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Hard Work

You know, I’m glad I was covering Southampton against Stockport yesterday, because I’m not sure what I would have made of our loss to Workington.

At time of writing, I haven’t seen any match “action”, not that I particularly want to either, and all I can go by is JP’s report below and the various reactions from around t’internet and “real life”. One thing jumps out at me though – it felt like the bad old days of the Ryman.

Rumours of a bit of unrest in the dressing room, a player (Ben Judge) allegedly having a strop after being substituted, an opposition rather revelling in catching us unawares and I could have been watching Football Hurts again. Couple this with Workington fans enjoying the whole day at our expense, and it’s Theme Park KM time. You know, the place where all visitors go home happy.

But then, should we have been surprised? Those with longer memories will remember how poor we were against Boreham Wood in previous rounds. Those who put that particular game out of their minds won’t thank me when I offer them a chance to refresh their memory. There seemed to be a rather unfortunate feeling of deja vu all over again…

Let’s be honest – if you go ahead twice on home soil against a lower division side and still end up losing, you do not deserve to be in the competition. Yesterday, we blew it, and it was all our own fault. TB must be outright livid right now – he built us up getting an FAT run (which was more than possible) and now they look as authentic as John Terry’s marriage vows.

Christ, I’m angry writing this, and I wasn’t even witness to the game. Worryingly enough, I can well imagine what sort of “contest” it was. I would wager that if I stated that our collective attitude stunk of shit, that we went out there going through the motions, then acted all clueless when the opposition didn’t roll over and die for us, I would get plenty of nods of approval.

But then, we’ve been here before, haven’t we?

The game against Mansfield seems almost a lifetime ago now. In fact, it almost seems like a blip. We’ve had two piss-poor games on the trot now, and all of a sudden the pressure is on to defeat FGR. Losing games can and does happen, but playing shit in all of them is an experience we’ve yet to properly encounter.

Which does make me wonder if it’s now crunch time at AFCW, playing wise. Around about now, we’ll be looking to see who is ready to make the move into full-time with us and who isn’t. Contracts have to be drawn up, budgets have to be set, and the cruel world that is football is about to get even crueller for some of our playing staff. And nowadays, unlike previous seasons under the AFCW banner, the culling will become even more ruthless. Maybe that explains any unrest in the squad right now?

The ex-Brentford contingent may be around next season, they may not. But then, the likes of Hatton, Taylor, Kennedy, even Main and Kedwell will be under scrutiny from now until the end of April as well. We’ll be making a big jump from part-time to full-time, and we cannot afford anyone who isn’t – in both senses of the word…

We have a chance to get it out of our system tomorrow, when we head along to Tooting and Mitcham in the LSC. TB has already threatened promised that some of yesterday’s players will be forced to step out at Imperial Fields. If that’s the case, then only a win will do. Correction – only a convincing win will suffice.

If we struggle with half our first team fringers (or even first-choice first teamers), or dare I say even lose tomorrow, then the writing will be on the wall for some of them. Remember the Holy Trinity last season of Belal, Chris Sullivan and Tony Finn for one of the county cup games? It was one where we lost, painfully too, and only Finn held on until the end of the season. Sullivan and especially Belal never recovered from that “performance”, and should be a lesson to those named tomorrow.

One player who won’t be joining us in a full time capacity – or any sort of capacity – is Luke Garrard. According to the OS, we cancelled his contract by mutual consent on Friday because he wanted playing time and we couldn’t guarantee it.

It’s always a shame when a long standing player like him departs the scene. With the departure of AL this past week too, I think there are no more signings from the DA era left at the club (I know LT and Quiche returned to AFCW), and another milestone of history is passed.

But then, Garrard’s departure symbolises the steps the club has made in just a few short years. If we’re being brutally frank here, he wouldn’t have got many first team games with us now. He certainly wouldn’t have displaced Conroy for any significant time, and if the clock is ticking for Hatton, it certainly was for Luke.

When he went on loan for such a long time at BW, you did have that thought in the back of your mind that he wouldn’t return. It’s a shame for him that injury and two successive promotions pretty much put him out in the cold. But it does send a message to the other players : nobody is irreplacable. Especially at this level.

I’m sure all of you would like to replace memories of yesterday with something nicer. Sadly, I’m going to let JP ruin your day again with a reminder of how shit it all was…

All players have off days. I presume managers do to. Because I cannot think of any other reason how Terry Brown’s message about the importance of the FA Trophy to this club this year could be so disappointingly surrendered. They didn’t listen to him.

