It’s taken at least a month and about ten games longer than it should have done, but after looking at the League table it may well have finally happened.
We are safe.
OK, there’s always a “but” here – no doubt some team in this division will suddenly find their biscuit tin is empty and go into liquidation. And you could bet Jason Prior’s BUPA bill that it will be somebody who only we in the bottom eight beat home and away. Either that or else we find out that we signed Kieran Djilali without ticking the right box…
Assuming none of that happens, we can finally relax and become demob happy. While most of us would have been happy with 17th this season, we’ve definitely had our eyes opened this campaign. And not just through having something large and blunt shoved 45 degrees anally up us.
Let’s face it – we got found out big time this season. Squad wise, tactic wise and club wise too. Which puts a nail in the lie that the top eight clubs of the Conference could replace the bottom eight in L2 – they can’t. We proved it. Perhaps top three in a good year, but the deadwood of L2 has been flushed to the fifth tier of English football.
Before your editor lost the will to live, SW19 tried working out how we would have been if the post-Eastlands/being-in-the-Football-League bounce hadn’t happened. I only bothered to compare it with Barnet, Macc and Hereford, and I’ve doubtless got a sum or two wrong, but if you took away the results up until October 15th (when we beat Morecambe to go third), this is how these teams would look at the moment:
Hereford – 30 points
Barnet – 28 points
AFCW – 25 points
Macclesfield – 19 points
Sure somebody with more patience can work out the stats for the likes of Daggers and Plymouth, but if these are the worst four post Oct-15th then it proves how much we slumped.
We were very, very lucky this season. We stayed up but that’s all we did. We won’t be so fortunate next time round without some serious rethinking, and even with the reason (excuse?) of a tighter budget there is no justification for half of what we saw this season being repeated.
In other words, it’s time for AFC Wimbledon to grow up.
Still, that’s for the summer. It’s somewhat poignant that the point we got to guarantee Carling Cup football next season was at Crawley. Am I right in assuming this is the first time we’ve come away from there without a loss? Ever? Hell, we even lost in a PSF there after being 3-0 up…
[UPDATE: I forgot about the FAC game in our first Conference season where it went to a replay at KM, where there remains some “debate” to this day over the crowd…]
It was the first game since their attention seeking ex-manager waddled off to Yorkshire, and by the sounds of it we made plenty of reminders about it. The highlights on the BBC made it look quite even, though according to those there (hello Mr Bassey) we were on the back foot for much if not most of the time.
Sammy Moore’s strike was good, but needless to say there was nobody within 15 miles of their goalscorer. While I could do with the break anyway, I’ll be glad when the season ends so I don’t have to write the same shit about our defence for three months.
The big talking point was Prior’s injury, and one suspects he may end up being a Ross Montague type figure – we’ll never know what he can be capable of because he spent too much time on the injury table to get into the swing of things. His recovery is key here, but if it really is a double leg break then it could be a bit nasty for him.
Those there (hello Mr Bassey, again) suggested there was a fair bit of intent. Having seen it on the highlights, it seemed like a tackle from a brainless cock more than anything – his reaction suggested that he didn’t really comprehend what he did. That’s small comfort for Prior, of course, and it makes the shopping list in the summer a bit longer.
Seems like the hosts were their usual selves, with their PA guy being petty at our expense. Then again, didn’t we do a “suitable” playlist at the reverse fixture? While Crawley’s heart beats non-league, and they’ll always be Woking with money, we have our moments of immaturity too.
It looked a decent turnout our end, although it would have been even more had people not had an aversion to going there – quite a few “I’m not putting money in their pocket” type comments beforehand, although it does illustrate that even with our run of form, and with lack of motivation for going to Sussex, we still have a turnout that many teams in this division would love.
The novelty will wear off in time, but this was the first real test of if we’d turn up to an unpopular if familiar venue. We passed it.
Anyway, we could scupper their promotion push if Torquay and Shrewsbury do us over, so we just approach those games in the same way as the others. It does seem that the general distaste for Crawley is still there post-Evans, and they’d be happy to put up with them at least twice more next season if Project Promotion gets scuppered.
One wonders how long Steve Coppell will be there, or if he is how much of that squad he can change. At least if we do make a bid for any of their players in the summer we won’t get turned down out of spite now.
And now we’re safe, we can also start looking at next season’s opponents. It’s a welcome (?) return to Fleetwood, so that’s a fair few B&Bs in Blackpool booked. Hopefully they’ve got the trams running there this time. One wonders how they’ll do, but as they’re probably going to splash the cash they can get away with it.
If nothing else though, at least we can remind them of the playoff semis.
Speaking of the Conference playoffs, if there’s any justice Wrexham will be celebrating at Wembley like we did at Eastlands. I really don’t envy any team in them. As we know ourselves, to go up takes having the right squad at the right time with the right form. I don’t miss those days, and I never EVER want to be in that division again.
Providing the ticket prices aren’t last year’s uber-rip off, your editor may be tempted to patronise (in both senses of the word) the Conference playoff final. Even if it’s only to see whether the Blue Square adverts are still as tawdry as ever. It would certainly be nice to walk away from Wembley knowing that for me, the result doesn’t really matter beyond planning away travel.
People may argue that there’s a call for a third promotion/relegation spot. I happen to think they’ve got it right as it is – as said earlier, there is a much bigger gap between the Conf and L2 than people in non-league think. The teams that would normally have kept even this AFCW side in comfortable mid-table in previous seasons are in the BSP these days (and makes TB’s pre-season “deadwood” comment even more clueless).
The likes of Kiddy, Southport and even York would probably struggle if they go up, at least without serious rebuilding. Come to think of it, Wrexham and Mansfield need to as well. And as for Luton…. With that in mind, letting a third Conf team up isn’t really going to improve L2 these days. The teams down there can go through anguish for a few more seasons yet.
Mind you, your editor thinks that they should bring back one-up-one-down. That is, if we can’t have re-election again.
As for L1, some intriguing teams there. Though I’d like to somehow see Chesterfield get out of it and Orient/Wycombe to go down. Nothing against those two sides at all, but there’s a possibility they’d be evening games for us, which will please your editor immensely.
Rochdale? A nice trip to the North West, and no doubt there’ll be plenty of metaphorical (and literal) 69ing between the DT and the Exeter City trust next season. What it does highlight though that if the gap between the Conf and L2 is a big one, it’s a small step compared to the one between L2 and L1. Both Wycombe and Chesterfield went up automatically last season, and you wonder what will happen to Stevenage once the Westley effect finally subsides.
While we’ve yet to become a bona fide Football League club in the AFCW era, it does show what you really have to do to push ever upwards, and we’ll get a few more reminders of that in 2012/13.
But at least we have League football next season…