Skip to content

…and Exhale


It was scrappy in parts, it was crappy in others, and somebody clearly upset the weather gods, but thank fuck for Jack Midson 2 Jack Midson 1 (OG). And yes, I know that Luke Moore got the first one…

Right now there is no way I’m going to complain about three points. I guess that today showed what our problem is in a nutshell – and what we can do to remedy it.

That problem is between the ears. We were deeply, grotesquely negative again in the first half hour. When we had our first attack after about 20 seconds, your editor joked that it would be the only attack we’d do all game.

After they – OK, after Midson – scored, I really wish I’d kept my big mouth shut. It was like Torquay again, and you really sensed the deflation of everyone that yet again, it would be another ruined weekend.

The notes I wrote really wouldn’t read well had we done so. I quote – “Deeply powder puff up front”.”Stuck in negative rut and can’t get out”. “Tactics again?”. “Not so much round pegs in square holes but NA is taking the holes and carving a rhombus into them”.

And yes, only on SW19 will you see the use of the word “rhombus” when describing how shite we were. This wasn’t firing blanks, this was us being so impotent we needed IVF treatment.

Then, we scored. A lot of people afterwards are saying how lucky we were. And to a degree, we were. But you make your own luck, and when Wyke decided to say “fuck it” and nab the ball off for him to cross to the grateful/gobsmacked Luke Moore…

After that, we were lifted. An extra yard of pace here, a couple more things coming off there. Half the battle really is psychological. No, we weren’t swashbuckling and making Exeter cry in the centre circle with our sodomy, but we were helluva lot better.

More luck for the second goal? Maybe, although Midson decided to stick his foot out at the right time it was again to KSL putting it in the mixer. Or to put it another way – we had another bit of a go.

And the weather after that second goal with live with me for a long time. Seriously, did the weather gods get upset that we’d buggered up their accumulator or something? At least the ref didn’t call it off.

No, I don’t like the way we sat back in the last ten minutes either, and taking Midson off was a strange one, but the way we knuckled down wasn’t luck – that was just sheer hard work and we got the most valuable of three points.

Which gets you through tough games, especially when you’re not on form. Lest we forget the last time we won at KM was Pompey – and that was the 16th November. So you can’t blame us for being a bit more conservative…

That doesn’t excuse why NA sets us out with the usual negativity to begin with. Arthur came on virtually by accident (at home, lest we forget) – if Kennedy hadn’t got crocked, we would have still tried to play as though it was 0-0 despite being 1-0 down.

So I hope our boss has learned something today – it’s a lesson that might well help keep him as a manager for many years to come. For Hartlepool, why not start Arthur? Most of the teams in this division aren’t THAT good, and as today proved, you never win games by constantly sitting back.

If he doesn’t work, then put KSL on later (he’s much better as an impact sub ATM). His pace scared the shit out of Exeter today, and it wasn’t much surprise he played a massive part in our second.

But today showed, at least in part, what we’re actually capable of. We did go a goal down, but we did come back. We did control a lot of the game. We did force a goal or two. And we did get three points at the end of it.

Football is a simple game. Isn’t it?

Plus points: We won. First win at KM since November. Nobody really played that badly after our first goal. Proving we can be positive. KSL. Arthur.

Minus points: First 30 minutes. Midson’s OG. Kennedy getting injured.

The referee’s a…: Blew up a few times, actually not too bad as it turned out. Of course, the most memorable moment was Pell running into him and knocking him off his feet. Would have been funnier if it hadn’t led to an Exeter breakaway…

Them: About as likely to be in the playoffs as we are, although unlike us they’re not afraid to attack more. Had a couple more chances, and we’re obviously thankful they too couldn’t shoot to save their lives.

Am I right in thinking that this is the first time in the AFCW era we’ve beaten them? Lest we forget this very fixture was the FA Cup 4th qualifying round in October 2006, where they were the big bad Conference side and we were the plucky Ryman minnows. Times really do change.

Point to ponder: After spending a lot of the early season starting games, is Charlie Sheringham going down the pecking order? Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t set the place alight from day one, but considering he was one of our regulars not quite so long ago, it seems odd he now works out on the bench.

Maybe if we sort out our forward line before the transfer window closes, he’ll be off on loan to Woking? It would be a bit of a change, if so, especially as the management team seem to be the major – OK, perhaps the only – cheerleaders for him.

Midson has come in out of the cold and scored twice today (yes, I know). Smith has gone but Wyke has come in and has looked quite useful. Sheringham now doesn’t even come on when we need something different up front.

Speaking of Wyke, he helped us win today as much as anyone, with his persistence paying off for the goal. Given that his loan is up before too long, will we see him staying longer? After all, we helped Smith become a Swindon player – and he scored twice today – and with that track record Boro might well be tempted.

Midson is certainly happy with Wyke, in a way he wasn’t with Smith. He gets to be the senior player again, while Wyke is his understudy. Of course, if NA has other ideas up front…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) That storm after the goal. Would have been typical if the ref shat his pants and abandoned the game. 2) “At least a red” – The Bloke Behind Me after a rather, ahem, industrial challenge. What could be a worse punishment for a player? Apart from having his credit card turned down at Harrods? 3) Is it me or is the PA at the hardcore Athletics Tempest Ecohouse End shite? I could barely make out Mikey T, and very few others could too. Maybe the volume has been lowered so people can hear themselves mutter to themselves?

Anything else? Somebody made this observation after the game – is NA trying to get his players to think too much? It was no surprise when we played better out of doing things more instinctively, and perhaps that is the problem? Our players aren’t bright enough to make their own decisions.

For all the complaints about the way he sets us out early on, I think our boss is half there – our defence mostly looks a helluva lot more solid. We generally tend to hold on in the last five or ten minutes when we are ahead or drawing – only Cheltenham thus far has seen us lose late on, though Torquay and Plymouth still annoys.

Darren Jones came in, and slotted so well that you really did forget this was his first game with us. Don’t be surprised if he and Morris are our rocks at the back at some point.

But at times there’s still too much elaboration, too much emphasis on trying to think when instinct would be better. Think of our two goals, and how they had some bit of speculation on them.

See, I actually don’t think we’re a bad side. There are some things that need looking at, there’s going to be more rebuilding needed in the summer, and I think NA is far too cautious setting us up.

But it’s nothing fatal, or at least it shouldn’t be. We did the classic grind-out-a-win thing today which is what much of this division is like. True, a lot of it was ugly as fuck but this is League Two we’re talking about.

Oddly enough, and this may skew our sense of perspective, our recent form on paper isn’t too bad. We’ve won two of our last four games, and drawn one of the others at the league leaders.

Before Torquay, we drew the majority of our games since Pompey. It’s not tearing up trees, but it’s not freefalling either. The league table looked a bit pant-soiling before today (and somebody elsewhere pointed out we could have been third from bottom after this time next week).

Now? We’re currently 11th, albeit in a tight group, but with a nine-point gap between us and the bottom two. And we’re probably (in)consistent enough to finish pretty comfortably in mid-table come May.

No, we need to do much more work, but days like today will always be a help. And besides, when was the last time we had a scrappy win…?

So, was it worth it? Three points.

In a nutshell: Can we finally kick on?