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Ebb and flow

Yes, I know it’s late. You can’t get the staff these days 😉 Thanks to Richard Harding for stepping in and at least stopping questions about where this report is…

TBH I’m glad I’m writing this now, as I had to do two full reports for Millwall and was pretty much wrote-out by Sunday. By the sounds of it, the same is applying to our side right now.

There appeared to be a fair few “this is Ryman level” type comments on Saturday, and one does wonder if our side is starting to lose the post-promotion euphoria. We’re increasingly having to dig out results at the moment – certainly the case at Tamworf (with, to be fair, some injury problems too) but also Cambridge too. One can’t help thinking our luck is going to run out in the three games we’ve got in the next seven days.

True, there is form for this. Remember this time last year, we drew at Barf City and we never seemed to get going again until late October. I’m not suggesting that other teams have found us out – it’s more a case of the amount of games and chopping and changing have finally caught up with us.

We still have Crawley tomorrow, Histon on Saturday then R&D on the following  Tuesday. Finishing off with Kiddy at home the Saturday. After that, the scheduling seems quite sensible and will at least give us time to rest, recouperate and just work out where we are.

See, the thing is, it’s been quite a baptism, and it does take it out of you mentally. Be honest, do you feel a little bit fatigued watching us right now? All the excitement of playing Luton and Oxford and Cambridge does have a flipside of a comedown effect too.

Anyway, enough from me, I’ll leave it to Richard to go through what happened Saturday….

In a game undeserving of such drama, it finished Gravesend & Northfleet FC 2 Wimbledon FC 2. Take away admission prices, squad numbers and the fourth official and you wouldn’t have been mistaken for thinking this was the Ryman Prem, except poor old JM seemed lost in the Blue Sq Prem.

As our resident scribe has said before, he just needs one off anywhere to rekindle his confidence [SW19 – possibly, although I’ve been a bit harsher on him as of late. He might need 2/3 from open play now], at present even a barn door wouldn’t suffice.

I still believe in him, he is an out and out poacher and those chances will come – instead they fell to Sam Hatton whose performance on Saturday was back to his ambling best, why take a touch when the goal is at your mercy all of 2 yards away, and this when the game was evenly poised at 1-1.

The game itself  was our poorest performance this season, passes went astray and we seemed to lack the urgency which has been the hallmark of this league and to which we’ve adjusted so well. We took the lead midway through the first half with a good strike from Luke Moore after in fairness a good knock down from SH.

Just before half time our old friend Luis Cumbers, recently signed on loan,  out fought and out paced Paul Lorraine and finished in style. For me he looked the best striker on display and if things don’t work out for him at the Gills I’d happily see him back permanently in the yellow and blue.

The second half was more of the same average fayre but with ten to go Ebbsfleet looked to have secured all three points after a fine strike from the edge of the box. This looked even more likely after Conroy was then red carded. I’d like to think I give officials a fair hearing but this was just bizarre, yes he was the last man and there may have been a tussle between the two of them, but surely the fact that JP had already booted the ball up field meant the goal scoring opportunity had long since gone.

As the minutes ticked away Ebbsfleet then showed their only hint of professionalism by taking the ball to the corner flag at every opportunity. All credit to the players, we did finally show some urgency and at the death a good cross from Hussey found Montague at the far post to head home in style. Up until this point I’d been a bit disappointed with Monty, I hoped he’d be more direct, but when it mattered he delivered.

Plus points: We got a draw, the weather!

Minus points: General laboured team performance, lack of closing down in midfield, Conroy (unusually) and this before the sending off.

The referee’s a…: His interpretation of certain rules was baffling, not only the sending off but also the advantage rule – he wanted to play it which I admire but kept calling it wrong. The bigger issue was the number of AFCW offsides. Now I was behind the goal so won’t comment, although it always amazes me how many others behind a goal clearly feel better placed to judge than the lino. However, given the irate reaction of people down the sidelines one must question the accuracy of some decisions.

Them: Eminently forgettable. They huffed and puffed and we gave them the chance to blow us away. To concede two goals against a team who had previously only managed five all season was disappointing, particularly given our own defensive record. I’m sure Cumbers was the difference,  he didn’t celebrate his goal which suggests he has an affinity for us and I wouldn’t rule out a return. Indeed, he got decent applause from the travelling army when being substituted.

Three’s a crowd: 2005 and we were kindly informed the away support numbered 923. I’d hope to take over 1,000 to this fixture given it’s proximity but understandably North Kent just doesn’t excite. I love it as a ground, slightly run down, an open terrace reminiscent of Plough Lane and a covered terrace which reverberates the sound – half the number of the Tempest and twice the volume.

Anything else? Whilst we’re unbeaten in four we haven’t won in three. We now feel at home in this league, I just hope we don’t feel comfortable. The start was beyond what most of us expected but we are now down to the bread and butter fixtures. I think generally we have the skill in the side to maintain a top half position but questions arise about certain players. I’ve liked Lewis Taylor since his return, always committed but I just question whether he has enough nous to be a threat (always reminds me of Gareth Ainsworth who was also in the head down and chase it mould). Wellard, an absentee on Saturday, but will he cut it at this level, often seems to want that extra touch which this league rarely allows.

So was it worth it? Despite all that had gone before a 94th minute equaliser always feels sweet.

In a nutshell: Get out of jail free.