It’s the FA Cup first round draw.
It’s York City.
And a week before we’re due to face them in the League at Bootham Crescent, too.
At least it wasn’t Franchise (come on Cambridge City), or bloody Stevenage again. But it’s a definite “hmm” of a tie – it’s not glamourous at all, we’ve never won there in the AFCW era (and in fact had some absolute shockers there), and it’s a perfectly losable tie.
But then, under NA, we might have found enough resolve by then to go there and do something.
See, these are the sort of games where we have to start to learn winning – or at least get a draw out of. That applies primarily to the League, but given we’re a club that needs a good FA Cup run for a good few reasons, it applies to this game as well.
If I was our boss right now, I would be telling our players already to use this game as a good test of their mettle. A final examination, if you wish to call it that, to decide whether you want to remain with us in January.
Do like we did against Bradford last year, and that will mark a few cards for good. But if we go into tie believing we can win, that we can do it, and we can stop being intimidated by going there, then that’s going to be another step along our road to rehabilitation.
No, I would have preferred a nicer draw, too, but this should be taken as a good opportunity for us. It won’t have the emotion/headfuck that Franchise would have had. Playing Pompey or Sheff United would have probably made us too over-excited for our own good, and I would happily not draw a team in lower leagues than us for a good while yet.
Just hope that with the amount of travelling we’ll need to do (York twice in seven days, inbetween Exeter at St James Park), the club have found a few more quid to get a more comfy team bus. We’ll need it.
Anyway, all this has taken away from the report that Warton Womble did for the Fleetwood game yesterday, so read it below the line if you haven’t already.
Where do I start with Cod Army 1 â€“ 1 Fish Fingers?
The positives far outweighed the negatives, although Iâ€™m comparing what I saw today with my last two games (Bradford and Burton â€“ boy do I know how to pick â€˜em!) so quite frankly they couldnâ€™t have got any worse.
However, the â€œNeal Ardley Affectâ€ seems to be in full swing; certainly, the defence seem to have been introduced to each other, which is a start. Curtis Osano started and played pretty well, although was slightly culpable for their goal.
That they scored at all was rather annoying: the stats read that they had 5 shots on target, but I donâ€™t remember Seb having much to do all game.
We started to win the ball in those 50/50 challenges and seemed to have a bit more guile too. We won our headers, and when we got the ball down, played some really attractive football. Stacy Long finally looked like someone youâ€™d want to sign, and even Will Antwi appeared to have played football before. We also looked much stronger as a team, pressing in midfield and forcing errors.
The kind of stuff weâ€™ve been asking for sinceâ€¦ well, for the last few years at least.
We started brightly, and despite losing the first goal, continued to compete with a side nearly 20 places above us in the league, although clear-cut chances were few and far between. Less fortunate was the injury to Sammy Moore, who was replaced after 20 minutes with a knock to the knee, by Tooks.
The second half saw us press more, and we upped the tempo, forcing more chances and their keeper into action. Indeed, the ball was in the net with a Jack Midson header ten minutes after the restart, but the goal was ruled to be offside. But the away end sensed a goal was in the reckoning, and the players started to believe it too, and another goal seemed likely.
And it arrived with an admittedly fairly soft free kick being awarded for a foul on Byron Harrison just outside the box. Tooks swung it in, and Byron met it with a powerful header, but in truth it was no more than we deserved.
Unfortunately, the equaliser being found, we just took our foot off the gas a touch, and didnâ€™t look quite as strong for the next 10 minutes. Even so, our more robust defence were rarely troubled, and there was a sense that we could go on to win it.
But we didnâ€™t.
And thatâ€™s the problem. We may have sorted out our defensive frailties to a degree, but we still have trouble finding the back of the net. Again, according to the BBC, we had 19 shots, 8 of which on target, but still only scored one. At the moment, Byron is in form, with 4 goals in 4 games, but what has happened to Jack Midson? The guy couldnâ€™t stop scoring last season, but aside from the goal which was ruled offside, he seemed to have another quiet game.
