I have genuinely lost times I’ve either witnessed, or had reports sent to me, about away performances since we got promoted that showed us as shite. Leggy, unfit, clueless shite.
You know the sort of games I’m talking about – the Northamptons, the Exeters, the Cheltenhams, not to mention the fuckups at Port Vale and Chesterfield.
Which is why you are more than entitled to bask in TOWIE 1 Mastermind 3 today.
No, we’re still not out of the woods with regards to the drop zone, and I’d rather be gushing next week after victory against Aldershot and t’Stanley. But if winning against York was massive, this might have been the first sign of a legitimate step up to our survival this season.
And what a step it was – for once, we won by properly playing well, not just the usual hoofball stuff that teams down the bottom tend to do. I don’t think Southend could have handled us when we came out and went for them in the second half – with a bit more composure in front of goal, perhaps it could have been a goal-difference bonanza?
Seriously, we were fired up. We didn’t play like the whole world was on our shoulders – in fact, to steal somebody’s comment from last night, this wasn’t the victory-in-a-cup-match type feel that so many of our wins since our return to the FL were, but a proper win.
It was certainly the best performance I’ve seen from us this season, not that it’s saying much 😉 This was, after all, the first time I’ve seen us win on the road this season. But I’m also struggling to remember many more that were that genuinely deserved. And I mean from last time out, too.
The game itself? Well, their penalty came after what turned out to be their major spell of sustained pressure. The ref was giving them every single decision at that point, almost as though he had finally received instructions from on-high to complete the job. Mind you, I’d like to see the handball again…
That we quickly came back is certainly welcome, even if we make a habit of it, and may have ultimately won us the game. It boosted us up again, and I think we may have for once gone up the extra gear.
And I say that, because I’m sure you can think of a few games this season where we’ve gone 1-0 down and thought that because we hadn’t come back we missed another opportunity for some points.
I’ve only seen the Luke Moore goal on SSN this morning, and that was a good strike by him, but I think the important moments came after the final whistle. The genuine fist-pumping delight shown by Sully jnr was one thing, though the others were pretty pleased too.
But it was NA’s reaction that struck me most of all. Normally, he looks like a guy who keeps himself under control, and at times seems to give an impressionless disdain for various things that go on (look at how he conducted himself over the whole Franchise thing, giving the impression he couldn’t wait to get it over with).
Last night? Fist pumping, teeth clenching, more of a “get the fuck in” than a “thank fuck for that” response. And for him, it’s truly understandable – he’s had to do a LOT of hard work to even stop us being adrift, and he’s had to take some pretty harsh brickbats along the way.
Just read SW19’s comments after the Chesterfield loss as an example.
So last night was a moment of catharsis for him in a way, as though the whole project (actually, more like an urgent rebuilding job – we effectively had a second pre-season in November/December) has finally started to deliver for him.
The games in 2013 have been “his” team now, of the starting XI that lost to Southend 4-0 in November, only Meades started last night. Midson came on, and obviously Pim/MMK/both Moores are still part of the “old” guard, but this was otherwise a totally different set of players and it showed.
We will still have setbacks this season, although as long as we come through the next two games unscathed they might not be quite so vital. What is important is that after so long wondering when we’re ever going to kick on and start producing results, we may well finally be starting to do that.
No wonder our manager was so happy.
Anyway, a proper performance and a proper win. And as I got to witness it, a proper SW19 report…
Plus points: We won. Genuinely good all round performance. KSL. Youga. Nobody playing that badly. The reactions at the end. Doing it against a team in the top ten on their own turf. Results elsewhere going our way for once.
Minus points: Pim’s injury. Their penalty.
The referee’s a…: We were victorious, so it didn’t matter, but I’m sure he felt sorry for Southend a couple of times…
Them: Firstly, a massive thanks to all the Southend fans (and one Womble from Belfast) who helped shovel the snow off Roots Hall yesterday. Your efforts were much appreciated 😉
To be honest, if they can be a top ten side, then with the right rebuilding this pre-season (and staying up, obviously), so can we. Apparently, we’ve won more on our travels than they have at home this campaign, and apart from that spell when they scored, they really did look ordinary.
Or to quote somebody at half time, “we could nick this, they’re nothing special”.
