Football really is a funny game, isn’t it?
This time last week we were staring at the relegation abyss and preparing to jump head first into it. We still had points on the board, but our confidence was on the floor and looking like it was sinking even further down the plughole. The nerve was touched, and people were shaking and reacting in a way they never had before.
Fast-forward seven days, and suddenly we’re nearer the playoffs than the drop zone.
What that tells you I don’t know, apart from maybe how shit League Two really is. Taken by itself though, I think we were due a win and performance like last night for some while. In fact, that’s probably the first time since October we’ve looked convincing as a member of the 91 Club. For once, we had a bit of spark to us, and with a little bit of an idea of what to do.
Having the impressive Pim at the back helped matters, and like the equally impressive Billy Knott (who is thankfully with us for another month) plenty of Wombles are already thinking of selling their kidneys to a Chinese doctor to buy him.
And they may be living to regret that. Last night, your editor was on Twatter talking about the reality of signing Pim to an SW19 reader, when he received a reply from none other than Mark Chapman of Brentford. Seriously:
I’m sure if Pim makes a good impression at AFCW and your manager wants him next season there are always deals to be done.
Don’t get excited though, I expect we’re still paying off Byron Harrison’s transfer fee. And more on him later.
So, what has changed in the last week? Apart from TB finally admitting that trying to play like Ajax 1977 doesn’t work in the fourth tier of English football? I guess that Plymouth really did have more of an effect on everyone than we realised at the time. It’s true that his job was genuinely on the line before Dagenham, and minds on and off the pitch got refocused big time.
And it did hurt. We played like we’d been stung big time last night, as though all the shit that has built up since, well, October was dumped. And makes you wonder what could have been had we’d figured this out five months ago.
But we had that little bit of luck for once. Getting two penalties was a godsend, although Midson scoring them helped. And what the fuck was their #39 doing? I know footballers don’t have a brain but to go around trying to mouth off with the disabled section? And kick the ball away in front of them? Guess he spent the rest of the time in the dressing room being burped and soiling his nappy every five minutes.
Actually, I was quite disappointed with Bradford. Well, I wasn’t at all, but I would have expected more from them even with ten men. It was almost as though they came for the draw after it was 1-1, and in reality they weren’t much better than we were. Admittedly, they were when it was 11 vs 11, and I can’t have been the only one who thought at the time that Seb managed to handle outside his area…
But given that the attitude recently has been “a point is a point”, you can’t blame anyone for enjoying looking at the League table right now. Operation Survival has just got that bit closer, and we are now just two wins away from this magical 50 point mark. Or six draws, if you prefer.
If we can match four of Plymouth’s results from now on, we’re safe.
Yes, that might be a strange way of looking at how to secure L2 for next season, but that’s kind of how things are right now. We’re NOT safe yet, although we’re now getting into the stage where we would have to right royally fuck it up to look in trouble. Mind you, for a team that managed to lose to Northampton (twice), Hereford and Plymouth, and were four minutes away from drawing at home to Dagenham, that’s still quite possible.
But things feel a lot, lot easier this morning. It’s actually nice to catch the goals on SSN (which I haven’t done yet) and look at the League table, and look at who’s coming down from L1 and who’s coming up from the Conference. Hell, we might even be able to play the Playoff Final penalties again without that feeling of heartbreaking dread.
The atmosphere before the game was odd though, although a different kind of oddness to the one from last Tuesday. It had more of the air of evening games in the Ryman Premier against the likes of Wealdstone, where you sort of expected something to happen. This has been a very strange, very challenging and not particularly pleasant couple of weeks for us mentally, and we’ve certainly come out of it knowing a lot more about ourselves.
Has last night changed much in the grand scheme of things? No it hasn’t. We still need major surgery in the close season, especially when you consider that Pim, Billy Knott and George Moncur are pretty unlikely to be with us. Jason Euell is heading back to the Valley after the Oxford game, and it seems that we know we may have to fight to keep Jack Midson.
The very fact that we’re basking in the aftermath of a rare performance and win like this has summed up this campaign – yeah, it’s great this morning but when was the last time you felt this good about a game like this? Even Crewe and Gillingham had the “yeah we didn’t lose but we still had to come back” caveat, and this is but one game.
Yes, TB can sleep a lot easier this week, but one still has to wonder whether this new approach with 4-4-2 pragmatism is a genuine Damascene conversion or whether he’s done it simply to save his job. Which still has to put a question mark over whether he’ll be here next season – we cannot repeat the naive (at best) mistakes that have been all too apparent this season, no matter how you are feeling this morning.
And yes, you can read a lot into Stuart Cash writing the programme notes last night.
Still, that’s for the future. Last night was fun, and haven’t had much of that recently, so enjoy the rest of this week. A few other thoughts:
– Whither Byron Harrison? I know it’s not his fault that he’s got the record signing tag, but has any recent transfer been so disappointing? At least Ross Montague had the excuse of getting injured a lot and Danny Webb was just crap. While Jack Midson had his detractors, he answered them back pretty quickly with some goals.
With Harrison, all I seem to remember about him was getting subbed at some game. Oh, and he scored a couple of goals in the LSC against the Met Police. Who are in the Ryman. Really doesn’t bode well, for him, does it? A new signing, especially a striker, has a lot to prove at the best of times. One with a massive price tag becomes even more of a burden, and if you don’t even see him for half the games, how will that affect how people react to him?
Kieran D could end up playing the Kaid Mohammed to Midson’s role as Danny Kedwell, which will further push Byron behind. Given that this isn’t a club that is prepared to waste money, he needs to shape up very quickly…
– Speaking of which, looks like Jamie Stuart is on his way out. While I’m surprised that L2 sides are enquiring about him, and the rumour mill is suggesting he meets up with his old mate DK at Priestfield, it’s a rather low key way of getting rid of your one-time club captain.
We’ll never know why he’s now available rather than him being kept on for a last hurrah, a la Jason Goodliffe. But then, he was always known for being a bit, ahem, “passionate”. Was there a row? Does it support the theory that somebody came up with at Cheltenham that he was being played so that he would stop a player rebellion? Or was he just simply old, slow and crap?
Whatever the reason, he shored us up in defence when it was looking very creaky and disorganised (sound familiar?) in the Conference, and his injection at that stage of the season probably helped us up into the division we’re now in. That he often looked the weak link in a weak defence didn’t help things, and Pim has shown the absolute gulf in class, and in truth I’m not sure if he’ll get a warm a send off as other players will…
– Plenty of epicbantz (LOLOLOLOL!!!! ROFLCOPTER!!!!”Â£”!”!! etc) between us and the 300 or so Bantams there last night. Well, us singing “you’re too poor to live in Leeds” and “You’re just a poor man’s Luton”. Amazing how people still remember 2000 and that banner, even down to the very title of this article.
After our victory at Valley Parade earlier this season, I wrote something to the effect that playing Bradford just felt like we’d come full circle, and that the nine years previous may as well not have happened. There was a bit of a deja vu experience last night – relegation dog fight, a sending off, a penalty that enraged the opposition and three goals for the home side.
At least Jeff Winter wasn’t reffing.
– Finally, the Ramones over the PA beforehand with “Cretin Hop”. No further comment necessary…