Ah, your editor’s first pre-season of the new campaign. Apologies in advance for the obvious ring rust…
To the casual observer, the scoreline of Nelsons 0 G.A.Y. 2 would have left them thinking that our pre-season is going badly, that we were outclassed from start to finish last night, and that we’re in for a season of struggle.
If that’s the case, let’s hope our opponents underestimate us like that too.
OK, we lost and I suppose we didn’t deserve to win either. But this morning nobody is shitting themselves. Against a pretty strong (if not full strength) BHA outfit, we looked, well, promising. Not our own full strength side either, but more than enough people were looking at us and thinking “yeah, we might do all right after all….”
Granted, PSFs aren’t the best barometer, but those who remember the DA era when we went to the Rec to see Aldershot gub us 4-1 (in probably one of the worst PSFs I can remember, both in the WFC and AFCW eras) will be smiling wryly to themselves right now. The difference a couple of years and a different approach can make.
People like Paul Lorraine and Derek “Dougan” Duncan could start the season proper now. In fact, plenty were playing as though it was against Luton. True, some things didn’t come off like they should, but you use pre-season to get that sharpness. And let’s face it, our strikers need a couple more workouts before the first proper game. But last night gave people a reason to be a bit less cautious for the season ahead.
What stood out IMO was the second half when it felt like we were chasing the draw/win, a la some of the games last season. When both LT and JM manage to miss “sitters” (according to the BHA website) it felt like a league game. Forget individual performances, it shows at least we’re a team. I think the crowd sensed that too, and the Brighton fan I met in the bogs afterwards (this is NOT as dodgy as it sounds. I have witnesses) was impressed with the noise. In fact, he was quite impressed with us full stop.
To further illustrate this point, I bet you felt a bit of a tinge of disappointment when BHA got their second right on the full time whistle. I know I did. Have we now become the very team we used to mock others for? You know, “it was their cup final and they lost”, sort of thing. Or was it something more than that?
Last season, we got through some pretty tricky periods with that rather strong unit we became. If last night was anything to go by, that will continue in the upcoming nine months. It’ll be much harder next season, obviously, but all of a sudden there isn’t the trepidation of playing Luton. There is a feeling of, this lot could hand out a few shocks to some big spending teams. A lot of apprehension has already been lifted.
Previously, deep down, I expect many of us didn’t want Luton first game. The thought of us getting ripped apart on Sky/ESPN/Eurosport/BBC/ITV/Dave/Television X would have been a right comedown. But even more importantly than even JM scoring or Ricky Wellard adapting to us, we already look like we want to give teams a fight.
The world-famous Wimbledon Team Spiritâ„¢ is going to be needed for the upcoming campaign. But at least the signs are we actually have some…..
Plus points: Decent enough performance. DD. Quiche. Looking like a team that can only get better (and not meant in a negative way either). Decent turn out.
Minus points: We lost. Usual pre-season obtuseness at times. Strikers need to sharpen up. Chris Hussey still takes corners like an Isuzu truck. Unsure about the keeper first half.
The referee’s a…: Good to see Monty Panesar’s dad looking fit and healthy. Granted, it was a PSF but he seemed to referee it well and fairly enough. Better than his son’s bowling at times, anyway.
Them: A full time side in League One and it showed. Bit like our own lineup, not their full side but still virtually all first teamers. The sort of team we’ll probably draw at KM in the FAC first round next season. Obviously a close-knit club, because all their players were Italian and from the same family. At least, I presume that’s why they all had “Donatello” on the back of their shirt.
Decent BHA turnout too, more than virtually every other team up to Conference South level (bar CCFC and Dover) ever took. Their fans seem to like us and were as pissed off as we were when they arranged a friendly with Franchise. Suppose really we’ve got a fair bit in common with them – it’s taken them god knows how long to get Falmer, and they managed to get out of Gillingham before it did to them what Selhurst ended up doing to WFC…
Point to ponder: Is it me or is there a bit of a myth about pre-seasons? By that, I mean there’s an assumption that if you play badly in them you tend to have a good season and vice versa. There are occasions when that does apply – think of when we gubbed Swindon 3-0 in Drillo’s only pre-season campaign. And the club still owes everyone free therapy sessions for that Met Police* game last year…
* – though the club have (privately) admitted that they got it wrong last season with the amount of triallists they took on. Don’t think it ultimately harmed us but how many of them made the step up to reserve level? Let alone first team?
Yet cast your mind back to last year and a couple of times before – in particular last season. People seem to think we were absolute horse shit in our pre-seasons last time out. But by the end of them, we were pissing over Tonbridge (a team who we struggled to beat in the league that previous season) and looked like the side that stuffed Newport a week later. What is important is how much we improve in them. By the looks of things right now, Farnborough could be a good one to go to…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) For anyone who goes in the back bar, one of the tables has “Champions 2008/09” with a signature on it. Anyone know whose scrawling it is? (2) The new banking on the KRE. Very nice. Shame we can’t use it for ourselves yet. (3) Speaking of away fans, is it true that they’ll eventually be put in the TE end of the JS? You know, the opposite end to where we normally put them?
Anything else? Yeah. Did you know that the Axewounds played Franchise last night? Or that BHA had a couple of ex-Frenzies playing for them? This is something I couldn’t help noticing more and more last season – we just don’t seem so bothered by them. At least not to the excessive levels in the past. Granted, we will always despise them, we will always hope they go bust and that Wankie is found dead Elvis-style, without the dignity of the King. And at times the old vitriol towards them will always resurface. But these days we care more about AFCW the Conference club than Franchise the club stealers.
In fact, if anyone does want to make an issue of last night’s friendly at the Beaverdome, it’s as much to do with the Axewounds as the Franchise. How times change, eh? Speaking of said “contest”, nobody seems to know the score or the crowd or anything. I think that’s a major step forward in our ultimate rehabilitation – previously, we would have heard more about that than last night’s shenanigans at KM.
Come to think of it, the only comment I heard last night about it was somebody I know suggesting that a couple of our own lot were “elsewhere”. Presume nothing happened, because we haven’t heard anyconstant high pitched wailing coming from over the river…
So, was it worth it? If it’s a sign of things to come, then yes. Performance, not result…
In a nutshell: Plenty to look forward to.