Blimey, a win. And a clean sheet. And by the sound of it, we even managed to play for more than a half at a time. It’s only taken us 44 games as well.
No, I wasn’t there – I was covering next season’s JPT opponents (Pompey, not Franchise) – but Jampot was…
And for once it wasnâ€™t us. It was them that suffered the paralysis of pressure.
In fact for the first time since probably the first game of the season this team had the opportunity to play with relative free abandon, knowing the result really did not matter to us one iota. Only â€“ in the first game of the season when no-one really knows how a team will perform in competition do you get a similar situation. And boy did it work for us yesterday.
I really did not expect Shard 2 Fawlty Towers 0. And by the very quiet subdued crowd coming into KM nor did a lot of others. Most like me expected Torquay to come at us; to put us up against it in their fight for the last automatic promotion slot with Crawley. But it never materialised.
Perhaps that was partly down to the fact that TBâ€™s honesty mode meant we fielded essentially a full first team; no youngsters therein but on the bench. Jolley and Midson up front, with Midson celebrating 50 starts for the Dons
Instead we reverted to the famous diamond formation (or at least that is what people are saying though I must admit I didnâ€™t really see it or twig it); we played with a pretty solid defence (although they had their customary one or two â€˜lapsesâ€™; and we kept a good tempo of pressuring the opposition across the whole pitch throughout the game.
And though for a while this game had â€˜Southend againâ€™ all written over it, that is loads of pressure and not much in the way of goal scoring opportunities, this time we continued on past the hour and played, perhaps for the first time this season the full 90 minutes. I certainly canâ€™t remember a sustained period where we were off the boil for some time (I stand to be corrected)
And, as others have pointed out when it came to man of the match there were quite a few contenders for the award. For the record it was given to Matt Mitchell-King which was not an unreasonable choice!
Plus points: A clean sheet; playing with free abandon; midfielders scoring; the growing maturity and confidence of George Moncur.
Minus points: Seb Brownâ€™s lack of command of his area; poor communication; a tendency to over complicate when the simple will do; tunnel vision (step forward C Jolley and B Harrison!); Jack Turner injuring himself in the warm up.
The refereeâ€™s aâ€¦: Much though he was annoying at times generally he did relatively ok. Missed a few, gave a few but obviously had a thing for naked footballers â€“ seemed to want to let the Torquay players take out guysâ€™ shirts off at every opportunity (noted he took G Moncur name after he took his shirt off after scoringâ€¦ see me later young man!).
Redeemed himself in my eyes with the booking of their No 9 for needlessly shoulder-charging Kiernan into the Main Stand boards and booking another Torquay player when the same player squeezed through and was pulled out. My tame referee behind me said he seemed hesitant in what to blow up for and what not too. Fair enough…
Them: Very disappointing for potential promotion candidates. Though they seemed able to pass quite well it was a very passionless performance by them. As the headline alludes to I think the pressure really got to them yesterday. I cannot think of more than two chances they had.
The first was a JS/SB fuckup, probably more the former than the latter where he left a ball either thinking SB would come for it or thought he heard a call. Seb saved at point blank a shot right at him. Then second half, when 1-0 up a free header over the bar. Apart from that I am struggling. And so were they, build up to the last third and then no killer blow. Most disappointing for the 610 that cameâ€¦ a long way back last night.
Point to ponder: Has TB finally sussed out this division? Maybe. For yesterday the team seemed as complete as it has been. And not surprisingly it played the percentages. Only played tippy tappy at the back when no one was pressing otherwise it was a safe size 11 through the ball and makes them worry about it. That occurred to me when, during the first half a ball down the JS side of the pitch, chased by Luke Moore put enough pressure on their player to slice the clearance, Just like we have watched with our players all season.
Perhaps finally we are beginning to accept or realise that the success you get in this division is as much down to the mistakes of the opposition as any good play you do. You have to force the mistake to get the possession to score the goal, and just think of the number of times we have made a mistake or surrender position cheaply to then go and see the opposition score. Football really is a simple game.
Finally, as this will probably be my final submission this term [SW19 note: don’t bet on it…], what of the players for next season? Well, on yesterdayâ€™s performance TB has a hard job. No one shown out as poor. But football lasts a season and a number of those playing yesterday have not performed well enough OVER THE SEASON to be certainties next year.
