Manchester, Manchester United. A bunch of bouncing Busby Babes, they deserve to be……. erm. Don’t worry, I haven’t renamed this site Red Army, and I’m not spitting blood over their 2-0 loss to the Scousers in a reserve game yesterday (they had over 10,000 for that game believe it or not). But we certainly took a leaf out of the Old Trafford textbook when it came to last minute winners.
Yes, we all went mental, yes it was a good game for a neutral, and yes it did keep our increasingly slim hopes of catching Chelmsford alive. But without reading the full report below (courtesy of the SW19 bureau) I should be happier than I actually am. Personally, I think we got ourselves out of jail last night. There were large parts of the game where I thought that if we were that leaden-footed in defence in the playoffs, we’d be out at the first hurdle. Let’s face it, if Margate had their shooting boots on, we’d be at least 2-0 down after 10 minutes. It was as though we had a hangover from Saturday.
When we went 1-0 up we should have learnt to kill the game off and not panic like fuck. It’s certainly a big priority to get in a new CB and pronto, because I just don’t think JG and MG work. Is Frankie Howard injured? If not, forget that he’s buggering off to the US and play him anyway. It’s pointless planning for the playoffs in a couple of months time if we’re going to fuck it up in February/March. While we should extend our season quite comfortably, we’re not there yet.
Did we deserve to win last night? If I’m being honest, I dunno. Certainly if I was Margate I’d be feeling a little bit pissed off right now, although they didn’t exactly help themselves by timewasting at 1-1. Karma? Their captain certainly was pissed off, especially with Luke Garrard. Did he shag his dog or something? Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate a win, but I can’t help think we should be doing better – being more controlled, a bit more of a unit, that sort of thing.
Because of this, I remain unconvinced we’ll win in the playoffs (and I still don’t believe getting two home ties is the advantage it’s supposed to be). Reason I say that is because we’re still doing too many performances like Saturday and last night. If we put in a Horsham/Leyton/Wealdstone type matchup then fine. I would hope we’d raise our game for those two matches and have a more-or-less full strength squad. But last night we used up a bit of luck we possibly didn’t need to.
“Oh come on”, you’re now saying, “Stop being so bloody miserable. We won, didn’t we?”. Yes we did. And last minute goals are always fun. I suppose really we’re merely starting to show a bit of fatigue from the fixture backlog we’ve just come through. Six wins out of seven is a damn good run of form, although you’d have to be seriously happy-clappy if you can’t spot the cracks. As somebody last night said though, we probably just need to collectively clear our heads and just do another lot of refocusing.
Before I let the SW19 bureau loose, a quick glance at the fixtures shows that with the exception of Easter we now have a game once every seven days instead of the 2 per week. Plenty of time to learn how to take corners, to teach Finn how to pass, JG and MG some suppliments from the local OAP home etc etc. We were doing so well this time last week………
I cannot remember the last time that I was so pissed off after hearing a result as the one on Saturday against the Swifts. Seems like I wasnâ€™t the only one if the reports of TBâ€™s â€˜disappointmentâ€™ was reported accurately. So I volunteered to do this as a form of therapy 😉
Even the darkness of last yearâ€™s playoff defeat seems less antagonistic. I mean how does a team with a 5-0, 6-1 record go away to a team whoâ€™s last two fixtures were a 2-2 and a 0-6 loss, just 5 places off the bottom, and lose after going a goal up after 4 mins?
Chelmsford of course going up 1-0 on Monday against Carlshiton after 5 mins and then motoring on to a simple 3-0 only exacerbated the feeling we had been bloody unprofessional against the Swifts. And perhaps â€“ like the press comments of us â€œOh weâ€™d walk the Conference Southâ€™/ weâ€™re too good for this league â€œ â€“ we as fans, and commentators had been partly to blame giving praise. It seems to only demotivate this team in its next performance (though I doubt many players read here).
[SW19 note: I’ve no idea whether the players read here myself – believe one might but can’t be sure. It shouldn’t matter if they do or they don’t anyway – they’re supposed to be focused enough to ignore what we say]
Ok, I wasnâ€™t there Saturday so I canâ€™t report on the game itself but from those that were the first 10 mins of Lucky Caaaaaants* 2 Unlucky Caaaaaants 1 saw our defence continue where they left off, defending in blind panic. How Margate were not at least 3 up in that period only they know â€“ oh, and a double save by Pullen worthy of any league in the world that â€“ perhaps rightly â€“ is earning him MotM plaudits outside of the dodgy decision-making confines of the Presidents Lounge.
* Â© Roy Cappell RIP 23 Feb 2008
Defensive confidence comes from the centre pairing and it was immediately proved my reservations expressed in the Wealdstone game about the pensioners was correct as they were repeatedly undone by Margateâ€™s attack. Slow to react, dithering, both Goodlife and Gayle played their younger accomplishes into tight situations where they got caught in possession – no wonder their confidence suffered. If the established, experienced players make simple basic errors then what chance does the team stand. They are meant to be there as rocks of experience, but started as novices!
Whilst we can now smirk in delight at Margateâ€™s profligacy in front of goal, we also need to look closer to home too. For, by the end of the first half we may had out shot them but also had nil against our name â€“ the closest effort being Finnâ€™s thunderbolt drive which hit the bar (for the stats people we had 4 shots on, 10 off target; Margate 5 on and 4 off)
But again too often the final pass was just that two-foot wide of the mark or delivered that second too late. So whilst we got deflated by our defence, we got promised by our attacking play, to be ultimately disappointed with the finish. Notice a pattern here?
