The run continues. I’m not too sure whether it’s relief over the result, the continued stay at the table’s summit, or whether it was just our lovely opponents, but Norbiton 3 Coney Hall 1 feels the result of the season so far, doesn’t it?
Make no mistake, this wasn’t Basingstoke in the first half, or Newport, or even Furruk. If you predicted a draw or a loss before the game, you could easily be forgiven. You wouldn’t be the only one on that score, certainly. Indeed, before the game, you were going to wonder would this be the day where we’d come a cropper. We looked a bit tired for the last couple of games, and in truth we did for a fair bit of today as well.
When we went 1-0 up, you just wondered if it was a case of last season all over again. Never has “Hallelujah” over the PA sounded so apt. When they equalised, it was eyes rolling time. You knew it was deja vu all over again by that stage. In fact, who here thought to themselves it would be a loss at the finish? Go on, you can admit it, you’re amongst friends here. And me.
But, but, but…… If you want to know why we’re top of the table, with five consecutive wins under our belts, the last five minutes proved why. There has developed an almighty self-belief within AFCW right now that gets us through those difficult games. Whether it’s the style of play that knackers the opposition out, or the personnel that TB’s brought in, or even just the different attitude this whole club has right now, I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell glad we’ve got it in our locker room.
It can best be described by JM’s penalty. Think about it. This was a game where a draw could have been expected. We were pushing on more than they were towards the end and we got a penalty right on full time. Now, imagine in the past if something like that had happened – we would have cacked ourselves, especially with the way the crowd went silent before JM stepped up. That takes some bottle to even face a penalty in that situation. What was different this time was that you knew that JM would put it in. That’s the level of confidence we have right now. And boy, when he put it in did the roof (metaphorically) lift off or what? Seriously, I can’t remember the TE being that excited even during the playoffs, although we weren’t so pant-cacky today.
Our third goal was no real surprise, as I think Bromley lost it by then. JM’s injury though was only a knock, as TB’s interview later will testify. But today, a real hurdle was cleared, and this week will suddenly go a lot smoother.
So, why are we so good at getting last minute goals right now? Firstly, like the WFC sides of old, we just don’t give up. We could have gone for the draw, although we shouldn’t need to resort to that. Again, that comes with self-belief and confidence. Secondly, I think our style of play has helped. I bet if you’re an opposition player it gets knackering having to chase us passing about a lot of the time. Which leads on to my third reason….
Basically, we’re fitter. I believe we’ve employed a fitness coach this season, or at the very least looked at our physical aspect a lot more closely. In the days when Liverpool were running rampant across Britain and Europe (on and off the pitch), it was believed that they had the fittest squad of anyone. Because of this, they had a habit of getting last minute goals, especially when the opposition felt that they’d finally got the measure of them. If we have copied the Scousers in that, it’s a pretty fine template to look at.
With physical fitness comes mental fitness. This season, we’ve always managed to have that second wind when needed. We’ve seen plenty of games down the years (more the WFC years than AFCW ones) where we’ve held on and held on and shagged ourselves out at the end of it. Even when we’ve looked tired recently, we’ve still had enough to either win or kill off games. It’s a very simple thing to do, but clearly a lot harder to achieve.
Of course, the other reason why we score goals so late is our inability to score them in the first 85 minutes…
So, now what? Basically, enjoy the rest of this week. Quietly salivate at the league table, although by Friday you’ll be thinking of Bath City away and saying “hmm, tricky one. Bet they beat us”. At some point our luck will run out, and it may well be at Twerton Park on Saturday. But we’ve had the start we daren’t have let ourselves consider. Only thing is though, won’t it be a comedown when we aren’t winning………….?
Plus points: We won. Pretty well in the end. Major hurdle vaulted. Finn. Main’s two goals. Everything I said above about keeping going. Decent reception before and after the game.
Minus points: MH’s injury. Conceding. Looking a bit tired at times. Trying the perfect goal at times.
The referee’s a……: Wins loads of kudos because he managed to miss Luke Garrard’s ever-so-slightly-accidental-honest handball right on the edge of the box. Surprised he didn’t redress the balance, considering he must have heard the sniggers down the TE end afterwards. Reportedly a tourets sufferer….
Them: Can I say we would have lost this game last season? Bollocks, I will anyway. Bromley were a top ten side, and it showed. Slightly better than Basingstoke methinks, and will probably cause problems this season for many. That said, I don’t think they were as skillful as us, and felt a bit like Coldseal in the playoffs (as in, ever able to cause us maximum damage without being massively skillful). Makes you wonder really how Nic McD would have done had he remained with a big club.
Anyway, their fans turned out in numbers, although Usain Bolt is now contacting those who were seen running to the exits for tips on how to move that quickly. As it’s August Bank Holiday with plenty of kids about, I’ve created a game for all the family. No cheating now.
Feel free to photocopy this game for all your friends. And remember, the photocopy itself will be more original than the chants.
Point to ponder: A cursory glance at the BSS table is interesting. No, I don’t mean how utterly wonderful it is that we’re top, though obviously that’s the first thing you look at. It’s this – of the top six, three of the sides (including the top two) are the ones who got promoted to the BSS this season. In fact, this morning Chelmsford were fourth (derby games, eh?). I’ve heard that promoted sides always seem to do well in this division, yet I don’t really understand why.
I’ve been making a lot of comments recently about how non-league is in the process of a shakedown, and how the Conf’s metamorphosis into League 2.5 will affect the BSS and lower for years to come. But I wonder if the very creation of regional Conferences has created an artificial imbalance that is only starting to be rectified? With all due respect to Bognor, Basingstoke, Furruk etc, can you really say they should be in a higher league than Ashford (Mx), Rickay and – dare I say it – Staines…?
Meet the Manager: TB’s latest post-match comments in MP3 format below.
Haven’t really listened through it all (even though I was there for the whole of the interview) but at least his comments about JM’s injury rounded off an ultimately prosperous day….
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) The “Happy Birthday” for Tintin Haydon at half time. The pained creasing up of my face is purely down to happyness at such a joyous occasion. No, really. (2) Speaking of cringing – if the individual who stood between the TE and JS side, and who sung songs at random intervals by himself, is reading this, a word please. You can’t sing. Oh, and learn the lyrics properly as well. (3) 3149 there. To put it another way, it was behind Pompey v Man U, Oxford v Woking and Cambridge United v Kettering in the whole country. As said plenty of times before, I wouldn’t put our long term future ahead of anyone elses (4) Why did today’s WUP have an inability to credit contributors with their names? And yes, I know I do it myself, although I do that to protect the innocent from me stitching them up 😉
Anything else? Aye. To quote another Womble in the meeja after today’s game, how come Alan Inns has played for the last couple of years four miles away from us yet hasn’t got picked up on the radar until now? Perhaps it’s because we only became a BSS side this season? Obviously, the likes of JM, Hussey, Luke G and Finn have stepped up to this new level, and Kennedy looks like he’s settled in (not his best game today, mind). Now, think back to this time last year (to save you looking, we lost 1-0 to ETU away on this date and drew 1-1 with Staines on the Bank Holiday). Seriously, can you really recognise this club, let alone this team, right now?
So, was it worth it? What, a Bank Holiday beating one of your favourite sides in the manner we did? Dunno.
In a nutshell: And relax…….