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Corn on the Cod

Blimey, another win, and at KM too? If we go any higher in the table we’ll get altitude sickness…

The last time I missed a game to service the nationals, I got the better deal. Yesterday, predictably, I didn’t. Although Millwall look better than when we played them last month.

Thankfully, Jampot was at KM for SW19, and here’s his report. My thoughts afterwards…

Keep on KISSing

I work for an organisation that absolutely loves TLAs. (Three letter acronyms). But after digesting our performance this afternoon at Kingsmeadow, that four-letter acronym KISS keeps popping into my head; let’s just KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid).

In fact we could all go out and buy t-shirts tonight emblazoned with ‘Keep Calm and Carry on KISSing.’ Because in the end it was the simple stuff that we did so well that meant it was Normal Business against Fleetwood 2 Sick to death of playing AFC 0. Clear the lines quickly and efficiently; keep the ball moving smartly; play at a reasonably high tempo; hit the channels if in doubt; push and ‘Harry Pell’ the opposition into submission.

At half time I was surprised we were 2-0 up. The half had been very even, and though both sides had created a half-chance or two in the first 30 mins or so, nothing had really tested either goalkeeper.

But then it was that Junior Brown who whipped in a cross from the right – about the only time he got away from Fenlon all game – resulted in a magnificent double save by Worner. But off down the other end; a corner and a flick on by Weston and handball! 1-0, coolly dispatched by Pell, silencing the sledging goalie! Then suddenly it was 2-0 with Smith ghosting in to covert Francombe’s shot that ballooned up with a flick-header that went embarrassingly through the goalie’s legs.

At half time there was a mixture of surprise, disbelief and worry. The worry was mainly centred on the fact someone else had been 2-0 up at half time last week. The surprise was the suddenness of the goals and the disbelief – well can you name without looking it up the last time we were 2-0 up at half time at KM?

[SW19 note: The answer is actually a lot more recent than you may think – Morecambe last season.  No idea about the time before that, although we did go into the break against Brizzle Rovers last October three goals to the good]

As it turned out NA wasn’t about to make the same mistakes with us as Scunthorpe had last week. We comfortably held Fleetwood at bay, producing a totally nullifying defensive performance like that against Wycombe, such I cannot recall Worner actually making a creditable save. And that was without arguably our best defender on the pitch.

Things seem to be coming together quicker than I expected.

Plus points: Worner’s excellent double. Smith’s poaching instincts. Pell’s penalty and confidence. The whole team playing well with no obvious ‘weak link.’ No shots for Worner to save second half. A straight back line that kept getting Fleetwood caught offside.

Minus points: Missing 4 clear-cut chances 2nd half. Failing to kill the game off. Disappointing crowd.

The referee’s a… typical League 2 ref with some good decisions and some totally baffling ones. Like booking Porter for a dive when he’d almost got away from their player and probably just lost his footing (though it looked like his shirt was being tugged). Usually linesmen seem to be there just to make up the numbers, but the ref was man enough to take the signal for the penalty from his lino. A lot seem to ignore them.

Them: Apparently stopped off at Franchise for a training session on the way down yesterday. ‘Honest guv, we didn’t know it would upset you?’ Hmm. Couple that with the recent article with their chairman about how great they were, and how fast and far they’d come (getting his facts wrong didn’t help as he had a dig at us) and it seems Junior Brown et al is just fed up with us beating him and his team every time! File under envious, with the ability to lose grace easily. Oh and dropping 3pts each time through a window.

Points to ponder: Was the selection of Fenlon and Francombe part of a squad rotation policy by NA?

It’s been stated on the OS that Francombe replaced Sheringham, who was injured, but surely the straight swap there was Midson? In the case of Fenlon, I wonder if his speed was what got him the berth opposite the Fleetwood-ed Junior Brown? If so it worked and he saw that player off, substituted.

Midson, on the bench again and reduced to an impact sub like Arthur, kept the tongues wagging. Maybe, or is it that NA is holding him in reserve knowing already what he is capable of doing.

Do our defence not like Worner? For the second week running he had the ball in control and a fellow player took it out of his grasp. No goal this week but …

How is it that our best two players on the park today were the two tallest? Maybe size does matter.

What is it with the doggy beards on players at AFCW at the moment? Don’t get me wrong, I’m bearded so I talk with authority of 40+ years. Is it a superstition thing they won’t shave them until we lose 2 games in a row?

Three’s a crowd: 3,744 with just 77 from Fleetwood. I had wondered if they’d even bothered with a coach, but I passed it leaving quickly as I left. Perhaps they knew really what was coming. Liked the WUP guest book comment that with those few fans, they perhaps saw Franchise as a kindred spirit!

Should we be worried yet that for the second week running we’ve had a sub-4K crowd? Not yet as it’s been an early start to the season; holidays are still taking place; and it’s been a Bank Holiday week with shit weather at the beginning probably making walk ups wary. Also neither Scunthorpe nor Fleetwood will have the biggest followings at KM this season.

Anything else? So it’s 5 games in and we have 10 points and sit 4th in the table. Yes, if you had offered us that at the beginning of the season we’d have ‘bitten your hand off.’ It’s so different to last year, but let’s see what the annual ’10 games in..’ brings us. But people kept wondering if we’d have done this at Exeter…

What surprised me today was that NA seemed at ease changing a winning side. OK, Sheringham’s injury forced one change but he had the confidence to put Fenlon on for his first start. That suggests good competition and competency. Francombe had a solid game and his ‘simple’ miss came nearly on the hour when he was tiring. Fenlon did well to last the whole game though.

