And lo, on the 28th of the month of the birth of the Lord, a miracle from on high did come down upon a barren field some five miles away from the Sacred Kingdom of Babylon. Amongst the decay and desolation, pilgrims came from near and far to witness a miracle that could only be Heaven sent.
Grown men stared in amazement. Women weeped tears upon the frozen ground. Children feasted their immature eyes upon this, the Miracle. It may have been a long time to arrive, it may never have come at all, or at least in a form not recognisable by laymenÂ and clergy alike. But arrive it did, and the peoples upon this field were to witness something that humankind may never have believed would ever occur….
I tell you, going five weeks without a league game does that to you.
Still, Youth 3 Old People 0 so we shouldn’t grumble. I suppose this was one of those games where if you’re top of the league, you are expected to win and by that scoreline. And if truth be told, it should have been nearer five or six.
Yes, we were a bit ring rusty in parts. Yes, their number 10 getting sent off may have been a factor (and yes, it was a sending off – his studs trailed into Seb’s face, causing a fair amount of crimson). But it’s nice to see that we can play well without hitting the highest gear, and with a scratch squad to boot.
We had six players phone in sick today (presumably properly sick and not suffering from roast bird and alcohol related OD), so we got to see FF and a clearly unfit looking Lee Minshull in the centre of defence. Mind you, it’s probably best that the sickness bug hasn’t come when we’re in the middle of this backlog. Not only that, but three subs and three subs only. And one of them was Jack Turner.
Which is why we should be thankful that those who did play had at least a good rest. Even before Wellard slotted home we should have been out of sight. If perhaps DK could quite get on Nokkers (and others) wavelength, if everyone could have had that couple of centimeters more pace, if…. you get the idea.
I think this will go down as one of the best performances of the season thus far, simply because it could have gone badly. During the game I worked out something – we have had five weeks without a league fixture. The average period between a season ending and pre-season training starting again is eight weeks. It took us a month from our first PSF against Charlton – and ten games of varying standards – to get to the required standard against Southport.
At times today there was the feeling that it was the beginning of the season. OK, we’ve played against Stevenage and Braintree in the cups in that five week period, but why should anyoneÂ be surprised that we were a little bit off today?
That said, if we were a bit off, what if/when we finally click into gear…?
Plus points: We won. At home. Clean sheet. Some good attacking. Chris Bush. Reece Jones. Franks and (yes) Minshull doing well in the back. Got better as the game went on.
Minus points: Hatton’s booking – dick. Realising we can’t keep Chris Bush.
The referee’s a…: Sent off their #10 which as said above, he had not much choice in. Other than that, he had an “interesting” interpretation of which way to give a throw in when it bounced off a defender.
Them: They may feel aggrieved their #10 got red carded, but they shouldn’t be. In all honesty, we would have probably won OK enough even without the full eleven on the field.
Was it me or was there more of them than the official attendance suggested? Fair play to the group of them who were singing anti-Crawley songs beforehand, though one suspects they had been consuming their Christmas quota of Stones ginger wine…
Point to ponder: Whither….? Actually, I was going to use the tried-and-tested (OK, predictable) question about Jon Main’s long term future at AFCW. When TB’s interview comes up online, he will praise him to the highest hilt, suggesting he could be with us for a good few seasons yet if he starts finding the net.
He certainly has the best opportunity this next couple of months.
In many ways, the next eight weeks could make or break his future with us. He will certainly get a few run outs, and is more than likely to start a couple too. If he was to net one, then net a couple the next game, he could be close to double figures within a calendar week. That’s how many games we have coming up, and that”s why it’s such an important opportunity for him.
There are a couple of players with question marks, whose credentials will be tested between now and February (Dre, Wellard and Gregory spring to mind here). Especially when people like Reece Jones came in today and didn’t look out of place. Main’s situation is perhaps the most critical of the lot as we need him to find his Conference South form. And quick.
Our ability to win promotion this year will come down to our ability to score goals. If our forward line isn’t doing it, we will have to get in somebody else who can (like Elder threatened to do last season, his debut against Mansfield was one of the best I’ve seen in a long while, before it all went shit for him). The Conference South JM arguably got us promotion back then. His return could save us molesting the transfer kitty when we don’t need to.
Also, am I alone in thinking that DK isn’t his normal self, and hasn’t been for a couple of months? And yes, form is temporary…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) It was very, very, very quiet at around 2.30pm. Then, a massive surge of people. Why? OK, South Worst Trains were up the poop pipe, but surely people would have tried to get there a bit earlier? Even the carvery had a spare space or two. (2) For the first time ever, I saw somebody whose car was announced as needing attention over the PA actually rush out and deal with it. Not too sure what would be worse – running your battery flat or walking in front of a load of people knowing you’re a bit absent minded. (3) Speaking of crowd – 3364 there today. Unsure whether that’s good or bad.
Anything else? It went under the radar a fair bit, but during the enforced layoff we made some significant steps in our youth and reserve setup. Most of us should know about Brendan Kiernan by now, but it’s also forgotten that both he and Charlie Girdler got selected for internationals too.
Naturally, this is a good thing for us anyway, but these two are at the same stage Reece Jones was a mere couple of years ago. If we can keep hold of these players and they develop, we could be saying the same about them in hopefully our Boxing Day fixture at Griffin Park or Brisbane Road come 2013.
And isn’t it situations like this where you’re glad there are the first youngsters coming through in the AFCW era? This site has bored enough people down the years over the importance of having this up to speed, and finally it’s now being proven why. Again, his interview isn’t up at time of writing, but TB said something to the effect of having to ship some players out on loan simply to get game time (Jack Turner was one player mentioned).
OK, insert comments about Football Combination etc etc, but at least we’re finally getting something resembling a second string worthy of the name. A team of Turner, Delano Sam-York, Jones, Kiernan, Girder and a couple of others will look quite promising if and when it gets decent game time at a decent level. Many if not all of them played against Dulwich. True, they started off poorly but once they got used to each other looked quite good.
Ironically, the backlog could help the development of such players all the while we’re still playing Axewound reserves. You would expect at least half of those mentioned to be on the bench at some point in the next month, for a first team game (and not just a Senior Cup tie either). One player I missed out – Franks – looked quite the bosser at the back today, and it wasn’t so long ago he was getting turfed out of Brentford.
The next month or two may put a reality check on our promotion credentials. If they do, at least a fair few players will be getting their first taste of what it means to be successful. While we clearly need some experience in some areas, if we do have to go down the youth route for some years yet at least we’re going down the right path…
So, was it worth it? Yes.
In a nutshell: Happy remainder of 2010