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The run continues

Four games in, four games with a victory and we’re even top of the league. Who said this league was difficult?

Well, Stoke 0 Port Vale 1 could have been the sort of game that would bring us back down to earth with a rather undignified bump. It certainly had the potential anyway – home side without a win since January, AFCW optimism high, even one or two of us keeping thoughts of BSP football next season to ourselves.

In the end, it was a shame it wasn’t 4-0. By half time. Certainly in the first half poor old Basingstoke must have discovered another orifice, such was the pounding they got off us. And yet, we got only one goal out of that, and that was an own goal as well.

Truth be told, I’m pretty content with the turn of events today, but there’s this niggling dissenting voice of disappointment in the back of my mind about this. While our strength was on show today, so was our weakness. Basically, we just can’t score. Yes, despite four against Newport, three against BRT, and a couple against Furruk, we have a serious inability to put it in the back of the net. No, I’m being serious over this comment. If we could score goals when the pressure is on we could be lethal. Today’s contest could and should have been over by 3.30pm.

Is this a bad omen? Well, it is and it isn’t. At some point, no doubt against Bromley on Monday, our current fetish for scoring late on and/or scoring early and leaving it at that will suddenly run its course. While we moved closer to having a decent defence again, we played like we were 3-0 up as opposed to 1-0 up. And I don’t meant that in a good way either.

And yet, it seemed almost impossible that we’d lose. Again, a step forward from last year – would have lost this game last season etc etc. But even at this very early stage there’s something different at this higher of levels. Maybe it’s because we’ve got a comfortable and capable centre back pairing this season in Judge and Inns? We even feel more confident this season. And let’s face it, if our forwards don’t fire in a game, we’ll certainly need to keep them out the other end.

Striking wise, I think we can improve. A cutting edge in front of goal only comes with confidence throughout the whole team – if the forwards don’t feel pressured enough to constantly bail out a shit defence, they can get on with their job better. While at times I think Basingstoke were camped in our half a bit too much for my liking, we handled them as much as I expect them to. And let’s be fair here, JM did header onto the post from about 1 yard out late on, and a header of ours just flashed wide soon afterwards.

During the game, I thought we were labouring. But sitting here at SW19 Towers, leaning back on my leather chair in pensive mode, maybe I’m being a tad unfair. Perhaps we were more professional than I believed? After all, how many times have you heard of a team that whips the arse of the opponent, only gets the one goal then ends up without the victory? What did Basingstoke offer today? Seriously?

All this leads onto something I’ve heard a lot of, particularly this evening. It’s the “yeah, we’re top and playing good stuff, but wait until winter comes and the pitches get bad” viewpoint. Personally, I think we should cross that wobbly bridge when we come to it. We weren’t the potent force we were in the second half, yet maybe that’s preparing us for these tough, hard conditions in the bleak winter months. We did show an ability to put ourselves about a bit as well – not go round kicking people, but just let it be known that we don’t roll over whenever anyone farts.

If we’re as good as we like to think, we’ll overcome heavy pitches well enough anyway. Again, that will come with confidence. I’ve no doubt we’ll have to adapt slightly, but as our first four games have shown, teams aren’t as barbaric in this division (copyright J Pullen). We might still have that Ryman mentality ingrained in us over this sort of thing – christ, I still have nightmares over Heybridge Swifts away….

Anyway, while we prepare for the inevitable fuckup against Bromley on Monday, here’s…..

Plus points: We won. Away. Clean sheet. First half performance. Kennedy. Defence looked pretty solid. Ability to kill off the game in more ways than one.

Minus points: Only one goal. Stupid amount of offsides

The referee’s a……: Hmm, yes, well….. Did anyone else hear that he kept referring to JM as “Jon”?

Them: The Draw Specialists, although it’s interesting to note that even their own fans say that we bossed the game. They’ll probably stay up, although even when I used to cover NLP games at the Camrose they were never really likely to break into the top eight. Also, their #5 looked like Jason Goodliffe, and had the same holding-it-together effect in their defence as well. Off the field, they seemed a well organised bunch, even if £11 is a piss take. Apparently, if they go into the top three by Xmas or something the price goes up to £12. Bright marketing I don’t think. Mind you, think they’ll be safe on that score. Oh, and their fanzine was interesting enough with our fans comments in, though I am a bit disturbed at their insistence of calling us “Don’s” as opposed to “Dons”…

Point to ponder: Was it me, or did Jon Main have his worst ever game for us today? He missed a header from about 1 yard out, shot straight at the goalkeeper when one-on-one, and got caught offside so many times it was as though he was being sponsored to keep doing it. Still, as pointed out above, a poor game won’t have as much an impact if everyone else gets it right.

Three’s a crowd: 1509, so presumably about 800-900 of us. Thought we might have taken more down there, but I suppose the holidays etc will always knock a few off. We might beat ourselves up over not taking 1000, but let’s give ourselves a bit of credit – most teams even in the Conference would kill to have that support. Quite nice to note that there was no segregation or obvious police presence, and none needed.

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Having to pay to get into the Camrose for once. I feel victimised. (2) Advert under their Main Stand. I kid you not – “Wickes. After 30 years we’ve finally arrived in Basingstoke”. You can make your own comment. (3) Jamie Pullen’s motor, reassuringly footballeresque. If his number plate really does read “P11 NIS” then presumably he’s been working on his lobbing while injured? Although judging by his motor it’s more likely he runs out of juice after 7 seconds…

Anything else? Not really. It seems that we’re waiting for Bromley now, and the general concensus seems to be that we’ll drop points. Bit like we predicted against Newport, although my jaw will make a dent in the floor if we win 4-1. We’ll find out for certain on Monday, but I sense there’s a slight lack of us accepting that we’re doing well. Maybe that’s a hangover from last season, or it could be that our view on the BSS is the total reverse of what we thought of the RP. We’re expecting to drop points against Bromley because it’s (a) the sort of thing we do, especially on a good run, and (b) we expect Bromley to be bigger and better in this division. We might be right on this score, but should we win, why would it necessarily be a surprise….?

So, was it worth it? Yeah, wasn’t too bad I suppose.

In a nutshell: We are top of the league, say we are top of the league. Until Monday, anyway.