Better performance. Worse result?
If truth be told, after Possibly Going Down 1 Probably Going Down 1 last night, I’m in at least two minds over the whole thing.
I genuinely can’t decide whether it was great we finally looked like a fighting unit who just lacked that little bit of luck at the wrong time, or if we’ve proven how shit we are that we can’t even win this one.
Your editor saw the goals on SSN this morning, and apart from the presenter saying “Gillingham were held to a 1-1 draw by AFC Wimbledon” – yes, really – I’m annoyed at how easily we let them back in the game.
It’s as if we lost our heads after their man got sent off. And yes, it’s two dropped points against a team likely to be in L2 next season already…
But to our immense credit, we came out and looked like we wanted to win the game for once. If just one more effort had gone in, and/or one less brainfart at the back, then it would be a much more relaxed morning.
As somebody (semi) joked, we had more efforts in the first fourteen minutes as we have in the previous fourteen games. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but if it is, it’s not a particularly big one. And you know what they say about truth being spoken in jest.
It’s as if we went out with a point to prove. We were certainly playing like we were unshackled (and read on to figure out the very reason why), and when we scored, then when we had the old skool bundle right before the break, this was the AFCW we all wanted to see.
Unfortunately, it fired Gillingham up, they equalised before the break, and the AFCW of recent times returned.
I’m going to put our failure to score down to just not having that bit of luck, because we certainly gave it a go. And let’s face it – we would have got more points from previous games if we had applied ourselves in them like we did last night.
Needless to say, there are some outstanding issues which will continue to haunt us until January at least. We know what they are. That’s the bed that has been made, and it’s going to be an uncomfortable time for the next fourteen weeks.
There’s always the nagging doubt in the back of my mind that if we can’t beat ten-men Gillingham, who can we beat? Yesterday’s performance will mean jack shit if we revert to type at Ewood Park and the must-not-even-play-badly-let-alone-lose next home game.
But we did at least see a glimpse of what we can do. It’s just a shame it’s taken us a good month to finally realise that…
Plus points: We didn’t lose. Much more committed. Hartigan. Forrester. Some (relatively) better crossing. HAFSOG is back, a couple even on target.
Minus points: We didn’t win. Two points dropped. Their goal. Still too many weaknesses.
The referee’s a…: Sent off their bloke and kept Taylor on, so that was good of him. Anyone else think he blew up too early at the end when we were about to launch one last attack?
Them: Likely to go down, and the most important takeaway from last night is the probability of us joining them. Though they haven’t got the quality even we’ve got…
That said, I didn’t think they were significantly worse than Blackpool, and history has shown crap teams have pulled out of relegation places before. And them going down to ten men was supposed to galvanise us – not them.
Weren’t so many of them as previous seasons, though we didn’t take many more to Priestfield last season either. At some point, people just end up saving their money rather than bother traipsing around the M25 to watch toss.
Oh, and thankfully their “shit Andy Carroll” was sufficiently rubbish enough to not rub our noses in it after our chants…
Point to ponder: Whither Neal Ardley?
He’s been put through the proverbial wringer since Saturday, although in truth that’s been building up for a good while. And the performance, if not the result, will have pleased him as well.
But you do have to wonder if the change we saw last night has deeper roots. His comments on the OS afterwards are intriguing, and they’re worth quoting:
We needed to get back to what we are about and I had a look at myself. I don’t think I have been as down as I was at the weekend about where the team was at and what part I was playing in it.
Maybe I have tried to put too much into the process of playing a bit of football; drawing people into holes and getting quality into good players in the right areas.
There has been too much information and today I just said that I would pick a system that allowed them to run hard and play high intensity football.
I had not enjoyed watching us play at times this season and I have to take responsibility for that.
Rest assured, he is certainly not alone in the first part of his sentence. Anyway, to cap it off:
We tried to get back to our roots today and it was good.
Why does this mea culpa stuff feels like it happens at least once a season with NA? More to the point, why does he never seem to learn from it?
It’s been said on here before, but Ardley’s biggest failure as a manager is that he tries to be too clever, and too ideological, and he eventually has to backtrack when reality strikes.
Micro-managing is part of that, that letting (some decently talented) players just get on with it has to be smothered, for the sake of the system.
It’s nothing new, and as just said it happens with a disturbing degree of regularity, but we’ve always been able to change it because there was enough in the squad to do so.
But this season, that approach has finally caught up with us. The problems have become very obvious, and more importantly damaging to our prospects of staying in L1 this campaign.
Yes, the shackles were off last night, but the recruitment miscalculations in the summer are still blatant.
Take the whole target man thing. No, we might not have been able to afford Michael Smith. But I also don’t believe we couldn’t have got somebody in – if we wanted to.
If it’s true that Cody McDonald isn’t nearly as effective without one – why did we sign him to begin with? Even if you take the claim that we couldn’t afford a big guy up front at face value, then you adapt your style to something more practical.
That’s not misfortune, that’s simply poor scouting on our part. And for the second close season in a row as well.
For this reason, I think that’s why NA hasn’t got the praise I genuinely thought he would receive this morning, particularly from people who previously haven’t ground the axe. Despite last night, they still see the big holes, and they no longer stick their heads in the sand.
Dropping two points is always disappointing, and if we can keep up the intensity shown then we’ll probably be OK until January. But but one suspects NA is going to have to take more of a step back to keep people onside…
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) A sub-4000 crowd. People voting with their feet? 2) Francomb. Now sponsored by Wahl clippers.
Anything else? Dunno, really. Anyone else notice Mikey T didn’t announce who our next home game was against? Not that I blame him.
So, was it worth it? Yes and no.
In a nutshell: A step forward?