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Being on the backfoot much of the game, a mixture of brilliant and trouser-soiling defending, a missed penalty, a sending off, a bleeding long journey both ways, tough Northern opposition, fuckwit ref, goal late on and massed visiting ranks going kind of mental.

Or as they call it, a traditional Wimbledon away victory.

If the new season is going to serve up more games like Posh Part of Liverpool 0 Posh Part of London 1, it’s going to be worth booking your train tickets well in advance. That said, I wouldn’t quite go so far to suggest this was smash-and-grab, but it did appear that the whole team suffered a bit of Derek Duncan Syndromeâ„¢ for a little while.

Perhaps the shock of playing a team going full pelt was a bit of a shock, but initially we looked a little, ahem, rusty. Passes were being underhit, or other players not quite knowing where each other were, that sort of thing. Given that we had about six new players who took the field (either starting or from the bench) from the Gateshead “performance” I suppose that’s inevitable.

It’s going to take a couple more weeks for everyone to get finely tuned to each other, because as the game wore on you could see we were making passes better, finding each other etc. And as many have pointed out during the pre-seasons, we look a lot more physically stronger these days.

So, what? Well, it’s always nice to start the season with three points. I’ve got to be honest though, when JM had his penalty saved, I feared the worst. It was our first meaningful strike on goal, and the way we were going, probably our only one too. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say you shouldn’t get too excited about pre-season results? The optimism we had coming into this game was certainly being drained one game in…

We were a lot better in the second half though, and as stated above on the occasions we clicked we will be a menace to most teams. They couldn’t cope with Jackson coming on as sub and bombing down the wing, anyway. Perhaps that’s something else we can expect this season? Contain a physical team for a good hour, wear them down as those sort of teams inevitably tire, get on a speed merchant and go for the late strike. Don’t think anyone else would object to that on more than the odd occasion.

Two further things : the goal kind of came out of nowhere, but it was always going to be a case of the first goal winning it. You’ll have to wait for the TV replay to show exactly what happened, but from memory Jolley picked up a long diagonal and was able to control it while their goalie was left stranded like a tit. I should remember more about how it happened, because it’s the first time I can ever recall us scoring a goal like that (certainly in the AFCW era).

Secondly, Minshull’s sending off. To be fair, it did look a little bit of a lunge, and according to somebody in the press box afterwards, it did look like intent. It’s a bit like swinging a punch – you don’t have to connect to let the ref know you’re trying to rearrange somebody’s jaw. I’m sure most people know SW19’s views on us signing Minshull 😉 To be honest, if that’s going to end up being a part of his game I’m not sure how long we’d put up with it.

TB has always been one to push the discipline card, and if truth be told Blackman nearly talked his way into joining Minshull in the showers too (and doesn’t that conjure up some dubious images?). Opposition teams instinctly know if somebody has a short fuse or not, and unfortunately it looks like we have more than one. I say “unfortunately” because we’re now a player light in a part of the field where we don’t need to be. I do believe that because we kept red cards to a minimum we went from RP to Conference in the time we did.

Anyway, as we start getting into the swing of things again in more ways than one…

Plus points: We won. Away. Clean sheet. BJ and Yak in defence. Withstanding some immense pressure at times. Able to change game to great effect. Looking less and less phyically inferior.

Minus points: JM’s penalty miss. Minshull sending off. Not entirely organised.

The referee’s a…: Conference level one. And yes, that is intended as an insult. Was it his first game or something? Managed to give us a penalty that never was, and spent the rest of the game making up for the error in their favour.

Them: Looked like Sutton United, played a little bit like them too. Physical, only really had two tactics (long ball and long throws). More of a banana skin than people were ready to admit, because they are a newly promoted club and on a high – not forgetting the fact we didn’t really know much about them. Certainly think we wouldn’t have won this last season, which is testament to our weights room. Thankfully for us they couldn’t finish, although I expect as the season goes on they’ll find themselves struggling once teams work out their tactic.

They reckoned we were thuggish, which if nothing else will please those still living in 1986 😉 Hard to think that we played them in the first WFC League season, which might explain why the ground looked a bit bigger than most for a club that size. For some reason, they charged £12.50 – presumably somebody at the club works for the Royal Mint and is on commission to produce as many 50p pieces as possible.

Point to ponder: Whither Jon Main? No, I’m not turning this into the witchunt of last season, and hopefully he’ll get a couple of goals on Tuesday. But after his penalty was saved, it appeared his head dropped – it was no surprise that he got pulled off. And this is something that should concern everyone – Main is a confidence player, and when his is down he’s as much use as Nick Roddis. We saw it at the beginning of the season last year when it felt like we were playing with 10 men.

I’m really hoping (for everyone’s sake) that he nets at least one goal in the next six days, because we don’t need a repeat of 09/10 with him. DK carries the workload enough as it is* and Nokkers won’t be around to help out until Newport. Main gets all the adulation he deserves, and making him bulk up has extended his tenure with us for another year. But the rest is up to him…

* – speaking of DK, in today’s NLP an attention seeking convicted frauster is again trying to undermine people and DK/AFCW. You can buy the paper to find out what he said, but I’ll put it this way : for the last two seasons, DK was in the same squad with Ben Judge, a man who was quite simply treated worse than shit. Don’t think for one moment that Judgey didn’t spend any team discussions pointing out exactly what went on there.

