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Post-Swindon thoughts

A few musings after last night’s game in deepest Wiltshire…

– I know it’s “only” the JPT, and losing on penalties is never nice, but it’s still a  bit disappointing to go out in this sort of competition. It’s a bit like going out of the ZDS or Simod Cup (remember them? Your editor still has flashbacks to a very frosty night at Plough Lane against Everton) – you know it ultimately doesn’t matter, but a day out at Wembley and another piece of silverware is always good for the soul.

Mind you, we never did well in the FA Trophy, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking we should have done a bit more in the FA Cup in recent seasons. Our season won’t be over should Scunthorpe beat us on Saturday, but you suspect we may look back on this week and feel it is a bit of a missed opportunity…

-To be honest, we were a bit lucky that we got it to a penalty shootout to begin with. Our goal almost came out of nowhere, while we can thank Seb Brown (yet again) for palming away a couple of thunderbolts. If Swindon had gone 2-0 or even 3-0 up, it would have been a bit hard to argue against. Don’t get me wrong, the fact we did hang on and get back into the game is of credit, and after we equalised we were the better side for that last nine minutes. Who knows what we’d be thinking right now if we’d actually gone and won it?

– We definitely need a spark from somewhere though. Since Torquay, and one could argue as far back as Crawley, you don’t realise how much more a manager is/needs to be than just a tactician and coach. Whether we would have beaten Barnet or Shrewsbury under TB remains academic, but something is definitely missing.

Have we hit a bit of a brick wall right now? And more importantly, do we know how to climb over it? One snag with having as many young players as we do is that there’s very little to guide them through this sticky period. Yes, I know we’ve drawn our last two League games, but we should have won one of them comfortably. And one thing we do know about young players is that they need more confidence boosts than more experienced players.

Don’t believe me? OK, remember right now in January when we needed more of a presence in defence? We signed an experienced pro called Jamie Stuart, and suddenly we looked a lot more solid. And possibly helped us to qualify for the JPT. Why? Because he knew what was expected in the division, and he knew how to play to that week in, week out.

It may just take two players in certain positions come January, but we are seeing our collective lack of experience right now. And while I agree it’s a Learning Curveâ„¢, and it won’t happen overnight, last night demonstrated once again that we do need to push up to that next level with our standard of squad. If only to push the youngsters up to the level they can achieve, and know how to get out of ruts in future. You can only ask kids to do so much thinking for themselves.

– One youngster who we got to see for the first time was Fraser Franks. And he looked solid enough, even though he’s not a natural right back. Maybe we’ll see him as a regular on the team sheet? Also, and on the same subject, does anyone else think somebody should take away Jack Turner’s Twatter account? Yes, I know he’s only 19, obviously a bit headstrong,  frustrated that he’s not getting game time, and is in the worst position (football wise) that any player can be in.

But you get the feeling he might complain too loudly once too often. There are loads of kids in his position (in both senses of the word) who are in the same boat as him, some of whom will be better than he is. It’s not like we’re keeping him under lock and key, we were trying to get him a loan deal during the summer.

Maybe he should have played last night, but as it turned out we needed a more experienced keeper. Imagine what that would have done to Jack Turner’s confidence had he let in three goals – remember Simon Tracey?

If we can put him on loan somewhere, so much the better for all concerned. But he is the second goalkeeper at a Football League club, and there are plenty of nineteen year old keepers who would give both hands to be in that situation…

– Finally, how glad are you that we had our worst penalty shootout this year last night rather than in May? When we didn’t convert our first two and Swindon did, we should have packed up there and then.

In the last report, a mention was made about there-we-go-but-for-the-grace-of-[insert deity here]. However, last night brought it home just how close we got to being in the FA Trophy again rather than the JPT.

Missing three out of four penalties at the County Ground is frustrating, but we ultimately move on and look towards Saturday. Imagine missing the first two penalties at Eastlands. Seriously, watch them again and imagine the first getting saved and the second one getting blasted over. That is, if you can bear to even contemplate us losing that.

And it might help go towards explain why some people (including SW19, to be fair) want more done with the squad, and maybe spend a little bit more money than the club would otherwise wish to right now. They may simply remember how fine that line was between playing in the JPT and getting shown on Premier Sports…