And in a way that is what slightly frightens me. Others thought we were brilliant today. I just thought we were solid throughout and carved out chances as Fleetwood wilted under our sustained pressure.

At 2-0 we didn’t sit back and defend deep as we have in the past, we pressed on. Methodically, and not gung-ho. It was the persistent pressure that bore chances, not the cavalier attacking of last week. And that means that this team might still have a lot in reserve if we can sweep a moneyed side like Fleetwood aside.

We have depth in the squad; flexibility in players’ ability; a work ethic that rekindles WFC memories; and an attack that is proving potent as much as the defence is starting to look mean. We just kept it simple, stupid.

Was it worth it? Fleetwood=3pts

In a nutshell: KISS KISS BANG BANG (2-0).

My thoughts, without the references to kissing. Or beards…

Games and performances like this will only continue to give us confidence. It does sound that NA’s obvious desire to mix-and-match, out-tactic the opposition and impose ourselves ruthlessly on the games are starting to come together.

It’s all very well to talk about doing it, but you have to produce it on the pitch. And by the sounds of it, that’s what we’ve done.

We could have been third last night had Burton not scored in the zillionth minute of injury time at t’Stanley, but to be honest that doesn’t matter at this stage. In fact, one could argue that they kept the gap between us and the drop zone to eight points…

So, why are we doing so well right now? We’re not starting our star striker, there’s still some question marks over whether our goalkeeper and defence have fully bonded as a unit, and it took a double point-blank save by Worner to kickstart us yesterday, by the sound of it.

Firstly, I think it’s because of our planning in pre-season. We had a plan of how we wanted to play, and we stuck to getting players in who did that. And who weren’t chalk-and-camembert with each other.

OK, budgets are what they are, but they clearly weren’t pissed up the wall on a whim this time round. There’s obviously been some structure to approaching that, and it’s worked out well.

It is very easy in League Two to spend a lot of money on players who cost a lot but aren’t massively superior to those lower down the wage scale. Ask yesterday’s opponents.

But already, the notion that L2 is by and large much of a muchness, and you can do well with some proper scouting is starting to show. And this may lead on to the second reason why we’re doing well thus far.

It’s something NA hinted at during the last Meet The Manager – we (the supporters) may be predicting mid-table (or worse), but what have the players been told to target? Would it be a surprise if we really have been given the target of automatic promotion?

As far fetched as that may sound, especially given last season, it’s not totally beyond reach. Perhaps the players were told before a ball was kicked in anger than the division is much of a muchness, and if they work hard, play solid and not make too many mistakes, then who knows?

I suspect that we’ll start getting some poor runs of form soon, although this time around you sense we can pull ourselves out of it relatively quickly. And putting the points on the board right now is a very good start.

See, if we do lose at York and Chesterfield (both quite possible) it will hurt but it won’t be the massive disaster it has been previously. OK, we’ll have to up our game against Burton but we’ve already given ourselves some breathing space.

We’re currently in that situation where if we lose a game we just knuckle down and work hard to remedy it. Even losing the next three won’t be cataclysmic, although I’d prefer it if we didn’t.

Yesterday, and Scunny, was the first signs of our work ethic during the week paying off, and it will pay off many more times in the next eight months.

A few other thoughts : how dumb are Fleetwood to openly boast about training at Franchise? While a lot of that sort of stuff gets over-analysed, over-reacted about and over-played, it still gives the supporters at least another little reason to raise themselves.

I doubt if they’re the only ones who have ever trained there, and taking away the AFCW factor it’s a logical place for teams from the NW to stop off at when they’re in t’South. But if you’re going to fight an opponent who can beat you, you don’t shag his mum beforehand and brag about it.

Midson was on the bench yet again, although this time round it didn’t matter nearly so much. Stats don’t lie, and we’re scoring/winning games without him – but he’s a damn good back up if we aren’t.

Maybe this is the first time in a long while where we’ve got genuine strength in depth? A couple of people were suggesting our bench yesterday would have been first team starters in 2012/13, and they may well be right.

Kennedy apparently had a niggling injury, and Fenlon came in and didn’t do badly at all. Whether NA will use Fenlon as much as some want him to is unclear – insert caveats about overusing young players here – but if we do have a problem with Kennedy we’ve got a damn good backup.

Benno missing for the second week in a row hasn’t hurt us as much as we’ve feared, although I’d prefer him to start than not. And views aside on Sheringham, we’ve got Pell and Smith finding the net again…

Could we take this new found confidence to Griffin Park on Tuesday? I hope so – we need to get the Millwall feebleness out of our system and have a damn good go at it.

If we do that and we lose? It’s football. Rather that than the eunuchs we saw at the Den not so long ago. For this, Midson should start, and perhaps KSL and Arthur too.

Stats are great at times like this : last season, we won our third game at Theme Park KM (the place where all visitors go home happy) on the 16 Februaryand that was a bloody close one. This season, our third win at Fortress KM was on the 31 August.

Says it all really, doesn’t it?

Providing we do OK at home, we’ll be more than fine this season. Lest we forget we’ve still only lost once at KM in 2013. Odds are we’ll get a few successes away too, although I don’t think we’ve won on the road since Aldershot on the 16th March.

The most important thing right now is that we look like a team. A proper team. We sound hungry, and willing to improve – and a manager who has finally managed to start getting through to them.

This may not last, and probably won’t. But it’s a feeling we haven’t properly had for the previous two seasons since our Football League return, and it’s a damn nice one to have.

Now, can we do something about the cost of tea at KM…?