Barring some Rory McIlroy-esque choking, even though we still have four games left we should be saving our pennies for some post-season playoff fun. The excitement, the anticipation, the stomach churning, the change of underpants…
It’s that strangely relaxing time of the season where it doesn’t really matter what you do on the field of play. You have enough to gain any additional points, yet if you lose it doesn’t really matter. If we win against Histon on Saturday (yes, if…), then third is guaranteed. And when that happens, the rest of the regular season doesn’t matter – our second leg will be at home, and the final is at a neutral venue.
Christ, imagine if the Conference did what Turdeyland did and play the playoff final at the team finishing higher…
Anyway, no doubt you’re looking at the Conference table and working out who you want to play, who you don’t and where you want to play them. SW19 has been too, and has put together the internet equivalent of a cut-out-and-throw-away guide to our likely opponents. There are two categories that need explaining further though.
The Oxford Factor is the amount of pressure the opposition are likely to be under. The expectation of promotion, and how much they should be down in the Conference to begin with. The higher the rating, the more it feels like us during the Ryman Premier playoffs where we won.
The Fi$her Factor is our own rating system for playoff success – how we played against them in the regular season, and how that carried over into the playoffs (just like Fi$her in that first RP failure). The higher the rating, the more likely it will go wrong for us.
Likely to play them in: The playoff final. Very unlikely we’ll be facing them in the semis, bar one of us collapsing.
Reasons to feel confident: Like us, they have an amazing habit of putting some decent performances together with some outright horse shit. Your editor saw their game at Kenilworth Road against Gateshead, and they were very lucky not to lose. One bad performance and they’ll be displaying Blue Square Bet advertising hoardings for next season.
Reasons to panic: They handed our arse to us in the away leg, and they committed GBH on our defence at KM. If they do go up, it’s nothing more than what anyone expected at the beginning of the season.
The Oxford factor: 10/10. They shouldn’t really be down here, although it takes something special to get a thirty point deduction. They’ve underestimated this division, and even now they still haven’t quite figured out how to get out of it. If we play them, we would be the major underdogs and precious little pressure on us. Sacking Money and putting in Brabin did have the whiff of panic, though strangely enough no Luton fan seemed upset at Money’s departure…
The Fi$her factor: 8/10. This is Luton Town we’re talking about, and they can easily get it right as get it wrong. We would need to be on the top of our game big time to beat them, which you could do in a one-off final but not over two legs. Our record this season is W0 D1 L1, so we’re due a win.
Anything else? If we did get through to the playoff final against them, perhaps they should move it to White Hart Lane? For old times sake, obviously. And somebody find the minibus…
In a nutshell: Beat them and we’ll go up.
Likely to play them in: Either the semi or the final after they heroically dump Luton out in the semis – at Eastlands, I expect we’ll be pretty much outnumbered. Unless a few thousand FCUM fans come in to help us out.
Reasons to feel confident: The second leg is likely to be at KM, which always helps. It’s unlikely we will be as bad at KM as we were in the league game. We’re finding our form at the right time, while they’re currently stumbling a little bit – there’s no guarantee they’ll even be in the playoffs.
Reasons to panic: The home game woke a few people up, and the Heddlu are still waiting just outside Chester to intercept us after our last trip to the Racecourse. I can’t recall ever playing well against them, although Frank Sinclair’s basketball skills gave us one of the most surreal moments of last season.
The Oxford Factor: 8/10. Wrexham are what happens when you lose momentum as a club, or you’re so pre-occupied with securing your own survival. A classic example of a basket-case club who find it psychologically difficult to push on the longer they stay down here. None the less, their fans do expect to be in the playoffs each season.
The Fi$her Factor: 7/10. While trying to predict a playoff result is difficult as it is, it would be nigh on impossible for this one. This could be the game most likely to go to penalties. Just think – cool night at KM, drizzle in the air, one save away from going to the final, their player steps up, Seb Brown dives to his right….
Anything else? Would S4C and Sgorio have the rights to show highlights to this? Or does the giant media conglomerate they call Premier Sports protect their Cine 8 coverage that much?
In a nutshell: If we play them, prepare for a long night.
Likely to play them in: The semi after we secure second spot. Which means plenty of scrabbling round for B&Bs within Blackpool, and many a guestbook discussion about whether it’s cheaper to stay in Preston after all.
Reasons to feel confident: It would probably be second against fifth, so we should have the advantage. We were pretty good in the first half up their place, although conceding that goal hit us mentally. Home game was heading towards a 0-0 bore draw until we got that slice of luck.
Reasons to panic: This is a banana skin and a half – if we play silly buggers, it’s back to finding out how to get to Gateshead next season. In many ways, like AFC Coldseal in the RP playoffs.
The Oxford Factor: 5/10. Big spenders, but nobody seems to pay them much attention. The team with probably the least pressure on them out of all the playoff contenders. A Northern version of Crawley, without the unlikeabilty or the on-field success.
