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Woking back to happiness

It’s taken a long time coming, but for once a decent sounding tie in the FA Trophy – home to Woking.

At last, a fixture where we don’t have to feign interest in it, like Braintree. A game that is intriguing without it mattering like playing Mansfield. One would imagine we would get more than 1200 ultimately disinterested souls for this one, and it’s also a game we should win…

See, Woking fall under the same category as Slutton and Ks (and maybe Barnet in the not-too-distant future). The tantilising “local” team that would have been over Xmas or on sunny August/Easter bank holidays, with near-as-dammit sellout crowds and a bit of local needle that we haven’t really had since 2002.

It’s testament to our rise – or the utter shitness of the others – that these sort of fixtures are now only likely in cup ties or friendlies. It’s impossible to imagine us ever playing Slutton/Ks in a league fixture now, and by the look of where Woking currently are in the table, we may be arranging bank holiday fixtures against Aldershot  by the time they get back in the Conference.

This has been pointed out before, but it just goes to show how much the non-league game has changed in a few short years. We saw it with Ebbsfleet’s demise, now we’re seeing it with our next round opponents. Remember when Paul Lorraine going there was a big deal?

Still, by the sound of it we’ll have to play a lot, lot better than we apparently did on Saturday. The second half in particular sounded pretty dire, and it’s no real surprise that hardly anyone has made a mention of the same. But then, it’s no real surprise is it? Just like it’s no surprise to learn that only 1200 bothered to turn up for it.

People talk about the FA Cup losing its lustre, but the FA Trophy really is dying as a tournament. Even a decade ago, teams like Ks could get through to the final, getting a few WFC fans going along in the process. Now? You have teams like ourselves and Luton and Crawley (and many other Conf sides) putting out second string teams, and more often than not scraping through but still considering the whole tournament a hinderance.

Granted, TB seems to want to get to Wembley, and it’s a nice day out if you get there, but would you have cried if we lost to Braintree? Much in the same way as losing to Uxbridge was. And in truth, losing to Woking wouldn’t hurt that much. The money is handy, but you have to reach the semi-finals to really start making it pay off.

When we lost last year to Workington, it was an embarrassment rather than a wounding loss. Our problem, and like many other Conference teams, getting promotion is worth far more than a run in this competition. The very fact we got the third biggest gate despite having one of the lowest Saturday competitive fixture turnouts in the AFCW era says it all.

Stories that people were making their excuses not to go on Saturday aren’t surprising. Not that your editor could talk – I was doing a spying mission on Crawley at the same time we were labouring. They had out a weakened team themselves, like Luton had yesterday, but what was apparent was this : when they were 2-0 down, then 3-1 down, they still had enough in the tank to come back, put Dartford under a lot of pressure and act like a team near the top of the BSP should do. Indeed, they could have won it right at the death had it not been for offside, but you wouldn’t have been that surprised if they had done.

That’s something I can’t recall our first team being able to do.

OK, I’m probably being harsh here, but there’s nothing seen over the past eight weeks to suggest that we’re better than Crawley and Luton. We’re going to have to be very lucky with injuries and able to have purple patches when the fixture pileups occur. We should be in the playoffs, but I doubt the inevitable two-horse title race come the season’s end will involve us.

Mind you, I say that, but TB seems to be finally losing his patience. The need to have decent defenders – and good, solid backup – has been proven with our back line. BJ got injured, so Ed Harris could take over for a while. While left back is still our Spinal Tap drummer position, it would be an amazing slice of bad fortune to end up with no defenders now.

The same can’t really be said for our midfield. Sammy Moore has proven himself, but the rest? You can’t count Reece Jones or Kennedy, but if you look at the squad on the OS, who stands out? Who can you honestly say apart from SM has made a difference?

Professional football is a cut-throat business, and we may be starting to find out how cut-throat it is. You have to wonder about the medium term future of Ricky Wellard or Steven Gregory, let alone their fate at the end of the season. If AN Other midfielder comes in, slots in alongslide Sammy Moore and helps us rip apart some teams without lube, then the wage bill may be getting cut sooner than you think.

Still, we’ve got the rest we obviously wanted. We have yet another cup tie tomorrow, the LSC at Dulwich. A nostaliga fest if nothing else, and again one of those traditional competitions that you’re not sorry to go out of these days. At least for this one we don’t need to risk any first team players…