Shock, horror, I’m off to watch AFCW today.
Given the fact I’ve only seen one of our games in the last three weeks, I feel a bit like a gloryhunter. So it’s blatantly obvious that today we’ll do an absolute stinker and I’ll trudge home wondering what shit we really are…
Actually, that’s a bit unfair – if last week against Histon had a touch of the RP feel about it, today is a bit more typical Conference – in other words, how this level really is if you take out Luton and Oxford. Look at a Conf table from 2002 to see what I mean.
Today marks the start of that rather odd stage of the season between the euphoria of the opening salvos up until Christmas. It’s the time when the first spate of injuries take hold and bad runs of form start to happen. You still have to be competitive, but without the motivation of a new season just started – or indeed the push that successful teams make from about January onwards.
If there’s ever a “normal” time of the season, it’s this one. We now all know what our strengths and weaknesses are. We’ve finally gotten used to getting up at sparrowfart for some games, and today especially, we finally start digging out the overcoats that we were going to get dry-cleaned in the summer but never did. The TE today could smell like an old man’s convention, or any game featuring Kingstonian.
Those following the news this week will have noticed that Luton finally dumped Mick Harford after failing to be top with a 50 point difference, like plenty of their fans were expecting by this stage of the season. It’s no coincidence that they’ve done it now, because assuming they get the right manager in they should start destroying all before them (on the pitch, anyway). Of course, like so many ex-League teams before them, they can just as easily get the wrong one…
(as an aside, how good was it to read about a managerial casualty in our division on Ceefax/Teletext, for the first time since 2002? It doesn’t do any harm to appreciate what we lost and how we’re slowly getting it back)
And in truth, this is where we start our consolidation campaign. I really am expecting to lose today – not because I’m going to be there, and two other people I know are making their first game this season – but because it’s all going a bit too well at the moment. Our defence feels quite solid, we do have strikers who know where the net is, we can go to R&D on Tuesday and get a victory – it’s got a 4-0 loss written all over it today, hasn’t it?
I suppose that’s why TB’s comments this week have been what they are. Remember that we were all expecting – perhaps even hoping – that this would be a tough reality check of a season before the first ball was kicked. It hasn’t happened as of yet. If that’s going to start, then it will be around about now that we don’t get the breaks and our weaknesses do show up. Although as somebody else pointed out this week, perhaps non-league football really is that shit?
OK, that’s provoking the Footballing Gods a hell of a lot. But I’m starting to feel a tad like I did in the first season of the RP – we’re not there yet but give it another couple of seasons, if you know what I mean. I still expect Oxford and Luton to get promoted this season, which would make life a bit easier for us in the next few campaigns.
Granted, we’ve yet to visit an Oxford/Luton on their patch, and there are teams like Stevenage who should eventually become a League club themselves. But from what I’ve experienced this season thus far, I’m starting to see why a lot of the ex-League sides struggle down here. Wrexham, Mansfield and York should be in League Two, but they’re not. And that’s because even now they don’t seem to have grasped the whole nature of non-league.
Of course, when we refer to ex-League sides, we tend to forget the likes of Kiddie have been in the League in recent seasons themselves. Today will prove how good we are against the sort of side that had a purple patch, got into the League but ultimately couldn’t substain it. This week I covered Barnet against D&R, two sides who I would put into that category if they end down in the Conference again.
If we repeat what we did Tuesday today, we may start thinking that most of this division is there for the taking after all. What I mean by that is, the psychological barriers and doubts we had in July and August are gone, and that we’ve proven to ourselves that we’re certainly at home in the BSP. Even our recent rough patch of four draws in a row didn’t seem so rough in hindsight – it showed some amazing mental strength and IMO that’s contributed to our last couple of victories.
True, I said we’ll now end up losing today, and this sudden burst of optimismÂ has effectively guaranteed that. But even if we did, I think we’ve now gained enough confidence in our ability to come back from it. We did so after Eastbourne and Oxford, after all. The only thing is, after getting through a quarter of the season already, not having any midweek games will make any loss fester a bit.
Oh, and it seems like a flu virus hit the camp this week. So at least we now have a ready made excuse when we concede our third goal on the hour mark…