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Job (half) done

A few idle musings 48 hours after beating Fleetwood…

– Be honest, who expected 2-0? I doubt if there was anyone who expected that at 7.44pm on Friday. Indeed, a 0-0, 1-1, 2-2 or even a 0-1 would have been accepted to varying degrees, and even thinking of a win was a bit too optimistic…

So, what went right on Friday? I think it was simply a case of having the right attitude to begin with. Think of the AFC Coldseal playoff and you’re almost there. OK, we had a bit of luck with the first goal, but playoffs are a good time as any to get that.

Perhaps if it had been anyone other than Brett Johnson for THAT miss we would have been booking tickets to Manchester right now. But we’re not. Indeed, there were a couple of little warning signs after that, where we seemed to revert back to type of various fuckups earlier on in the season. Think Barf…

– Which is why we need to put all efforts into Wednesday. Yes, we should get through, but “should” is a very big word. A repeat of the same attitude that we went into Friday will see us at Eastlands on the 21st, but it will be very easy to be mentally booking tickets to the North West before then.

If Fleetwood get an early goal, Wednesday becomes trouser-soiling time. In many ways, 2-0 is a sod of a lead to defend – it could very quickly get clawed back if you’re not careful, yet it’s harder to focus so much than it is when you’re 1-0 up or something.

For TB and AFCW generally to prove that they are worthy of going up, they need to kill off Wednesday with a degree of professionalism and ruthlessness that we’ve still yet to fully see. If we fuck up, we don’t deserve to go up, simple as that.

So, what should our approach be on Wednesday? That’s where TB will earn his wages for the next couple of days, but I think we can safely assume that Fleetwood won’t be sitting back. They will go for it from the off simply because they have to. What we have planned for the 21st could be decided by 8.05pm on Wednesday,  because if Fleetwood go for it, don’t get anywhere and we start to turn the screw again, you’ll be hitting Trainline before the half is out.

If we score Wednesday, we win (cue “and if they score three?” comment). If we get the first goal at that, we definitely win. If we can keep a clean sheet, so much the better.

In other words, if we can play our normal game we will win. Though somehow, that could be the hardest task of all.

– That said, we’re good enough to kill the tie off early. If the first leg is anything to go by, I was slightly disappointed (in a good way) by Fleetwood, who maybe have reached their level this season. We’ll see if that’s still the case at KM, but we should be OK. Our biggest enemy from now until the 21st is ourselves.

The other fear for Wednesday is that DK, Toks and Hatton are a booking away from missing the final somebody getting injured (apparently, second bookings don’t get counted. We think). And if we look like we’re going to go through, you can expect a few attempts at GBH aimed at us. Losing the game and therefore the right to play in the final would be bad, but losing somebody like DK if we did get there would be just as bad.

Should we start them for the return leg? Again, that’s for TB to decide. If we go 1-0 or 2-0 up early on, then sub them if they start. We would be complete mongs if we let it slip after that, with or without our best players. And needless to say, DK would be one helluva scalp for a losing playoff side.

And don’t act all holy-than-thou about it, saying that Fleetwood shouldn’t play such dirty tricks. You all want Wrexham to put a few feet in here and there on Tuesday, sparking a mass brawl…

– OK, who’s getting nervous for Wednesday already? Suppose that’s a good sign, it’s better than complacency. Just hope the players don’t freeze.

– Your editor wasn’t at Fleetwood, as you could probably tell by now. Due to reasons beyond the control of my bank balance, I did something very rare and watched it in a pub. There were at least 100 AFCW fans in the Nelson Arms, which if nothing else shows that people will go to SW19 if you give them a chance to 😉

It makes me realise a couple of things. Firstly, Premier Sports’ coverage on the surface is OK, but when you then start trying to find replays of incidents (ie the first half penalty), they are sorely lacking. In an era where we’re used to Sky Sports and ESPN, you realise just how cheap and nasty Prem Sports really is. Also, didn’t hear the commentary, but apparently, it was “piss poor”…

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, how weird it is to be watching your team on telly when you normally go to a game. Yes, it was great to be able to watch it, but I didn’t feel as much of a part of it as I would have been at Highbury on Friday.

But then, watching from your armchair or barstool is a totally different approach to supporting as to actually going to the games. And this does cause a problem for clubs trying to boost support : if you’re somebody who is used to watching a game on telly for the cost of a couple of pints, why would you want to go to an actual ground where you pay three times as much just for entry?

Are they “better” fans than a regular matchgoer? No, hence why the term “barstoolers” is used in a derogatory fashion. But when clubs try to reach out to them, they’re usually wasting their time. Back in the day, if you wanted to see football you had to go to a game or wait for highlights. That’s not the case any more, especially if your local boozer has some dodgy Latvian feed of Stoke v Man City on. Your editor once watched Arsenal v Everton live in a Portugese cafe opposite Finsbury Park station (this was a 3pm Saturday kickoff), and therefore I wasn’t at an actual ground.

When AFCW pushes for new people, it needs to think where exactly they’re going to come from (WFC fans from 2001/02 who didn’t come over are sometimes derided for not joining up with AFCW but they’re as good as anyone to tap into). After all, that’s the mistake many a non-league club makes…

– Finally, if we do overcome great odds and get through Wednesday without ballsing it up, tickets for the final are £40. Which is a bit steep for top flight football, so you can imagine how excessive it is for non-league football.

Ticket prices have been a bane for a good decade or two now, although people do pay them. As we all will should we get through. OK, the more casual fan may be put off, and instead of 6 family members going you may end up with 3 or 4 still interested. But the majority of people even 70% likely to go will treat it as the once-off it is.

Let’s be honest, the organisers know most people will pay it – that’s why it’s £40. What it does mean though is that people won’t make such a weekend of it. By all accounts, hotels in Manchester are expensive anyway, but they’ll be more likely to get a coach or drive or train and return on the same day.

Mind you, that’s the entertainment business all over. That Mumford and Sons benefit gig isn’t much cheaper, although about 200 miles nearer for most people. The argument about lower ticket prices seems to have been lost, because there’s still a massive takeup for them – if the big games started to attract waves of empty seats, then maybe the authorities will reconsider. Nothing looks wankier than a big game that is half full.

And if it is us and Luton on the 21st, there will be more people in the ground that day than a certain FA Cup semi final….