Who said we’d lose? Do have to be honest here, I wouldn’t have predicted Tesco Value Bottle Water 2 Malvern 0 before the game tonight. OK, I might have done had we’d played the same as we did against H&Y and given Lady Luck another nailing. But if tonight we were Manchester United, and we were live on Sky, Andy Gray would be looking at the first half, then the second, and saying “that’s how United have won so many titles”.
OK, we’re not Yernited, nor do we have Martin Tyler examining Tony Finn’s second half contribution. And we are certainly not there yet. But I had a sense the first half was going to be like it was, before the game. I certainly didn’t expect the second…..
The opening 45 minutes were, to put it politely, complete fucking cock. It was as though Furruk had taken more of its toll than we first feared. We looked tired, listless, not a side who are top nor even at home. Worcester had all the running, most of the shots, you name it. Not beyond credibility to say they should have been in the lead.
When JM got the penalty though, and for once absolutely wanked it up, there was a sense that our luck had run out. A feeling that just got compounded further with one of the worst queues in the back bar at HT for a much needed shot….
But the second half? Immense. It’s a word I don’t use that often, because I’m not into hyperbole. But really, it was immense. To come out in the second half, to pick yourself up like that, to blitz them and kill the game stone dead within about five minutes of the restart? I’m having Andy Gray’s voice in my head right now (don’t worry, I’m seeing the shrink about it tomorrow) : “If AFCW don’t win the league, there’s no justice”. It was the AFCW you’d like to take home to meet your parents.
It’s hard to say exactly why we suddenly looked like the all-conquering, swashbuckling unit that we’ve been for so many times this season. The last few games I’ve seen, we’ve dug down deep, ground out results, and even employing the help of a friendly divot along the way. I’ve no idea what was said at half time, but whatever it was, I hope it was written down and copyrighted. It would make a fortune in the sports psychology industry.
Or maybe it wasn’t a teamtalk? Maybe it was just a wakeup call? We have put ourselves in our current league position on merit, and we were going to let it slip away meekly? IF we go up this year, it will be because of that mental strength that not only won us tonight, but made us feel better in the process. We didn’t look like the leggy side that stumbled to a win at Furruk. We had energy, drive, not a little skill and perhaps most importantly of all, a clue. It was almost as though we said to ourselves, “hey, what the fuck are we doing?”
We’ll still need to avoid complacency of course, which alongside injuries is our main obstacle to winning the title. Even H&R getting two late penalties, while annoying, doesn’t worry me. Here’s why : one of the biggest myths in football is that teams who rely on late penalties and/or goals win titles. Look at any team who’s won a title recently, and while it undoubtedly happens on the odd occasion, they don’t make a habit of it. That’s the mistake Chelmsford made when they were winning games in the last minute so often – they confused luck with playing well enough to be high up. We did it ourselves, but then we won games “normally” anyway. That’s certainly what I’m hoping from H&R in the next couple of weeks…
Actually, I’m hoping Worcester repeat their first half performance for the full ninety on Saturday, while we repeat our second at H&W. Yet again, another team who you think should be doing better than they are. Only took a coachload of 14 people though, apparently, although I don’t envy the 3 hour drive for them.
Other negatives from tonight? Predominant one of course is Andy Little’s injury. Anyone had flashbacks to the game against AFC Coldseal last season at KM? Got to say, I was a bit surprised that Pullen was benched tonight, and now I’m pretty glad he was after all. This now leaves TB with a bit of a headache goalkeeper-wise. Wonder if there are any keepers being shedded from Conf sides that could do a job? The grapevine suggests that Nick Gindre (ex-Whackem and Hurtem and guy with annoyingly loud mother) has just been released from Woking. And to be honest, IF IF IF we go up this season, we will need to look at the keeper situation anyway…
There are a couple of little niggles, like why the referee was a tit. Anyone wonder about Tom Davis? He was yanked off at half time, and maybe could be a surprise name on the “out” list at the end of the season. Have to give kudos to Finn though, for the second game in a row he looked like the player he should be. Unsure whether I’d start him for games, unless we had to though. Mind you, if he keeps turning up late despite only living in Wandsworth…
One other thought that struck me, and I’m sure those who like to think they know about tactics will doubtless tell me otherwise : was our gameplan to tire out Worcester? We certainly kept doing that continental-style passing that leads to continental-sized heart attacks, especially when done across our area. And boy, did Worcester run a lot. Maybe we’re cleverer than we thought? Paul Fairclough (ex-Barnet manager) used to have an expression whenever I interviewed him : the Conference is a sophisticated league with sophisticated players. I don’t think he would have said that about the vast majority of CS sides, somehow. Maybe we really are ready for the Conference, if we can contain a hungry, energetic side and destroy them as quickly as we did tonight?
But again, I’m not going to think that right now. It’s still only February, H&R haven’t been put to the sword yet, and the Champions Elect are still alive (though psychologically I think they’ve gone). All of a sudden though, things just got a little bit easier tonight. We’re good enough to win this league, and I believe on the second half performance that we can even do it without losing another game this season.
Let’s prove it, eh?