So, that’s it then. Goodbye pre-season for another year. A shortened, not particularly awe-inspiring campaign that has redefined the word “anti-climatic”, although one with thankfully few injuries to report.
And yes, I know about Tooting and Mitcham on Tuesday, although that will be a bit like Bedfont last Thursday, minus the planes distracting us.
Still, it’s nice to end the phoney war on a high, and Mumford and Sons 2 Elton John 1 supplied that little psychological boost we wanted before Crawley. Again, it’s pre-season etc etc, and you get strange results etc etc. But it’s nice to watch us play a team of decent standard and know we have enough to demonstrate we can put together a few wins.
Like the Fulham game, we came on better in the second half. Unlike the Fulham game, we looked more of the unit we’ll need to be in the upcoming weeks and months ahead. If we do start with this side next Friday, it will at least have played together and have more of a chance of winning this time.
So, the contest? I know TB wanted a workout on that score before the game, but I don’t think he expected the equivalent of a 30 mile run in the first 20 minutes. To be fair, we did handle the pressure well enough, but you always suspected we wouldn’t be able to hang on…
As we didn’t. And what a deflection inwards that was. Still, if you’re looking for promise during these sort of games, we didn’t collapse, we did try and continue to play our football, and for the most part we succeeded in that. Bar the odd hospital ball or three.
Mind you, Luke Moore’s equaliser didn’t half come out of nowhere. I don’t know what it is, but maybe we’ve been trying to encourage a few more speculative efforts from outside the box in training? Jack Midson had a pop earlier and we got a corner out of it, but if we’re going to see more strikes like Moore’s goal, I’m all for it.
Of course, if that was a good goal, then the second…
Yet another good thing about being in the FL is that we’ll get highlights of our goals now on telly that evening. Which is why, if the goal that put us in front is scored at Hereford, you’ll be staying up to 1am on Saturday night in future just to see the 10 seconds they give over to us. You’ll have to wait for AFCW.TV’s pictures this time, but seriously – it’s what we hope to see more of this season.
Granted, we seemed to run out of steam a fair bit towards the end, but as TB said in the post match interview, we ideally need a couple of weeks more pre-seasoning just to be spot on for Bristol Rovers. And that’s what I don’t like about this stage of the campaign : you can take a performance like this and still put the usual “yeah, but it’s not a competitive game…” caveats to it.
Let’s be honest, we looked impressive in parts against Watford’s first team. But were we good, or were we merely capitalising on a still-not-fit set of opponents? Is this how it’s really going to be in League Two, or will it be more physical and harder work for the players? There’s still question marks….
By that, I mean there’s some unknown unknowns about what we can expect when the proper games start. Our collection of individuals on the other hand have done well though – if we’d played utter shite today, then you’d be a bit worried about us having no more games to rectify any weaknesses.
But we looked like a unit. I’m almost tempted to say we’ve picked up where we left off after Eastlands, but that would be tempting fate just a tad. We’ll find out where we really are after the game on Friday. If we are further advanced than we think, that won’t be a bad time to find out…
Plus points: We won. Decent performance all round. Looking cohesive. Stuart and Toks look like they’re stepping up. Max Porter looks like he’s always been here. Jack Midson starting to win the crowd over.
Minus points: Their goal. GG going off injured.
The referee’s a…: It’s pre season.
Them: Was it really their first team? Maybe we’ll get through to the third round of the FA Cup and draw them at Vicarage Road? On this performance (yeah, I know…) we’d probably end up the bookies’ favourites.
To be fair, I’m thinking back to the WFC days in the Championship and the kind of pre-season friendlies against Div 4 sides we used to have. Oh, wait – I remember we usually used to win them. Still, considering it was their first team if not entirely match fit, I did expect more from them. Especially in the second half, where I think we could have swapped divisions and nobody would have noticed.
Your editor has covered a few games at Vicarage Road (and interviewing Marvin Sordell is like talking to a goalpost) and under Malky Mackay they looked a solid if middling Championship level outfit. Today under Sean Dyche? They’d better hope they improve when the season starts, otherwise we could be facing each other in the JPT come 2012/13.
Oh, and full credit to the Hornet who had the “Welcome Back” banner on the KRE. Though one wonders if those sentiments was partly down to who we beat at Eastlands…
Point to ponder: One feature of TB’s time with us here is how we managed to play
shit ordinary in the first half then dramatically improve in the second. Today, and in fact for Fulham too, the same thing happened again. Question is, why? Do we have some sort of motivational oxygen chamber that only starts working properly by half time?
Not that I’m totally complaining – at least we’re capable of putting in at least one 45 minute performance – but it does seem to happen too often for it to make it a co-incidence. It’s not like we’re lacking a leader on the field in those games either. Well, unless DK and Paul Lorraine were actually pretty poor captains.
It’s not like we’re babes in arms these days. Granted, the age of the squad members is staggeringly low – Toks is just 21 years old – and they show a maturity far beyond their years. But at some point we’re going to learn how to play well the full 90 minutes and not just after the break. Unless there’s some way of putting something in their Powerade that lasts the whole game…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Watford getting there just after 2pm. Some of their fans would argue they were still on the coach by the hour mark. (2) If the scaffolding for the TV gantry on the JS is permanent, it’s going to achieve the impossible and make the view even worse than it currently is. Can’t we get an “accident” to flatten the stand? Although I don’t fancy other parts of the ground having the smell of urine coming from the displaced JS regulars.
Anything else? Got to say, I can’t say I’m upset about this pre-season campaign being over. It hasn’t been a bad one, but just one that has felt quite dull and disjointed. We’re not the only ones to suffer this : Crawley are in the same boat, Fulham have played two rounds in Europe already and the SPL has started today.
Generally though, are we ready for life back in the 91 Club? The team seems to be, and our transfer policy has changed to the point where we’re actively offering money for players. Maybe this new striker is going to come after all? Our stewards are now all formally dressed, and have their City and Guild certificates (yes, really). The new control centre was up and running today, and have you noticed there’s CCTV outside the entrance to the TE? So no cheeky smoking/pissing/wanking during a break in play these days.
I can’t speak for behind-the-scenes stuff (though I imagine it’s a lot of hard work and no doubt pretty stressful at times), and I would guess it’s probably the biggest jump in the close season it’s had to make. The amount of rules and regs that now appear to come with the FL are something that would have had even Turdey breaking out in a cold sweat.
Still, all that will be sorted at some point, even if it means expansion off the field, because the prize is worth it. We may not be fully operationally up to speed yet (the physical match ticket situation may need looking at if it’s true they’re easy to copy) but mentally we’re settling in again to the Football League.
It feels right to be here.
So, was it worth it? It’s only pre-season, but yes.
In a nutshell: The fun begins…