and given space he can run the game. But when it’s competitive in the middle he can go missing and yesterday gave the ball away repeatedly. Bulman runs a lot and closes down space but offers very little going forward. The scary thing is how we didn’t change it up yesterday when it clearly wasn’t working.

  3. Don’t be so easily offended. No manager is going to say ‘our away for is shocking and we were shit today’.

  4. To me, what STTA said about Meades going into midfield makes a lot of sense because then we could bring in some decent full backs on both sides which would improve our team up loads, especially when we play 4-3-3.

    Long term Ardley really has to either start playing some of the youngsters or just move them on. Nightingale, Beere, Oakley & Fitzpatrick aren’t really that young anymore. Ardley hasn’t really developed a young player yet. Can he actually do so? The jury’s out.

    Finally, some of the free agents out there include a player like Kieran Richardson. Can you imagine how much balance he’d give to us. We’ve got to try & recruit the odd player like that this month to push…

  5. Reeves and Bully were both in there throughout our excellent run in September & October so I’m not sure that’s where the problem lies. As the season’s gone on I think oppo teams have had a chance to scout us properly and they’ve worked out that stopping Tom Elliot removes most of our threat (it’s definitely disappeared somewhere). Some are putting 2 or 3 men on him as Sutton did yesterday. I’d like to see switch our attention to exploiting the gaps this creates and an out-and-out right winger would be the obvious place to start.

    1. You’re right when you say our our tactics have been sussed (not hard when it’s basically a hoof to Elliott).

      And when a part-time outfit deals with it so easily, maybe it’s time to evolve.

      If we’re going to be a long ball side, then we should have the right sort of midfielders to play it, ie not 5ft 8 inch dainty types who struggle to impose themselves physically, and allow them to support the forwards to compete second balls etc.

      If we’re going to play ‘football’, then have ball players but let them play and get forward. And score a goal!

      I think Ardley is conflicted on what style to play and this is why he’s been trying to put quarts in pint pots with Parrett on the…

  6. Sutton should have won, possibly even convincingly…

    Atmosphere was bizarre, “South London is Ours” is embarrassing when the ‘established’ South London club fans use it never mind Sutton,.

    It was ridiculous getting home…

    Oh, how many really missed out in the ballot? The club kept sending out messages about duplicate applications and initially only 500 ish more people applied for tickets than our allocation.

  7. Just a few weeks ago, the fans were saying that no signings were needed in the transfer window and that Ardley was doing really well. That was then and now is now and, unfortunately, we appear to have the old NIL Ardley back in business, particularly away from home. All the “he’s learnt his lessons” etc. looks to have gone out of the window and all the old traits are returning – tinkering, changes of formation, ramping up the opponent, odd “tactics” and the “we played ok” even when it was plain that we didn’t. This is very worrying and it needs Neal and the team to understand that a good squad that has touched the play-off spots is capable of doing it again. Please let it be “bye…

  8. I think it just goes to show how much at any level confidence is the deciding factor. If you have got it you do well but it is a fragile thing. Hence the use of the sports psychologist.

    We certainly did miss a big guy in midfield against Sutton as now one from ours competed with theirs; but then ours didn’t seem to read what the ball might do in the second phase.

    I have always thought since the CCL days midfield has not quite come together, not the glue it should be between attack and defence.

    I think this may be Bully’s last season so a tall defending midfielder that releases Reeves or Parret or whoever forward would be my choice for an addition IF required.

    Needed if aiming…

  9. higher….

    FFS REPD – why does it allow you to go up to the character limit and then chop about 20 characters off!!!!


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