If a week is a long time in politics, then what the hell is it in football?
Seven days ago, we were glowing in Christian Jolley’s 95th minute winner against Port Vale. Lady Luck had finally come to our door, come in, lifted her skirt up and bent over invitingly on the couch. Today, after Paras 1 Pacifists 1, the Footballing Gods got their own back on us…
Make no mistake, we would have accepted a draw at 2.59pm. And yet with such a result in our back pocket, we still feel deflated. Even though we didn’t lose, it felt a bit like we’d dropped three points in the worst way possible.
Yet if truth be told, we got what we deserved.
We now know that we are a team that plays well for 45 minutes. For once, we were better in the first half, which gives you an idea of how bad the second period was. Well, our midfield was bad, anyway. For once our backline was (relatively) pretty solid, yet there comes a point when you have to do a bit too much defending…
That their goal was the cruellest of cruel deflections off GG hurts like fuck – and boy, didn’t that go past Seb in slow motion – but we’d used up all the luck from last week, let alone today.
So, what of the post mortem? Scarily, I think today we realised how important Sammy Moore is. When he went off at half time, we had Toks on, which must be the equivalent of paying to watch Manny Pacquiao and instead finding Audley Harrison fighting the last five rounds. He was shocking.
Because we kept giving the ball away, which wasn’t helped by Seb kicking it into touch for about ten consecutive attempts, we just spent the second half squatting in our own area. Even though Aldershot’s shooting was shit, at some point you’re going to come a cropper.
This season it won’t really matter so much, dropping these sort of points. As long as we don’t finish in the bottom two (or whoever finishes one above Plymouth) it’s job done. Playoffs wouldn’t be a bonus, and I doubt if we’d go up through them anyway. If we go on a run of W1 L1 D1 for every three games, we’ll be all right.
Long term though, it’s already becoming clear that if we want to progress the likes of Toks, possibly Wellard if he doesn’t make the step up, Stuart (for being too old) and whoever else you care to name won’t be coming along with us. Yes, Stuart played well, but he’s to League Two what Jason Goodliffe was to the Conference South.
Aldershot were such that if we put more pressure on them in the second half instead of giving our back line defending practice, we could have won by more. And from what we’ve seen, the majority of teams aren’t that far ahead of us…
Plus points: We didn’t lose. Back line solid enough for once. Max Porter’s goal. A fair amount of the first half.
Minus points: We didn’t win. Their goal. Midfield in the second half. Second half full stop. Wellard’s red card.
The referee’s a…: Jesus fucking christ. I know he didn’t cost us the win, but I’m really paying for my previous comments about the standard of officiating in this division. Put it this way – when you get a minute’s worth of applause from our section for a decision that even he couldn’t have ignored, you know how bad he was. Sammy Moore gets poleaxed? Play on…
By the way, one of the linos was Sian Massey. Yes, her, the target of Richard Keys’ and Andy Gray’s ire last season which cost them their lucrative contracts on Sky. If somebody knows Richard Keys by the way, can you tell him that I would definitely smash it.
Them: Suppose they deserved it really, although as alluded to earlier – if that’s the level of shooting in this division we ought not to be so worried as we are. I don’t think they were necessarily better than us, but they could understand simple concepts like not giving the ball away to the opposition every ten seconds.
We came across two people who we’ve been linked with in the past. The first is their manager, one Mr D Holdsworth. He of the rib injury post Lindsey Dawn Mckenzie daliance on Wimbledon Common. Who to this day still can’t quite understand why our fans call him Judas. Maybe this will serve as a good reminder? To be fair to Holdsworth, I think he may genuinely be as bright as a Toc-H lamp – plenty of footballers are, and we should know by now that very few people outside the AFCW bubble will 100% “get it”. Christ, even Harry Bassett doesn’t.
The second one was Danny Hylton. Remember him? We were going to sign him as our new centre forward before he changed his mind and we ended up with Drewe Broughton instead. Quite simply, I think we ended up with the better deal – Broughton was crap but at least he was honest.
Unlike Hylton. When Stuart eventually got the better of him, he decided he was to pretend he was hit by a landmine every single time. Yep, you guessed it. Diving, falling over like the local squaddies had gone on a training exercise with live bullets, anything to con the ref. Of course, he was so bad at it that even the dribbling windowlicker of an official couldn’t bring himself to give him anything.
