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Leave it to Beaver

Staines playoff game, anyone?

It’s hard to believe sometimes that not only are we two games away from the end of the season, but one point tomorrow will as good as ensure we’re promoted as champions. Sounds easy, yet will probably be the most difficult point of the entire season to get.

I suppose if I had to choose a venue where we needed to avoid defeat, I wouldn’t have picked the Beaverdome. Lest we forget that we have never – ever – got a single, solitary point from there. OK, that was all in the DA era, and if nothing else TB has a far better aptitude for dealing with these sort of games. But let it be said we won’t be doing things the easy way.

As far as buildups go though, this is a strange one. I don’t know how anyone reading this is feeling, but I feel a confusing mixture of calm and anxiety. The calmness will go of course, and I’ll be back to being the nervous paranoid wreck I’ve been for the past 33 years two months. But unlike the Staines game last season, it’s felt a little bit, well, weird…

I’ll let out what I’m thinking. I don’t think we’ll do it tomorrow. I think things have been so arsey against us recently that I just can’t see the Footballing Gods giving us a break. It’s got nothing to do with the fact that we’ve never even got a point from the Beaverdome. I just can’t help thinking that something, something is going to go wrong.

It could be a moment of defensive dozyness. It could be Pullen doing one of his juggling acts at exactly the worst moment. It could be the pitch being eccentric. It could be the referee being a dick. Whatever, with recent events you just can’t help having in the back of your mind that niggling doubt of impending doom around the corner.

Totally irrational to think that, of course, but after Monday’s happenings can you really blame anyone for holding such views? More I think about that incident, the more I can’t help thinking that somebody is trying to take our title away. Still, full credit to AFCW for the aftermath of the shit this week. Conducted with dignity and a “let’s use this as motivation for Saturday”, shame certain other parties don’t have the self-respect or intellectual honesty to do likewise.

All this said, if we’re being honest with ourselves we’re not exactly setting the place alight right now. Especially JM and DK, who I don’t think have scored at all since Dorchester, well over a month ago. Granted, DK has been playing a bit with an injury and isn’t quite getting the luck. But as harsh as this is to say about a player who has got us 32 goals this season, I’m getting a bit pissed off with JM right now. Right now, when we need his goals more than ever, he’s just not doing it. And whilst admittedly I haven’t been to as many games as I would have liked recently, he hasn’t looked close to rectifying that.

Yes, I know it’s confidence, probably nerves thrown in for good measure, part time etc etc. But really, he needs to start proving his worth to us again. Not next week. Not in the playoffs. But tomorrow. As does everyone else charged with putting the ball in the net for us.

Anyway, enough bitching about the strikeforce that’s got us a goal difference running into double figures. I really do seem to have this strange mixture of anxiety and calm tranquility. A football bi-polar, if you will. I suppose it’s because if we do end up with nothing at 5pm on Saturday, we’ve still got another chance to finish the season off. OK, it will mean a victory is needed next Saturday, and I won’t begin to describe the various gases coming out of various arses in the buildup to that. If we fail in that particular quest, we have two more games minimum to get it right. So effectively, Saturday is the first of five games needed to get promotion.

Of course, we want it done and dusted by tomorrow. I think the players do as well, if truth be told. While Bromley’s continued attempts to justify their cheating are becoming more pathetic each day, it’s done us a bit of a favour. We now have that real sense that we got screwed big time – you can tell it in TB’s interviews. If he can successfully change our players from “we’re frightened to make a mistake” to “fuck you, you cheating cunts” that’s half the battle won.

Also, as strange at it may sound, and contrary to my third paragraph, I’m glad we’ve got H&R, because we know we will have to focus 220% anyway. If it had been a WSM, or a Welling, or even a Maidenhead, there would have been that temptation to go into the game and cruise it. We know we can’t do that here.

It’s also worth remembering of course that H&R have to win. They’re under as much pressure as we are now. They’re the ones who have to take the game to us, especially at home. We have another chance next week to get it right. They don’t. One mistake by us will piss us off and make next week even more tense. One mistake by them and playoff hell awaits. If it’s 0-0 or 1-1 with 20 minutes to go, it’s not up to us to get the result.

Tomorrow is a game that could be decided in the first thirty minutes, especially if we go up a goal or two. This is why us going for the draw would be suicidal. We’re not good enough to do it for 90 minutes at the best of times, very few sides are. I don’t think our collective nervous state would make us carry it out properly anyway. Instead, without being gung-ho, we need to put the Axewounds under pressure for at least some of the game.

If we go for the win, you give yourself a chance if you do mess up early on. How many times have you seen sides play games where they go for the draw from the first minute then find their gameplan ruined after letting in one after 10 minutes? Despite the nerves, despite the occasion, despite the cheating against us, despite our crap record against them – the Beavers are most certainly beatable.

I do expect tomorrow to be murder though. H&R won’t give us anything, and it will be a major miracle if they don’t try any intimidation. I’m sure we can expect fake injuries, attempts to get our players injured or sent off, that sort of thing. I certainly expect them to copy Bromley if it’s the last minute and they get a drop ball. They’ll try everything to make our lives hell off it too – I’m sure they’ll think of ways of preventing entry to us because of ill-torn ticket stubs or something else petty. And I suggest anyone in the “home” end should leave their colours at home. The Ryman mentality will be steroided up and out in force tomorrow – big time. Be warned.

Anyway, if that doesn’t wind you up, then nothing will. This buildup is strange though, strangely calm. I suppse the other reason for this serenity is that we’ve been here before. Not only for the playoff final but because – as TB stated in the SLP yesterday – we’ve dealt with this pressure every single week since January. At times it got unbearable, but what has helped is that it’s now put-up-or-shut-up time. We are two games away from the regular season finishing. There’s none of the feeling that we have to constantly grind out results with precious little reward, which I felt we suffered from in February and March. It really could be over by 5pm tomorrow.

And reading more from the SLP (Rocky Baptiste especially) there is an air of confidence about. That is one thing that has marked this season out more than any other in the AFCW era – the outright sheer belief we collectively have. There hasn’t been that air of “fuck we could blow this” and more of a “let’s get this title to bed”. I hope it’s not going to become complacency, which is something even more damaging than nerves. But if I’m expecting yet more doom and desolation at the Beaverdome tomorrow, nobody’s told the playing staff.

To prove what I mean, last night, I went to Imber Court to see our reserves win the Suburban League Challenge Cup final over Bedfont. An omen? I have to say how impressed I was with them (especially our #5 and Josh Orlando). But there was an assurance throughout the squad, and it’s clear that MG is helping install a mantra to mirror that of the first team. This can only be good for us, and the 200 or so people there last night were as impressed.

Including one TB, who just popped in after training. Now, as I was leaving the ground to go back to SW19 Towers, our manager was in front of me. And he seemed pretty lively, he had that air that everything would be fine tomorrow about him. Which may explain why the players are acting the same way. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, he knows something we don’t……?