Hmph. Another Sunday, another day writing about how shit we are. Once again, we fall short, and it was no surprise that Scunthorpe did us over. It’s obvious there is a massive problem at the club, and it’s quite clear that instead of optimism, we’re now looking at the relega….
To be honest, I don’t think anyone beforehand would have expected that, let alone hoped for it. True, it’s a draw rather than a win, but given our collective mood before the game (and all week), it might as well been three points.
While your editor was at the Madejski seeing Reading score more goals in one day than we have in the last month or so, Secret Agent made the long trek oop Norf. Here’s his report, my words afterwards…
So we are officially over the Torquay game then after Scunny 0 Funny 0?
This was, in some ways, the game we needed after last weekend. As your editor said, we surely can’t be as bad as that again? We weren’t, and a number of factors contributed to that.
The return from sickness of Harry Pell gave Ards the chance to play his preferred midfield combo and the balance of the team looked, felt and played better as a result. This was a performance that resulted in a warm feeling of a job well done and not a backs to the wall effort either.
We had them more worried than they had us for a fair time, for all their swift interchanges and flicks (that came off, note for L Moore), they didn’t really give too much cause for worry, even after the unfortunate loss of Andy Frampton with a suspected dislocated shoulder with just ten minutes played.
Plus points: A clean sheet, away from home (again), against the league leaders. Tactics. Often spoken about as some sort of magical, ethereal mumbo jumbo, but yesterday it was clear what Ards was trying to do, and the players were on the same page as him. Aaron Morris (more later). The return of the Pell. Ross Worner – at least when he drops the ball, he is first to get to it (twice). A couple of very good saves too.
Minus points: No goals scored for the eleventh league game this season. This is getting to be almost a one-in-two occurrence. We did create some chances yesterday and could have scored, but we didn’t. We could get to 54 points retaining this stat, but we could get to 64 if we improve it just a bit.
Travel report: Our crew took three and a half hours to get to Scunny (accounting for a stop for lunch) and the coach apparently took four hours from KM. I can’t remember such an easy journey up and down the M1. Even the 50mph roadworks (with nobody working) were moving freely. Shame it can’t be like that every time.
Their place: In the pub we had lunch, there was a Scunny fan who was having a lunch party for his elderly mum’s birthday. He came over to chat with us and was saying how their new owner is married to the woman who has a majority shareholding in Wilkinsons.
Apparently they are looking to build a new ground a stone’s throw from Glanford Park as the value of the retail land there is very high. He said that the ground was only 25 years old but was outdated already. When we got there, I could see what he meant. It’s tidy in a lower league way and plenty big enough for them up to the Championship. But it has pillars at the front of the stands that are so 1950s.
The referee’s a ….. : Pretty decent actually. True, there were no really nasty challenges or contentious decisions and both teams played the game in the right spirit. Let the game flow and only dished out a couple of cards.
Them: Played with confidence as you might expect from a team at the top and having won seven of their last nine (and drawn the other two). Not short of firepower either. They had the top scorer in the division on the pitch with a returning hero up front, but left Deon Burton (December L2 Player of the Month), Gary McSheffrey and new Â£300k striker from Yeovil on the bench!
No shortage of options there. Organised and played with a degree of pace and good linking between midfield and attack. Don’t concede many either, but yesterday was the first time they hadn’t scored in a fair while.
Us: Better. Much better than last weekend. The loss of Framps knocked the fans and Morris took time to settle in at the back and on the right hand side of the three. To be expected really, as he’s played ten minutes last weekend, and an hour in an U21 game in the week in the past nine months.
Well, he grew into the game and looked comfortable on the ball, even going on a forward run looking to start an attack. With Framps out for a few weeks, he will get an earlier chance to show what he can do. This will need to be the case too because…..
Antwi watch: The man with the chant “Miskicks with his left, miskicks with his right, good job he can head it, or else he’d be shite” had a mixed afternoon. First half he was all over the place with the ball at his feet but second half he was solid and won his battles. I really want him to do well for us, but always think he’s just a step away from making a cock up that will cost us.
Point to ponder: Do you ever get the feeling that things are meant to be? I mean, we all see that we are better defensively this year for a number of reasons, Barry Fuller, Ross Worner, Andy Frampton etc.
By general consensus, Framps has been our best centre back in both boxes this season. Benno hasn’t always been fully fit, Antwi has only recently been playing again and Weston has been sent out on loan.
The difference between Aaron Morris (and Feely from Charlton) and those we have here is age. Framps, Benno, Antwi and Weston are all the wrong side of 30. None of them are blessed with out and out pace.
This needs sorting as we no longer have the use of Framps for the foreseeable future. Morris is not going to be rushed into playing too much, so what does this mean for Ards? It’s clear that we need another centre back and preferably one who is experienced at this level, has a bit of pace and is more like 23-26 years old. Eleven days to sort one!
Three’s a crowd: 268 of us in attendance. Fewer than I expected to be honest. Yes, it’s a trek, but it’s nearly all motorway and it’s closer than Fleetwood and no further really than Bury and Rochdale. Only their third home crowd over 4000 I think, so we must be a draw 😉
Anything else? Well rumour has it that a certain right winger who hasn’t played for a couple of weeks is no longer training with us. What will happen is anyone’s guess but it seems he is currently persona non grata.
