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Ecky Thumped

Wait, what?

The fact that on this overcast Monday morning we’re sitting back thinking about our second win in a row, is not something any of us would have predicted after the Oxford debacle.

I wasn’t there, but SuperDonRiz was. My thoughts after the second line…

An industrious performance by the Dons, showing that the team spirit from the win at Torquay has created a momentum that we’ve carried forward to inspire us to another victory. Ardley set the team up with a plan against a free scoring Rochdale side.

From the start Meades and Long started snapping at the opposition forcing them to make mistakes and lose possession.

Our plan was clear, try and get the ball to Ajala or set up McCallum with a ball over the top. The latter proved to be more difficult than it looked, due to the eagerness of a trigger happy linesman.

This led to McCallum being isolated as Toks and Long were held up in a busy midfield. Although Long looked more happy in a holding midfeld role there was however a lack of creativity around that area.

Bringing Antwi back in seemed to provide a balance in the backline, His decisive clearances at Spotland were such a relief, from the more tippy-tappy approach we’ve adopted at the back and thus were well received by the travelling faithful (particularly after we scored).

Osano also stepped up his game, his cavalier sojourns and timed challenges on the right are evident of a player growing in confidence and where there may have been questions, of the gulf between conference and league that he has had to bridge, there is now potential.

Meades was in inspired form and as the game wore on had more or less free reign to charge up and down on the left. It does prove that whether we are a fan of the loan system or not Ardley’s choices (Ajala,Meades,MaCallum) have worked.

It’s a cliche but winning is a habit and we’ve started to win without being pretty and its just whats needed.

The key word here is “momentum”. We have managed to pull it around in a week to the point where we’re suddenly rising up the form table. Right now, there is a bit of hope, confidence and perhaps belief.

Wycombe on Saturday is going to be a massive test of that, needless to say. Our home form is such a shit sandwich that if Subway were to sell their goods it would be sold in party size.

It could derail the legit progress we’ve made this past seven days, and is something we really have to overcome if we’re to be in League Two again next season. Inbetween his transfer dealings that are likely to happen this week, NA should be ramming that down the throat of our squad – we’ve done the easy work, now for the hard stuff.

But at least we are finally – finally – starting to go in the right direction. They may well continue to be infant steps, but they’re steps none the less. This has bought us some breathing space over the transfers, which we still need to do. We’re fortunate that we aren’t hemorrhaging points to the degree that we simply had to get in somebody yesterday – this week won’t be quite so agitating to go through.

While the league table looks a bit better this morning, the stats haven’t lied. We’ve still got the second worst goal difference in the division, we are still too close to comfort with the drop zone, and we’re still impotent up front at home.

Not to mention the startling fact that has dogged us for a calendar year – the last time we won two League games in a row was the 13th March last year. And that was after THAT Plymouth game from last year.

Oh, and it was our first clean sheet since York away in November.

It’s far too early to say whether we’ve turned the corner, of course. There’s still some weak spots in some positions, and some very weak spots elsewhere (up front springs to mind for some reason). And I still have big doubts about the mentality of this squad, especially when the transfer window shuts and they’re not fighting for their careers.

Speaking of transfers, NA let a little thing slip last week, which seemed to go almost un-noticed. From the local Guardian:

“I have a number of players I want to bring in but how many and who, I am not saying because often these things have a habit of not working out.

“We’re working extremely hard trying to get things tied up. But in the next couple of weeks, if we got one or two from plan A, we’d be very happy.”

Hmm. Interesting that he has a Plan A of transfer dealings, which would tie in with NC’s “fifty players” shortlist comment. Maybe the last two games will make it slightly easier to “sell” rather than us being rock bottom?

After all, NA can say to a player this week that we’re a club who is moving in the right direction, and that player could be an integral part of pushing us further upwards. Remember that not only are pro footballers generally mercenaries, but they love having their ego stroked too.

Cynical? Yes, but so is football.

One has to contemplate who will come in, and no doubt the rumour mill will be churning away viable names, not-so-viable ones and some utter bullshit. I think I feel a classic Downfall parody coming on…

That was well over a year since I did it, but the sentiments are still the same.

We may continue to hear about ex-players returning, and perhaps that would be a step in the wrong direction? OK, I wouldn’t object to Chris Hussey, but if we were to look at the likes of Ajala, Meades and McCallum, they’re hardly dyed-in-the-blue-and-yellow-wool old boys. They have little to none of the emotional baggage that ex-players would have, and they’ve probably looked better because of that.

And by god I’d like to hear that all three loans have been extended for this season.

Are these rumours of Kedwell etc a case of Simon Bassey trying to bring in his old mates again? And if so, should we be going down this road at such an important time? Plenty of our supporters seem to be clamouring for Billy Knott to return. Well, guess what – he’s extended his loan at Woking.

To be honest, I would forget him from now on. If he wants to extend his loan down at Kingfield, he obviously doesn’t want to return. It’s odd that he went from Chelsea to Sunderland to us and then to Woking. And stayed there. There are plenty more young players of his ilk about who would be on Plan B or even Plan C of NA’s target list…

Also, am I the only one getting a bit fed up with Byron Harrison’s continued absence? Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on him, but at a time when we do need goals he does seem to be on the treatment table for a bit too long a time, if that makes sense. Midson seems to be on the bench, and with all the best will in the world we can’t rely on McCallum all the time.

Perhaps we’ll get some joy on that front this week, especially if we’re prepared to give NA just a bit more money than we would otherwise budget for…

Some final random thoughts. It was good to hear that we did battle, hassle them and – shock, horror – have a plan B for the second half. And it’s also great to hear opposition fans calling us shit and piss them off by us beating them.

OK, we are shit, as our current League position still painfully suggests, but somehow it feels right that we’re being slagged off again for the right reasons. Better than trying to be “noble” and nobody giving us respect anyway. The era of tippy-tappy football is thankfully dying off, and it won’t be missed.

While the caveats still apply about counting your swallows before the chickens have made your summer, or something, it’s great that we’ve shown the ability to go up to a hostile Northern outpost (or West Country) and not only get a result but to capitalise on the oppo being worse than ourselves.

True, we did that at Bootham Crescent, and we lost our way again pretty quickly after that. Although I think that was partly down to the Franchise circus around that time, and no – that still doesn’t justify December.

And finally, we may have an early contender for most mawkish  over-reaction of 2013 already. Here’s their manager:

We owe it to our fans to play better than that.  I said to the players after the game that is up there as one of the 5 worst days of my life and I can count 2 of those as when my mum and dad dying. This is how much it means to me.

I’ll give you a couple of seconds to remove your jaw from the floor.

Look, I know that we were bottom of the Football League before the game, but did we have that much of an effect on him? Did he have a bad experience when he was younger with some man wearing a Womble mask?

Jesus, and I thought the biggest threat to kids in Rochdale was Cyril Smith.

I think we ought to offer to replay the game and lose it, because it’s obviously going to cause him major psychological damage for the rest of his life if we don’t. And even so, it might not be enough to undo the deep scar he will forever carry with him.

McCallum should be apologising to him today for ruining his life. As we all should be. In fact, we should do a charity record for him for his tragedy we inflicted on him, because obviously the £2.40 we’ll raise will be adequate compensation for him.

I’m not sure what song to sing as an apology, but if we get Holly Johnson, the bloke from the Farm and one or two members of Cast, they’ll come up with something. After all, like the Rochdale manager, they are from Liverpool…