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Sticking in the Craw

So then. Champions Elect 3 Playoff semi finalists 1. Doom, wrist slitting and all ovens within a 15 mile radius turned off, lest a Womble or three decides to put their head in one.

If truth be told, I’m in two minds about this one. For the first 20 minutes and the last 30, we were dire. No Kedwell and no Sam Hatton meant no cohesion, no obvious fire power up front and ultimately, no hope. When we went 2-0 down in under 15 minutes, I think you could have rolled your eyes and slunk off back to the mode of transport on wence you came.

Yet for that period of play, especially after we scored, you just thought “what if?”. And that’s what tonight was – one big What If? What if DK was fit? What if Sam Hatton was fit too? What if we hadn’t acted like nob cheeses in the first fifteen minutes.

What if their second goal was disallowed? Which IMO it should have been, if you consider that you only have to fart on a keeper to commit a foul on him these days. What if we’d started brighter? What if that move where we hit both posts within three seconds had gone in?

And what if Crawley had eleven players on the field?

That last question kind of tempers everything, doesn’t it? We tried hard, and our attitude seemed a lot better, but like Oxford last season we were shown exactly what we need to do in the close season. Tonight showed us what we really are – a work in progress. A team that has a decent nucleus but needs to nail down a few more positions in the next round of transfers.

Obviously, we need to clone Danny Kedwell, preferably without the niggles. In fact, our forward line is the main concern and is not something we can afford to skimp on. By all means bring on the likes of Brendan Kiernan, but they can’t do it on their own. I don’t join in the hatred of Drewe B, but he hasn’t quite got it, has he?

I think the time has come for the club to admit the loanee system just won’t cut it now – I don’t know how it increases the budget (although some decent sponsorship deals may not go amiss…) but it needs to find the money for that genuinely class striker. They are about, but we’ve been trying to do it on the cheap for so long that it’s now become counter-productive.

And before anyone starts up again – Main and Nokkers aren’t it. Though I wouldn’t have minded Nokkers as an option tonight. And yes, if we were in the Combination they would have been in our stiffs so we could have called them up at short notice etc etc. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but it’s hard not to when the side resembles a scratched piece of vinyl too.

Gwillum? I honestly didn’t know he’s part time, and as I type this is about to start a shift in the LT maintenance department. Maybe he’s a member of the RMT, and Bob Crowe has told him that going over the half way line isn’t part of his contract. Still, what do you expect from those on the left?

I’m sure you can pick out other areas that we need to seriously look at in the summer. But look at them we must, and one is starting to wonder if the usual close season cull could be the most brutal one yet. It certainly will if we somehow fluke winning the playoffs, and I’m not sure if even DK would be safe from that.

In the relatively long term, we need to sort it out. We have some brutal decisions to make, which some may not want to take. But what of next week? If ever we needed a 5-0 victory, Rushden wouldn’t be a bad time to do it. We’re now in playoff clinching mode – a few more wins will do it, and if we can guarantee second or third with a few games to go, giving Kiernan and Jones run-outs won’t hurt.

Yes, tonight was disappointing.  But somehow, it went a bit better than expected….

Plus points: We scored. Brendan Kiernan’s first team debut.

Minus points: Do I really need to fill this bit in?

The referee’s a…: *breathes deeply*. We lost, so any criticism of him becomes overly bitter and blame deflecting. But put it this way – if he’d let Jackson play the advantage when their man was about to be sent off…

Them: Let’s not be totally churlish here – they deserve to win the Conf title. Yeah, they spent the GDP of Sweden in doing so, Evans is a fat cunt who is a convicted fraudster, dodgy finances etc etc etc. But they have won games which a title-winning side is supposed to. Tonight, they were down to 10 men but at times made us look like we had the man disadvantage. As much as you wish you didn’t, you do have to respect them.

And team wise, aren’t they just doing what we did between 2003 and 2007?

They do have the ultimate New Town bandwagon jumping brigade currently claiming their lifelong support (sic) though. The 12 year olds jumping up and down next to our support really were fucking cringeworthy. Our support giving them grief have seen a club called Wimbledon play at places like Old Trafford in league games, and you got the feeling we were in pisstake mode. One that those near us probably wouldn’t understand.

Actually, tonight reminded me of exactly who Crawley in 2011 remind me of – Chelmsford in the Ryman Premier promotion season. A purple patch in their history, allegedly dubious business practices, even down to Jeff King having the same weight problems as their manager.

Chelmsford never really fulfilled their potential, and in truth neither will Crawley. They’ll have a good couple of years, maybe even have a decent run in the JPT. But the interest will wane, as is always the case with those sorts of outfits, crowds will go back to the 1200 they always got and they’ll just become another footnote in history. Tonight and at the end of this season, they’ll be somebody. But for how long?

Of course, talking about our opponents leads nicely onto…

Point to ponder: How amateurish was tonight? Not on the field, off it. We were given an allocation of around 600 tickets, and had an official turnout of around 727 (they announced it but can’t find my notes). So already they admitted there was some additional sales. However, unofficially (and this apparently comes from the police), there was more than that and was reportedly dangerously overcrowded.

To be blunt, I felt a bit unsafe. When you have fans standing in gangways and at the front of the terrace with literally nowhere else to stand, it’s a fuckup and a half. I’m glad there was nothing that induced panic (except for our defending at times), and while I think our lot are quite sensible when they really need to be, I still wouldn’t have wanted to find out their evacuation plan.

If you’re going to limit tickets, do so properly. Print out proper home and away tickets. Don’t print out the same ticket for either end then wonder why there’s so much confusion. Or why more people turn up than you originally planned. Don’t willingly accept AFCW fans going up to the home ticket office and happily purchase tickets without so much of a murmur, then see your stewards and police walk around all arsey not knowing what to do when demand outstrips supply.

I know SW19 gives it the big one about being “non-league” but this was worse than Staines convincing themselves they had a thousand more people than they really did. At least they eventually saw sense back then – this was a classic sign of a club being so cocky that it fails to adequately provide the right facilities. This isn’t some crumbling stadium either, it’s a relatively new ground.

Hell, we’d get slaughtered if we did similar. And we do better with far less to play with.

Generally, we’re good natured – there wasn’t really much of a vibe that there would be actual trouble. If the same situation happens against Luton, fuck knows what will happen, because they won’t nearly be so forgiving as we are. Newport reportedly gave them problems too. And if Crawley have any ambitions to be a legitimate League side, they’d better start acting like one…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Giving them my ticket stub and them putting it into a brown envelope. This writes itself. (2) Realising there was a scoreboard with the time on it midway during the first half. It was often less mind-numbing than the game. (3) Lee Minshull up front. No further comment necessary.

Anything else? Dunno, is there? The stiffs are at GGL tomorrow, so if you want to see an AFCW side looking like they could win something, you could spend worse afternoons.

So, was it worth it? At least we get Saturday off.

In a nutshell: The playoffs start here.