Is this the same Southend that has gubbed us so many times? Either they’ve got worse or we’ve improved. Probably a bit of both, in truth. The rumour mill there suggests that Sturrock might be gone in the summer, and therefore they could be about to enter a world of hurt. That they keep putting off paying their taxes isn’t going to help them much, and perhaps we might be seeing a traditional League Two basket case situation against next season.
Oh, and one other thing – what a shame that Ryan Hall wasn’t playing. Would loved to have seen Youga attempt one of his sweeping “tackles” on the cunt…
Point to ponder: Whither Jack Midson? Either he’s the most super of all super-subs, or him and NA don’t get on too well. When he came on (forced) he was like a bulldozer – as though he had a point to prove. I doubt if I was the only one who noticed when he scored, he turned his back and did that thumb-pointing action to his name and number.
Which gives us a dilemma in the summer. IF we stay up, what do we do with Midson? Do we keep him on, in the current role he’s doing which may not do well for manager/player relations? He fell out with Chris Wilder in similar circumstances at Oxford, after all.
Do we sell him for as much money as possible, rebuild without him but lose somebody who can genuinely score goals? Depends if NA has already earmarked a player as good as Midson but without the, ahem, “difficulties” in the relationship. And for our boss to, more often than not, bench a player who can score goals does suggest something ain’t right.
Players and managers not getting on too well isn’t exactly a new thing, and them moving on is something every football fan has to get used to. But one does have to ponder where we go with him…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) The sight of our Football Factory tribute act (junior ensemble) was more cringeworthy than anything, though it was funny when the copper told them in no uncertain terms to stop the bad language – and to a boy, that’s exactly what all of them did…….. (2) Over 300 there from us. Is that good because it was an evening trek to snowy Essex, or is that bad because…. it’s a trek to snowy Essex? We made some noise though. And we didn’t need a drum. (3) With ten minutes remaining, about 10/15 unsold pies were left outside the tea bar gratis. You had to be quick 😉
Anything else? Do you think the squad are playing for their Football League futures as much as anything? Let’s be honest here – if we go down most of them won’t be snapped up by anyone in the 91 Club. Being at AFCW is for many of them their only realistic chance of being FL players.
For somebody like MMK, if we release him he’ll find himself in the Conference. Ditto the likes of both Moores, Toks, perhaps even Hussey. And to an extent (although this will be down to age), Alexander too. They have nine games left to not only keep AFCW in the Football League, but their own careers as well.
There are some squad members who seem almost certs to go out of the door in the summer, regardless of division. Seb Brown and Ruiz seem goners, and the likes of Prior and Kiernan just make up squad numbers now. Cummings is wishing that our old boss never did his homework on him (sic) and any “first teamer” who is playing in the Senior Cup games for reasons other than fitness should be phoning their agent afterwards.
We won’t miss the fringe players, but we have some interesting times ahead in the summer as we could find ourselves needing a totally new squad. We have at least five loanees who you would expect to be at least on the bench at the moment – Sully jnr, Meades, Darko, Dickenson and GA.
While I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see us make a move for at least a couple of them in the close season (if we stay up etc), we are likely to have to think about properly replacing them – being loanees, they’re not ours.
Some have been signed until the end of this season. Hussey has, so has Bennett and Youga. I would hope we would make every effort to sign at least the last two up for longer, in fact if we become safe any time soon we should make that our priority. I would hope we can get an extension to KSL’s deal sorted ASAP, if he’s also free in the summer.
Then there’s the contracts of some of the more established players. We know Pim is out of a deal at the end of the campaign (and if he’s after a new deal, no wonder he’s playing well. Be warned). I don’t know whether MMK, the Moores and the dwindling amount of those signed in the TB era who could stay are coming to the end of their two year deals, but one suspects NA won’t be basing his decisions on just the odd good game.
If we continue to play like we did last night for the rest of the season, we may not need a massive overhaul after all (although one suspects we’ll still get shot of a few players). And as said in previous updates, the big upheavals need to be off the pitch as much as on it. But if a lot of this squad is to be kept together, we’re going to need a lot of ink for signing the contracts…
So, was it worth it? Considering I was hoping for a draw at best…
In a nutshell: Don’t fuck it up against Aldershot