So, our first game under our new guise of Brentford Old Boys, and we gave a masterclass that would have not looked out of place at Griffin Park.
OK, it’s easy to get excited and over-optimistic, but Gamekeepers 2 Stags 0 was pretty good. For probably the first time since the season started, we looked like a team that could make a step up to the next level. All this with at least five players who have started less than fifteen games between them.
See, up until today we’ve played well enough, but there was always a sense that maybe we were ever-so-slightly punching above our weight a little bit. Not significantly, but drawing against Luton and Cambridge felt like we hung on a bit against them. In other words, we were in the playoff zoneÂ but not a playoff level side.
Hopefully not for the last time, we saw instead a side that took the game by the throat early on – none of the two-goals-down-by-half-time approach that we’ve seen too often this season. And just as pleasing, a side that is starting to learn how to defend and kill the game off. Wonder if that is down to a certain B Johnson back in the centre?
It’s early days of course, but I got the impression that we want to give it a real go this season now. Both from the players and the club itself. We may not do it, and if I’m being honest we probably won’t. But right now, we sit fourth in the table, see we’re 11 points behind the leaders and with everyone’s backlog of fixtures to get through think to ourselves, “hmm….”
Seeing Elder afterwards, he really seemed happy to be here. There’s an interview with him later, but suddenly the possibility of losing DK doesn’t seem quite so horrific. When he netted after two minutes, you could see him not only lift that weight off his shoulders, but package it up and FedEx it back up to Shropshire with a handwritten “told you so” attached to it.
More than one comment was made that he reminded people of John Fashanu. With luck, that’s the 1986 version of Fash and not the 1996 vintage…
While he deserved the MoM, the others deserve kudos too. Blanchett settled in at LB pretty well, people are praising Hendry and Poole and even better we know if any of them get injured we have adequate replacements.
The game? Well, the start we had wasn’t bad, was it? I reckon the early strike may have put Mansfield out of the game because by the time they settled down a bit we were 2-0 up. We really did look like we had a point to prove after Handy – not only to the rest of the division but ourselves too.
And yes, we proved it all right. Whether some of the more established players were upping their game because of the newbies is a matter for debate. Right now, it’s almost impossible to remember how much rancid dogshit Handy on NYD was. But one got the impression if Mansfield had pulled a goal back, they’d be fighting like fuck to keep our third out…
I’d like to see their offside goal again, if only safe in the knowledge that we can’t replay the game and have it awarded. Plenty of underpants were about to be shoved into the nearest Indesit, put it that way.
But all in all, we were pretty good all round. Christ, even I almost enjoyed myself. I said “almost”….
Plus points: We won. At home. Against a fellow playoff team. Clean sheet. Nathan Elder’s debut – best ever in the AFCW era? Rest of side not too shabby either. Kept going for the third even at 2-0 up and with 10 minutes left.
Minus points: Were there any?
The referee’s a…: Dear oh fucking dear. Remember when one of our players got upended, we went on and slotted it in the net only to be called back for……. offside? Apparently, he was from the Ryman, which may have explained his white stick.
Them: If truth be told, I feel a bit like them as I do about Stevenage – they’re up there for a reason but I still don’t believe we’re inferior to them. Don’t get me wrong, they could (and probably should) have caused us problems at times, and they are a bit physical, but I can’t see them in L2 next season. Needless to say, we’ll now be at home watching them stuff York 5-0 in the playoff final…
Seemed decent enough though, off the pitch. Certainly enough of them, though as usual didn’t hear much from the KRE. Did they take as many as York? Really didn’t like their away kit though…
Oh, and special mention goes to their keeper, Alan Marriott. Pulled off a couple of blinding saves towards the end, and deserves your love and kisses for saying that we’re looking to get back into the Football League. If ever we need another goalie…
Point to ponder: Was it me or did the first 45 minutes go by really slowly? Seriously, I must have looked at my watch on 25 minutes twice, once to see how long we’d played, and again to confirm that it wasn’t as long as I thought. Normally when you’re winning it’s supposed to fly by…
Meet the manager: Hopefully with better audio quality for 2010, here is TB’s post match interview:
What struck me was how many players will be on loan simply for playing time (Monty’s name was eyebrow raising, though I suppose with Elder muscling his way into contention now his chances will be limited). But as he said, he doesn’t want a squad that is unwieldly…
Speaking of our new hero, here’s him speaking afterwards.
Sorry about the beginning, I was a bit late into the interview. Interesting that he was mentioning how many people he knows downÂ here – trust me, he looked like he was buzzing afterwards.
Three’s a crowd: Only 3584 there today, which is a bit disappointing. Maybe there’s still a few roads in deepest Surrey still snowed under, thus keeping many a scared Womble indoors and listening to WDON? Either that or the pissing rain beforehand put some off. Those who did turn up though did make a noise. Guess we were all glad to get outside. Or it could be that we were playing well…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Beating an ex-League side (not including Aldershot) in competitive football for the first time in the AFCW era. OK then, we’ve also beaten Rushden and Kiddy. But this was the first club you consider as part of the League furniture, IYSWIM. Weirder still, it felt more like “job done” than anything giantkilling. (2) Wondering if I should blackmail the father of a teenage boy, who repremanded him for looking at Redtube and not sticking to Youporn and 8tube because of all the spyware on his computer. And no, I’m not making this up. Changes are though, I won’t… (3) “One Mike Rayner” – the TE to our physio. Even our man with the magic sponge gets his own chant. (4) Good to hear the minute silence for Allen Batsford, as in not hearing a dickybird from anyone. He would have been proud of this performance today.
Anything else? Yes. Doesn’t this prove the saying of “success breeds success”? Thanks to our cup run(s) of the last couple of seasons we can now afford to buy or loan the likes of Elder/Blanchett/Poole. And we’ve seen the difference that makes just this very afternoon.
I imagine that the wages of L2 level players is higher than the average Conference one, and I expect Elder and co aren’t coming cheap (even if they’re not “our” players). Once again, it’s a further illustration of the actual financial costs of running an ambitious Conference outfit. I’m led to believe that our actual funding isn’t too dis-similar to a typical L2 outfit, namely a group of investors/directors are keeping the club going with some money from the usual attendances/merchandise/sales.
Which is why I might pay a little bit more interest to the upcoming DT elections this year (admittedly starting from an interest level of about zero), simply to see what candidates are still dealing with the abstract concepts of fan ownership and those who have grasped the reality of paying for the likes of our new signings. SW19 has annoyed everyone made great play over external investment in the club from about 2002, and now it’s finally starting to sharpen peoples’ minds. Want to see the quality on show today all season, every season? It will cost you.
I’ve only ever endorsed one candidate for the DT since it started – Xavier Wiggins – and I’m waiting to see if I might double that tally. I’m not a DT member so what I say is irrelevant, but I may change this stance should more candidates start taking his approach.
I may not hold my breath…
So, was it worth it? Oh yes.
In a nutshell: Stag dos have never been so much fun.