Magic of the Cup

Well, we’re through I suppose…

And really, that’s all you can say about White Hart Lane 0 Plough Lane 1. I know cup football is a completely different kettle of fish, but Friday merely brought home to me how wretched we are right now.

You’ve probably seen enough of the game to know that Pinnock’s goal was one of our first real efforts, and that if there was a replay you wouldn’t have complained. And those who recorded it then deleted it can relive the moment again and again.

You can tell how bad it was, because when we scored, I’ve never seen so many people embarrassed at celebrating a last minute winner. Even the guilt after Curzon happened about five minutes after the final whistle.

And it’s a performance that has done us no favours whatsoever. It wasn’t a draw, which would have caused minor blushing. It wasn’t a loss either, where something would have finally needed to be done.

But it wasn’t a convincing win either. A (say) 3-1 victory would have at least given some kind of confidence to hang onto, even a fragile one. You could say we did what a L1 side should do to a non-league one.

Think of how comfortable Pompey looked at Maidenhead yesterday.

This game? Close to 48 hours later, I’m still left with the following feeling – if we struggled to beat Harringey Borough, just what is somebody better going to do to us?

Football is a confidence thing, and ours continues to go down the shitter. I can’t decide whether we were just going through the motions on Friday, or whether this is going to be as good as it gets at the moment.

I don’t want to sound a broken record about the manager, or the players, or anything else that’s been talked about for a good long while. But AFCW itself has its own stylus stuck on the turntable, playing the same monotonous stuff over and over again.

Without anyone having the wit to remove the needle upwards and place it further on the record, where there isn’t a scratch.

Imagine if we had played Aldershot this weekend, rather than a struggling Turdeyland outfit. Or even somebody from the regional Conference levels. Would we still be in tomorrow’s hat? Chances are, we probably wouldn’t be, at least by ourselves.

But in the hat we are, and at least Franchise aren’t. Our best bet of progressing to the third round may ironically be another L1 side, as they might be distracted.

The Shots are in it, although they have to overcome our fellow L1 Partners in Crap, aka Bradford. Lincoln seems a popular choice for an away day, Stockport might come under that as well, although Sutton are still ominously there.

This afternoon, Barnet are still there against Brizzle Rovers, ditto Salford. Wrexham won, and so is the mouthwatering trip to Guiseley or Solihull Moors.

Which means it will be none of those. I bet it’s Plymouth away…

Plus points: We got through.

Minus points: The sobering realisation of what we really are at the moment.

The referee’s a…: Don’t remember him doing too much wrong, really.

Them: Feel a bit sorry for them, as they didn’t deserve to lose. OK, they were very limited, unlikely to have scored themselves, and ran out of steam, but they secured a moral victory.

Seemed quite a nice setup, though needless to say 95% of those in the home end won’t be there the next game. Still, the FAC is a good opportunity for these sort of clubs to put themselves on the map, in more ways than one.

Nice of them to put a “Fanzone” (ie burgers, beer and a telly with the game on), and I’m glad we eventually sold out our allocation, so they got more money from soaked Wombles as well.

And it did feel like a trip back to the “good old days” when we stormed up the non-league divisions. Even down to the Ryman Prem-level football on display…

Point to ponder: I wonder what went through NA’s mind during a lot of that game?

I know he can claim we got through, and that we put four past St Evenage (though Charlton put eight against the same opponents…), and managers with their jobs on the line always use kidology when being interviewed afterwards**.

** – found out something at Reading v Ipswich yesterday, apart from what happens when a struggling side replaces a failing manager. What players say on camera and what they say off it isn’t always the same…

But this was the sort of game where he would have (justifiably) expected the shackles to come off, so to speak. And it didn’t happen.

Instead, like the rest of us, he witnessed Appiah struggle against the proverbial (if not actual) butchers and hod carriers. At least Mr Championship-Quality did more than Jervis, whose main contribution was to run onto the pitch as sub.

Walking back to Wood Green station, your editor overheard a fan talking about how winning in the last minute like this would have been fun if we hadn’t lost so many games beforehand. And one wonders if our current manager would feel the same.

He has to go back to the grind next Saturday, against a Doncaster side who themselves need a morale boosting victory from somewhere. Bad enough in itself considering current form, but with a side that struggled in a game it should have won easily.

Doncaster drew 2-2 at Chorley this afternoon, by the way. They’re in the Conference North (Chorley, that is).

The reaction since Friday feels a lot like the last time we won a proper match (Oxford), namely the win has been overshadowed by how poor it’s been. From a managerial point of view, that isn’t good.

Why? Because he now has to lift a side whose confidence is in the shitter anyway, against the backdrop of a game where we were unconvincing against a side four tiers below us.

And the players will know that. They’ll be aware themselves they got away with it against a Ryman Prem side who were tiring. They can’t point to the league form to show it was just a cup match, for obvious reasons.

NA can say to them that they’ve won the two cup ties in the week, but it wouldn’t be very convincing.

We’ll get the draw tomorrow, and there will be the usual platitudes, but one wonders if this game has a more profound effect on players and managers than we realise? And not in a good way either…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The rain. Genuinely horrible. 2) A nice homage to old Plough Lane by Harringey, namely the toilets having no lights.

Anything else? Not really, suffice to say the mood in the boozer afterwards wasn’t particularly joyous. These from people who go to away games regularly, by the way. They know what’s what…

So, was it worth it? At least it was a tenner to get in.

In a nutshell: In the next round.