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Goodnight, Wombles


Sometimes, I think the Football Gods decide to pick random weekends purely to piss you off. After Gas 3 Wind Power 0, yesterday was definitely one of them.

Forced diversion off M4? Check. Journey taking over 90 minutes longer than it should have? Check. Trying to find a parking space? Check. Migraine inducing sunlight directly in the eyes? Check. Dodgy ref? Check. Going a goal down early on? Check.

Going two goals down early on? Check. Looking completely fucking useless? Check. Red card? Check. Late penalty conceded? Check. And to cap it all off – massive tailbacks on the M4 coming back? Checklist completed.

At least it didn’t rain.

There’s no other ways of describing this – it was horseshit. And yes, I know that the referee was a cunt, and I know that if Smith had got that penalty early on things would have been somewhat different, but we really did get what we deserved.

OK, we also had a fair bit of possession in the second half, but if we were still playing down there as you read this, we wouldn’t have scored. Too much trying to walk the ball in the net, too little cutting edge.

Mind you, if the Brizzle Rovers groundsman wants any bumps flattened out, just ask George Porter to run around on them for half an hour. The amount of times he’ll throw himself to the ground in that time will make it look like a bowling green.

To be honest, there’s nothing particularly positive to come out of yesterday. I can honestly say that was the worst performance I’ve personally witnessed this season, and judging by some post-match vox pops, it was true of many other fans as well.

Actually, there is one positive – we haven’t played this badly this season, and we were due a proper stinker. See, we’ve had games where you feel we got away with it a bit (t’Stanley), or games where we’ve managed to come back (Scunny), or games that were instantly forgettable (Daggers last week).

This one had no excuse, or nothing to cling onto, and therefore we have to reboot ourselves. I’m in two minds whether not having a game next weekend is a good thing or not – we have to wait until Mansfield on the 14th to get this out of our system, but the break (physical and mental) will do us good.

And it won’t be the worst thing in the world to spend two weeks brooding about this performance and result.

Has it been coming? I suppose it has, although at least you know this ain’t last season. We can improve, and most likely will. That said, it’s brought up some issues that thankfully we only have a month to put up with if it does mean a dip into the transfer window.

Porter was embarrassing yesterday, and maybe it would have been best to keep him on and get the inevitable red card? No wonder the home fans were giving him abuse as he went off, he can’t say he didn’t deserve it.

His saving grace is that he’s young, still needs to mature and it won’t hurt him to find out the hard way that in professional football, you can’t act like the whining petulant teenager whose bird has just dumped him.

When he ran into the box when he had two different opportunities to shoot, and instead lost the ball and, ahem, tried for the penalty, it was like looking at a younger relative shitting its pants at a party…

Mind you, the rest of our midfield isn’t much cop right now. Harry Pell plays like somebody whose early-season hype went to his head a bit. He’s practically a different player at the moment, and not in a good way. Sammy Moore is the best of a bad bunch, but it wasn’t so long ago that he was getting the nickname of Sammy Sideways.

At least those I’ve singled out are playing games. Francomb wasn’t even on the bench (neither was Feeney, although one suspects he’s here because of the amount of games we have around Xmas/NY). If he’s injured, that is one thing, but if it’s form…

Yesterday was a shit sandwich of a game in so many ways, but Midson came on and yet again had the touch of Emperor’s New Clothes about him. It doesn’t stop his name getting chanted when he’s warming up, neither does it stop him with that sly applause suggesting that he thinks he should be playing.

But the Yanks have a good expression for this kind of thing – what have you done for me lately? And given some of the comments made about playing Midson (or not) yesterday, I can’t help think that people want him to play for the wrong reason – yes, he scored THAT penalty against Fleetwood, but that was about seven months ago.

At least our defence is generally solid enough, shipping three goals yesterday notwithstanding. And it’s nice that it’s not a major concern most weeks. And to be honest, we don’t need major surgery – just something a bit extra….

Plus points: 2359 yesterday, when the day was about to be over.

Minus points: There’s not enough hours in the day to even begin to answer that.

The referee’s a…: “He’s won 20 grand, he’s won 20 grand. Your friend in Malaysia, he’s won 20 grand”. True, I don’t like blaming officials when we play poorly, because it sucks of sour grapes, but sometimes with the news this week and one or two instances in non-league we’ve seen over the years, you can’t be blamed for thinking “hmm…”.

Speaking of this subject, did Dean Mohareb ever do one of our games? His name seems familiar…

Them: Probably had their best game in a while, and typically came against us. What makes it worse was that they were understrength too, but it was their day.

They wanted it more, they got the bits of luck with officialdom, and of course their opponents helped immensely. That said, you suspect a less willing side will total them sooner or later.