The good thing that could be said about the game was how open it was. I donâ€™t subscribe to the view Margate came for a point. Their attacking play at times was as incisive as any side that has played us at KM and, as a result for the non-partisan fan it must have been an excellent entertaining game. But for us fansâ€¦.. a knuckle-ride.
Probably the team highlight of the night for us was the Cumbers & Rose partnership. Not quite gelled but even as learning individuals they were a real handful for the Margate defence and, once Rose got that ball through and away from the defence you were just certain he was going to score. The feeling you get with Jon Main. How we need to try and retain those two until the end of the season.
But then it was back to good old Wimbledon: youâ€™ve scored; now letâ€™s just give up the momentum weâ€™ve created and give it back to the opposition. Pull out of all the tackles; defend on your 18-yard line; donâ€™t play the percentage balls and hit the channels deep. No. Fanny around with it and give needless corners away because of blind panic. Did JG really need to give the corner away that lead to their goal (actually the one before on the other side was a freebie too)? And so a bundled equaliser ensured. Again, been there, done that, seen the fucking t-shirt!
And so at this point exit stage right, left and centre some of the crowd. You could understand why. Canâ€™t recall this side having snuck in at the death at KM to win a game or save one so you were on pretty safe ground. Anyway, bet they are wishing theyâ€™d stayed now. Free kick to us (canâ€™t remember who got fouled) but up stepped Mr Hussey. Now, come on Chris. Good delivery, just into the box, dropping on the 6 yard line, yes, oh, Jason? No never going to get that the keepers there. In the net. Goal. Look at the ref. Look at the lino. No flag. Arm raised towards the centre circle. Cue pandemonium, delirious crowd and JG being bundled by his teamates.
The moment took me back to the Steve Butler equaliser against Braintree at home in front of the Tempest. But our erstwhile SW19 Editor probably had a better, more relevant comparison â€“ Frankieâ€™s goal against ETU, which helped confirm our participation in the subsequent playoffs in our first RPL season.
Because by the end of the evening the significance of this win was there to see in the table:
Chelmsford Played 32 Points 69
AFCW Played 32 Points 59
Staines Played 29 Points 49
It meant we are still in touching distance of the leaders and clear now of the pack for 2nd place.
We won’t know the significance of this result until the end of the season but again we are back on track. Letâ€™s just hope we donâ€™t go down the siding again against Hastings.
Plus Points: The win. Cumbers & Rose. Horsham losing. Margateâ€™s shit shooting. The handbags ruck between Gayle and Goodliffe â€“ it galvanised JG to push the defence further upfield, which helped bring about the first goal. JGâ€™s goal of course (particularly after the slightly easier one he missed a few minutes earlier)
Minus Points: The Pensionerâ€™s party in the middle of our defence. The midfield (what midfield? I hear you ask). Cumbers getting injured? The handbags ruck between Gayle and Goodliffe â€“ not good PR
[SW19 note: I don’t remember the MG/JG “discussion”. However, you can look at it one of two ways – either it’s the sign of a central partnership at the end of its tether or a central partnership frustrated with its performance and just letting off steam. Worth remembering it wasn’t too bad before Heybridge]
The refereeâ€™s a â€¦.: Pretty good again, by the standards of most Ryman refs, at least he tried to play advantage and if it didnâ€™t materialise he blew up and told the players why. Perhaps a little reluctant to get his book out when they started to get a bit physical and I thought their No. 5 could have walked for the blatant professional foul on Cumbers which ultimately lead to him having to leave the game. Also would have stopped the fecker scoring.
Them: Not bad, a good all round Ryman outfit, but probably not as strong and big as in the past. Played it around quite well but thatâ€™s relatively easy when you have no midfield to play against. Got frustrated though with the speed and mobility of Cumbers & Rose so started the physical stuff. Their shooting though was woeful and explains why they are in 9th rather than higher. Obviously Hockton carried them through for the years he was there.
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Finn being named Man of the Match. No comment. (2) Why do we panic on the ball? (3) Why cannot our players pass the ball to each other, particularly when we are in the oppositionâ€™s penalty area? (4) Why do we defend so deep? (5) When we see a decent AFCW midfield? (6) When will we shoot straight? Final tally on shots â€“ AFCW 9 on, 16 off; Margate 9 on, 7 off. (7) And what the fuck has changed so much that at times this team was unrecognisable as the team that despatched Leyton and Wealdstone? (8) Still feeling totally mentally and physically tired after the game â€“ and I wasnâ€™t even on the pitch!!
Play off victimâ€™s watch: The other tie of interest tonight was Horsham 1 Heybridge 2. Perhaps Saturdayâ€™s result wasnâ€™t such the upset we thought it was. Of course, Horsham will claim after effects from the draw with Chelmsford on Saturday. Still means even taking games in hand for Staines and Horsham we are now clear of them totally in second place.
So was it worth it? Depends if you think grey hair suits you.
In a nutshell: As the late lamented Roy Cappell would have said â€œ You lucky caaaaaaaaaaaaants. Whereâ€™s me gin and tonic.â€