It comes to something when the two people I can normally rely on to supply copy after a home game admit that they genuinely can’t think of what to write.
Plenty has been said about yet another debacle, this time at home to York. If you think it’s deja vu all over again, I’m going to paste word-for-word what I wrote after the Bury game at the end of last month, bar the odd obvious alteration.
Back after the second line…
My mum came up with the description that our play was â€œlike somebody with a Masters degree stuck on a desert island and struggling to know how to build a bonfireâ€.
One of the annoying things about not getting to games these days is deciding for oneself how we play, but if itâ€™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 thatâ€™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, four
five wins out of the next eleven fourteen will definitely do it, and quite possibly less than that.
But to get those four
five wins we need to get the first of them. Right now, you just canâ€™t see where or how. And NA doesnâ€™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 thatâ€™s exactly where weâ€™re heading. We can pull ourselves out of it, but this really will be self-inflicted.
I get the impression this crop of players arenâ€™t that bad, theyâ€™re certainly mostly of mid-table L2 standard, but thereâ€™s something wrong right now. As thereâ€™s been something wrong around the time of tâ€™Stanley game â€“ and maybe even before that.
Again, we donâ€™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 â€“ 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 didnâ€™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 isnâ€™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 thereâ€™s a clear problem between Midson and Ardley â€“ or at least, Midson and somebody on the management team â€“ which is so bad that he doesnâ€™t play even when he may do something.
And when weâ€™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 itâ€™s all down to the way he does things. This season was (is?) the one where he could start developing his own style â€“ and unfortunately for us itâ€™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 donâ€™t think heâ€™ll be sacked, assuming we donâ€™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 Iâ€™m not too sure how much longer the players will have patience with him. Let alone anyone else.
If I had wasted a good half hour this morning writing all the above from scratch, I think I would have been in even worse a mood than reading about the game from relative afar.
That’s what has really got people at the moment – we won, commendably, at Newport. We drew, commendably, at Fleetwood. There was a bit of a better vibe around the place, a bit of that thing we haven’t had for a little while. A bit of confidence before the game.
The mood has really turned black again since 5pm on Saturday, and one is starting to sense people are turning against the team and manager. And to be honest, you can’t blame them.
Especially Ardley. I think the vast majority of us accept that these players are mid-table League Two. They won’t tear up trees. But more and more people are getting fed up with his constant tinkering and his tactical approaches that just don’t work in the real world.
This bit is going to make you feel worse reading it – hell, it pissed me off to write it. Your editor was at Pompey v Cheltenham (no, that’s not why I was pissed off) over the weekend, and while I don’t think pound-for-pound either side are much better than we were, what they did shocked me.
Both sides had a go at the target on occasions.
No, it did finish 0-0, but at least they tried to make something happen. We don’t, we don’t seem set up tactically to do that, and it seems we’re as further away from getting any goals as ever.
The Pompey manager has set them a survival target of 52 points. We are a mere ten points short of that target, but right now it may as well be 40. Four wins should be achievable for a team like ourselves, but you can’t put your hand on your heart right now and say we’ll achieve them.
And the buck for that falls on our manager. Make no mistake, this is a very important week for him, because he now has to finally walk the walk and help get us results.
Ardley is very good at talking, but he’s simply not delivering. The stats are currently proving he’s becoming a bullshit merchant – a manager who is not making inexperienced mistakes, but poor ones.
This weekend became a year since we last scored before the 28th minute in a game. Think about that stat for a minute – that’s close to 40 odd games where the team has been set up not to take any sort of advantage over a cold opposition.
That is not just a mere “one of those things” – that’s simply poor preparation.
It gets more damming for our current boss. Since we beat Pompey 4-0, which now seems a lifetime ago, we have played 19 games and failed to score in ten of them.
Again, that’s not just bad luck or “that’s the way it goes sometimes” – that’s poor tactics and personnel selection.
You don’t need me to tell you how bad Sheringham is, or how Hylton has become less effective than even Midson’s cameos this season. While every manager makes mistakes in the transfer market, ours up front have proven to be more than just a bad bit of luck.
Ardley can do himself a lot of favours tomorrow by sending out a team that goes for the throat of Chesterfield – hell, t’Stanley put three past them this weekend, and I don’t think tomorrow is a lost cause at all.
But you know that we’ll make it more difficult for ourselves as usual.
Whether the penny is dropping about how good NA really is as a manager, I don’t know. It’s undeniable that we have an amazing inability to kick on whenever we do get a mini-run of form, and I have to say the jury is still out on whether our current boss will have much of a managerial career in future.
Personally, if I was to state here and now whether he will prove to be a good manager, I have to say right now that he won’t be – he’s proven to be far too dogmatic in his tactics and selection, not down to inexperience either, and I’m still not convinced that he has the instinct to be a manager.
But for now, everyone has a good chance to put Saturday behind us tomorrow. We are due a good performance and a few goals, and for once playing on Tuesday may not be a bad thing.
And it would be nice if for once, it actually happened.
One thing is clear, the amount of people who are seriously not looking forward to tomorrow is really notable. There’s certainly a lot of chatter amongst some that they’re fed up of having their weekend ruined and more tempted to take advantage of the weather.
While most of them will still turn up, to be put through the emotional wringer yet again when it comes to the trap door just irritates peopleÂ now. Especially as it’s all perfectly avoidable – or at least it should be…