A few brief thoughts on last night against the Pilgrims…
– This game could have gone a lot better, but equally could have gone a lot worse. Especially when we went 1-0 down (and by fuck did we need to equalise quickly) and towards the end when we were clearly trying to relive last year’s debacle against them.
Something felt wrong last night, and I think it was down to that dreaded word of “leggy”. Although for once that really was the case and not down to covering up our poor conditioning.
Nobody really stood out, at least in a good way, and it’s only testament to our new found resolve that we didn’t lose this game. Us coming back from going behind almost immediately is a good sign in a game of few positives, and we’re going to need that for the next two months.
A team higher up than Plymouth would have beaten us last night. Nothing seemed to come off, bar our goal, and to be honest this performance has been coming for a little while.
– That just said, we perhaps shouldn’t really be too surprised at the shite served up. A cursory glance at how many games we’ve played this calendar month – and with Cheltenham being our eighth in four weeks – in addition to much of the playing staff having illness should have been the caveat.
Was there too much misplaced confidence from the fanbase beforehand? Talk of finally giving a side a tonking, people putting bets on us winning 3-0 – this is AFCW, that sort of stuff never happens here.
But there was a strange vibe before the game, a bit apprehensive, a lot of must-not-lose as opposed to must-win. A fair amount of fear, if you prefer. And I don’t just mean finding out MMK was playing right back…
– Speaking of our much-maligned on-field leader and all round “character”, he didn’t do too badly as a right back. Though with luck this morning NA is checking on how fit Meades is and possibly phoning around to get a proper right-back on loan.
I guess we lucked out as Plymouth weren’t quite good enough to exploit that weakness, but we didn’t half miss Meades. I’m not sure if he would have been the massive spark that was missing, but there is still a genuine level of discomfort whenever MMK plays. Even when he was shoved away from the centre of defence there was still something about him that made you wish he was injured again.
Luke Moore really looked like a lightweight, and I’m still not convinced that Sammy Moore is quite the L2 player that so many think he is. Pell was hit-and-miss, nobody up front really offered much – either GA/Midson or KSL and co – and it was only really the ever-dependable Bennett and Pim partnership that looked genuinely solid.
Could NA have done better tactically? Maybe, but if nobody on the field is firing then there’s not much more you can do. If we really did have the proverbial bad day at the office last night, at least we got a point out of it…
– What is clear is not only how tight this division is but how likely it’s going to go down to the last game of the season. We had a good Saturday and a not-so-good Tuesday. And for the next 12 or so games, that is how it’s going to be.
Barnet and t’Stanley won last night. But they won’t win every week, as we won’t. Which is why it might not be a bad idea to ignore the League table right now (unless you’re a masochist) – there are going to be so many twist and turns before the end of April that we’re going to need heart surgery in the close season.
After all, who would have thought Torquay would have got sucked into this dogfight a few games ago? What about Dagenham post-John Still? Our own form in the last four games reads as W2 D2, and we’ve managed to dig deep a lot.
Losses won’t do us any good, although that’s true for every side in the bottom six now. If we do end up getting defeated, it is vital that we learn how to bounce back in the next game. Which to be fair to us we did after a “frank exchange of views” after Chesterfield…
– The result wasn’t good for us, but it might have been even worse for Plymouth. They’re three points behind us, they have to face Barnet on Saturday (and no idea of the result we want for that one – can’t they both get points deducted for a 22-man brawl?) and we were there for the taking last night but they didn’t do so.
They were clearly up for it, and their away attendance is down to them having lots of fans in the South East, but I think I’d rather be in our position this morning than theirs.
By the sounds of it, they were doing what we were doing earlier in the season – they lost to Northampton because of a goalkeeper fuck up (sounds familiar?), then play well against a fellow struggler but get a point at best (sounds familiar?), and I haven’t seen their fixture list but apparently it’s against the top sides – so they need to put the likes of us to the sword but haven’t (AFCW and Plymouth – two clubs but the soul is one…)
We’re in a bad position but it’s still in our own hands. Although that’s what worries me…
– When I left KM, it kind of reminded me of the Aldershot game this year. Reading the report from that fixture, there are some words and phrases written that could have applied last night.
Words and phrases like “jaded”, “so many midweek games”, “still needing a good run of wins”. You can read the rest yourself, but that was back in November and it’s now coming up to March.
Are we actually going to make any fucking progression this season?
Actually, we have, and that’s the major difference between that awful game at KM on the 18th November 2012 and the awful game at KM on the 26th February 2013. Back then, we were clearly struggling to improve. That we made a little bit of progression of sort was, looking back at it, only miniscule.
It was almost as good as it was ever going to get back then, whereas last night, we know we can play better.
That’s important, and why the phrase “it’s the hope that kills you” is so poignant right now. We’re not guaranteed to stay up, in many ways the club will get exactly what it deserves if we do go down, but there is a lot more mettle these days than the waifs, arselickers and bullshitters that were playing for us back then.
I know us beating Dagenham seems so long ago now (even though it was only last Saturday – which shows how quickly things change at the moment) but the stat that three of those on Saturday started in the D&R game at KM really is startling.
That probably explains why we have only lost two games this year, although we need to ensure we don’t lose a third this Saturday. This isn’t the squad that I stated I hated after the Oxford debacle in December, at least a lot of it isn’t. It is a different set of players with a changed (and better) mentality.
Will it be enough to save us? We do still have a very good chance, even after last night, and I expect this bunch of players are sitting down right now and pondering how to get something from Cheltenham.
Which is something I couldn’t have said about the squad that played against Aldershot in November.
We’re going to need it, of course, although we won’t be the only ones who do. We’re no longer dire, just generally semi-below-average on a good day. But then, being semi-below-average will keep you in this division.
– All this said, we’ve managed to get through this month reasonably well. We could have been dead and buried, especially after the way we lost to PV and Chesterfield, and one feature of this campaign has been that in certain months we’ve almost played twice weekly every time.
We have that again next month as well, with York at home followedÂ by Southend away, then Shots away followed by Accrington away the following Tuesday. That’s real make-or-break stuff, and will probably define our season for good.
No doubt others will tell SW19 whether other strugglers have such a fixture congestion, but there is still an awful lot of football to be played. And cue the joke about a lot of it being awful…
– Finally, tonight sees the great AFCW tradition of a Senior Cup tie. Yes, your editor will be going, although apparently Barking doesn’t have a clubhouse (why?). So the “joy” of watching these sort of fixtures becomes a bit more stressful without any alcohol.
Obviously, nobody who played last night will be anywhere near the ground, although no doubt the fringers on the first team will play. And will remind us of why exactly they don’t start.
There’s also the “developmental squad” aspect to these sort of games, which will remind us too of how far away they continue to be from legitimate first team action, and why we really will need to start implementing an under-21 setup sooner rather than later. At least that will start to build that bridge over the gap, rather than the current vault-over-the-chasm-and-try-not-to-break-your-leg approach.
But these sort of games are fun, which is really why I go. It’s nice to win, but not too disheartening if we don’t. Plenty seem looking forward to Chipstead next week too, although I’m not sure what that is telling us….