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Gah. Stone Island 1 Canvey Island 2 and the Most Important Week Of The Season is ruined by the worst 20 minute spell of the campaign.

No, it wasn’t must-win, but the task for automatic promotion becomes much, much harder now. For the second year in a row, we are definitely at a lower level than the top team(s). Is that good enough? I know that financial prudence is the order of the day at AFCW, but I wonder how long people will be happy if next season we’re second best again to yet another moneybags outfit?

Right now, it feels like an old scab wound has been re-opened. After the heroics at Bromley, and a well-earned draw at Gutter, it seems like roles were being re-affirmed. As soon as a big spending team comes along with a bit of planning, we’re stumped. There seems to be a level that we just can’t go up to, at least on a regular basis.

I think in the medium/long term we’re going to have to make a bold decision. If we’re going to match Chelmsford-type teams stride for stride, we really will have to build a team that is of Conference level in the Ryman. Yes, it’ll cost money, but all the while we’re in a division where only one is automatically promoted, it might be a decision we simply have to take. We’re nearer than we were last season to that Braintree/Canvey Chelmsford level we need to be, but at some point somebody at AFCW has to have the guts to take us that significant step further.

To be honest, I can see it getting harder and harder for us unless we’re prepared to compete with the big spenders. I dunno about anyone else, but I don’t fancy spending season after season in the Ryman having to constantly play second fiddle to yet another team on short-term gain.

OK, Chelmsford fans may crow that they’re putting in the infrastructure. But they’re effectively a transplanted team, which means they could bugger off for somewhere with bigger money at any time (hey, if they can do it once….). Bromley are the same. All these teams would struggle if the plug gets pulled, as the tangible support of these sides isn’t big enough to bail them out should the shit hit. Ask Canvey Island fans. Ask Hornchurch fans. And we can now add Weymouth to the list.

If somebody pulled the plug at AFCW, we would have a difficult season or two but would steady ourselves again pretty quickly. We wouldn’t collapse as from what I’ve seen of other clubs, we are really that strong as an entity. Be honest, if our fanbase can generate £1m within six months, we would be able to repeat that if a major financial crisis hit us. With this in mind, perhaps we ought to be less conservative?

You’re now muttering to yourself “he wants to mortgage our future”. In many ways, that’s exactly what we’re doing at the moment. Granted, we’re not exactly pleading poverty, but it appears we’re taking a bit of a halfway house approach. I can’t say we’re spending no money (especially if figures of £6k per week are to be believed) but it’s apparent it’s not nearly enough.

If anything, we could slash the budget by half and still end up 9th in this division. Maybe we need to use the funds a lot better? We know if we went up to the CS we’d have to look at spending more anyway, so why not be bold now?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again : the biggest danger AFCW faces is stagnating in the Ryman Premier. Last night, I saw where we wanted to be, with a team doing exactly what is needed. Unfortunately, they weren’t wearing blue and yellow. And be honest, weren’t you jealous of them?

It’s a shame that I’m thinking this right now, it’s as though I’m suddenly ignoring every game since Billy Ricky. We have been playing well recently, and as said above in all that time we’ve had one utter shit 20 minute spell. So I’m not throwing the piss-stained baby out of the stagnant bath water just yet. Even if I sound like I am 🙂

On reflection, we are still very much in the playoff hunt, with lots of games and lots of points to be won. Only thing is, should we really be hoping to scrape into the playoffs?

Anyway, very briefly:

Plus points: At least we made a fist of it in the second half. DG returning

Minus points: We lost. First 20 minutes. Taking corners as well as a Suzuki Jeep. Defence, as ever, shit.

The referee’s a……: To be fair, one of the linesman seemed to know what he was doing.

Them: Conference level outfit, nuff sed. Bloody loads of them turning up as well, even though we took more to a boycotted Ramsgutter game. Which shows not only the very real gulf in actual support between us and everyone else, but also how much of a pisser it is at the on-pitch gulf. Are they as good as Braintree were last season? Hard to say, though I don’t recall Braintree pissing all over us…..

Point to ponder: Last night, we had to play JD and SF not quite fully fit, and boy it showed. Perhaps that shows the fundamental difference between the two sides? In more ways than one..

Truth is stranger than fiction: Canveyford bought down their mascot for the evening, a parrot-looking thingy. Seemed to run around a lot, flapping every so often and with occasional lapses in co-ordination. Rumours that he’s going to sign for our defence are as yet unconfirmed

Anything else? I had an idle thought last night, and one that isn’t entirely joking. Bearing in mind we struggle against teams from Essex, the constant short-termism of the other sides at our expense etc etc, why don’t we join the Southern League next season? I believe it’s an “easier” league than the Ryman, and they don’t seem from the outside nearly so snotty. OK, going to places like Rugby Town and Merthyr Tydfil might be a little way to go, but more importantly they’ll have to travel to us. It’ll be new grounds aplenty, and might even rekindle the general enthusiasm that has been lost. Historically, it’s not as though we’re strangers to the Southern League, and best of all we wouldn’t have to go to Ramsgutter or Billy Ricky. Really, what’s stopping AFCW from doing the right thing…? 😉

So, was it worth it? Cough

In a nutshell: Let’s see how many Gravesend will put past us.