The Fi$her Factor: 6/10. If we’re on our game, we’ll beat them – our current form would make us favourites. Mind you, they’re doing OK themselves, but they have to keep winning to remain in the playoff positions. That can knacker a team out – ask Staines.
Anything else? The chippy next to the ground is nice, but closes at 8pm for some reason.
In a nutshell: Maybe the one we want to draw in the semis? Famous last words…
Likely to play them in: The same way as we will Fleetwood, unless there’s some massive change in our fortune. Likely to be the biggest travelling support wise on our part, as most AFCW fans find it difficult to go further north than HemelÂ Hempstead.
Reasons to feel confident: We have to play well against them some time, and a playoff is a good a time as any to do just that. They’re currently out of the playoffs, so they will put a lot of effort into getting into them in the first place.
Reasons to panic: Two of the shittier performances came against them this season. Especially in the home game, when we pulled it back to 2-1 and then somehow went backwards. If they hadn’t had their points deducted, they would have been duking it out properly with Wrexham.
The Oxford Factor: 6/10. We always forget they’re an ex-League club, albeit for the same amount of time as Crawley will be after the money runs out. Another club just happy to be in existance, so the pressure on them is off a fair bit. Your editor’s dark horse for the playoffs.
The Fi$her Factor: 8/10. I don’t like the possibility of this one at all – a game we would be expected to win, it won’t motivate people as much as Luton and Wrexham would, but is another one that could end up with penalties. Or even worse, an 80th minute goal for them at KM, after a defensive lapse.
Anything else? Your editor covered their game at Handy, and was quite impressed with them. Overcome them, and we would go into the Final on one serious jolt of confidence – think of how you felt after we beat AFC Coldseal.
In a nutshell: I prefer Fleetwood.
Likely to play them in: See Fleetwood and Kiddy above. This entry may be irrelevant after Easter, though all the while they still have a chance…
Reasons to feel confident: Now we’ve finally worked out how to beat them, we feel happier about playing them. Which just goes to show that at least half the battle of football is what’s between the ears. If they do end up in the playoffs, they would have needed to put on one helluva run.
Reasons to panic: Bootham Crescent – does anything good ever happen there? I’ve seen us have a 1-9 aggregate scoreline over two seasons there, I’ve had one laptop go haywire (RIP), two postponements, James Pullen doing his impression of Wayne Rooney etc etc etc. We might as well just phone up York before the game and ask for a 2-0 result to them to save us bothering.
The Oxford Factor: 7/10. York fans seem unsure whether they should be in this division or not, although they’ve spent so much time down here they’re as much part of the Conference furniture as Kettering. Like Wrexham, they show what happens when a club stagnates. Remember they did get into the playoff final last year…
The Fi$her Factor: 7/10. Would have been 9/10 if we hadn’t beaten them in the home fixture. Now that we know we can beat them, maybe the Footballing Gods owe us some more against them?
Anything else? If results go in a certain way, we could have York v Luton II : This Time, It’s Personal. One suspects that York could put on a run simply to get that semi again.
In a nutshell: Win this one and we’ll win the playoff final. Fate, and all that.
Yes, the biggest opponents of the playoffs are ourselves. Excuse the self indulgence.
Likely to reach: If we do go out of the playoffs at the semis, it’s likely to be a close fought one.
Reasons to feel confident: We’re picking up how to play as a team and how to win games at exactly the right time. We will be able to rest players, so at least TB won’t have many excuses. The victorious Ryman Premier playoffs does at least show that we know how to mentally prepare when it really matters.
Reasons to panic: TB’s playoff record in the Conference with Aldershot. Our ability to totally fuck it up when all is going well (see City, Barf) . Poor record against the other teams likely to be in the playoffs. Still too reliant on Danny Kedwell. The niggling doubt that somewhere, somehow, something is bound to go wrong.
The Oxford Factor: 6/10. Believe it or not, there’sÂ not that much pressure on us in the playoffs. Some consider it a bonus that we’ve gotten this far, although SW19 does believe we should be playoff contenders each season anyway. Unlike those who have come down from League 2, we know we have to up our game to get promoted. This said, AFCW clearly want League football again, hence Erik Samuelson’s recent comments about being Â£500k better off upon promotion.
The Fi$her Factor: 6/10. We do have a good a chance as anyone, and deep down there’s a little niggle that we’ll go out to Kiddy, so we’re kind of prepared for it anyway. Not saying we won’t be disappointed, but it won’t hurt us as much as it would hurt Luton. We still have the mentality that we’re on a Learning Curveâ„¢ although how long that will last is anyone’s guess.
Anything else? Let’s face it – we can all do predictions like this, but we’re all pissing in the dark. Nobody has really stood out as a playoff winner – and even if they did there’s been instances in the past where they’ve fallen flat when it really matters. Is this the most open playoff race for a while? If there’s a shock victor, it may wellÂ be ourselves…
In a nutshell: Moments like these were why AFCW was born. Right?