Make no mistake this loss was due to No Work-ing-at-it 2 Working-a-ton on it 3. They wanted it more; they worked harder for it; they committed themselves to it. Simples.

Whilst we can look back at their dubious first goal (I thought it was a blatant push on Brown, others thought it was a soft goal); the subsequent caving in of the ref in seemingly ‘protecting their players’ from any contact; and one or two theatricals to eat up time, this performance lacked the passion you expect from a Wimbledon side, particularly in the cup. Only Nathan Elder seemed to want to put himself about a bit. To actually try and tackle the opposition. Both at 1-0 and 2-1 the team seemed to think the job done. It wasn’t.

Of course individual errors like Brown’s for their second goal (I was actually in the loo at the time (others said down to him) – oh and sorry it was me what jinxed it!) didn’t help, but it was the lack of cohesion and willingness to get stuck in that was so blatantly lacking. Time and time again players pulled out of tackles, seemingly worried they might get hurt. It might be nice to be at the top of the fair play league but this was never going to a game where you could get away within putting in hard work and yourself

Yet again we had no midfield to talk of; the defence (why wasn’t Lorraine in to start?) was repeatedly left exposed; and when we did attack often Kedwell and Elder were isolated. I’d questioned if it was the right partnership in my notes – they created the first goal between them. So I guessed yes, but by the end…..  And why no Main at the end to hold things up a bit…. I think Kedwell isn’t the type of player to support Elder. Yes, he has seemed to go into a slightly submissive role recently. I was also totally flummoxed by the end to see Wellard playing Gregory’s role. I mean this is the only guy in the team with a decent shot from outside the box, playing a defensive role. It did seem TB lost the plot a bit with his team selection and substitutions.

But if I’m honest I don’t think we’ve ever had the right midfield at AFCW, ever. It always seems the opposition have the cohesion, the support for their front two, and the shots at goal. Team selection today also seemed to restrict the choices available. No option to put Sam in the middle (as we have in the past) as no replacement at right back on the bench. Hell, Duncan looked quite good when he came on. And Taylor is wasted on the right side. It’s still our Achilles heel. It’s here we will be undone this year.

Rampaging thoughts on various aspects of today keep flooding back to me; many I suspect you will find on the WUP guest book. One you may not.

AFCW is no WFC when it comes to cup games. At the moment it is too easy for us to be the Burnley instead of the WFC of old. And that needs to change in the cups that matter.

Lets hope it also doesn’t roll over into the League form but I suspect it already has…

Plus points: Nathan Elder. A good crowd of 2301. Luton lost (in the league)

Minus Points: Sorry, Seb Brown today and Kennedy Adjei (What has happened to him?) No midfield all game. No fight. No clue. No plan B (again)

The Referee is a …. Various names heard, many quite justified. Seemed to be doing OK until their first goal. After that I think our players lost confidence in his abilities to know the rules of the game and apply them consistently. For example, Keds get booked for verbals; their No 11 gets a talking too along with his captain. Go figure. I was beginning to think he might be related to one of their players he looked so like some of them.

Them: Can’t fault them at all. They played an excellent game; their front two gave our back 4 problems all afternoon and their midfield supported them well. They used what little physicality there was in the game to their advantage. Were not by any stretch your normal big northern bastards. Actually team looked quite young and a bit like us (on a good day). Fans seemed really nice too. One guy bought at Golden Goal ticket and then put the ticket back into the pot. If they have financial troubles, we at least owe them a £1.

Point to ponder: Was Boxing Day when we thought we’d won promotion? I mean since we’ve seemed to want to coast in games. NYD should have been a wake up call; Mansfield we did ok but that was also a bit of an off day for them (see below); and by all accounts Wrexham wasn’t great making it 3 away defeats on the trot. TB and his team need to get this side back in the mental groove. To many players, to quote someone today, “were mentally elsewhere.”

Truth is stranger than fiction: How often do you see a linesman that tall? The officials looked like they’d just popped out of the ‘The Frost Report’ sketch on understanding class! (If you’re not old enough, Google it!) Was this the day Workington got revenge for ’77? It had a touch of a feel that the script had been written before the game had started.

Anything else: If you were enjoying Luton losing 2-3 to Ebbsfleet, note Mansfield won at FGR 1-4 after being 1-0 down at HT; and H&Y lost 1-6 to R&D… puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Oh and Wrexham won again L

So was it worth it? IF we get into League 2…..

In a nutshell: Still need someone with balls in midfield to scare the oppo shitless even when we play this crap.