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Rotten Boroughs

UPDATE: Just heard that Allen Batsford collapsed and died this afternoon. I’m glad that he finally got far more respect and appreciation of his achievements at WFC in the 70s, even though it took the AFCW era for it to happen. Hopefully at some point a bar area can be renamed the Batsford Arms. One thing is certain, there will be many sad people about tonight…

If you were to offer me a tied result before the game, I think I would have willingly spent another 2 hours in M25 traffic for it.

However, after Knebworth 0 Cannizaro 0, I’m starting to wonder more than a couple of thoughts of “what if?”

What if Monty’s header hadn’t been palmed away from Tottenham reject* Chris Day? What if our passing could have been a bit more precise? What if Ricky Wellard’s shooting had gone a few inches the other way. What if we had a fit DK/Gregory/Judge and a proper left back? What if, what if, what if…?

* – a grand total of four other people will understand that one.

But then again, that can only be a good thing.

Think about it : this was, on paper, probably the hardest match we could face (the game on the 23rd February aside). Yes, even harder than Luton/Oxford/Cambridge at KM. Today was ripe for the 4-0 drubbing we’ve yet to have in this division. It didn’t happen. In fact, going further than that, us coming away with no points whatsoever would have been a travesty. And dare I suggest that three points for us wouldn’t have been totally out of order?

I’ve been trying to avoid in recent reports mentioning the Learning Curveâ„¢ of AFCW, but I suppose we can go back to it right now. Today, I saw a team that has not only grown, but matured as well. The nervy, bowel-parping AFCW that took to the field against Luton and didn’t know what the hell hit them has gone. I guess we just didn’t play with any fear, or at least apprehension.

That comes with confidence, which comes with a winning run. Had we played this in the middle of November, we would have probably lost 4-0 and the post mortems would have come with sharpened razor blades. A good example of this fortune change is Ricky Wellard’s performances : I’m sure many of you in the beginning raised your eyebrows at him when he played the odd game. This afternoon, there was an incident when he piled forward towards the Stevenage goal, and you could see him thinking “fuck it, this lot are shit, I’ll have a crack”.

He nearly got it in, too.

But he, like us, was nervy and raw to start and is now able to go to the side second in the table and give them something to think about. And does explain why TB spend so long tracking him and those who doubted the Wellard signing (cough) ought to know better than to argue against our manager.

This all said though, even after today I don’t think we’ll make the playoffs. We’ve still yet to have our 4-0 stuffing, the FA Trophy may end up being a distraction, and we do still have people like Derek Duncan. I’m all for giving players a chance, but I’m really starting to see why DD hardly stays at a club – the guy was lucky again not to be sent off, and could consider himself “fortunate” (quotation marks deliberate) that he got injured instead.

You have to wonder if we’re going to progress what will happen to the likes of DD, and Godfrey, and Judge and dare I suggest Lewis Taylor and Sam Hatton? Who, by the way got treated to “Boro reject” today, although there is NO truth to the rumour it was coming from people who post on our guestbooks. At least, I hope not.

With the current exception of DD, nobody is dissing the contribution any of them have made to AFCW in the last 2/3 years. And I’m certainly not suggesting they get axed in January – they deserve the rest of the season to prove they can hack it at this level, and as Wellard and (especially) JM have proved, sometimes all it needs is patience.

But football is a cruel game, and our progression will continue all the while we look honestly and brutally at who can cut the Colemans. After all, next year we may end up winning this game because of it.

Anyway, enjoy what remains of 2009. It hasn’t been a bad year for us, has it?

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Decent away point. Proves we can still compete with a depleted squad. Continued reassuring presence of Seb Brown. Paul Lorraine (second half).

Minus points: We didn’t win. Clearly need DK and Gregory back. DD. Paul Lorraine (first half).

The referee’s a…: Apparently (because I didn’t see it) Lorraine tried to throttle him. Alas, he’s not allowed to use provocation as a reason, officials are a bit odd like that.

Them: To be totally blunt, how the fuck are they second in the table? If they’re legit playoff contenders then so are we. In about the last half-hour, they were certainly rattled, and with a bit more finesse on our part who knows what could have happened? I understand they had a couple of players out, and therefore it would be very churlish of me to say that we had seven out ourselves.

Seriously, they’re a decent enough side, but they’re no Oxford. In fact, I don’t think they’re a Cambridge United (we haven’t played Mansfield yet so can’t compare them). They’ve always been the sort of outfit that gets into the playoffs regularly and wins the FAT on occasions yet never progresses that one extra step that you think they should. Think we might have seen why today.

Oh, and I think you can guess the sort of chants they aimed at us today. Then again, most of them are Spurz fans…

Point to ponder: Nothing to do with football, but….. just what the hell happened to the road systems today? The M25 turned what should have been a hour-and-a-little-bit journey into something nearer three hours. And I couldn’t even bloody stop at South Mimms because of queues there (and they ran out of petrol too, apparently).

Mind you, I was one of the luck(ier) ones. I know at least three people who turned round and went home, yet they seemed to strike lucky compared to the poor supporters coach. Arriving late is one thing, arriving at half time is one kick in the danglies too many. Not to mention the Brighton fans stuck on the way to Wycombe…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) I’ve been to Broadhall Way quite a few times (on behalf of PA/Wales on Sunday/Yorkshire Evening Post) and this was the first time I’ve gone in as a paying fan. Nice to go there and not have to interview Westley. There’s a reason why the most common description of him in meeja circles is “cunt”. (2) How weird was it sitting down for games again? All the while we can get away with having terracing wherever we end up, the better. Somehow, we’ve been spoilt since 2002. (3) Why did Stevenage come out to the 80s TOTP theme tune? And yes, I know we once came out to the theme tune of Weekend World.

Anything else? Yeah.  Below is a copy of the BSS table from this time last year (blatantly nicked from Kindly compare and contrast:

Difference a year makes, eh? Apart from putting today in perspective, it also demonstrates what a good run of form can do. Right now, there’s no pressure on us at all – we go to Stevenage and if we lose we put it down to experience. But imagine if this run continues and suddenly we’re breathing down Oxford’s neck?

The ironic thing is that we are on paper better equipped to tackle the run-in this season than last. We don’t have to play DK if we don’t need to this time around, though we do miss him if we don’t. Some give Monty grief, but Brentford did try to keep him. And we all know about Luis Cumbers, who I hope by this time next month becomes a permanent member of our squad.

Another side effect is what exactly do TB and co do about possible transfers in/out come next month. I can’t see us going for a radical overhaul, and maybe this means that we won’t be splashing the cash so much? After all, if our transitional (sic) side is currently fifth and looking a decent bet for the playoffs, then there’s no point in overhauling it. As the Yanks say, if it ain’t broke and all that. Then again, the Yanks also say faucet instead of tap and ask you on an I-94W if you’ve been done for moral turpitude.

Suppose this is what TB secretly wants – a team that isn’t quite good enough to go up but is good enough to make a decent run at the playoffs/FAT. Or is it so secret? He’s talked about wanting this particular bunch of players to learn as a group, and he obviously has high hopes for them as early as next season. Maybe he’ll get his wish….

So, was it worth it? Yeah, guess so.

In a nutshell: Let’s see what 2010 brings….