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Conquesting all

It’s quite nice for once to write a match report without too much bitching. William the Conquerer 4 Harold 0 was the kind of result/performance I expect from us – maybe not at 100% but able to sit back and have a rare moment of relaxation.

OK, I could be churlish and suggest that they hit the bar more times than an alcoholic. But unlike Tuesday the vast majority of us will happily admit this was a decent enough performance. Even without the Cue (hope he’s not returned to Gillingham), we did look like finally we’ve found our shooting boots this season. Not a bad time to start doing that either.

I did say that it wasn’t 100%, but when we got that third goal (which I thought was going to get given as a foul) we visibly shut up shop then. Although I think it’s starting to fade with each week, there’s still that feeling in the back of my mind that when we go 2-0 up we can still throw it away. Even now, oppo teams seem to know that, and as said last time out, it’ll prove the difference between us playing Eastleigh next season and us playing ETU. We ain’t there yet.

But I said I wouldn’t be churlish, and I won’t be. Seriously, this was not only nice to watch but also quite fun as well. I did actually enjoy that game (far more than Margate anyway) because we kept going and could have got a couple more. Tight games are fine once in a while, but they’re best against teams who are better than you. Without being BBB, we are one of the top two sides in this division and I do have a level of expectancy against sides down the bottom. It doesn’t always work like that of course, but slowly these sort of performances are the rule rather than the exception.

Hatton’s thunderbolt was certainly a good effort. Missed Shroot’s effort as I was talking to somebody buying me a nice cup of tea as gratitude. Third goal? Like to see that again, and Fergie’s effort for the fourth really did kill the game off. Hell, even I relaxed then.

As usual, thoughts are now turning to catching up the champions-elect for the umpteenth time this season. The anticipation in the main bar, when everyone crowded around the big screen waiting for their result on SSN was something I can’t recall for a long while at AFCW. This was genuine anticipation, an actual bit of competition. When we found out it was 0-0 we were happy. Not estatic (and I thought a little bit muted, as in a “shame they didn’t lose” manner) but I think we know that however slim it really is, there’s still a chance of catching them.

Right now, the following applies. Firstly, we have to beat Hendon next week – if we don’t, all bets are off. Assuming we can do that, they have to face Staines at the same time. Chances are they’ll probably win that, but they could just as well lose it – nothing is impossible in this division as we all know. Then of course comes the big one at their place. It’s not so far fetched to suggest that our next two games will determine our season – namely whether we finish top or go through the playoffs. And quite frankly, I’m glad we don’t have a midweek game from now until the end of the season.

While I think it’s unlikely even now, if we beat Chelmsford and other results go our way, we could be just two points behind them with seven games left. Should that be the case, anything could happen, and probably will. Get to that stage and it’ll be whoever has the nerve, the psychological strength, the character to perform as and when needed. In other words, whoever can keep their pants changing into a shade of brown the longest.

Of course, knowing us we’ll lose to Hendon and Chelmsford and will be battling it out for second place with dented confidence again. And once again we’ll be kicking ourselves for letting it slip.

Actually, I’m quite glad we’ve got a difficult period coming up because I think it’ll focus us. Even though we’ve done well (results wise) recently, I still can’t help thinking things just quite aren’t right even now. Apparently we had six players under 20 years old today, which while that bodes well for the future does suggest we’ve got injuries a plenty. Certainly no Cue, or Webb (though Rose and Shroot were more than capable). I think we do need some difficult games now – by that, I don’t mean ones where we are expected to win but make life difficult for ourselves (see: Swifts, Heybridge) I mean ones where it’s not so expected. Ones that we might even possibly lose. And I do mean a Chelmsford type game at their place – we’ll be the underdogs for that one and it’ll be interesting to see if we cope with what could be the first league game ever where we’re in the minority.

I’m not sure what I want from the champions-elect versus Staines game next week. If Chelmsford win, it’ll basically solidify our second place which is vital. If Staines win, it’s game on and then some (assuming we don’t do our usual fuckup against Hendon). Draw? All to play for. But again, it’s down to us to win next week, and I’ve been to Claremont Road a couple of times and I don’t think I’ve ever seen us win there. Come to think of it, I can’t remember a game there which had any sort of enjoyment whatsoever. Even the walk to the ground is bloody horrible.

