To be honest, I wasn’t intending to write a report on Stones 1 Beatles 2, and this isn’t going to be a proper one anyway, but it’s worth making some general observations.
What struck me last night was how things have changed in a mere three months. I know we’ve all waxed lyrical about the TB Revolution, how everyone should really give the points to us before the game starts, Champions by Christmas etc, but last night’s first half performance rubbed away some of that. And not a bad thing either. It was shades of some of our shittier performances last season – nobody really had a clue what to do, they hit the post and if I’m being honest I went to the bar at half time thinking how lucky we were to be ahead.
Anyone there last night (and it looked more than 800 odd, although getting there in the evening is a real pain in the arse, even though it’s on the tube) would have seen what I mean by the three months comment above. I honestly didn’t recognise our team in the second half. We were crossing well, passing, looking like we could add a third, that sort of thing.
And that’s why there’s so much optimism about for this season. Last season this game would have ended 2-2. In fact, last season this would have been 2-2 and everyone would have expected it. Last night, I just didn’t feel we’d let it slip at the end – and even if we did we’d go straight up the other end and score.
Let’s be honest here, titles aren’t won by beating Chelmsford or Rickay. They’re won by coming to places like Wealdstone and getting the three points. You should win most of your home games if you’re serious title contenders, if you don’t you don’t go up. Simple as. Away games on the other hand really do seperate those with pubes from those without.
I don’t really like it when people say that our opening fixtures are easy. They’re not. They’re winnable, as every game in this division is, but they’re not easy. In fact I think ours is harder than you may think – Ramsgutter we all know about, Wealdstone could have been a banana skin last night and for much of the first have was, ETU aren’t the shite they were last season, etc etc. So let’s not be too cocky, last night will be quite typical of the season ahead.
So why the change in ethos? Happier team? More cohesive unit? Having not only a Plan B or even a C, but a Plan A as well? Better fitness? All of them combined? Probably, but I would say attitude as much as anything. Last night when it went 2-1, it was going to stay 2-1 because we wanted it to remain that way. Sounds obvious I know, but last season I was never too sure that was the case.
A lot of people did comment on how fit we looked. It’s the old Liverpool can play for 90 minutes adage – Wealdstone were a match for about 60 minutes then they ran out of puff. If we’ve built ourselves up well over this pre-season, and continue it on, a lot of teams will fall away late on. We certainly looked as sharp on 85 minutes as we did on 55…..
OK, there’s luck as well involved. AL did slightly get away with handling the ball outside the area, although whether it was deliberate or not I don’t know. The thought of Paul Seuke going in goal saw a rush of phone calls to the Samaritans from North West London last night. There may be one or two incidents that went our way as well, but think about this. Next time you watch Man Utd, or Chelski, think about how often they get those little decisions in their favour. They win as many games as anything Cristiano Ronaldo does. Again, last season AL would have been sent off – this time around he wasn’t. A sign of things to come?
So all in all, I’m probably relieved about last night if anything. Not in a “fuck me we got away with that deluge” way, but more of a “at least it shows that we can do ourselves justice” manner. Puzzled? What I mean is, we played like we did in the 2nd half, and I expected that as the norm and not as a rarity. Continue all that, and this season could be fun.
Normal SW19 service might be resumed at ETU, but this will do for now. Nothing of any note off the field, no mobs of 1000 tooling up outside Northwood Hills tube taking on the OB. Did see a couple of locals get ejected though, although by the look of them they probably forgot to do their homework. Although it was a bit strange to see Finn and Beckford at the tube station after the game like the rest of us plebs………