And another point against a top six side. Whose soul did we sell to get such form?
It almost seems matter-of-fact that we didn’t lose on Saturday, given the week we’ve had. Simmie Womble was at the Macron…
So Notlob 1 – Nodelbmiw 1 (am I the only one to say Bolton backwards regularly?) left me with a really weird feeling. We could have gone and won it and indeed smashed Bolton, alternatively – they could have put 3 or 4 against us, and we ended up holding on for a draw that could have been so much more.
I didn’t realise it was possible to be both simultaneously proud and disappointed at the same time.
We started out terribly. We were second to every ball, and just looked like we were clinging onto a big and strong Bolton side. Madine assaulted the ball from a corner and helped Bolton take the lead and then all of a sudden we took control of the game.
For the next 25 minutes, we out passed, out created and out played a Bolton side that could reasonably do a job in the Championship.
In games like these, Reeves and Soares are worth their weight in gold. Poleon was positive and helped cause a defence made up of two big bullying defenders problems.
Elliott was getting no help from a referee who once again appeared to not understand that decisions go two ways, and not just the one in white, and yet we still managed to score a peach of a goal from a brilliant Francomb cross, and we should have scored at least another goal.
The second half came, and apart from the odd-half chance. Bolton were ‘comfortable’. We didn’t really cause them too many problems.
But then we were comfortable too – our new 3-5-2 Ardley V3.0 tippy tappy football, led to us occasionally dithering on the ball and often giving the ball away in the wrong place.
Safe to say that apart from that, and our occasional counter – neither side was going to really score, especially once we replaced the effective Poleon with an out of form Taylor.
This was a game we could have won. They were there for the taking, and we decided to sit back and go for the draw. I can’t help but feel replacing Bulman for Parnett and taking it to them might have led to the Wombles having 9 from 9 from 3 potential banana skins of games.
Plus points: Nightingale continued to play well on his return from injury. Francomb suiting a RWB slot really well. Soares showing he will be a vital part of the team. Elliott and Poleon. Between minutes 16 and 50.
Minus points: Their goal. The first 15 minutes. The crap stewarding. The last 35 minutes. Playing for a draw. Rail Replacement Bus Services.
The referee’s a…: ladybit? Didn’t really do much. Failed to spot the Bolton centre-backs attempting to assault Elliott a fair few times, and often pinged our esteemed target-Man instead. Linesmen were just as likely to favour the team in white as not give us anything.
Them: Don’t look to have really kicked on since the first game against them. Have big nasty fuck-off physical centre-backs who I can see bullying the more tippy-tappy technical sides in the division.
Play a lot of hoof ball with no real product. We on the other hand, seem to have improved and in terms of the football we are producing – I don’t think I’ve seen a Wimbledon side so confident to play and pass the ball well ever.
I don’t think they’ve got the quality to go up, and that could lead to massive problems. It appears despite their big debt-restructuring they’re still making losses of around £800k a month, and in this league that’s massive.
If they don’t go up – I could see them having some real problems for the next few years, especially with such an interesting ownership.
13,000 in League 1 is no mean feat, but it isn’t anywhere near close enough to the likes of Sheffield United who seem ready to go up with a bang.
They also don’t have anywhere near as good a squad. It was men against boys when we played Sheffield. Yet we could comfortably match a Bolton side who on paper should be able to walk this division.
Point to ponder: Our fans and stewarding. It appears that some of our ‘fans’ want to continue to challenge stewards, which in the lead up to the game against Pete Winkleman’s Pink Windmill kids doesn’t bode well.
I just want to enjoy my football, and while it’s alleged Bolton’s stewarding was very heavy handed. I could do without some of our fans deciding to challenge them for supposedly daring to stand in the stairwell. Just move! I’d rather watch the football on the pitch than get distracted by you ladybits not using your brains.
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Up North. Yet it wasn’t Cold Wet or Miserable… maybe I’ve been living up north for too long. 2) We’ve seen you before… on Jeremy Kyle being a chant that could reasonably describe some Bolton Fans 3) Someone from my course turning out to being a Bolton fan who predicted the score right on the coach from Preston 4) Me being adamant that they’d beat us 5) Them laughing at me afterwards as we got on the same coach.
