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Oxford shirted

The very fact that Inspector Morse 2 The Bill 0 was one of the least surprising results of the season may give you some idea of the tone of this report coming up.

Don’t get me wrong – we battled hard, we did show more composure in midfield than Saturday, DK ran his bollocks off yet again, and yes, James Pullen made some good saves.

But last night proved how much further we need to progress. On and off the pitch.

Admittedly, Jay Conroy getting sent off didn’t help, and you can’t help thinking that will be another mark down in his copy book for the end of season report by TB. In truth, we should have been about two goals down before we actually went behind. True, we battled back, had a header come off the bar, and had that gone in…

Second half though? Whether it was the mental preparation for the three biggest consecutive games in the AFCW era finally catching up with us or whether Oxford just simply went up that gear I dunno. Bit of both, if truth be told, even though Oxford’s finishing was as shit as the traffic.

All of which is leaving plenty of Wombles reflecting. Not just on a series of games that has seen us with the perfect mid-table form (W1 L1 D1), but also on the prospects of us being part time and the opposition in more full time employment. Let’s face it – we have the ideal side to remain in the Conference. We’ve done well as it is regardless – the record of teams going from BSS to BSP isn’t a great one (IIRC most end up getting relegated after a couple of seasons, they certainly struggle), although our size and spending power doesn’t really make that an issue. Or shouldn’t do.

In a years time, it could be expected to beat many if not most teams in the division. It may even be good enough to finally get a result in the FA Cup against a League outfit.

But that’s not what we want, is it?

There have been hints recently that we won’t be going full time next season. Financially that might not be a bad thing, although IMO we’re going FT by stealth anyway, but it will effectively mean another season in the Conference. We might be lucky and get a Burton-esque set of players, but as last night showed, there’s a difference between inexperience and not being good enough for the next step.

I can’t help but think right now that we are another additional season off being at Oxford’s level. As in, not next season but the season after. It’s not an unreasonable assumption to make either – I’m still unsure whether there’s going to be a massive cull at the end of the season, somehow I suspect not. As said before, this current side is good enough for the upper echelons/possible playoffs of this division, and without the fear/wow factor next season, who knows what will happen?

If this campaign doesn’t show up who’s cut out to play League football with us, next season certainly will. We can give a lot of leeway this season to some players, but they have to improve for 2010/11. Next season could be the ultimate no-excuse campaign.

We got lucky at Luton, sloppy at Cambridge and an education at Oxford. All three performances have shown us who we really are : a committed bunch of players who have heart, determination, not a little skill and an idea of where they want to go. But most definitely a work in progress. We’ve come through three sets of fixtures that a mere couple of weeks ago made people pinch themselves (the re-education we’ve had to do as AFCW is something most of us will never fully evaluate). And you know what? It wasn’t quite so bad after all.

Will we get there in the end? Yes we will. But we may have to swallow some pride and maybe one or two principles to do so…

Plus points: Minutes 20 to 45.

Minus points: We lost. Away. Crap on crosses. Second half. Gulf in class obvious. LT’s injury. Conroy’s red card. Could have been 4-0.

The referee’s a…: Why do referees always seem to support the league leaders?

Them: Be honest everyone, we’re looking at the BSP champions this season. They kind of reminded me of ourselves last season – big, strong, clever, and have that “feel” about them. If they don’t go up in May, they probably never will.

OK, they have a budget that is allegedly three times the size of ours (insert caveat about such figures here – christ, we got it often enough ourselves), but they do seem to have a vibrancy and stability as a club that Luton and Cambridge don’t. It’s worth remembering though that they’ve spent about four years at this level, and we’ve spent six months…

Got to say, the Kassam stadium is a lesson in how to do it and how not to do it, if that makes sense. Good facility, decent view, will be even better once they finally build that fourth stand. Hope certain people were making mental notes. Bloody expensive food wise, though. And 40 minutes to get out of the car park? Only one bus route there as well, so public transport isn’t exactly a viable option, especially in the evening.

Then again, it is an improvement on the old Manor Ground. It was one of the few venues you could go to and feel that Plough Lane was better. I really didn’t like going there, and this from Carlton Carlton below explains why (opens in new window):

Of course, they ended up with the Kassam, we ended up with…

Three’s a crowd: 743 of us, which considering it was an evening game with shit transport and weather conditions is pretty good. Decent vocals, too, including “Big flag, small cock” at those big pseudo-Ultra gatherings that too many clubs seem to have these days. Whatever happened to spontaneous support? I know some games at KM feel more like Kingstonian are playing, but at least it’s not forced. Oh, and in the crowd was one Mr C Hussey, who seemed happy to be with us lot again. All together now – “stayed at a big club…”

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Stop. Start. Stop. Rain. Stop. Fog. Stop. Rain. No, not your editor’s mood swings, just the traffic. Getting around this country is hopeless at times. (2) Sight of police van patrolling the car park behind the goal during the game. Did spot a couple of local pikeys hanging around, so perhaps we can’t make jokes about it. (3) Speaking of the nearby area, apparently it’s where the whole joyriding craze started. Can’t see the Oxford tourist board putting that on their marketing brochures somehow. (4) When was the last time anyone did the double over us in a season? (5) Seeing signs to Wallingford. The difference six years makes.

Anything else? Yeah, at half time I saw one of the (thankfully not authoritarian) stewards lift a can of Carling from one of our fans in the concourse area. Leaving aside comments that it’s not really alcohol/saving cost of buying a bottle in the ground, how fucking brain dead do you have to be to carry beer into the ground?

There’s currently issues at KM with idiots doing the same thing, and this is why we’re now seeing searches when you enter our ground now. I won’t need to remind you of the fallout from that. Seriously, it’s one of the most obvious no-nos going, yet a couple still persist in doing it. Do they really think they won’t get caught? Or worse, they think the rules don’t apply to them? No doubt if they get caught, or if AFCW gets punished because of it, they’ll be the first to cry like they’ve just shat in their nappy.

To be fair to us, 99% of people know the drill. The 1% who don’t are too stupid and/or arrogant to pay attention, so just give them some rope. Though I’m led to believe the club had a letter from a supporter complaining about the searches at KM because – wait for it – it’s non league football and that sort of thing doesn’t happen in non-league football. I will leave you to fill in your own conclusions.

So, was it worth it? Urm….

In a nutshell: Roll on Saturday.