Update: Just added a clarification to a bit that is self-explanatory. I hope…
And we’re in the next round of the FA Cup.
OK, it was just one goal, and some of it sounded as convincing as an alibi from Kevin Spacey, but at least we won’t have a spare weekend on the 2nd/3rd of December.
Not many of us turned up to see it, although STTA did…
And credit to all involved for that. Because losing wasn’t an option yesterday afternoon. There are enough knives out as it is without a 1st round exit in the cup which would have plummeted us to new depths of despair.
And that was definitely on the table. A struggling League One team, a cold rainy day at KM and a bunch of well funded league 2 cloggers who have recent pedigree in the competition.
To add to those concerns we suffered a couple of late injuries which scuppered the formation and personnel we were planning to use, given all that I thought it was a pretty comfortable win.
We ended up going in 442. No Trotter or Francomb but a recall for Callum and an opportunity to see Lyle and Cody as a front pair.
We started well. Decent tempo to our play as we put in our usual energetic opening 20 minutes. The goal was as much down to Lincoln’s defensive ineptitude as any of our qualities but Taylor buried the chance beautifully.
Once we’d scored I felt pretty comfortable about getting through. One of our strengths is keeping a lead and we looked more than capable of holding an inferior side at bay.
We had to shuffle the team when Lyle departed and there’s no doubt we carry much less attacking threat without him but on this occasion we didn’t need another goal.
The defence was well marshalled by Darius and despite a second half push by the visitors George was never called into serious action.
Plus points – Darius & Deji pairing. Cody looking better with a partner. Second round draw to look forward to.
Minus points – we’re stacking up injuries.
The referees a – annoying little twat. Thought he got plenty of decisions wrong, didn’t cost us anything this time so already forgotten.
Them – a handy reminder why we don’t want to be heading back to League Two in May. Few ugly lumps amongst them but very little footballing ability.
Point to ponder – do people underestimate the importance on Jon Meades to our team? I rate him highly and believe results will improve with him back in the side.
“But he won’t score goals” I hear people shout. Maybe not but we’ve not been getting battered this season. If Meadsey had been in the team and able to contribute to the odd goal or stop 1 or 2 going in at the other end we could easily be sitting 5 or 6 places higher in the table.
To evidence the point I looked back at last season. JM missed the opening 5 games, our record in that period was P5 W0 D1 L4. He returned against Rochdale and our form in the following 15 games was P15 W7 D6 L2.
Definiely a key member of our best XI and now he’s back I hope our results will improve in similar fashion this campaign.
Which leads me on to my concerns about the next couple of months.
I don’t think the ‘crisis’ is anywhere near as bad as some fans make out. Neal has been given the job of keeping us in the league and if he does it with 0-0’s and 1-0 wins that’s up to him.
It’s then a decision for the board what value they put on our League One status and how they balance that with dwindling attendances and general dissatisfaction with the entertainment value of Ardleyball (copyright Kentish Don).
If Neal keeps us in the division I can’t see the board not renewing his contract.
[SW19 note, with updated clarification: I believe the criteria is whatever our budget is position wise, then about five or six places above that. I would guess that it’s a bit of a rule of thumb, that there are other non-statistic factors coming into play, but however you look at it – right now, our current manager is underachieving by a fair distance.]
But if we pick up a couple more injuries and we get relegated things could be very different. That’s been a concern since August, a small squad containing players like Appiah and Meades always carries that risk.
But it hit home again yesterday when Lyle needed to go off. We had nobody on the bench vaguely suited to replacing him.
So all we can do is cross our fingers for now but whether it’s a lump or not it’s essential we bring in another striker in the window. I hope we have plenty of irons in the fire already because this is the one piece of January business that’s crucial to our survival.
The other HR issue I hope we have in hand is Darius’ next contract. He’s in the last year of his current deal and having seen the difference he’s made to our team since his return I’d like him signed up on as longer a deal as we can offer.
Truth is stranger than fiction – being denied entry to the bar for MOTM because I didn’t have my match tickets. Yeah but I’m stood here with my 2 kids wearing Wimbledon shirts, do I look like a hoolie from Lincoln?
“That’s the rules” they tell me.
We’re supposed to be a fan owned club and employing the services of security people with absolutely zero common sense (yes I know 99% of bods in this profession don’t have 2 brain cells to knock together) when you haven’t publicised the fact you need your ticket to get in the bar is quite frankly shit.
Fortunately I wandered up to the other door where we walked straight in, which kind of sums up the idiocy of such arrangements anyway.
Anything else – no word from Neal this week and I can’t say I blame him. When everything you say and do is criticised it’s best to come out the firing line for a while.
