Skip to content

Number Two All Over

By the time you read this, the firework displays will probably be over, but if anyone has any left over could they forward them to AFCW?

Because after Over The Hill 1 Underhill 1, we need to ram a few rockets up various arses.

I’m not sure what’s going to be more tedious – this game, or your editor struggling to write anything about it. I’m having difficulty because there’s only so many times I can say how poorly we played in the first half, how certain players won’t – or shouldn’t – be League Two players this time next year, and how utterly lackluster we were overall.

The fact it was against a team most neutrals would have expected us to put to the sword doesn’t make writing this any easier. Before the game, there was a very strange sense, almost like one of those Conference/RP games where we ended up playing badly and ruining your weekend.

Perhaps worst of all, this was my first game since Crewe, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve moved forward.

OK, when Kieran D came on he changed the game, but we shouldn’t have to endure a first half like that. The fact it was poor even by this season’s low standards should finally sound the alarm bells if they haven’t been ringing already.

Some of our players aren’t up to it, that’s been painfully obvious for a while and it won’t do us any good to keep denying it. We’ll have to hang on for another couple of months before we can start making much needed changes, so anyone planning trips to Burton or Rotherham may wish to check their cancellation terms on their tickets.

It doesn’t help when you’re managerless, as was painfully obvious today. Stuart Cash is a great foil to TB but I don’t think we’d last too long if he was in permanent charge. At least on this display, anyway. That said though, unlike TB he did at least make substitutions when needed…

After the game, people were saying that we’ve been sussed out tactically – Jolley in particular has been nullified a lot recently, and as a result isn’t nearly so effective. Granted, having 2 points from 15 doesn’t do wonders for the confidence, but trying to get that run of form back is going to become that little bit harder if other sides have twigged what we can do.

When TB finally gets back in the manager’s chair (and by the sounds of it, he will return watching on Tuesday, but won’t take charge), he’s going to have to think a bit differently. He’s going to have to drop the more idealistic aspects of his coaching, and adopt something that won’t suffer whenever a Barnet start getting in our faces from the off.

It may not need to be a radical departure from his thinking, but if we are as predictable as a sunrise after nightfall then we’re going to get more games like this. Are we stuck in a rut? As said earlier, this was your editor’s first game in a while and there was something depressingly familiar about it.

So the answer to that may well be yes. And the more we get bogged down in it, the harder it is to come out. A win today would have given us a little bit of a boost, although a 4-0 victory would have been more of what was required today. That we didn’t come close to doing that – or indeed winning – suggests that we’re in a bit deeper than first thought.

Yes, we did well at Shrewsbury last week, but that seems a long while ago now. One could justifiably expect to build on that against the side with one of – if not the – worst defensive record anywhere (yes, a team is even worse than us at the back), but we didn’t. During our last prolonged slump in form, we managed to turn it around by thumping Cheltenham 4-1. Today should have been that day that kickstarted us again, but it didn’t look anywhere near.

Still, that’s it for L2 action for now. We’ve got a couple of cup games coming up, and in the past the FAC especially has proven to be a confidence booster for struggling sides. Even getting a win on penalties at Swindon on Tuesday will give us a nice(r) journey home than we’ve had of late.

Will we be fighting relegation this season? For most of the first half it looked like a valid question to ask. I certainly can’t see us challenging for playoff positions right now, not that I think we’re good enough to be in them. But we need another spark from somewhere, and not just from a suitably inserted firecracker…

Plus points: Didn’t lose. Kieran D.

Minus points: Didn’t win. Their goal. Horribly flat for most of the game.

The referee’s a…: I was going to prepare myself for a long rant, of how he helped to make a shit game even more dire, how he seemed to be their 12th man etc. But then I found out that one of the officials was one Mr R Ganfield, and it all made sense. To quote somebody near me, “Did the Ryman send you ref?”

Them: To be fair, they were still smarting from last week’s stuffing by Burton and had a point to prove. And when that happens, and especially when their manager is fighting for his job, you have to be more ruthless and focused than we were.

Of course, you just knew that McLeod was going to score. Also, I don’t know why people still rate Ricky Holmes and believed we should have signed him. I suppose I still visions of him playing for Chelmsford (remember them? They were our rivals once. And they were going to overtake our crowds because they had a bigger catchment area).

Thing is, they’re down the bottom for a reason, and they’ve always punched above their weight in the Football League. Most of their fans would agree they’re more of a big non-league side than a small League one, and their play seems to match that. Which makes how we played even more galling.

Decent turnout from them, and they’re not a club one can really hate. The game at Underhill should be a good one, with a decent turnout by us. Of course, that means going north of the river Thames…

Point to ponder: Anyone else think Lawrie Sanchez played down the clapping/waving at the start of the game? I suppose he was in a difficult position being too friendly with us, especially as losing today could have given him his P45 and he hasn’t been too popular with Barnet fans recently.

Perhaps we expect too much from returning WFC heroes? I don’t know whether we should expect those we used to watch to “get it” 100% – I don’t think Sanchez does and I don’t believe Harry Bassett does either. I don’t doubt both know what the whole thing is about, and they (eventually) accept that the people at AFCW are those who watched them at WFC, but perhaps it was a bit much to expect LS to bow down to us today.

Whether it matters or not is unclear. I don’t think Sanchez did much different when WFC lost to Wycombe in the FAC in 2000/01 (or was it 01/02?) and lest we forget Harry left under a cloud in 1987. Fash got some stick when it appeared he jumped on the bandwagon at Ebbsfleet last season, but as said at the time, 28/5/02 wasn’t very clear cut for many people – fans and players…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Speaking of ex-WFC era players, Mick Harford seen walking towards the carvery at 2.30pm. No truth in the rumour that he’s about to stand in for TB with David Kemp. Nor is he going to play centre back. (2) Next time somebody complains about people not getting involved with the DT and/or standing for election to its board, just remind them of the kerfuffle of the last couple of days. We’re about to enter into vital stages, not only with Merton but with the first discussions of external investment. If the DT can’t or won’t do it, the club will. (3) The huddle beforehand. Why?

Anything else? Even I’m not pissed off enough (yet) to suggest we’ll be playing Barnet in the BSP next season. But at a few points today, there was the odd there-we-go-for-the-grace-of-[insert deity of choice here] moment.

By that, I mean that at various stages where the game was crap (yeah, I know…) I looked at a few scores in the Conference.

A couple of days ago, I watched the Eastlands penalty shootout again. Needless to say, it still brings up the hairs on my neck and it doubtless does for you too. But you don’t realise how close it all was until you look at the scores today and see Luton lose at home to Fleetwood.

Had the luck been different, it would have been us hosting the Cod Army today. Even now, it seems we don’t realise how far we’ve come until you glance at those fixtures. I’m certainly not convinced we’ve 100% made the jump off the field to L2, we certainly haven’t on it.

Perhaps that’s how to help us get out of the rut we’re currently in? Just play the playoff final, the semi final and a couple of regular season fixtures from the Premier Sports cine 8 projector at a training session or two, and remind the players just exactly what they’re in danger of returning to.

It may be an unlikely and idle threat, but it won’t hurt to remind them of how lucky they are to be in the Football League. And then play them the first half of Gillingham, or Morecambe, or the last hour of Cheltenham…

So, was it worth it? *snorts*

In a nutshell: Can’t wait for Swindon on Tuesday. No, really.