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Harrow kitty

Now that’s a bit more like it. It’s a shame that we’re getting results and performances like Harrow 0 Ricards Lodge 2 after the Torquay game, but I guess even we can suffer from Cup Final Syndrome ourselves.

After the last few weeks, this was an AFCW performance with something we haven’t seen too much of recently : focus. We now know there are no other distractions to, er, distract us now. Every game literally counts from now on, and yesterday we gave the impression we knew that.

Whether it was the return of Luke Garrard, whether it was the impressive debut of Luis Cumbers (and a bit more on him in a little bit) or something else I dunno. But I’ve got no real complaints from yesterday (well, I have one but it’s the same one as everyone else). Put it this way – repeat this for Horsham on Tuesday and against Leyton next Saturday, and even I might start believing a bit more that maybe we can reach the playoffs and do well in it this time.

When Frankie scored (after a fantastic dummy where he went to swing to hit the ball and totally missed, then connected at the second attempt), we’d been showing more composure in that 10-15 minutes than we have done since our run ended. True, we let them attack us more after that but for once I didn’t sense any panic on the pitch. I know it’s only one game, but that assurance just seemed so totally marked compared to the shit we’ve had recently.

No, I’ve no idea why either. Mind you, TB mentioned this week that the players were relaxed and I think it showed. Despite Chelmsford having their arse torn apart against AFC Coldseal I still think the automatic promotion spot is out of reach now. Not that I’d object to a few more results like that until May. But second place, and the supposed advantage of home ties in hopefully two playoff games is certainly within our reach. And yesterday, the all round performance had that air about it. For once we didn’t look a team under immense pressure. QED?

OK, HB did put the screws on us a bit until we got our penalty, but we seemed to handle it quite well. Our keeper looked pretty competent and the defence reacted because of it. I believe the SLP reckoned Butcher was on his way because of the money, although I did hear from a couple of well placed individuals that the defence were getting pissed off with him flapping all the time. How true any of it is I dunno, but our back line certainly looked more of a unit.

Not that I minded us getting our penalty of course, and it came at a passage of play when we’d weathered the proverbial storm and gone up a gear again. OK, we more or less bossed it in the second half, but I’m still disappointed that we can’t seem to get that killer third goal. Perhaps we’ve been storing all that up for the business end of the season when we need to do that the most? Unless of course we really are that shit at goalscoring…

I’ve just mentioned Luis Cumbers, and for once we’ve got somebody on loan from a League club who does actually look like somebody who’s played pro football. Could you have said the same about people like Ryan Peters and Grazioli? True, it was his first game, and he could turn out to be extremely shit from now on, but when he played he didn’t look out of place at all. You certainly can’t say that about Jolly, and dare I incur the wrath of many a follower by suggesting that even Main looked a bit more out of place compared to the Cue? OK I’m being unfair about Main, he was settling in before he got stamped upon, but no wonder Maidstone fans raved about him. Cumbers, that is.

And this does tie in with a theory about TB’s signings I’ve been banging on about recently. We’ve signed Main, the Cue, James Pullen and we’ve tried to sign Olly Schultz from Ramsgutter. All have something in common – they’ve performed in the RP. Not just in the Conference, or CS, or in League Two or whatever, but in this poxy, nasty, tricky clumpfest of a division we’ve needed players who know just what it’s about. TB is clearly learning that, and it was something I’m not too sure DA ever fully did.

See, that’s what’s going to get you promoted. We’ve seen how CS sides play and it is different to life in the RP. There has been more than the odd occasion when a player comes in from higher up and clearly can’t cope with the vast difference. It’s a fact of life that player turnover is far too high generally, and until we can put in more youngsters/reserves it’ll continue, but we seem to be signing the right players for this division now.

It’s not exactly a new thing. When he signed Andy Cole, Alex Ferguson made the comment that he was bought in to win the league for United that season. When questioned about what happened if they didn’t, Ferguson replied “well, he’s good enough to win it next season”. Time will tell whether this sort of approach will apply to us, but I’ll be happy to see more Cues and less Graziolis.

Of course, none of this new-found optimism will mean jack shit unless we do reproduce this at Horsham etc. It’s those sort of teams we’ll have to beat in the playoffs after all. Our current major priority from now until May is to build up the winning momentum and a head of steam for the playoffs. I’d like to see somebody research this properly, but teams who scrape into the playoffs don’t really become galvanised all of a sudden and win through. We should know more than anyone.

