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Can you Dag it?

So a must-win game and we won, eh?

Two contributions below, the first one from Tudor:

Wombles huffed and puffed,
Blew a couple of goals in:
A much-needed win.

And the second one from Jampot. My thoughts afterwards.


Well it wasn’t pretty but in the end, effective. A Wimbledon win – as unseasonable as the weather yesterday. But after much gnashing and wailing of teeth of opinion, Sheaths 2 Daggers 1 was just the result we need, if perhaps we didn’t quite deserve. We tamed them. Just.

But then I am sure that at times this season we have deserved a little more and not got it. As a scientist I believe in balance in the Universe – positive energy cancelled out by negative energy. Yesterday we finally got and saw a bit of positive energy – in attitude, in commitment and I suppose in luck too.

Not that will matter an iota come Tuesday if we don’t take this base and build on it. Bradford is as immense a game as any this season. In case you missed it they beat 10 men Oxford 2-1 at home yesterday, so it will be another tense evening at KM. A draw would be good; a win fantastic; a loss, well perhaps with this result not quite as catastrophic to our position and confidence as losing yesterday may have been.

But there are glimmers of hope. Finally, TB had the balls to abandon the diamond and went for a conventional 4-4-2 with flat midfield. Only problem was at times it looked like some of the players had forgotten how to play it; they seemed to think it required the ball to be constantly in the air. The one time in the first half we played it on the ground we cut the Daggers (geddit?) open with some lovely play. I suppose the brevity of this play yesterday shows our lack of confidence.

At the back, the arrival of Dutch courage in the shape of Pim Balkenstein showed how defending should be done. Attack the ball; get above the opponents and if in doubt welly it up the other end of the pitch to make their defence panic about it! It worked for Plymouth on Tuesday, so why not for us?

Problem was the solidity given by the change of formation also tended to blunt our attacking force, which constantly seemed to be deeper (bit like our defence seems to play) and now where near those ‘wellys’ when they came about. Not that that helped midfield who again seemed to lose out too often picking up the second ball. Knott and Moore got in each other’s way more than once.

So things still to do. I don’t think we’re on a learning curve now, more a bloody sine wave. Lets hope it’s a bloody big one and we’re still on the top curve of it come Tuesday.

Ah, Tuesday and what do we do then?

Will MMK be fit after the clash of heads with Sammy Moore? If not who comes in: keep sub Johnson there and play with two left-footers or go with a right footer to partner Pim – McNaughton / Franks/ Stuart?

Do you stick with Harrison from the start, or bring in Djilali? Or swap him for Jolley who seems so off form? And, why not try Kiernan on the right as an alternative to Toks playing there? It balances the midfield again with 2 right and 2 left footed players.

See, we need to Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Put the ball in their box and down their channels and make them play their way out of it. Just like everyone else has made us have to do all season.

Plus points: We won. Pim Balkenstein. Midson’s recent run of goals, particularly yesterday’s. Lady luck. Seb Brown’s saves.

Minus points: Seb Brown’s kicking. Byron Harrison’s luck. Tok’s defending. MMK being taken out by Sammy Moore. Jolley (and others) over complicate things… KISS is the way!

The referee’s a… : Well that was a different way to ref a game. If I say it was physical but it took 15 mins for the first free kick to be given you might have expected dead bodies on the pitch. But no. It was obvious from the first ‘rough’ tackle he was going to let a lot go and when Harrison almost threw a D&R player out of the way shortly after, we seemed to suss we could get away with more than usual.

But all the players seemed to respond to the responsibility offered them and bar an odd couple of tackles in the whole game it was a pretty fair honest game of football. OK, that didn’t extend to a drop in our naivety as to how to take a foul (like when Jolley was blocked off the pitch and did not fall over for the obvious foul, hence it wasn’t given). Sometimes you despair at TB’s desire to play by gentleman’s rules. It isn’t a game for gentleman at the moment TB. Its survival!

Them: The guy next to me said at the beginning of the season people reckoned there was deadwood in this league – he hadn’t seen any and looking at D&R then I suppose people were thinking of the likes of them. Well, limited might be a better term to describe them though I thought, compared to Plymouth on Tuesday, they looked to try and build a bit more from the back when they got possession. Ok I’ll admit like us they kept it in the air too much but Tuesday seemed to see Plymouth’s tactics to be hoofing it into our half/box and send runners after it every time. Plan A – get it in AFCW’s box ASAP!

How many corners did they get yesterday? Eleven, if you believe the BBC, and they were always likely to get something from that – but a free header?? Again!!

Will they survive? My guess, this far into the season, is no. Simply, history – and I am sure a statto out there could prove – shows low order relegation candidates are unlikely achieve improved form towards the end of a season. They are running out of games. If lucky, they might maintain points per match achieved so far, and so will only make 40 points max. One down, one to go then?