People in football get reputations from word-of-mouth, and needless to say certain fraudster only ever does this when his side loses. Which he and they did yesterday. He may be a good football manager, but he certainly can’t take the pressure when things don’t go well for him. File under “ignore”…

Three’s a crowd: The club predicted over 500 of us travelled, and you can do your own impression of Papers by counting the crowd yourself in the pic above. Remember to add about 250 in the seats. Have to say, this was impressive, although one does wonder what it will be like when the novelty wears off a bit.

But then, haven’t we always selected favourite venues? People may make an effort to go to Southport in future because it’s a nice part of the world for a weekend away. Gateshead will always get a decent take-up because people fancy a weekend in Newcastle. You would expect a lot of us at Luton, Handy and Crawley anyway. If we do have sub-300 away turnouts, it will be at places where people can’t or don’t want to go to – Kettering will be such a club, ditto Mansfield.

By the way, was I alone in thinking how poor Southport’s turnout was? First game back in the Conference, home tie, decent enough opposition (blows own trumpet) and Liverpool weren’t playing. Not our concern of course, but if I was a Southport director I would be more than a tad worried…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) First away win since the middle of April, at Mansfield. It seems longer. (2) Your editor’s first Northern away trip as a fan (ie not doing any media work) since 2002. Really felt that I’ve missed out in the last eight years, although my bank balance has been grateful. (3) Apparently, about three people jumped onto the pitch when we scored. Very clever, I don’t think. For anyone arguing the toss otherwise, imagine the reaction when away fans do it at KM.

Truth is stranger than fiction (special Scouse edition): Take the Chester to Liverpool Central train at 10.30am on 14 August 2010. Take one extremely pissed and drugged up cockstain with a broken arm who had been drinking Fosters and a whole bottle of Baileys, at 10am. Take same individual who started off wankered-but-harmless, then started becoming more and more of a cock, becoming more and more aggressive towards female passengers and even challenged our lot to a fight, suggesting we weren’t men. This from somebody holding a bottle of Baileys, the most feminine drink since alcopops.

Then take the same guy crossing the line and starting grabbing a woman around the face, with people visibly concerned. What happened next is a little bit of a blur, but basically the train stopped at a station called Moorfields on the Merseyrail line. A family got off, and said fuckwit swung a punch at one of them. The female went back into the train and spat at him. An argument began, and basically escalated into the family piling into him (guy holding him down, woman taking slaps at him). Cue pulled emergency cord, irate train inspectors and pissed fuckwit scarpering around Moorfields with the police looking for him. All while our lot decided to sing AFCW songs afterwards…

Welcome to away travel, AFCW style.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what one does in such a situation. You’ve got a guy who is so out of it that he really wouldn’t think twice about using the Baileys bottle as a weapon (he was the sort who would probably get a few digs in anyway but left weaponless would have had the shit kicked out of him if everyone piled on). This could have been a genuinely nasty situation, and is there really nobody at Chester train station who clocks somebody like him and “advise” him to sober up?

Look, we’re football fans, and we’re no angels. Such a reputation isn’t undeserved. But when you’ve got grown men who can handle themselves who are wary of getting involved – and this guy wasn’t an obvious football fan – then you’ve got trouble. Admittedly I don’t use the tube that often these days, but I’d like to think that LT would nip this sort of thing in the bud. In a high-crime area like Liverpool, the lack of security about is unreal. You can bitch about the use of “broken Britain” by politicians all you want, but in situations like this they might have a point for once.

As for the fuckwit, as I write this he’s either in the clink or dead. Hopefully he’s just the only one suffering this morning. Either way, he has made an entire carriage worth of people look at a bottle of Baileys in a brand new light…

Anything else? Yeah. Had a nasty shock on the 0810 to Chester (there’s a pattern emerging with my travel yesterday here…), when the train did its scheduled stop at Frenzy Central. It sat there and sat there and sat there. Apparently, there was smoke coming from the train somewhere, although sadly it wasn’t a Frenzy fan getting burnt alive.

Now, I would have like to have said that I dreaded being forced to get off the train, and stand in THAT town. I would have liked to have said how much I vomitted blood in breathing in the air, and how I left a strategically placed turd in the water supply, contaminating everyone.

The truth is, I felt none of those things. In fact, I felt …. nothing.

Seriously, it just felt like I was in yet another stereotypical concreted new town, like Croydon or Crawley. I think I realised that as a place, Milton Keynes means nothing to me – it’s just another shopping centre.

Yes, the local franchise soccerball team should be buried in a shallow grave, along with its coked up chairman and the local council. But I’ve known people who have worked (or lived) up there, driven round with an AFCW sticker and have gotten precious little-to-no reaction whatsoever. Really makes you wonder who the hell supports them, and whether with yet another season beckoning of mid-table mediocrity more customers will realise just what a pup they purchased.

As is the case these days, we are currently just one game away from potentially getting drawn against them in the FAC. How we’d feel about that is something, deep down, we won’t know until it ever happens. I think we’ll handle it a lot better now, although I am 99% likely not to go to that game.  I have felt for a long while that the more we avoid them the less problems will occur if we finally do play them. And passing through the place in 2010, for the first time I had a little twinge that I would love us to go up there, take over the place and stuff them on their own patch.

Perhaps that’s the real reason for the fear and loathing of playing them? Not so much the off-field shenangans, nor (dare I suggest it) even what happened in 2002, but the realisation that we might just end up enjoying it?

So, was it worth it? Yeah, I suppose so.

In a nutshell: The new season starts here.