Given that your editor shares the same surname as a former Brizzle Rovers owner or two, I was a bit nervous of putting my name to their new stadium petition (and I can fully see why they want to move from the Memorial). Still, they appreciated it, and chances are we’ll be asking the same favour before long…

Point to ponder: Do we have an attitude problem whenever we play struggling teams? You can do the research yourself, but it’s surely more than co-incidence that once again, we play a team bang out of form and turn in yet another stinker.

Never mind the allegations of match fixing against referees, I think we ought to start looking at some of our own players.

Seriously, we do have an almighty mental block that I can remember as far back as the WFC era. Is it sheer complacency? Or something more between the ears?

Yesterday was a good case in point. Once Smith got that decision against him early on, it was as though we just completely lost our heads and never recovered from that. Which does suggest a mental weakness within ourselves. We should have been good enough to overcome that, but we didn’t.

When you do that against an in-form team, it’s bad enough, but it really leaves a foul taste in the mouth when it’s a) against a team down the bottom, and more galling, b) it happens virtually every time.

Reading the OS headline of “Rovers Too Strong For The Dons” really grates this morning, because this was a Rovers side with suspensions and a league position that ultimately didn’t lie. But they made us look chumps, and I feel like one reading stuff like that this morning.

We play Mansfield next, who have lost their last four games. They would have to be clear favourites, despite the fact we’ve won every single game against them in the AFCW era, because you just know our lot will go into the game thinking they just have to turn up and win.

SW19 did have a pop at NA for automatically blaming the players against Dagenham, but he was justified to do so yesterday. Though I’d rather our apology comes against the Stags on the 14th, with the football equivalent of forced sodomy.

One comment from our manager’s fury yesterday, that sticks out, was this:

“This league is unforgiving but we didn’t do one element of what League Two demands. You do the stuff that League Two demands and then the rest comes off the back of that. We didn’t do one of them.

You have to wonder if some of our players still aren’t quite League Two standard. At least, mentally…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Large immobile load on the westbound M4 causing massive tailbacks before the game. I haven’t the heart to make a Byron Harrison joke. 2) We Will Rock You on PA before the game, Glad All Over after it. If yesterday wasn’t bad enough, being reminded of Selhurst Park was the extra fly on the turd.

Anything else? After a good decade of waiting to be one, I guess this is what it feels like to be a proper mid-table side. A couple of games of genius that make you think that the playoffs would be a mere consolation, and games like yesterday that get out the roadmaps for Braintree again.

And a fair amount of meh inbetween.

The stats show we are exactly where we deserve to be. We’ve won two of the last five games, and we’ve lost one in that time too. Did somebody say “draw specialists”?

When you take all the seasons of 2002 to 2013, this really has been the first season I can remember where we’ve been good enough to be comfortable without chasing the playoffs. Maybe the first Conference season or the first Football League season, but while we remember the collapse in the latter one we were showing serious relegation form at the end of the first Conf season too.

Despite yesterday, there’s still too much strength from us to, in all likelyhood, repeat that. I’m in no doubt that the players will have a hellish fortnight in training, as they well deserve, and you can bet the plans for the January window are well under way.

It’s unlikely we’ll see wholesale changes, because we don’t need them this time round, but I would guess there still could be 3/4 rather than 1/2 new additions. Some will be enforced, but equally some will be part of the work-in-progress mantra.

Stinkers like yesterday have thankfully been few and far between so far, and even in games where we haven’t been particularly good we’ve been able to get draws and the odd win. That’s why getting gubbed this weekend has pissed off so many – we can do better, and we should do better.

If you look as us objectively, we’re a good two (or more) levels away from being a bona fide playoff side, but we’re also a good two (or more) steps away from being the shit we were last campaign. Despite the real issues we have against teams doing badly, we are still expected to beat Mansfield.

We’re a so-so side, and most of our fans are coming round to being one. Granted, you get the hysteric knee-jerkists after defeats like this, this place not excepted, although equally you get those whose giddyometer skyrockets whenever we have a good result.

Not always the same people, either.

When you’ve had rollercoaster seasons for the last decade, being ordinary does come as a shock to the system on occasions. That said, we’ve been quick to adapt to whatever division we’re in (although I think we’ve found the League Two the hardest of the lot, mainly because our amateurism hasn’t matched this division’s professionalism), and it was very telling that some people yesterday were moaning about how mid-table we look…

One other thing – this weekend last year was THAT game against THAT club at THAT shithole. And looking back, it didn’t do us any harm.

Those who wanted to move on (ie most of us) got the chance to do exactly that, and the club got rid of the albatross around its neck.

These days, one tends to ignore them but you can’t help smirking at their current plight. And it will be a shame if their slimy Scouse spiv of a manager is replaced by somebody competent and likeable.

And who knows, perhaps we will get a chance next season to finish the job against them next season in League Two…?

So, was it worth it? No.

In a nutshell: Fuck off.