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Forest Fire

I may have slept on it overnight, but even on this autumnal Sunday, I still can’t quite get my head around Forest Green 2 Wimbledon Common 5.

No, I really mean it.

Do I wax lyrical about us scoring five goals away from home? Do I praise JM for finally showing a glimpse of what he might be capable of? Do I instead go along the more pessimistic realistic angle of how shit our defence was? Or even the fact that we gave FGR a higher attendance than Luton?

The reason I just can’t get a handle on yesterday is because of all of those reasons. You know that every so often there’s a game that just beggars belief in watching it? At 3.17pm yesterday I was having thoughts that this would end 7-5. Legitimate thoughts as well. Anyone who remembers that 3-2 loss at Selhurst against Palace all them years ago (you know, when cockface Salako went in goal) will know what I’m referring to.

It was one of those blink-and-you-will-miss-it type games. I don’t know whether the flu virus from this week was still lingering around like a stale fart, or we’d been partaking a bit too much in the local cider beforehand, but god help anyone who got in 20 minutes late (as a couple of fans in front of me did). They probably thought we’d won 2-0.

Got to say, before the game started I thought it would be a bit like WSM last season. Decent turnout, early goal and then a slow-but-sure descent into absolute horse plop. Upon seeing our turnout (768 of us, stat fans) and LT’s early strike, I was already making mental notes on how to write Pullen’s last minute penalty save.

The footballing heavens then opened. Every attack we did we looked likely to score. Every attack they did was the same. When our defence/JP were a bit slow for their first goal, and when JM returned to form and when we produced some RP-level defending for their second and when DK hit back almost immediately, you know what went through my mind? How it would sound at somewhere like Oxford over the PA system at half time.

Seriously. We’ve all been at games where you hear the half time scores and think “blimey, that was some game” when you get a 3-2 scoreline. Yet at half time yesterday if anything I was pissed off at the way we just kept throwing away the advantage. Maybe we should all think twice next time we get a turgid goalless-at-half-time game? When you’re a neutral watching a goal-fest, you wish your team could be involved in them. And when they are involved in one…

Thankfully, we settled down a bit (well, a lot as it goes) and it felt like Grays away again. I think we must have worn FGR out because they didn’t really offer us too much in the second half. It was as though DK’s first effort killed them off. His second goal certainly did.

If it proves one thing, it’s how vital having a decent defence is. Poor Paul Lorraine really looked like he was going to throw up when he came off, and that kind of enforced lethargy affected the whole back line. Witness how a fit Alan Inns just changed the game – if he’d started, this would have been a 2-0 or even 3-0 win for us.

As for our forward line, was it me or were Moore and Monty when he came on not as good as recent performances? Suppose that’s what happens when you’re a striker – yesterday it was the traditional DK/JM partnership that got us promoted last season. Next week, we’ll probably rely on M&M to get us out of a hole. Fortunately, unlike last season, we do have more than two strikers who know where the net is. Mind you, unlike last season we have more than two strikers full stop.

Anyway, I think I’ve messed my head up over trying to analyse this game. Let’s just sit back, bask in the victory, look at the highlights over and over again and get that nice warm satisfaction of a victory many miles away from home, the kind that only football could ever bring you.

And then pray that we get a nice easy 2-0 win next week…..

Plus points: The first 17 minutes (attack). We won. Away. Eventually settling down. Jon Main scoring twice. Ditto DK. Alan Inns. Constantly pressing forward. It didn’t rain.

Minus points: The first 17 minutes (defence). Quiche going off.

The referee’s a…: The lino was female and blonde. I expect nobody will be interested in further descriptions of the officiating after me telling you that.

Them: What a thorougly nice place to visit, and I’m not just saying that because we won. The kind of place you’d like to go to for a PSF or an end-of-season jamboree. FGR seems to have a charm that certain outfits take great delight in lacking (hello Kettering). Forgotten what a nice new ground they had as well, and more than one or two were mentally sizing up their main stand and muttering “Paul Strank height restrictions..”