Point to ponder: Did we win because of the dazzle from Pim’s teeth? Once I’d settled sight on who he was, it was the first thing I noticed about him. Don’t believe me, then look at his pic on Wikipedia.

Was the fact Djilali, meant to play down the left, really over the right hand side where he scored the winner, really down to Gwillim having cramp and Toks being told to cover him? Well it sort of worked.

But we could have done without Toks fucking up just beforehand to allow D&R to break away down to our end and earn the corner from which they scored. At least he balanced the Universe out by providing the cross for Djilali.

Was the group love in when we scored OTT, or the players saying they really love TB? Who really knows? It was good to see a celebration as we’ve not had a lot to celebrate recently, and if the opposition can do it why shouldn’t we? Bit like the group hug at the beginning. Notice it was Captain Gwillim that called it. Not a bad choice of captain if truth were told, even if it was for the sentimental reasons (playing his old club yesterday). And he didn’t play too bad either!

Truth is stranger than fiction: Apparently, at the carvery when TB came to address the throng, some fans on the bar side of the room stuck their hands above the screens dividing the room and made ‘waving goodbye’ gestures. This is believed to have stopped when TB announced we’d be playing 4-4-2 to rapturous cheers and clapping. He then apparently thanked all the managers in the room. My source was unsure whether he was being sarcastic at the time…(and it wasn’t you Trebor though you’ve stole my thunder on the guest book!)

Three’s a crowd: 4243 compared to the 4578 on Tuesday which some people thought was poor given the distances involved for Plymouth & D&R. But then Plymouth is a city with a historically larger fan base and with their ‘resurgence’ and change of ownership they were always likely to bring a large crowd. [SW19 note: Plymouth also have a pretty decent support in the South East] Attrition has probably worn down the causal D&R away fan so they only brought 381 against Plymouth’s 700+.

Anything else? Midway through the second half someone pointed out to me how static Jack Midson is. Not that he is alone when our midfield has the ball and is looking for a pass.

But rarely does he move before the ball comes towards him. He also runs a lot once moving but, being so static to start with, only sometimes gets to close down a player. Yet he is then feted when he does Yet similarly yesterday, and previously, Harrison has put himself about on the pitch and likewise often got to close down those players but is grudgingly given credit and is often given short shrift.

Ok, the ball is not running for him to score but its strange how different people see different things. Harrison was lazy was the call yesterday. I don’t think he was. I just think he was disheartened by sections of the crowd.

In a nutshell: 3 more points on the board are always better than games in hand.

A win is a win. And that’s all that matters.

I suppose the word we’re all scrabbling around for is relief. The abyss was glanced at, and for now we’ve stepped away from it. We might have another look at it in the upcoming games, but it did appear we didn’t want to hang ourselves just yet.

This is but a small step, of course, and anyone who thinks we’re safe is an idiot. Most of the teams we are playing aren’t below us, and things could still go badly wrong after Bradford. Which considering the flashbacks to 1999/2000 we’re still having is a little bit too ironic.

This weekend in 2000, this game happened. Beware of complacency about beating the side bottom of the Football League.

It’s fair to say that mentally, we’ve been through the wringer. Should we survive – or even if we don’t – we will be so glad when the season ends as it will give us time to start doing the serious rebuilding this club needs. Right now, there’s a sense that we’re drained as opposed to buoyant – we’ve still got to dig in, hope the sides we do play have taken their eye off the ball and hope the other teams below us take points off each other.

But yesterday was a start, and if we do get one final push then it will be worth it. Reading various reactions, it seems that TB knew that he would have been gone had we lost. Or perhaps more accurately, he would have been surprised if he wasn’t on the dole queue come tomorrow morning.

I’ve no idea what the applauding everyone afterwards thing was about by him, it’s more likely than not it was a moment of relief for him. I don’t think it was a farewell, although if he starts doing it a bit more then he could be demob happy. And like JP said, I wouldn’t read too much into the players mobbing the bench after we scored. After all, the Chelski players did the same to AVB before he got the elbow.

Leaving aside the irony that many if not most of the players who mobbed him will be gone next season should he stay, there appeared to be at least the facade of a united front. Which is often the case when a team is rattled. Obviously, pride and ego are inter-twined (or the same thing) and you can bet that various egos got well and truly dented after Plymouth.

Of course, things like walkabouts afterwards and bench bundling after goals are pretty odd bits of behaviour. But then, it’s been an odd week.

Still, if such defiance means we stay up, then great. Job done. They can do what the fuck they like providing we’re in L2 next season, because let’s face it – many of them won’t be here next season.

And if they are here, they shouldn’t be.

Until then, it’s focus on Bradford time. A point is absolutely mandatory, though you don’t need me to tell you the importance of three points. Win on Tuesday and it will be THE biggest win of the season so far, on so many levels. We still won’t be safe but the little bits of momentum are still required.

Yesterday, we took a little step forward. For once, let’s not take a step back…