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Shake and Vac

2014bucharestUrgh. I get back from Bucharest and we lose yet again. Oh well, here’s a nice picture of the 1986 European Cup winners beating Universitatea Cluj last Tuesday. And I got in for nothing, though won’t explain how.

Those who went yesterday will have wished they could got in for nowt too, but sadly they had to pay. One of them being Dun Cow, who decided to forgo therapy and write this report instead…

With three defeats on the spin, and two difficult away trips to come, this was a key game for Wimbledon. So no one will be surprised that we find ourselves reflecting on Dead and buried 0 Risen from the grave 1.

It’s difficult to take positives from another performance where we dominated the opposition yet came away with nothing again. At least a bit of variety was injected in this particular defeat – it’s been a while since we enjoyed the kick in the teeth of an injury time winner.

Plus points: Wyke and Hylton huffed and puffed. A marked increase in attempts on goal. Michael Collins showed signs of promise. Worner barely had anything to do.

Minus points: Wyke and Hylton didn’t blow the house down. Wimbledon becoming more impotent than a eunuchs convention / Franchise home fixture. Another sub-4000 attendance. Our defence getting skinned for the winner.

The referee’s a…: Spectacularly awful and endless ironic cheering when he finally decided to give some decisions our way. That said, none of his decisions cost us. Perhaps because he didn’t really give any.

Them: Bang average but did they need to be anything else when Wimbledon demonstrate an uncanny ability to lose to anybody? Clearly well organised under David Flitcroft. Pablo Mills at the back was their stand out player, and bringing on a target man/nippy striker combo after an hour could have given them the lead sooner.

Premier League experience in goal in the form of ex-Burnley Brian ‘You Danish Bastard, You Killed a Giraffe’ Jensen.

Point to ponder: This match, where – following two changes to the line-up after the Portsmouth game – the introduction of Harry Pell in place of Jim Fenlon at half time saw Barry Fuller shunted to left wing back and Aaron Morris moved into the back three, when Chris Arthur could simply have been brought in as a straight swap for Fenlon, was illustrative of Ardley’s irresistible urge to tinker.

We have to go back 15 games since the same XI started two consecutive games (Dagenham (H) followed by Bristol Rovers (A)), something that has happened only three other times this season and never for more than two games in a row.

This prevents the team from gaining continuity and developing understandings, and suggests that Ardley is setting his teams up to counter the opposition threat rather than impose its style of play. The fact that increased tinkering since the start of December has coincided with our drop-off in form suggests this may be a large part of the problem.

Truth is stranger than fiction:  Despite our catastrophic form, we are still nine points clear of the relegation zone – a buffer that has remained intact for the past few weeks. It is looking very likely that it will take far fewer points to stay up this season than it did last and that may well prove to be our salvation.

Anything else? Some reports of crowd trouble before the game, with arrests being made. Allegations that the usual suspects were involved or were extreme measures being taken by some to avoid having to watch the match? On a more serious note, and following similar issues ahead of the Portsmouth match: down with that sort of thing.

So was it worth it? You have to take the rough with the smooth as a football supporter but, boy, are we having to put up with a lot of rough lately.

In a nutshell: At least we’re not Torquay.

Not yet, anyway.

Occasionally, you get a sixth sense about things, and when I was at the Amex trying to get updates on our game and Bury were on the attack in the last ten minutes, it was hard not to think the inevitable was to happen.

We’ve now lost four in a row, and this one might be the biggest kick in the teeth of the lot. Especially as it sounds we played all right in parts.

The use of the “in parts” qualifier says it all though. My mum came up with the description that our play was “like somebody with a Masters degree stuck on a desert island and struggling to know how to build a bonfire”.

One of the annoying things about not getting to games these days is deciding for oneself how we play, but if it’s like that then you have to wonder how NA responds to this latest alarming slump in form.

It did sound like we were a bit more positive, although given the ultra-negativity we normally have to endure that’s only one step in the right direction.

But from the point of view from our beleaguered manager, what must he be thinking today? How does he force just that one mini-run of form that will see us in the JPT again next season?

Can he do that? Believe it or not, we do still have time to be comfortably mid-table, five wins out of the next fourteen will definitely do it, and quite possibly less than that.

But to get those five wins we need to get the first of them. Right now, you just can’t see where or how. And NA doesn’t give the impression he knows how to either.

We should not even be thinking about yet another fucking relegation fight, but on current form that’s exactly where we’re heading. We can pull ourselves out of it, but this really will be self-inflicted.

I get the impression this crop of players aren’t that bad, they’re certainly mostly of mid-table L2 standard, but there’s something wrong right now. As there’s been something wrong around the time of t’Stanley game – and maybe even before that.

Again, we don’t know what that something is, but it does seem like a few chickens have come to not only roost, but cluck all night and leave shit on your fence.

The whole Jack Midson saga, par example, seems to be reaching its conclusion – and one that will genuinely piss people off. NA was correct to drop him for Smith because he was scoring goals in a system that didn’t suit.

Now? He and Wyke were starting to form a bit of an understanding, and Midson was certainly looking forward to linking up with him. So he gets dropped yet again, and this time for Hylton who by the sound of it isn’t much better.

It does all seem rather spiteful, and with our chronic lack of goals seems like the worst kind of dogmatism. We know there’s a clear problem between Midson and Ardley – or at least, Midson and somebody on the management team – which is so bad that he doesn’t play even when he may do something.

And when we’re losing yet another game because of the lack of firepower, it really gets harder and harder to swallow.

Make no mistake, this is one of the most difficult periods for Ardley, simply because it’s all down to the way he does things. This season was (is?) the one where he could start developing his own style – and unfortunately for us it’s proven him to be a negative and reactionary one who is too often scared to win games.

There is a definite mood swing against him, and he only has himself to blame if it gets worse. I don’t think he’ll be sacked, assuming we don’t end up having to go into self-preservation mode for the third successive year, but his problems are largely self-inflicted.

Can he turn it around? Yes. But he now needs to do that quickly, because I’m not too sure how much longer the players will have patience with him. Let alone anyone else.

I guess we’ll see. I’m 99.99% likely to be at Newport, so I can see for myself if we’re just being unlucky or whether there’s something more fundamentally wrong.

But given the penchant for this club to be a reactionary one and only do things when we absolutely have to, it may have to get even worse before it gets better…