Christ, he’s even claimed the own goal. Obviously forgetting inconvenient things like his original shot going wide…
As for the rest of it…. they give TB a good reception, as he did back at them. As said yesterday, it felt more like a big occasion for them rather than us so much. They’ve always been a League Two level club, and you get the feeling we’ll be in League One before them. Aldershot town centre really feels like Grays town centre, with a few more soldier boys around. Even the nearest kebab shop to the ground was shut.
We can’t really moan about grounds, but the Rec is one of the few that makes KM look semi-decent. It’s not so much crap but showing its age big time – the stand our fans were sat in was built in 1929, for instance. Facility wise, it made our own (semi-temporary) home look like Eastlands too – you would have thought they would have put some permanent toilet facilities up in the away end by now. CCL revisited…
Point to ponder: Did Callum McNaughton (who had a decent debut by the way) answer us a question that may be unpalatable to hear? Namely that a weak link got plugged today?
I can’t help but think that our back four played better today, and Stuart seemed to play better because of it. No, it’s still not perfect, and it still panicked on occasions, but for once attention on our failures lies elsewhere.
Which causes a bit of a dilemma. We’ll find out more against Northampton and Cheltenham, but if C-Mac (hey, he’s got a nickname already) proves the difference, what are we going to do when he goes back to Upton Park? We may be able to extend his loan, but if we don’t… Fortunately, Fraser Franks came through today’s reserve game without injuring himself, so here’s hoping on that score. And who knows, BJ might step up that next level.
So now the problem appears to be in midfield. If Sammy Moore isn’t playing (well) it starts to look painful to watch. It certainly was in the second half today, anyway. Are we going to get another loanee in who knows what to do with it? If not, why didn’t we put in Minshull for the last ten minutes? Unless TB thought he was going to get sent off, that is. And we have Ricky Wellard to do that.
Incidentally, speaking of Wellard, he seems to be getting stuck in a bit more. Maybe he could be the new Sam Hatton in terms of his development? Though it was telling that the most people chanted his name since, well, ever was when he got sent off.
Yes, we’re on the Learning Curveâ„¢ which has already managed to be a lot steeper than two seasons in the Conference. It might take us until January to find the answer, it may not come for a couple of seasons. But when we do find it, we may find ourselves in League One sooner than you think.
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) That cunting drum – my head still throbs. I really do think that musical instruments should be banned from games. Or at least something a bit more original. Why not an electric guitar instead? Or a grand piano? In our case though, we’ll probably try and get in a couple of violas and a clarinet. (2) Morecambe 6 Crawley 0. All together now, Morecambe were lucky to have six shots, Crawley should have had eighteen penalties, he’s a changed man…
Anything else? As we kept singing today, why did it take us nine years yet took Aldershot sixteen? Both started off from scratch, both worked their way up from divisions with cabbage patches as venues. In fact, Shots didn’t even have to negotiate the Conference South like we did. Additionally, Aldershot didn’t have problems with their ground, because the Rec was still there when they reformed. So if anyone should have taken sixteen years, it was us.
Luck? Aldershot under TB didn’t have much of it, as two penalty shootouts in the playoffs testify. We certainly did, although a lot of that could also be put down to fate. And in the case of Eastlands in May, a helluva lot of planning.
But then, I suppose we had more of an end goal than they did. They lost their club, we had ours stolen. They had been teetering on the brink for a while, but were always a League Two (or equivalent) side. Getting back in the League was their ultimate goal and now they’ve achieved it, do they need – or indeed want – to progress much further? At least any more than when they were just plain Aldershot FC.
We were in the Championship and had that shock on 28/5/02 that will never be forgotten. Getting back in the League was a goal amongst many. But again, why did it take us seven years less to do? Perhaps we will never know and it was just how it turned out…
One other thing – considering they did it before us, we’ve never really used Shots as a blueprint. Or at least to any great extent. Yes, back in 2002 we wanted to emulate what they achieved, but we never consciously set about to copy what they did for whatever reason. Even though nine years before we would have accepted a good decade-and-a-half getting to the Conference.
When you consider that our own from-a-common-to-League-Football story is the most used one, I bet if you’re a Shots fan you’re a bit pissed off that their own achievements in what they did gets overlooked in favour of ours. Especially if you consider that without doing what they did, we might not have achieved what we achieved…
So, was it worth it? Up until 94 minutes, yes.
In a nutshell: I hate injury time.