Not too sure about the dubious looking cliff edge dip in their car park though.

As for their players, plenty of new signings apparently and it did seem to show when we finally got to 3-2. Couple of Franchise cunts in their ranks though. Especially their #26 who came on and basically acted like a Franchise cunt by putting in a couple of “tough” challenges. Funny seeing him walking off at the end though, not quite knowing what to do. That said, I think most ex-Frenzies don’t really have a clue what the fuss is about…

Point to ponder: Whither Jon Main? Fair’s fair after all over this – SW19 has been giving him stick this season, mostly justified, so it’s only right that he should be praised for his two decent strikes yesterday. This was the 30+ goal machine Jon Main of the BSS and not the little-boy-lost player who appeared painfully lightweight and out of his depth for much of this season.

Of course, after the game yesterday an SW19 reader accused me of saying that he only scored against FGR and therefore it didn’t really count. Actually, I’m not. When he slotted the first away, you just felt the entire weight upon his shoulders being lifted off. Had he missed it, that would have been it for his career with AFCW. Not exaggerating either – when a player goes mentally, he goes.

Now, no doubt some of our more over-emotional fans will start getting giddy that this is proof that he will now score 20 goals and will be calling on those who doubted him to apologise. You can forget that. JM himself will know that this is merely a start, and he now has to start doing it against the better defenses of the division. One swallow may make your evening, but it doesn’t make a season.

Somebody made a point last night that JM could end up being the striker you rely on for goals against the FGRs and the Gatesheads and the Handys – while DK is the one you expect to score against the Lutons and Oxfords of this world. I think that’s a rather astute analysis. For this season at least, I’m sure most of us would be happy with that scenario – while it’s not really the answer long term we were always in a consolidation season anyway 😉

Suppose I’m saying that despite yesterday, the jury is still out on him. But at least he got into the witness stand and answered a question that made the prosecution think…

Three’s a crowd: As stated earlier, 768 made the trip down. Seemed in pretty decent voice too – even the seated area behind the goal burst into life on occasions. Mr Pullen, take note…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Their PA bloke seemed to like the sound of his own voice. Not that we could make out what he was saying. (2) Was it me or were the players slipping over a fair bit? Maybe they had been drinking cider beforehand after all? Would explain a lot. (3) Midges. Hundreds of them. Yet another reason to visit the countryside but not live in it. (4) Listening to BBC Radio Cymru on the way back. I think Welsh beats Hungarian and Polish for most unintelligible language going.

Anything else? Tomorrow is that exciting time of the year when we get to find our first victims opponents in this year’s FA Cup. Although unlike previous seasons, it’s a strange half-way house now. We still have to win one game to possibly face Franchise, yet now we’re unlikely to ever get the Oxhey Jets/Debenham type fairytale fixture again.

Which is a bit of a shame in a way, but that’s the price of progression. Remember last year when we were so excited about getting just one step away from the 1st round proper? Fast forward 12 months and that’s exactly where we’ll be starting.

These days, we look at the 4QR as a stepping stone towards the big first round proper. There’s no feeling that we’ve done well to get this far. The flip side of course is that we’re likely to get a crummy draw that we’ll likely lose in. Although it would be nice to get a decent cup run this season…

That said, there’s some intriguing potential matchups. Assuming it’s regionalised still, we could face Chelmsford, Dover, Axewounds (come on Aveley), Slutton, Bromley, T&M, Staines, Woking and Wealdstone. That’s a load of nostalgia right there, and it’s only four years maximum since we played any of them in league football*

* – yes, I know we haven’t played Slutton or Woking in the league in the AFCW era, and we’ve only played les Douvres in the cup. Point still stands.

Needless to say, we won’t play any of them. How does Kettering away sound?

So, was it worth it? Oh yes. Now that my blood pressure is back to normal.

In a nutshell: The phrase “more of the same” has never looked so double-edged…