Trust me to manage to miss one of the best games of the season. Still, if it means more results like UBS 4 Cheltenham and Gloucester 1, I expect I’ll get used to being banned from games…
Before we go on, a quick note about where I was yesterday. For those who don’t know, I was doing the nationals at Selhurst Park. Yes, really. And it was a bit of a weird experience going to a place which we called “home” between 1991 and 2002. Just think, a team playing in somebody else’s stadium away from the place it names its team after and pretends to pass off as its own. Would never happen these days…
What grabbed me about returning to SE25 for my first game there since 2002 was this : it really has hardly changed since we were there. OK, there’s no WFC related signage about, there’s a couple of licks of paint here and there, but you could have stepped back a decade or so ago and not notice any difference.
SW19 wrote about this earlier this year, but Palace are the other South London side in the Football League that urgently needs a new ground. The Main Stand especially seems like it’s going to fall down at any minute. Perhaps that’s the Ron Noades legacy? As for Palace themselves, you get the feeling they’ll be in the Championship for a good while to come…
Oh, and they had an eagle there. A real life eagle. Bloody big bastard too (it was in the press area beforehand). You get the feeling that a quick sniff of our mascot, and it will make the Luton fan’s assault look like a mere brushing.
Enough of the past. What about the future, and indeed, the present?
Firstly, here’s a couple of words from Mark Beecroft:
Comparing with Tuesday night’s defeat to Northampton…
Despite the changes in personnel, we seemed to be set up in much the same way, however it was noticeable from early on that there were two major differences.
Firstly, the midfield were having shots from distance. Although there weren’t actually many on target, it showed our intent and had a bearing on how Cheltenham’s defence and midfield positioned themselves, and gave more room to the wide players.
Secondly, crosses from Jolley & Djilali went into much more dangerous areas – on Tuesday everything, seemed to be pulled back beyond the penalty spot or even outside the area… this time, balls were fired across much closer in, and Minshull got his reward for putting one into the right place.
We were then set up for a pretty comfortable second half, and despite previous wins this one does now finally make me believe that we belong in this league.
sack brown! buy players!
rubbish! oh sorry, this is
next week’s match report
Or something that features the use of the word “draw” a lot.
So, why has it gone from wrist-slitting gloom on Tuesday to unbridgled glee today? Is this division really as schizophenic as the results suggest? Is this merely a continuation of the W1 D1 L1 pattern we seem to be in right now?
Or is it a case of football really being 90% of what’s between the ears?
One thing that became clear from Tuesday, and may go a long way to explaining yesterday, was how much that game hurt. Not in the usual disappointment ways, but hurt. I doubt I was the only one who was still stung by it around Thursday/Friday, and by the sounds of it the players were too.
I’ve only looked at the SSN/BBC highlights, listened to TB’s interview and get vox pops from those who were there, but there seemed to be more of a determination there throughout the squad yesterday. Almost as if there was a point to prove to a lot of people.
Which, to be fair, there was. As one of the reports submitted above states, finally people believe we belong in the League, which at quite a few times this season has been difficult to justify. It seems this game was the first time we (mostly) dominated and played well enough to justify the victory – previously it’s been mostly luck, and as Aldershot last Saturday suggested, when that runs out…
Perhaps Tuesday made the players (and the manager) look at themselves and realise what an opportunity they were letting slip away. One could feel justified after some recent games in stating that the squad – if not individual players – were out of their depth, and with some of TB’s tactics too that could have been extended to the manager.
Is that no longer the case? A few more consistent performances and results like that, and I think we can settle down to life in League Two for next season. Mid table mediocrity may be the best result of all. What we don’t want to see happen is for us to slip back to how we’ve been in recent games, after thinking we’ve taken the next step forward.
Barring a run that will take us to an automatic promotion spot come January, we’ll still need to strengthen. I still believe we need more Football League experience in there, especially if we have another tricky patch come February/March. We all know that the important thing this season is survival, but that doesn’t always mean struggling as well.
If we can push on from these results and get a win/draw at Bradford, then remind Danny Kedwell of what he left behind a week later, then great. We really will have finally started to find our feet. And then we can start planning the next step, who to release, who to bring in etc, and not have to worry about firefighting and simply just fighting to remain in the division.
It was interesting to note in TB’s post match interview that a couple of our players are due to go out on loan after (yet another) first team/developmental XI friendly this Tuesday. We seem to have loads of them, don’t we? Mind you, so do many other clubs, and it seems to be an ad hoc version of the Football Combination that we so badly wanted to be in last season.
We assume it will be the likes of Jack Turner, Reece Jones and Brendan Kiernan going out on loan. Thing is, at some point this last few weeks I bet you’ve toyed with the idea of playing them in the first team because they couldn’t have done any worse.
The trouble is, it would have done immense harm to them playing in a losing side – anyone remember Justin Skinner at Anfield? – but by actually playing well we can help those youngsters come on properly without asking them to do the first choice players’ jobs.
We made a decent step forward yesterday. Let’s use it wisely.
Anyway, enough navel gazing. For once, it’s nice to go through this next seven days with a glow from Saturday, and a new found belief we can do something in this division. Suddenly, Bradford doesn’t appear so daunting after all. And besides, it was the fixture you all looked out for in June…