Saloppy

Hmm. And hmm again.

I suppose it wasn’t a bad thing I was at Pompey v Oxford yesterday, as it’s given me more time to reflect on Shrews 1 Dormice 0. And no, I won’t do any sort of “taming” quip whatsoever.

It’s almost like playing Northampton and having to put a “cobblers” reference in there somewhere.

But even a day or so later, I haven’t shaken off the nagging doubt I’ve had after the full time whistle. We’ve gone from being 50/50 to stay up to 60/40 in favour of us returning to League Two.

OK, we only lost by one goal to the team currently top, and yes we did put a little bit of a fight up in the last five minutes. But I left the New Meadow (or whatever it’s called now) realising just why we’re down the bottom.

We offered very little up front, even when we had a second striker up there. And when we did have an opportunity to shoot at the keeper, we decided to pass it. Confidence? As in, chronic lack of it.

We failed to clear the ball properly for their goal, although it had been coming for a little while. It’s not a new thing with our defence – previous games have seen us take the lead and then surrender it sooner rather than later.

Our set pieces are horrible, and I assume the only reason we don’t practice them is because the budget won’t allow us the time on the training ground to do so.

But something struck me on Saturday, as somebody who has only seen his fourth game (fifth if you count the Plymouth beamback) of 2018 – we looked so slow.

Seriously, we were borderline geriatric in body, mind and soul.

Shrewsbury were full of beans, as you would expect them to be, but while they were moving about freely we were playing with zimmer frames in comparison. Our idea of a quick throw-in is one that only takes six seconds rather than the usual ten.

And that’s almost literally as well.

Even when we did get an opportunity to attack, it was usually run a bit, then stop, then take a few seconds to make the next decision, and then it all breaks down again.

Mind you, I get the feeling regular matchday goers have known this for a good while. No wonder so many seem desensitised to the whole shebang.

It was only when Kaja came on that there was suddenly a bit of life. A youngster with a point to prove making a difference – who’d thunk it, eh? Not that it was enough, although one was left wondering what if we’d done that with 20 minutes left…

So, what? Well, playing one up front when we need the points merely gets you what you deserve. Regardless of who it is against. Where was Lloyd Sam? Or Antwi? The former might not have had clearance, but what’s the point of recalling the latter and not even including him?

He may not have made much of an impact if we’d used him as a sub on Saturday, but we’ll never know that now. Yes, it’s a gamble, but we can’t afford not to do so any more.

Read on, if you want to be depressed further…

Plus points: It didn’t rain.

Minus points: The feeling of inevitability. Fuller injured. Eunuchs up front.

The referee’s a…: Didn’t give us too much, although as so many times this season have proven – his contribution played little part in the end result.

Them: They’re top, but I didn’t think they were all that. They were certainly there for the taking, especially as they had a weakened squad. Hell, Northampton managed to draw with them last week.

Imagine if we were a bit braver against them on Saturday.

Then again, if you cast your mind back to the days when we too chased for promotion (remember them? They weren’t too long ago), there’s always a time around March where you end up slipping against struggling teams.

Shrewsbury might be going through that very patch right now. I didn’t see us play Wigan, but I think Blackburn were better against us, and I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see them miss out on promotion after all.

Still, the New Prostar Greenhous Montgomery Waters Meadow is how I imagine NPL to feel a bit like. OK, the concourses are lacking in soul, but the views are decent and it’s a similar capacity to what our new gaff will likely be (9875).

It’s over ten years old, believe it or not – and I wasn’t sad enough to know that until this morning, when I looked it up – but there’s definitely some wear and tear. Surface rust on the pillars, that kind of thing.

Oh, and how come they have so many supporter coaches…?

Point to ponder: Does our go-out-not-to-lose approach put too much pressure on us winning the Fleetwood type games?

The build-up to Good Friday isn’t going to be a sedate one, and I imagine the match itself is going to be one big bundle of nerves. And that’s partly because we’ve now put too much onus on getting a result.

It’s undeniably must-win, I’d even say it’s not a must-not-lose fixture now, but it does feel like we’ve gambled on survival by focusing on Fleetwood, Oldham and Bury. All home games, and all have the potential to fuck us up.

Remember Barnet on Easter Monday? Here’s a reminder if you want one, and a lot of what I wrote on that horrible day could have been written today.

This approach might pay off, and we may well stay up because of it, but it just seems totally un-necessary. Fleetwood need the points as much as we do, but they will know a draw at least will wound us more than it will them.

There’s still eight games remaining, and our fate remains in our hands, but we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing what games to win in. Put it this way – I don’t fancy us having to go to Wigan to need a result to stay up…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The local chippy sold saveloys. OK, it was cooked a bit too long, but given the heathen North barely sees one of those lovelies, you can forgive them. Decent chips, mind you. 2) The Deji song, to Ob-la-di. More creative than anything on the field of play within the last year. 3) “Breathe on ’em Salop” banner – urm, no thanks.

Anything else? I think our survival this season will depend on how much we can wring out just a few more little bits of magic in games, and hope that we’re not 2-0 down by the time we get them.

That was the major impression I got after Saturday – that all round, we’ve reached the end of the road.

True, there’s still a lot to play for, and the big prize is survival, but it’s shocked me how much we’ve lost our spark. Or if you prefer, mojo. Which is usually very difficult to get back.

Your editor has covered teams in the past that eventually go down, and many of them look like how we are at the moment. Not at war with each other, at least on the surface, but more a sense of being clapped-out.

And a lot of these teams lack an identity. I’m not sure what ours is, if we have one – are we a passing side? A long ball one? An in-your-face bunch of warriors who have forgotten how to say “quit”? On second thoughts, don’t answer the last one.

Basically, we’re a load of nothing. Last season, even though that’s when our goalscoring issues first surfaced, you could at least say we had a backbone that got us the points. It’s much harder to claim that these days.

We have spells of about 5-10 minutes where we suddenly wake up, but that’s all we seem to do. I’m led to believe Saturday was a typical example of so much of this season, in that regard.

We’re certainly not set piece specialists, unless you want to be a case study in how not to take them. I know it’s L1 rather than the Prem, but they’re poor even for this level.

And you can’t even say we’re totally shit, because we’re not in the position of Bury and Rochdale. Somehow, we’re still above the drop zone.

I’ve just thought back to the Barnet link earlier, and at least back then the players were all pulling together, staying behind at training to bond together and all that. That particular squad was a lot worse than now, but had more of a spirit about them.

What’s in today’s script?

I don’t know how many more games I’ll get to see this season, but the ones I’ve seen in 2018 alone don’t tell me much has changed. We’re keeping our heads above water and that’s about it, although eventually you drown.

We all know we need extensive surgery this summer, but it’s only just grabbed me how much of it we require…

So, was it worth it? Nah.

In a nutshell: Fleetwood will be fun.