As much as I enjoyed hearing the champions-elect’s coronation getting delayed for another week they’re going to get automatic promotion. Not that I won’t enjoy it if they did slip up (and I reckon if they did finish in the playoffs they won’t go up). But that’s too much wishful thinking at this stage.

Then again, I never thought I’d see us keep a clean sheet away from KM this season.

Plus points: A win. Away from home. Clean sheet. Defence looked better. The Cue. James Pullen looking a bit more competent than other keepers recently. Sharper up front. More of a cohesive unit generally than recently.

Minus points: Sam Hatton getting red carded.

The referee’s a………: And I was under the impression this referee was one of the better ones. OK, he missed some handballs, but when he sent Hatton off, well……. Put it this way, it even pissed off TB, and he’s not known for his ref-baiting. For those wondering why another ref is getting both barrels, he got sent off for being pushed. No, really. Second booking and all that, but the fact the club aren’t going to punish him says a lot. The worst thing is, Hatton did handball it earlier on, and had he gone off nobody would really have complained….

If truth be told, I’m seriously considering removing this particular section in future as I’m just getting fed up with writing the same stuff about them week in, week out. I know some will say that that it’s just AFCW fans moaning again, but it goes beyond that (it’s not just us thinking it BTW). When somebody like Steven Cook (remember him?) can go from reffing CCL games to League Two in the space of four years, you know just how awful the standard of refereeing is. No, I don’t have any answers on how to improve it either, unless you can get a few failed pro-footballers involved..

Them: Considering they had four straight league wins, I really didn’t think much of them at all. Whether it was their manager suffering from Manager of the Month syndrome, I don’t know. Not that I care either. Their pitch was shit, but not as shit as their goalie’s kicking. And I thought Lee Butcher was bad. Programme apparently a major rip off, £2.50 for a collection of adverts in black and white (and it’s what they charge normally anyway). While I think that sort of money is bad enough for us, at least ours is in colour and has a fair amount of reading material.

Point to ponder: Not that it made any difference, but can anyone figure out why Robin Shroot wasn’t available? Mark DeBolla was “ill” apparently, although it doesn’t bode well for him if people are thinking he’s pulling a fast one – the rumour yesterday, since disproven, was that he instead turned out for Basingstoke yesterday. As with so many other things right now, we’ll see what happens, but didn’t he leave Gravesend and Ebbsfleet after falling out with their manager?

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Our first clean sheet away from KM this season. This will go some way to explaining why we’re not 15 points ahead right now. (2) Seeing Mark Beard walking past me at the bus stop after the game. Glamourous life of the footballer, eh? (3) Taking me two fucking hours to get there yesterday, because Hammersmith to Acton Town was closed. HB is like Leyton – in theory it should be easier than the Kent/Essex sides to get to, but if anything they’re harder. I got there at 3.01pm by the way, and I wasn’t the only one…

Anything else? We all have our opinions on the Premiershit’s plans to further bugger up football with these foreign games. This morning, Richard Scudamore is now claiming that if they don’t, the big clubs will break away and form their own league. Personally, I hope they do, because it will mean that weasely little cunts like Scudamore lose their jobs. And cockmunchers like David Gold at Brum will have their entire business plan ruined at a stroke, and I just want to see them running around in a state of panic when the shit hits the fan.

Having experienced exactly this attitude at WFC, I can safely say that any Prem club who is just happy to survive, who puts out weakened FAC sides just to keep in the Prem, and who have no interest whatsoever in bridging that gap between themselves and the big four (well, big three plus Chelski) deserve to go out of business. If somehow a representative of Arse, Chelski, Yernited or the Bindippers are reading this – go for it. Go for the breakaway. Football is fucked permanently now, you might as well not delay the inevitable any longer.

Anyway, I digress. I believe that what happens in the Prem first eventually reaches down to us low-lifes. We’ve seen it with the £5m fee for Jon Main, the Ryman TV (non) deal. And you can bet in 2012 we will be playing our fixtures outside the country. Just think, after another round of restructuring we’ll still be in the clutches of the Ryman (the Isthmian Conference. Lovely). You can imagine Turdey quivering with delight as he announces that the Ryman League is gaining new audiences all the time, and a sell-out crowd is expected for ETU vs AFCW at its new venue in Vladivostok….

So, was it worth it? If this is the start of a new roll, then yes.

In a nutshell: Bit more of the same please..