Spot the early 90s hip-hop reference. Even if old Ice Cube himself now does crappy sitcoms…
With the exception of Franchise winning in the last minute, this was one of those weekends where everything went mostly right, and puts last week’s into some perspective.
To win 5-0 against a struggling club is what a team in our position should be doing. How many times have we stumbled against those sorts of sides in the past? Let alone do a Grays? It’s not to say we’re not capable of repeating that, but somehow things have felt different this time round. Dare I say better?
It does appear with the possible exception of Kirk Hudson, the new players have slotted in effortlessly. Jamie Stuart was apparently immense in marshalling Franks, who played far better as a result. Mulley should be signed up before Crawley go for him. In fact, the usual post-game buzz from this sort of performance seems to suggest a mood of quiet confidence – as almost as if we’re saying to ourselves that we may well have something about us.
We will see during the next couple of weeks that may make or break us. We now have three trips on the road within an eight day period, all three are all perfectly winnable (yes, York is that too if we play well), but all three are perfectly losable.
Anything can happen this week, and probably will. If confidence and the ability to score is back, then we could be in for a good period. We have yet to fully justify ourselves away from home recently, the last time we won away was Altrincham. In November.
We’re top because our home form is so damn good, but we haven’t had that nice feeling you get when coming back from a long, hostile place in aÂ shithole part of the country too often. And no, Ebbsfleet does not count on that score. We saw glimpses of this in the first half at Fleetwood, but we lapsed back to depressing normality in the second.
But then, if you have a lot of fixtures to play in such a relatively short space of time, a run of form can really build the momentum. Think of THAT week in the Conference South when we beat Braintree 5-1, then went to Bishop’s Stortford to win and go top of the league, then cemented it with beating Chelmsford, and you get the idea.
We’ll need a few more weeks like that to get promotion of course, but if one thing is clear right now, no team is running away with it. There’s no Burton with zillion point leads, for starters. By the time March comes around, it may well be a two horse race or even one team running away with it by then. From what we’ve seen so far though, this could go down to the wire.
Yesterday, your editor was covering Luton v Gateshead. Two things struck me : firstly, Gateshead will NOT be an easy game on Friday. To paraphrase Jimmy Armfield in the Leeds v Wimbledon FAC programme from 1975, we can easily see why they gave Luton a lot of trouble. Any team who can do that can give AFCW trouble too.
(incidentally, I have the programme right in front of me, and there’s a good bit about how League sides with financial problems could learn from non-leaguers like WFC, Yeovil, Wigans and Herefords. It’s too long to reproduce here, but sure somebody will scan it. It sounds all too familiar).
They aren’t so hot in defence, although for some reason they were better with ten men than eleven. But if we’re not on our game defensively, we could find ourselves a goal down early on too. Especially if we’re our usual slow-starting plodding self.
Secondly, I’m not sure if Luton are quite the shoo-ins for promotion as we think they are. They showed plenty of menace in the first half, but after the break with the man advantage they looked quite ordinary. Lest we forget they drew at Barf, and even against us they failed to beat a Wimbledon side that was having an ordinary spell generally (with a neutered DK).
They are capable of great wins, but also of sheer indifference. If they performed yesterday in a playoff game, then Kenilworth Road would be hosting Kidderminster and Barrow again next season, rather than Northampton and Wycombe.
Mind you, they don’t think we’re much of a threat and their main challengers are Crawley. Still, we ought to offer them and the Crawley manager thanks for the motivation.
I don’t buy this notion that it’s a weaker league this season. Admittedly, I don’t watch this level week in, week out, but all round the standard gets better every year. It’s just that the standard of the bulk of clubs has gotten better, not just the very top clubs, with the increased wages and the L2 level (and above) of player regularly brought in.
Yesterday, Heed had ex-Newk and Mackem players in, which they can pick up because they’ve gone full time. Sound familiar? We all know about Crawley’s spending habits, but those wanting a reduction in squad wages are likely to be disappointed for many years to come.
These days,Â part-time clubs are in the minority, though nobody has yet answered how many there are. This has been mentioned before on here, but the players currently in the regional Conference divisions were the mainstay of Conference sides even a mere three years ago.
I guess people think it’s a weaker league purely because they don’t like us, Luton and Crawley being up there. We’re too smug and self-righteous, Crawley are too rich with a prick for a manager and Luton are just, well, Luton. And let’s face it, they had a laminated photo of Oxford’s badge under their beds for the last four years.
This is still non-league.
Which may or may not be our level this time next year. Still, proves what a difference a week makes. This time last Sunday, we were collectively close to slitting our wrists over going out in the FAT to Woking, crying blue murder and about to go to TB’s house to commit murder. Today, we’re back at the top of the league, with the glow a 5-0 victory gives us and secretly trying to map out how to get to Accrington next season.
And all of a sudden, May 1 can’t come quick enough…