So, looks like that run of form didn’t last too long…
Deep down, there seemed to be something a bit predictable about losing at the Memorial Stadium. A bit of confidence going into it for once, the usual fatal slow start, with the inevitable chasing the game and eventually coming away with a moral victory. And on occasions an actual one.
Those who were there seem to say the above almost in unison. Mind you, I’m never too sure about claiming moral victories at the best of times when we hear afterwards how good we were after being 1-0 down : the game starts at 3pm, not 3.30pm. And when you can set your watch by us doing it…
A little stumble? Yes. Another little setback? Of course. A good reminder that despite the vibe before we went down the West Country we are certainly not safe yet? Absobloodylutely.
The next two fixtures aren’t easy by any means, and a couple more trip-ups makes the arse cheeks squeak a bit more. Oxford tomorrow has the potential to be one of those days about it, especially when you consider we’ve never even scored against them in the AFCW era. Needless to say, a Cheltenham-esque clean sheet at the Kassam would be a godsend (hell, any kind of clean sheet will do right now), a win would be utterly jizztastic.
And then there’s Burton on Saturday. Who this weekend dumped Mr Brady and therefore have the chance to get the New Manager Bounce at our expense. Actually, now isn’t the worst time to dump a manager for a club, especially if you consider that by this stage of the season you need any sort of boost whatsoever, no matter how temporary. That’s what Burton and Macclesfield will be banking on, anyway, and don’t be surprised if both of them find themselves in L2 next season.
Lest we forget that without Kieran D’s winner against Dagenham we would have almost certainly had a new boss ourselves, and signing Pim (while he’s been the kind of defender we’ve needed all season) was a Defcon 2 level transfer. Don’t kid yourself that he wasn’t anything other than the football equivalent of smashing the emergency glass. The margins now between success and failure are smaller and more crucial than ever at this time of year.
We may think we’re as good as safe, but in truth we need to tighten up more and limp to safety. A draw last Saturday would have helped us a lot, but we still have “L” next to the game on our fixture list.
Regardless of what you think should happen in the summer, the time really has come to shut up and get the points on the board. It’s all very well for TB or Stuart Cash (in the Bradford programme) to say we need to tighten up at the back and stop conceding first. Well, now is really the time to do it – it doesn’t matter if it only happens for a couple of games, it just needs to happen.
After all, it’s not like we’ve had since August to sort that out.
But I’m being snarky, and plenty of people are saying we were unlucky not to get a point on Saturday. Which given the genuine little confidence boost after Bradford is good for Operation Survival. We’ll certainly see tomorrow if the post-Plymouth wakeup call is still within the camp…
OK, I admit I’m struggling to write much about this. Nobody I know who went sent me anything, although I’m told we had to suffer an absolute deluge. Literally. Guess anyone who made notes would have had flashbacks to games at Chelmsford back in the past (remember them? They were our big rivals once).
As anyone who picked up today’s Daily Star will know, your editor was at Portsmouth vs Brizzle City on Saturday, and a thought occured to me while driving away from the game about us, and perhaps explains some of the results we’ve managed to scrape out.
How much have we relied on keeping much of the squad that has been with us since the Conference seasons?
I say that because only last week Pompey had to get rid of Stephen Henderson and Haydon Mullins to save on their wage bill, and you can check back yourself to see who else they’ve needed to release just to stay alive. They tried hard on Saturday, but the heart of that team is being drained out and it’s likely they’ll be in the JPT next season.
When you look at our starting XI on Saturday, even with the changes made during this season, there’s five players who were with us at Eastlands and four more on the bench. That’s been the case for most of this season, and if you look at the team before the January window it wasn’t so unusual to see eight starters who were playing against the likes of Histon.
That squad – hell, that unit – still remains a very tightknit one (though some reports post-Eastlands suggest it was perhaps a bit too tightknit…), and one may start to suspect that because of that it managed to dig itself out at Crewe, and at Gillingham, and apparently came close to doing so at Hereford and at the Memorial Stadium.
Our weaknesses have been very well documented this season, but we’re still closer to safety than not, and perhaps that’s why. Which does however cause another headache to overcome in the summer – what do you do with this unit?
It’s fair to say that some players who have been here even when we were part time in the Conference won’t make it with us. Many of them went during January, but there are still question marks over whether the likes of Luke Moore, Toks, Hatton and Ricky Wellard are going to go the next step. If they are all deemed surplus to requirements come May 6th, that’s a lot of the Conference side gone.
The best two players from that time still with us have been Seb Brown and Sammy Moore, and you can bet the latter has been scouted a lot during this season. It would be impossible to think that somebody won’t bid for him in the summer. Should we be tempted, that would be as important as losing Steven Gregory. One suspects we never properly replaced him this season, and we’d find it harder to replace the man who made “yer know” a staple of post-match interviews.
With this in mind, do we find that we have to do less of a cull than we otherwise expect? And by that, rather than replace them wholesale like we’ve done in the past, we ease them out slowly? We (more than likely) won’t have Pim, Billy Knott and George Moncur. Chances are we probably won’t have Sammy Moore and Jack Midson either – if we do, it won’t be without a fight – and we have to build half a new team as it is come the summer.
Whoever our manager is has got a very big task ahead of him anyway. He either has to keep the unit together, despite many of its individual players not being L2 standard, or he has to break it up and risk taking away that ability to bond and fight back that being together for so long brings. The latter will be inevitable, of course, but it’s something that will be painful to do and may not be 100% successful.
One thing is certain, this summer won’t be a time for the more faint hearted Womble. Let’s just hope that the end of this season turns out to be a bit more relaxing than it may threaten to be…