Anything else? 5 more points and we’ll be ‘safe’ from relegation from League 1. How good does that sound?
Just think – before the Walsall game, we would have killed just to have three points from then until this morning. The fact that we got seven out of nine may have made our season.
To be honest, reading that we were playing for the draw might have been down to us being knackered. There were signs of that against Scunny in the latter stages too, and when you think about it – should you be that surprised?
Since the 7th February, or close to exactly a month ago, we have played seven games. No matter how good you are, no matter your squad size, that’s a helluva lot.
So to only lose once in all of them – and that was a last minute bit of dozyness – is testament to a lot of things. True, we should have come a cropper against Charlton and Coventry, but we didn’t.
Earlier in the season, SW19 and other places wrote about how much of a backbone we had. This last month, it’s come back, and has dug us out of some (self-inflicted) holes. It also helped us grasp the mettle at Glanford Park last Tuesday as well.
But then, if you’re going to have an upturn in form, the last four weeks was the time to do it. Suddenly, you wish we were playing tomorrow after all, although one suspects our physio would disagree…
Make no mistake, this could have killed us if we continued to fuck it up like we were doing in December and January. But we scored away from home, and that monkey finally got hauled off our back and sent to an animal testing lab.
Even following the game at the
Reebok Macron from afar, it sounded more than likely that we’d equalise at some point. That’s another little turnaround in expectation that one maybe wouldn’t expect a couple of weeks ago.
The next away game is Fleetwood, who are doing quite well, but even that doesn’t seem so daunting now.
Not only that, it takes pressure off our home form. We’ll lose against Northampton, of course, because that’s the kind of thing we do. But even if we did, and we fail to play the occasion properly tomorrow week, we’re still likely to finish comfortably in L1.
It’s not guaranteed until it’s confirmed, IYSWIM, but we’ve gone from 98% likely to stay in this division to 99%. We’ve got to the point where we’ve now got to lose almost half our remaining games and expect the strugglers to keep picking up wins when we do.
It’s possible, but the way we’ve played this last three games alone suggests it’s a bit unlikely. Not that I won’t be happy when we reach that symbolic 50-point mark, and I bet everyone else at AFCW will be too.
That may explain why NA is gunning for a strong end to the season – whether that means we won’t see the blooding of youngsters after all remains to be seen, but maybe they’re thinking “hmm, playoffs…” instead?
Or perhaps it’s simply a case of certain first-teamers playing for the right to be with us next season? Once we know we’re as good as safe, the team selections could start getting interesting.
If certain players, who haven’t played much part this season, are failing to start, then you can bet they’re on the out list. Or if they do play, but they keep getting subbed…
We’ll wait and see, but it’s a nice problem to have. To have a quiet and sedate last few games of the season is quite rare in the AFCW era, and I bet many will be looking forward to going to a game and not worrying about it.
One final thing that occurred to me this weekend – we’ve got the shrink back, and it’s obvious how effective he is. Would it not be a good idea to have a permanent position of sports psychologist next season?
Look at the results when we do get one in. We’re almost a different team – we saw it last season, when without him we’d still be in L2, and you can see what he’s done for us in the last month.
Football these days is a different animal to what it was in the 1980s and even the 1990s. Preparation is more advanced, sports science is as much a part of the game as kicking a ball, and we’re not in 1983 any more.
And watch a few of our fans fall down in horror at reading that last sentence… 😉
AFCW is not immune from this. Ardley himself is a product of modern football thinking, and you can bet we’re not the only one in this division who has more than the “traditional” backroom staff these days.
True, it’s not going to be the silver bullet that will get us in the Championship in 2018/19, but the more clubs who do it, the more likely those who don’t get left behind. Marginal gains, and all that.
It does seem to relieve the pressure on NA, who admitted in his Meet The Manager shindig last close season that he was doing too much beforehand. And isn’t the point of a good organisation one that doesn’t run its staff into the ground…?
I appreciate the counter-argument that to employ one would cost us one or two first team players. But then, it depends which two….