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Wings and a prayer

By the sounds of it, there wasn’t too much to get excited by the Welling game (Greg V’s report is below). Being ahead twice then, er, not being does suck the big one, but I suppose we didn’t lose away for once.

One thought that has occured to me. It does seem that with all the cups we’re in, our league campaign is more stop-start than an Austin Ambassador. This Saturday, we’re at Worcester in the FAT, and if we win that it’ll be yet more Saturdays without a league game at KM. By the time we face the Beavers at the end of this month, it will only have been our third Saturday league game at KM in something like eight weeks. And we only had one more league game full stop in that period.

OK, you shouldn’t complain really, it’s not like the league will tell us that we will have to forfeit them for having too many cup runs. And in many ways, cup runs may be our best hope this season. As Wycombe showed, they’re tense affairs but they’re also fun. For about the last six years we’ve been so focused and so intense that we’re due a season where the league doesn’t matter quite so much and our highlights will be a good couple of games against league and Conf outfits.

After the game, I noted some seriously minded discussions that it would be better if we didn’t go up this season, because of the increased travelling costs, likelyhood of a major overhaul of our financing and our defence being wank. There’s arguments for and against that, if truth be told. I don’t think TB or the AFCW top brass will want to be in this division if we can help it, yet my source at Welling on Saturday suggested that we might need a season-long breather, if that makes sense.

Me? Unlike Turdeyland I wouldn’t be upset if we were in the CS again next season. Though if we go out on Saturday…

Turning on the car radio as I set of for Park View Road on Saturday, I was treated to The Doors singing ‘Strange Days’ and as it turned out, it probably summed up Wings 2 Rubettes 2.

The beginning of the week started with our first ever televised match in front of the ‘Santana’ cameras and although it was universally agreed that off the pitch the experience was a great success for the club, the performance by the team on the pitch was, as my old form tutor would have summed up, “Showed great potential but was let down through a basic lack of concentration”. And so it was back to the league and the two questions on everyone’s lips was how would we perform after our cup exit and could we improve on our faltering away performances?

TB quoted on the OS this week that he, SC and SB got the players together not only to review their achievements so far this year; the play off final win, the excellent start to this years campaign and the cup run to our first ever appearance in the 1st round proper but also to set out a target for the next 6 weeks. It is likely that he would have been looking to gain 9 or 10 points from the next 4 games to stay in contention with our main rivals. Following this performance, I’m not sure whether he will look at it as 2 points dropped or 1 point gained.

Three changes at the back from Monday’s line up saw the inconsistent Leberl dropped for Judge, Inns made way for Goodliffe and Hussey rightly regained his left back position from Haswell. Despite leading twice from a well taken volley by Main and an OG following a Hussey free kick, we were once again undone by poor defending from set pieces and two poached goals from Teddy Charlie Sherringham.

The first half saw us run the show, score 2 and create enough chances to go in 3 ahead. I’m sure most of us thought that we would come out in the 2nd half, contain them comfortably and score a couple more for good measure. We didn’t. They scored, and at the final whistle we were fortunate to leave with a point, such was Wellings 2nd half domination.

It left me wondering how the hell the same squad of players can play some fantastic free flowing football at home but away, turn out the most mediocre football since the DA era? It’s clear that there aren’t many teams to fear in the BSS but at the moment we definitely seem to be suffering from travel sickness and I’m not sure what the fuck is going to turn it around?

Stats show that in 4 of the last 5 away games, we’ve conceded 2 or more goals and TB needs to seriously rethink how he’s going to set the team up away from home. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want us to go backwards by playing ugly football in order to achieve results but at times yesterday you could almost sense that there was no belief. Even going 1-0 and then 2-1 up, the body language of some players was evident. Sam Hatton once again flattered to deceive spending much of the afternoon wandering around in the middle of the park making little effort. Kennedy, so effective earlier in the season seemed out of sorts and Goodliffe seriously off the pace.

In the managers programme notes there were two interesting comments made which struck a cord.

“Playing as a team is going to win championships or get us in the play-offs which is where we want to be. People are saying that AFC Wimbledon are the benchmark for the league so we’ll put ourselves up against it and see what we can do.”

Might be worth TB writing that up on his tactic board before every game as a reminder about what it’s going to take to make it into the Conference next year.

Plus points: another Garrard MOM performance, Keds working his bollocks off as usual, Mains volley and not conceding a 3rd goal

Minus points: Looking shaky at the back, defending set pieces and not scoring a 3rd goal

The referees a…: Well actually one of the better men in black we’ve seen this season. Mr Lee Venamore (of Maidstone) was very inconspicuous in the first half and made a point of talking to players with a calming influence instead of flashing cards as seems to be the fashion with other BSS refs. In fact the bookings he did make were all warranted. In particular, Davis’ s deliberate handball which led to Wellings second equalizer followed at least one talking to. TB had no choice but to preserve our 11 men status by replacing him shortly after his handball offence. He did seem to get more picky in the 2nd half but to be fair we did ourselves no favour with some of the clumsy challenges we made.

Them: I’d often driven past Wellings Ground when I worked in Eltham 3 years ago and wondered how long it would be before we played them in the league so I was kind of looking forward to my visit to DA16. The ground was originally home to Bexley United and apparently, when Bexley folded, the ground remained empty for a season while the local council offered any local team wishing to play there to put their name forward. Four teams did and it was Welling Utd who was successful.

Three sides of the ground are original with the quirky dugouts set into the small main stand. Land on the other side was sold to develop an all weather hockey/5-a-side pitches and the development included the erection of a small modern stand which is in keeping with the rest of the ground.

I spoke to a couple of 16yr old fans before the game (both of whom admitted to being first and foremost Charlton fans but alternating their Saturdays to support Welling). What impressed me most was their understanding of football franchising and our reasons for opposing the move to MK. “You’re all the real Wimbledon fans aren’t you” said one. Nuff said. A real friendly bunch on the whole with a real sense of humour.

Point to ponder: Walking away from the game feeling like shit only to get home and see the other results. Got me thinking, this league is there for the taking. It needs someone to take it by the scruff of the neck and stamp its authority, so why not us? Any team finding some sort of consistency (home and away) could piss this league. How about it TB?

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Noticeable lack of half time entertainment. No music played over the PA (although judging by the quality of the system it probably wouldn’t have been heard anyway). (2) The gun shop opposite the ground, handily placed close to the east end heartland.

Anything else? A noticeable lack of atmosphere in the ground. Was it me or was it just flat? There was certainly very little singing and a general ‘FA cup hangover’ feeling. Dave Anderson getting a bit of ribbing in the programme for his poor use of diction in his NLT column. What? DA having a language problem? I’ll hear none of it! Welling fielding a player who would not have been out of place in a Jackie Chan film; one Sanchez Ming

Was it worth it? If we win the league by 1 point, yes

In a nutshell: Strange days in deed.