Actually, I do know what I want at Melbourne Park next week. I want it to be 0-0 in the 90th minute then suddenly there’s a nasty tackle. Doesn’t matter by who on whom, but a real good one that incenses everyone. And I mean, everyone. First a 2-man brawl, then a 4-man brawl and then all 22 players get involved. Not girly handbags, proper mano y mano fighting. Proper clouts on the chin, that sort of thing. Three players of each side suffer GBH, another load look like they’ve gone twelve rounds with Joe Calzaghe, and at least one act of sodomy on the field. But it doesn’t end with that – the managers run on and pound away at the ref, with Jeff King arrested for eating headbutting a police horse that’s been urgently dispatched to keep some order. Fans go toe-to-toe as well, with one famous internet City supporter getting a smack in the melee (it’s unclear whether it’s from his own fans or not). The scene is carnage, and the athletics club complain that it’ll take ages to wash the blood and tissue away from the track.

And if this wasn’t enough, Turdey turns up and somebody accidentally breaks his rich tea biscuit in the brawl. Result will be 20 point deductions for both sides with no appeal either, meaning AFCW are promoted. And even the Ryman couldn’t get away with deducting points from us for that. Although they’ll try….

While we await that, here’s….

Plus points: A win. A good win at that. Clean sheet. Not full strength side. Knowing we can get better. Constantly pressurising. Decent enough debut from Alf Potter. Mark Beard. Chris Hussey.

Minus points: They hit the bar too many times for my liking. Realising just how much we fucked up against Heybridge last week

The referee’s a…….: I’ve promised not to use the word “cunt” about him. Instead, I wonder if this Ray Charles-alike knew where he lived, such was his complete lack of awareness. Christ, even the lino had to help him out for our third goal. Did at least book their #2 afterwards for excessive whinging.

Them: Quite a decent turnout from them as it goes. Not sure about that “support your local team” bollocks they came out with, especially as a couple of them were wearing colours of Portsmouth and even one Palace t-shirt. Hmm. They hit the bar a couple of times, tested Pullen with a couple of lobs in the first half but not really much more than that. Keeper got loads of stick in the second half, anyone know why? Oh, and their #2 was a mouthy wanker. What a shame we all started singing “You’re going down with the Leyton” to them. Cruel? Us? As if.

Point to ponder: I’ve got to be honest and admit that at various times recently, I’ve been a bit concerned with whether all is well in the dressing room. Be honest, I bet most of you have looked at the odd performance, or the odd player and wondered whether they were really into it. Lest we forget Mark DeBolla’s strop during the BW game and subsequent problem with the car park attendant.

I’ve no idea if the players were happy with TB’s comments this week but judging by the way Fergie came on and performed they weren’t. Trouble in the camp? TB feeling the pressure? I’ve heard his wife is seriously ill again, which surely cannot help matters – certainly wouldn’t blame him for stressing out at the players, especially when they put in shit like the Heybridge game. Or maybe, just maybe, TB is playing mind games with the players? Managers can and do do that sort of thing. Think about it, when their manager says in public (with names) that one or two of them aren’t pulling their weight, it does suggest a point or two needs to be proved. And when you play your next game and win 4-0, that would prove it, right? Maybe that’s what TB is banking on? The guy is quite wily, if you read what happened to Marcus Gayle last season at Aldershot. I’m led to believe that when he came in to AFCW, TB had already looked at our squad and knew who did what……

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Doesn’t Alf Potter look like Justin Timberlake? At least, when he was 12 years old. (2) Is it true that one of the Dons Trust election nominees said they’d get their baps out should they get elected? Hopefully it’s just my hearing playing up. (3) “We need it low and hard into the corner” – the bloke behind me before Hatton’s goal. High and hard do you? (4) Merton libraries giving away free programmes in return for signing up for library services. Obviously it’s a marketing drive for OUR honours being on display at Morden Civic Centre, but somebody forgot to tell Merton that half our lot can’t read….

Anything else? Yeah, if you don’t get the new front page there’s no hope for you. In all seriousness, it’s a bit of a wrench seeing Frankie depart earlier than expected, and not just because we’re now short of a centre back at a vital time of the season. To play something like 190 odd games is something, especially when you consider Alan Cork played something like 430 games for us over a 10 year plus period, but even more special at this level. Normally at RP level you get to play that many games because you’re either the manager’s son, your team is so crap they can’t do without you, or you’ve got pictures of the club chairman with that bird he met at a function in 2004.

Still, the tears in Frankie’s eyes looked genuine, and it was nice to see some Hastings fans staying behind afterwards and clapping. Still no answer as to who he’s going to be coaching for, as many people think he’s off to New York but others suggest he’s actually going to California. If it’s the latter, the old Frank Sinatra song was a little bit out of place. This all said, I think the dormant looking US Dons supporters club may have an application form to send out…

So, was it worth it? Yeah, it was all right.

In a nutshell: Calm before the storm?