He can’t say anything in his pre or post match interviews without fans moaning and I thought there was a complete over reaction to him basically saying he’d review some video with Will.
News of a loan move to Sutton Utd for Alfie Egan will break shortly and I expect some will see that as reason to have another go about the youth. The reality is Alfie’s not ready for league 1 football and a spell on loan in the Conference will do his development no end of good.
Neal’s been well and truly battered in recent weeks, and whilst some decisions deserve scrutiny he still has us outside the relegation places and into the next round of the cup.
Maybe now he deserves a bit of a break and the time to get his squad producing the form they’re clearly capable of.
And finally – a quiet week before we take on Posh on the telly. Sounds like we need that breather to patch up a few walking wounded and prepare ourselves for the tough fixtures ahead.
As a well known commentator said on the 9 years forum we have let some 3 point opportunities pass us by in recent weeks against fellow members of the bottom 8 club.
That means we need to pick up results in some tougher fixtures. If we can get something near our first XI on the pitch for the next 4 or 5 games I have a feeling we might do exactly that.
So was it worth it – nice break from the League.
In a nutshell – anyone but Franchise please.
I don’t know what the draw numbers tomorrow are, but I bet ours and Franchise are being warmed up as we speak.
The one good thing about cup ties is that they are once-offs. History is littered with clubs who are doing shite in the league but get a bit of a boost when it comes to knock-out stuff.
And for our own mental health if nothing else, we needed yesterday. I shudder to think if we’d drawn that game, or – Satan forbid – even lose it. And it would have been interesting if Lincoln had more about them…
The general consensus from those there was that we were good in the first ten minutes or so, got the goal, Taylor went off and that was about it really. Or in a nutshell, job definitely done.
A few things though. I don’t think this is really going to make too much difference to how we perform in the league. Yesterday was a pleasing result, but our issues are too deep for it to change with one game.
We’re not like Brentford (where your editor was yesterday evening) because one genuinely had that feeling they could improve – and as it turns out, that’s what they did. We don’t have that sense about us, and if truth be told I don’t think we will even after January.
Or if we did get a decent win or two, we’d slink back to old ways pretty quickly.
Meades returning is a good thing, though whether he’s going to remain sans blessure for long enough remains to be seen. Unfortunately, one suspects Appiah is going to be in that same category as well.
The tactics yesterday worked, although they’re supposed to against a side in a lower division than us. That said though, we did seem to come out quite positively from the start, which likely won us the contest.
Wonder if that was a post-Charlton reaction as much as an FA Cup one?
Speaking of which, I note NA didn’t do the post-game interview. He doesn’t have to, of course, but I think it would have been a good opportunity for him, even if it was only a “we’re in the next round of the FA Cup and we’re looking to use it as a springboard in the league”.
Bland platitudes, but speaking from a purely professional point of view, doing that does get people onside a bit more when a manager is in damned-if-he-does/doesn’t mode.
I don’t doubt the Sun report post-Charlton stung him, although it wasn’t unjustified, and all it does is make him look a bit of a slapped arse instead.
Perhaps the most telling thing of yesterday was the crowd, or lack of it. 1000 Imps made the attendance more respectable than it otherwise would have been. And I think that’s a message to AFCW itself there.
People had the choice of paying extra to watch, let’s face it, boring shit and unsurprisingly they didn’t take it up this weekend.
Your editor knew quite a few stay-aways, and it was interesting how many of them were explicit in doing so. They didn’t like the current product, they felt they would be paying too much for it, and so they voted with their feet.
The days of everyone turning up no matter what probably never existed, but more and more people are becoming more discerning now. Partly due to cost, partly due to there not being a “need” to support the club so much these days.
But it’s primarily everyone having higher minimum standards of what they expect now. If people think it’s worth turning up, they’ll do so. If not…
Obviously, if we get a plum draw tomorrow evening, then suddenly everyone will be claiming they’ve never missed a game and should have first dibs on a ticket.
Though what would constitute a decent tie in the second round I don’t know. Anything like Leatherhead or Maidstone would be better away, and as Slutton and Curzon last year should have proved, ties against non-league sides can be the most tricky of the lot.
Another L2 side will get the same response as when we drew Lincoln out, unless it’s a decent away game, although ironically our best bet for the third round tie against Burton may be a L1 outfit.
Especially one riding high, where they will probably put out a weaker side to concentrate on the league.
Que sera sera, and all that. Normal service will probably resume next Sunday, but for now it’s the FA Cup, and anything can happen. Christ, we even managed to score a goal…