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Post-Bradford (and other) thoughts

Three days after the painful FAC exit, and it still seems to be hurting people.

While I was writing the reaction since the weekend, Warton Womble put fingers to keyboard and produced the following report from Saturday. Take it away…

We were shocking. Terry’s words, not mine, when I bumped into him at Watford Gap services. And he was right too – Bantams 3 – Cocks 1 might have flattered the home team, but we made them look good.

The goals conceded were nothing short of comical: their first goal was clearly offside, something the players, all the away end and anyone with eyes could see apart from the useless lino at the far side; their second was a calamitous OG (although the announcer was desperately trying to claim it as a Bradford goal which caused no end of derision); the third a relatively soft pen given away by captain fantastic. However, as soon as we conceded we all knew the end result.

What’s worse, so did the players.

Sure, we huffed and puffed and tried to play a bit, and sometimes we threatened, but our endeavours in midfield were hardly going to set the world alight. Too many missed passes, poor first touches, flicks that didn’t quite make it, and a lack of imagination. And guts. And determination.

There was the odd murmur of dissent among the crowd too (and what a pitiful example of support from the home team – total attendance was only about 3500, of which 500+ was us) , a sense of frustration bubbling over at the apparent lack of ambition shown by the midfield.

The team choice was interesting, starting with a lesser-spotted James Mulley, who looked out of his depth, and Ricky Wellard, who had some moments of skill, laced with utter head-in-you-hands despair. But it was Sammy Hatton who had the worst game I’ve seen him have – Hatton’s wonderland was shut for refurbishment.

Plus points: Jack Midson’s goal.

Minus points: Blind lino, our attacking options, our defence…

The referee’s a…: Moronic imbecile who couldn’t out-wit a used teabag. Mind you, that would put him on par with most of the players in blue…

Them: Looked delighted to see a win, and who knows what they’ll do in Watford .

Point to ponder: Where do we go from here? Shopping in January seems a necessity at the moment, and yet a forward isn’t what I’d want – a stronger back 4, and a playmaker who isn’t out of his depth at this level is more important.

So, was it worth it? Next

In a nutshell: We’re not going to Wembley…

That reads almost as depressing as what your editor has writen below.

Clubs can and do go out of cup competitions in hurtful ways. Some can be quite dreadful in the process – ask any Brentford fan how they played against Wrexham. Yet why is our exit still causing plenty of discussion?

It’s not so much losing out on the third round of the FAC. After all, we reached the same stage last year and were shown our arse against Stevenage. Nor is it even a nice trip to Vicarage Road, and memories of Drillo’s first ever game with us.

I think this has hurt more than most lackluster “performances” this season simply because it’s gone beyond teething troubles in a new division. Perhaps for the first time, it’s sunk in that it’s unlikely to get much better without a drastic rethink.

Maybe it’s because we had a (let’s be blunt here, pretty rare) top day at Valley Parade last time and it’s as though we’ve realised we’ve gone backwards? Dangerously backwards. Or at least no further forward than we were in the early stages of the season, anyway.

This is trying very hard not to be yet another our-defence-is-dogshit-we-need-new-players diatribe. I’ve written far too many over the past couple of months to get much more mileage out of it, and it’s now impossible to see it ever improving under the current approach. Give us ten games to show some signs of life, fine. But it’s now been nineteen League games and three proper cup competitions and we seem to have got worse if anything.

Time has run out.

Mid-table mediocrity was always the realistic aim, but we’re not even reaching that standard at the moment. It’s all very well to dismiss a lot of this division as dross, and that you have to be seriously shit and/or a basketcase to be down the bottom, but we’re not above being that. Better teams than us have found themselves relegated, and it’s not unheard of for them to be in exactly our position right now come Xmas…

Fortunately, we are in a position, time wise, where we can do something about it. It’s still the first week of December, and we have the January transfer window to come. For now, though, we need to give a few rockets up a few arses.

For Accrington and the next month, I’d like to see Fraser Franks (if match fit) and GG (ditto) start, or at least get some game time. They can’t be any worse than what we’ve had to put up with recently, and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking we have looked worse without our left back since he went off against Gillingham.

If we can pull out all the stops to get C-Mac for at least another month, do so. By the sounds of it, his loan tenure is one akin to a youth/work experience on so there’s no limit to how long we can retain him. One suspects that WHU may not particularly want him, and he’s the sort of player I wouldn’t be surprised to sign up permanently at some point.

Midfield? Attack? To be honest, your editor’s lack of game time makes it impossible to pass judgement, but it’s interesting that people are asking why Reece Jones isn’t even on the bench for most games. WW’s report mentions James Mulley being out of his depth, and he’s somebody many believe should be a regular starter.

It might have been down to (yet) another collective bad day at the office, but when our midfield is fast becoming the least of your worries, you have to wonder. At least sorting out the back line – however you do it – will help us stop conceding as many goals as we have done.

But just as importantly, I think somebody needs to sit TB down and remind him the jury is still out on him being a Football League manager. Yes, I know he’s a nice man, I know he got us from the hellhole of the Ryman Prem to League Two, and I know that real life has intervened recently.

Guess what – unless he sorts out the way we ship goals and lose games, all of that is completely irrelevant.

TB is at his best when he’s being pragmatic. Anyone who watched the playoff final DVD extras will have noticed how calm and low-key/feet-on-the-ground he was, even during the buildup. One can easily argue we won it because of that.

He’s at his worst when he tries to be too clever and/or idealistic. While the grinding out of results during his absence was as entertaining as an ITV sitcom, at least we weren’t losing. When he came back and announced that he was going back to the swashbuckling expansive style, you know the rest.

He has a bit of form for this – remember during the RP promotion season when we went to Chelmsford and said that he was going to be clever and put in Micky Haswell instead of the vastly superior Chris Hussey? We all know how that went, and he looked a bit of a chump afterwards. True, it ultimately didn’t matter, but it could have so easily gone the other way…

Our squad is not good enough to be the Arsenal of League Two, and Terry Brown is not good enough a manager to carry it off. The concern with him right now is that he won’t do anything with our defence during the transfer window, and he’ll concentrate mostly on our forward line. He seems to have put a lot of faith in MMK. Again, he has form for this – remember how the first murmurings of a poor back line were surfacing at the start of the season, and instead he went and announced the signing of Kieran D?

TB may be a manager in the Football League, but he has to use this next couple of months to prove he’s a Football League manager. Your editor has seen a fair few L2 games over the last 3/4 years, and I’m finding it difficult to remember a team so poor at the back as we are. And in a division that many dismiss as having its fair share of shite, that is not a good thing.

Hopefully his post-Bradford comments will force him down the pragmatism route, although we will have a nervier-than-usual transfer window to deal with. We may not even need radical surgery, especially as we’re not likely to be L1 candidates this season. But if the penny hasn’t dropped before, it certainly should have now.

Because I don’t fancy another poor performance at home on Saturday…