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The day before the big day

Remember when you were a kid there were always situations your parents used to worry about? No, I don’t mean when the kindly yet strange bloke nearby kept offering you sweeties providing you kept it a little secret. I mean whenever there was a big occasion coming and you used to play up? Well, I’m sure you were all well behaved juveniles, but there was always a nervousness that you would go to your aunts for a nice occasion and subsequently shit your pants or throw up in her company. And then stand over your “work” whilst sniggering away, as your blushing parents shouted blue murder at you

OK, certain people would argue I haven’t changed much in over 30 years, but I really had that feeling today. With Wembley on the horizon, surely we’d do our usual of underperforming. Surely, surely, we’d let everyone down again in the league in letting ourselves get distracted by a glorified friendly. Surely, surely, surely?

True to form, it finished Terminal Five 1 Morden Depot 4. And so much for that theory.

Actually, I’m not sure whether it’s the more plausible belief that we play better whenever we’re not expected to do well coming into play, but I’m having a job thinking of something that was wrong today. We scored 4 goals – and Shroot got a hat-trick – in pretty lousy conditions. We defended well, we went up the gear when needed, and for one of the all-too-few times this season we did look like a team justified in being in second place.

The game first. We started off well, nearly scored then did score. They went up the other end, just after about 2 minutes, and netted. Cue much rolling of eyes, shrugging of shoulders and huffing of “here we sodding well go again”. We kept a foothold, but the game got a bit scrappy. Suddenly Shroot went on a run, and unleashed a 35 yarder that the keeper just did not see. To quote, “Dare I say that was Ursell-esque?”. I’m saying nothing. It didn’t quite kill the game off then, but you felt that Ashford kind of had the stuffing knocked out of them after that.

And when the second half arrived, it was basically more of the same. I don’t think Pullen had that much to do, anyway. Our forward line was though. It wasn’t really a surprise when Shroot netted his hat-trick, and it was certainly deserved. And then Rose netted and that really was that.

So, what? Well, it’s nice that we’re going into the playoffs with a bit more confidence than a couple of weeks ago. We have two regular season games left now (and is it really down to that wire already?) and it’s not impossible for us to remain unbeaten now. I think our record for consecutive wins is about six this season, so if we equal that, we’re up. Actually, we could afford to drop points in the next two games anyway, as long as we continue to play to what we can do. Even getting in third (should Staines overtake us) won’t faze me. There’s a caveat in all of this, and when you read on you’ll twig immediately what it is.

I’m trying hard not to get carried away here, but every so often I do think “yeah, I think we can go up”. Today, Staines away and Horsham away were the three best performances of the season, and every time I’ve gone away from those games I’ve said those exact words to myself. This team can do it. Today was a potential banana skin, one of those ones where you maybe wouldn’t be surprised had we lost, and the result today speaks for itself.

This does explain why I get so fucking angry when we do play poorly (and especially when we lose). If we’re not good enough I accept it. But it’s when you get an ETU, or Boreham Wood, or even Horsham at KM, and then you compare it to today’s pretty good performance, I’m surprised that I’m as calm as I am when it happens. We are not shit – today proved it.

No, I can’t be churlish about today, I don’t want to be, and yes – we have justified our trip to Wembley tomorrow. I can’t deny I would have preferred it at the end of the season, and I certainly would swap it for promotion, but it’s going to be a good day out for a lot of people. Hell, even I might pop along now, I don’t feel I’m having the piss taken out of me so much this evening…

Plus points: We won. Away. Quite convincingly in the end. Shroot finally justifying the hype. Defence looks a bit more solid. Knowing we have players to return from injury.

Minus points: Their goal. The weather.

The referee’s a……: Seemed to enjoy giving Ashford plenty of free kicks for no obvious reason. Maybe he had a spread bet on how many he could award.

Them: What was it, they’ve won 10 out of their 11 home games, really on fire recently and we made them look that ordinary? Looks like it. Even their goal was offside so that doesn’t really count. Nice to see their goalie having some, ahem, “banter” with our fans in the first half. Shame he went off injured in the second, but it can and does happen. Curse of the Wombles, I believe it’s called. Nice enough setup, they seem better organised than many places. And is there anything more romantic in football than the Kerosene Storage Tanks End? One day somebody is going to shoot wildly and the ball will puncture one of them. Oh, and if we do play there next season, do you think they’ll finally get a PA mike that works?

Point to ponder: Doesn’t this just prove the theory that the team we should fear most of all in the playoffs is ourselves? The AFCW seen today, and for too few times this season, would and should still be snapping away at Chelmsford’s heels this season. We all know why we’re apprehensive going into them, and even after today there’s no reason to think otherwise. But really, doesn’t a professional performance like this make the almost expected fuckup just even more galling to swallow?

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Sight of TB five minutes before the game walking on his own to the dugouts. Entschuldigung Sie bitte, aber warum? (2) The weather. Sun/rain/hail/sun/rain/sun/hail/rain/sun/rain. Might have missed out another bit of rain inbetween sun and hail, but you get the idea. If this is April showers I’d hate to see what a full-on thunderstorm is. (3) Anyone else think that Ramone Rose wasn’t going to be with us any longer? As much as I support having the likes of him and the Cue learning their trade with us (especially when they’re that effective as well), it doesn’t half get confusing. Not to mention opening up opportunities for the occasional conspiracy theorist to strike.

Anything else? Not really if truth be told. I suppose the only thing that could count as a bummer was Franchise getting promoted today. What – they didn’t? Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Sadly, it’s only really delaying their inevitable rise, but just imagine if they really did right royally fuck it up. I mean, fall out of automatic promotion and then fuck up in the playoffs. We’d love it if it happened, but if it didn’t and they do go up, remember this : they took a league place in the Championship and are now in the bottom tier of professional English football. No matter what they do, they blew their golden opportunity…….

So, was it worth it? Yes, if only to see the planes take off.

In a nutshell: Wemberley, Wemberley…..