So, was it worth it? Yes. A goal would have been the icing on the cake, but a very pleasant day out all told.
In a nutshell: Progress
At least this week will be a lot easier to swallow now. See, we can do it if we put our minds to it.
One suspects the players knew they had to do something yesterday, and by just about every account they did it. True, one swallow may make your summer and little else, but at least nobody has any excuse now for an important couple of games ahead.
For now, other teams higher up the table will go to Linconshire and get gubbed. Your editor saw them at Oxford and they did look like a team who will be in the playoffs at worst, so don’t underestimate this performance and result.
There are the usual “buts…” though. Once again, we couldn’t even score with a nymphomanic who has been on the Pink Venus, let alone being in a brothel. Wyke seems to have gone off the boil as quickly as he came on it, and Midson is, well…
Framps going off is obviously a bummer and a half, although it sounds like Morris only has match sharpness issues rather than being shite. One wonders who else we have trialling with us/on the radar, as we may well need to make moves for them sooner or later.
Not surprised to hear that Antwi has that chant, I think he’s the last remaining TB era defender, and it shows* – if we could get one or two more CBs in, I’ll be happy to see them start instead of him. We may have to use him until the end of the season, though.
* – as an aside, after seeing that NC has done well with our back line, doesn’t it make you realise how much of a hack Stuart Cash was as a defensive coach? Though your editor will *never* get over him being part-time in the Football League.
But in comparison to the shitstorm that this time last week was, these are mere co-incidentals. At least we’re not brooding, or being in blind panic now.
Yes, we’re going to need to add a couple more new bodies, but that’s nothing we didn’t know already. And it may force us into doing it this upcoming seven days. Not for the first time this season, we’ve bought ourselves time and a fleeting glimpse of confidence.
Let’s hope this time it lasts a bit longer.
Think of how on the floor we all were after Torquay. I think that might have been the turning point, because while we’ve lost games before this season, that seemed to hurt most of all.
It may not have been co-incidental that in his post-match interview, NA said the following:
I asked them to play like they were best friends with each other and they did that.
Hmm, I wonder why he used that choice of words? This might be a little reference to the rumours doing the rounds (and as mentioned in SA’s article above) about a certain right winger being on the fringes because “he’s trouble”.
You know, the certain flanker who acted at Brizzle Rovers as though his girlfriend had just been caught sucking off his best mate the night before.
There is the continued rumour that there was a massive training ground fight before the Torquay game, which tellingly hasn’t been shut down. It must have been bad enough to the point of breaking out like it apparently did, when you realise that it was after the Wycombe game where everyone should have still been buzzing.
We’ll never know how true it was, but it seems everyone was keen to point out how much more of a unit we seemed yesterday. And meaning it genuinely too.
One can only suspect (and hope) that a clear-the-air meeting or two has taken place this week. We are better than we have shown in recent weeks, but there’s always been that little *something* wrong since as far back as t’Stanley at home in October. Maybe it has required a couple of turds to be flushed out of the system?
Whatever it was, we can at least look forward to Exeter and Hartlepool. These are genuinely impossible to predict – neither are in the bottom four so they’re not guaranteed to beat us, but we’re at Theme Park KM : The place where all visitors go home happy.
One senses players and management know they have to start walking the walk a bit more, and none so than our boss. He got massive brickbats thrown his way after Torquay, and with no little justification either.
The comment made by SA that NA was making it clear what he wanted to do and the players being on the same page is an intriguing one, especially as that hasn’t often been the case this season.
Has our manager had the biggest of all reality checks himself this week just gone? His success or failure in management will come by developing an instinct for games. He’s intelligent and young enough to do that, but it’s something that can never be taught in academia.
Last week, he was a useless cunt with shit tactics and psychobabble instead of managerial talent. This week, he’s got a point at the divisional leaders and he’s a footballing genius again.
A change in direction is never a bad thing, of course. Case in point – you won’t know, and you certainly won’t care, but your editor was doing the rounds at Plymouth v Port Vale last week, and got talking to one of the other journos who was a Torquay fan.
He said about the recently departed Alan Knill that he was far too negative, and it affected the whole team – and that has been an accusation that has been levelled at NA in recent weeks.
Ardley does not only need to be more pragmatic and less idealistic/academic in his approach, but win the bread-and-butter games too. And that will only come by being more positive (and confident in his own ability?) and not take the Alan Knill approach.
If he does, his stock will rise again. He’s got a good chance to finally – finally – kick on and get at least one win over Exeter or Hartlepool. Preferably both. And if we finally – finally – do that, who knows?
On second thoughts, we’re playing Oxford on the 1st Feb. And we all know how well we do against them…
One final thing – the attendance was according to one Scunny fan on Twatter a “good” one by us. Which may say something about our own expectations of away turnouts compared to much of the division.
If we had been playing better, we would have taken a few more – I wouldn’t have blamed anyone yesterday morning for sacking off a long and expensive journey. Obviously, I would guess at 5pm yesterday they wished they’d hadn’t…