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Pre Stevenage thoughts

Blimey, it must be a big game today if I’m putting fingers to keyboard this early in the morning 😉

– This is one of those contests that really could end up a win, a loss or a draw. OK, I know I sound like Kenny Daglish when I say that, but think about it : you play a Grays and you’re expected to win. You play a Millwall and you expect to lose.

Today though is the sort of game you hoped the Conference would be about. You genuinely can’t predict what will happen. As there’s (realistically) no pressure on us, we could turn up and put the performance of the season on. Certainly the vibe before this game hasn’t been tense, it’s been quite relaxed if anything.

There’s been no gut wrenching “we must win this game or else” feeling like we had this time last year. Well, that was true for the Basingstoke game on Good Friday last year. Easter Monday was THAT Bromley game. Go on, read it again. And thank your nearest deity that no matter what you think of Westley, it’s highly unlikely they’ll pull the same trick today…..

– While fate has now been tempted with that last comment, I’ve just noticed TB’s comments on the OS. Especially this bit:

“Bank Holiday Monday sees us playing a major role as far as the title is concerned. With games running out for Luton and Stevenage, tomorrow’s home game will play a vital role in deciding where the championship goes. We go into the game ourselves with a real opportunity of staying in the hunt for a play off spot. With 18 points to play for and visits to both York and Mansfield to come, we still have a realistic chance of making the top five.

Do we?

Don’t get me wrong, all the while it’s mathematically possible to get in them we should push for them. And obviously it’s part of TB’s job to keep us going like this. But “realistic chance”?

When we played like twonks against Barrow, we put that “realistic chance” away for good this season. We still have Stevenage today, York on Wednesday and Mansfield on Saturday. For the most professional team on the finest run of form, that would be a tall order – we have four games in a seven day period (not counting the Slurrey Senior on Thursday), and with two of our main strikers out plus the other ACLs we’ve picked up, it would be a miracle on a par with some bearded bloke coming out of a cave 2000 years ago. And the athiest in me suggests it’s just as feasible…

– To me, a “realistic chance” is one where we’re two points behind York. Of course, strange things can and do happen this time of the season. There’s always one team that seems to put on a late spurt, and there’s always one team that freefalls. The former could well be ourselves, but the latter is surely Oxford. Chelmsford revisited, anyone?

I won’t begin to describe what Gateshead will be like if we need a point or three to nab the last playoff position from them….

– Finally, it’s about this time of the season when I start paying attention to the league table. Not for where we are (for once), but the away trips  next season. We’ve all known about Newport, and it’s only just occured to your editor that Grays are down. At least I won’t get to experience that evil looking multi-storey car park next season.

In fact, it’s typical for us that the teams likely to go down are all the relatively local ones. AGM Cup notwithstanding, we won’t get to go to Ebbsfleet next season too. Obviously that MyFC venture worked. If Eastbourne get the drop too, that’s only Handy within an hours drive next season.

Sadly, looks like Barnet won’t be coming down, so we look instead at the regional Conference tables. Am I the only one seriously underwhelmed by the teams in the CS playoff race? Only semi-excitable one is Dover. I can’t share the love-in that a lot of our fans have with Chelmsford – should they go up, we’ll end up with the crappy view again, coupled with them mouthing off that our crowds won’t get any bigger because we have Chelsea on our doorstep, and they have 5 million potential supporters within a 10 mile radius of the ground.

Braintree? Meh. Really hope Staines don’t go up. I know they’re local, and the playoff will remain my favourite AFCW memory (until we get into the League/stuff Franchise), but do you want Boon to be successful? Though the thought of one of the non-league family having to deal with Darlington and Grimsby next season does make me smirk.

Personally, I want to see either Welling or Thurrock go up. Especially Thurrock, if only to see A Divot again.

As for t’Conference North? I like the sound of Southport myself. And I want to see Workington go up, simply to avenge the FAT. If truth be told, I can’t select anyone because they’re all up north, and I haven’t got a clue how near any of them are to the nearby train station.

Trouble is, no matter who goes up (except Newport), all of them are likely to have three figure average attendances next season. People like Gateshead and Histon are suffering some Ryman-esque turnouts, and I’m not sure what good it does the Conf to have such obvious discrepancies between those sides and the likes of us…