No, your eyes are not deceiving you…
OK, this is going up on Monday because your editor was at the Old Farm derby yesterday (no WUM) rather than being in shock at a rare three points.
And yes, it will have more of a gobsmacking effect if we repeat the same feat at Scunny tomorrow. And you can fuck right off if you think I’m doing an on-the-whistle report for that.
Anyway, you can wait until Wednesday for the inevitable post-mortem. In the meantime, STTA on Walsall…
During this bad spell we’ve given opposition teams too much time on the ball, our energy has been low, without it we haven’t been able to employ the pressing game that brought us so much success in the Autumn.
The away game at Posh springs to mind as the shining example of how good we can be when we play at a high tempo.
So wasn’t it great to see that return against Walsall? Particularly in such a crucial game before 2 tough away trips where any points will be a bonus.
No coincidence that a fully fit Dannie Bulman was back in the midfield. Bully was at his best tirelessly closing down the space and shielding the back 4.
He’s also part of a strong backbone with Darius and Tom, when these three are on the pitch we look organized and have a competitive edge that we seem to lack without them.
Our main attacking threat in the first half came down the left. Andy Barcham somewhere near his best, often beating his full-back and putting decent ball into the box for Tom and Lyle.
Although we failed to create any clear cut chances I thought we just shaded the first half.
Second half we came out with an excellent attitude, we kept the tempo high and pushed forward looking for a goal. We even hit the target with a shot from outside the box, that man Bulman again with a great strike that Etheridge beat away.
The breakthrough came on 70 minutes when Lyle collected his second of the week after a scramble in the Walsall area. Interesting that our psychologist returns and one of the regular visitors to his couch bags 2 crucial goals in a week.
Hopefully Lyle is feeling loved again and will add a few more to his tally between now and 1st May.
After going ahead our ‘game management’ was the usual disaster but we survived a couple of late scares to hang on for a very timely win.
Plus points: Darius, Bully, Barcham, tempo, a goal, we won a game.
Minus points: nothing springs to mind and this section is well due for a week off.
[SW19 note: normal service will undeniably be resumed on Wednesday]
The referee’s a…: bit of a twat I thought. There was word before the game that we’ve had some sort of apology for all the shit refs we’ve had recently and I wondered if this dumpy little character had been told to avoid anything controversial.
Them: some good players, Oztumer the main threat when he got on the ball but they didn’t seem to have much of a plan B when we deprived him of space and time to play.
Point to ponder: is it possible we could give Dannie Bulman another contract? He turned 38 last month but there doesn’t seem much wrong with his engine.
We’ll have to put him out to graze one day but there are others in the squad I’m more concerned about retaining for season 2017/18.
Back to this campaign and we probably need 1 more win to be sure. If we can keep the Darius/Bully/Elliot backbone together and Barcham and Taylor produce more of Saturday”s form I can see us picking up enough points to be safe by the end of March.
It might be the dizzyness of a Saturday night with 3 points in the bag but I’m wondering whether we might even turn up a result at Scunthorpe on Tuesday. They are without a win in 5, we have absolutely zero expectation and there’ll be 150 of us there to witness it, got to be a banker away win.
Great thing is it doesn’t matter after Saturday as we’re feeling pretty comfortable now. We can settle in glorious midtableness and enjoy the last 12 games.
Well 11 of them anyway and one other to be endured on 14th March. A game we could really do with winning to put a coat of gloss on this up and down season.
Was it worth it? sitting in the rain on a gloomy February afternoon? Just about.
In a nutshell: 3 points in the bank.
Thankfully, no Sucker-AMesque “jokes” about Walsall being called “Warsaw” have been made. It was mildly amusing when it was first cracked in 1921, but should now be consigned to history alongside fish puns…
That’s your bit of snark out of the way for this writeup. What a nice feeling victory is, eh? Especially against a team that I think was higher than us before kickoff on Saturday.
By the sounds of it, we weren’t brilliant but just needed to be good enough. Which for a lot of L1 is simply what you need to be most weeks.
Time will tell how long this rather nice feeling will last, but rest assured – we needed this more than virtually any other result thus far this season. A draw would have been OK, but it would have been another fixture without a win, and that pressure to get one would be immense.
And if we had lost…..
Thankfully, we’re back in relative comfort in the table. Obviously, many (most?) will be far more focused on the team two places and one point below us, but it’s eased any anxiety that has built up recently.
Yes, there were people actually mentioning the playoffs after Saturday, though after last season I’m going to keep my gob shut on that.
Perhaps more realistically, and importantly, there’s an equal gap between us and the bottom four, although with an infinitely superior goal difference.
We do need to be careful still, because your editor is a sad bastard, and he’s noticed that Port Vale have a game in hand on us. So we do need to kick on and get a couple more wins now the momentum is on us.
That’s why I think we should be very careful not to let the next two games be write-offs. They’re undeniably difficult, but fuck it – let’s go for the win in both of them. If we lose, then that’s what most people expect anyway.
But as STTA pointed out, we’re facing a team tomorrow who are one win in five, who will be pretty nervous unless (until?) they net the first goal in under ten minutes, and who might actually be ripe for a traditional Wimbledon scalp.
Feel free to quote that back when we lose 4-0.
Fortunately, we seem to have arrested the very real slide we were on. That was apparent even at Shrewsbury, despite the loss, and yes – it’s telling we’ve upped our game now the shrink is back.
That of course raises questions in itself. But we’re all in a good mood right now, and I don’t want to be that guy this morning.
We have at least proven to ourselves that if we do look in danger this season, there’s enough backbone within us to eventually claw our way out of it. Because make no mistake, we were looking at a very real possibly of getting into a relegation scrap.
We still might of course, but you’d like to think the worst run of the lot is now over. We were due a run of about one win in whatever it was, and we should expect a couple more wins at some point between now and this time next month.
After Bolton on Saturday, we’ll have a rest before Northampton, and we’ll need it. Indeed, if we can get at least one point from tomorrow and/or the Macron, then February’s slog might not have been too bad after all.
March doesn’t look an easy month either, and I don’t just mean the circus on the 14th, but we could actually be safe a lot sooner than Easter. Which is something we would have given our right bollock for just before the season started.
Obviously, the earlier we can secure L1 football the better, because then we can start planning ahead for what will be the most important rebuilding close season under NA. At least, if you don’t count his first one.
Do we put the likes of Fuller, Bulman and Robbo out to pasture? Do we give them another season, but make sure they become squad players to be used more sporadically? Will there be any faith shown in our youngsters?
How much of this current squad do you take apart? And how would we cope if Franchise put in a stonking bid for Tom Elliott……?