Not because of the service from midfield, which wasnâ€™t too bad without being outstanding, but because he seemed to be dropping more into midfield himself. Now whether this is part of NAâ€™s master plan, or whether Jack has simply got fed up with the lack of service and decided to do something about it , I donâ€™t know, but either way it isnâ€™t working, and he must be fed up about it.
And wouldnâ€™t it be nice if one of the midfield scored? Our last attack saw Tooks in space but ended up with nothing, and that situation has to be improved.
Plus Points: The defence looked much, much stronger, and the pressure in the middle of the park when we were without the ball made us look like a different team to the one I saw at Bradford 7 weeks ago. Stacy Long played some good football in the middle of the park going forwards, Curtis Osano, George Francomb, Steven Gregory, Tooks, in fact most of the team had good games. We didnâ€™t lose.
Minus Points: We didnâ€™t win either. We have to start winning games like this, when we are by far the better team on the pitch. We conceded first, and within the first 15 minutes too â€“ NA has to fix this. Their goal was pretty sloppy really, and is the kind we concede on a weekly basis. When is our back 5 going to coincide their good games so they all happen at the same time?
The Refereeâ€™s a: I didnâ€™t want to mention it earlier because it sounds a bit like making excuses, or sour grapes, but that had to be one of the worst examples of refereeing Iâ€™ve ever seen. It comes to something when we cheered for an entire minute and half when he finally awarded us a free kick. I lost count of the number of times Jack or Byron was man-handled and dragged to the floor, only to find the free kick going against them.
How offside Jackâ€™s goal really was may well be a bone of contention â€“ I donâ€™t think there was a lot in it, put it that way. But truly, I hope he chokes on his fish supper as provided as part of his bung from the Cod Army. I hope he changes his name to Thrush, because heâ€™s clearly an irritable cunt.
Them: Fairly poor to be fair, with little threat up front. Not your usual big bastards in the north, but equally, took their chance when it came. Canâ€™t really see them maintaining their current position with performances like todayâ€™s but perhaps it was an off day.
Point to Ponder: Some of the crowd were asking for Jolly to be brought on in place of Jack â€“ not a move I would normally think of I must admit. However, I was a bit surprised at the substitutions or rather the lack of them. Fenlon was replaced with 15 minutes to go, and that was it.
Pushing for a winner, a change might have been just the thing to ensure victory, but NA left the team largely untouched and the formation just about the same. Is this a sign of something to come? Is this a sign of a lack of tactical awareness? Or a lack of strength in depth on the bench.
[SW19 note: One would hope it’s the last one of these – remember that NA knows he has to win games but he’s still finding out who in the squad can do what].
Oh, and wither Warren Cummings? With his name not being even on the team sheet, is this the end of his career as an AFC player? I canâ€™t see him fitting in to this team, thatâ€™s for sure.
Threeâ€™s a crowd: A gate of 2,547 is hardly bursting the seams, and our away end looked relatively healthy â€“ certainly better than some away ends in League 2. Not convinced about their ticketing system though â€“ give me a body behind the turnstile.
Anything Else? I really hope this is the start of something new, something good. And the fact that we havenâ€™t won this, the fact we havenâ€™t had the new manager bubble, is, I think, a pretty good thing.
Because instead of papering over the cracks, we are seeing progress. Progress in the team, progress in the football, progress in the mind-set of the players. If this had been under Terry, Iâ€™ve no doubt we would have lost, probably by a couple of goals.
In the end, you could argue we should have won it. And this against a team currently third in the league. Iâ€™ll take a slow start for a long run of form in the future (and if youâ€™re struggling to remember when we last put together a run of any sort, read the last post).
In a nutshell: Iâ€™m finally confident weâ€™re not going to lose our league position â€“ hurrah!