That to me is simply Brown, Moore S, Midson. That few are guaranteed. Of course we will have the likes of TB’s love child Sam still here, and Iâ€™d also keep Gwillim who I think has done just enough when he has played and then there are the ones for the future. But outside of that anything goes. But it seems the one thing not going is TB (unless he is pushed or he decides to step upstairs) and I donâ€™t think he will be pushed.
But it is certain that if we do not improve he will go and how he improves and it is measured must be clear from the beginning. For example for me he has to hit the same target of points next year as he did this after 10 games. If not we have gone backwards and, given our poor second half of the season form we cannot allow that to happen since we have no certainty in ensuring we play better next year at this time than we have now. So planning is going to be key to the club and next season.
But I suspect this close season will be possibly even more exciting and surprising than last yearâ€™s was, which considering it was our first League season to come, will be quite something!
Threeâ€™s a crowd: Well it was over the magic 4K again which, given the fun and games with the shut/open scenarios for the KRE, meant 4171 was quite respectable for, at least as regards us, a dead game. One or two nice chants going onâ€¦ â€œYouâ€™re going to the playoffsâ€ made me smile and though they brought a drum and drummer I cannot say I really noticed it. Mind you given the KM acoustics perhaps thatâ€™s not surprising given it was in the JS and I am in the main stand.
Anything else? Whilst we have been wrapped up in our little world of survival in this division, the likes of Southend, Crawley, Torquay and soon to visit up Shrewsbury have been plying their trade at the top of the table. And so far I have been not too impressed with any of them. OK, didnâ€™t go to Crawley and only going on hearsay but they werenâ€™t the potent force they were when they came to KM earlier in the season. And after our Volunteers away day at Roots Hall I said I couldnâ€™t see Southend going up. Likewise Torquay. Which leaves the question who?
Well, Swindon are now promoted and I cannot see Shrewsbury not getting the one point they need. Crawley look likely too and must now be favourites for the 3rd promotion slot. Which leaves us with the likes of Crewe, Cheltenham and Oxford as the other potential contenders?
Of them, the in form team must be Crewe and given their performance here, I can see them perhaps sneaking in all the way. Though Cheltenham look like they are getting their act back together just in time. Oxford just keeps stuttering. As momentum is the main criteria I think for play off success my guess will be Crewe make it through. We will have to wait and seeâ€¦
In a nutshell: Que sera sera, what might have beenâ€¦.
I don’t think there’s really too much more to say – in what has been an, ahem, “trying” season these kind of games have been very few and far between, so you can’t blame anyone basking in it this morning.
Makes you wonder why we couldn’t have done it earlier in the campaign? I’m sure our collective nerves would have been better if we’d done it at times in December and February. If we had, we wouldn’t even have been needing to have the kind of discussions about personnel and management we have done.
But we haven’t, and that’s what makes football such a confusing game – as soon as you think you’ve got the answers, the Footballing Gods go and changes the questions.
I suspect that many who played yesterday won’t be here next season, and are simply playing out in much the same way as you always put in effort at school when you knew the summer holidays were around the corner. I couldn’t help but notice last night how gushing some have been about Jamie Stuart for example – you know, the same Jamie Stuart who earlier in the season was the lumbering bully who seemed to get picked just because.
Is this a good end-of-season feeling? Absolutely. Will it change the increased professionalism we really need to undertake in the summer? Absolutely not. This is but one rare game of glee, and a contest you could add to the others of this ilk this season. You may even be able to use your other hand in counting them.
So why did it go right yesterday? Lack of pressure on us? Immense pressure on Torquay? Those there can answer that themselves, but it does seem we play better when there’s no pressure on us (in a way, there wasn’t that much on us at Eastlands), and we always seem to make life difficult for ourselves when we don’t need to.
Remember, had we done what we ought to have done and secured safety around the Hereford-Plymouth-Daggers Axis Of Shitness period, we would have done better against Oxford and Brizzle Rovers. And we wouldn’t be reflecting on yesterday and wondering why we didn’t do it more often.
Playing like this is all very well in an end-of-season jolly, but we will need to do it against the Northamptons and Accringtons if we’re to ensure 50 points are reached by February and not April in future seasons. Again, dare I suggest that if anything, yesterday simply highlights how much more we need to do?
Still, that’s for the summer and beyond, which thankfully isn’t too far away. At least it shows that on occasions the squad can do it. Perhaps we ought to play Torquay every week…