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Bass Guitar

Because Bass are based in Burton-on-Trent. And I’m stuck for a headline at this late stage.

Yes, I know it’s tardy, but then we had to wait until the 97th minute on Saturday. Still, it was worth waiting for, as is Jampot’s report from the Pirelli…

Resurrection at the morgue.

Last season trip to Burton was a disaster from getting stuck in traffic and only getting there just as we were kicking off and then we lost 6-2.

[SW19 note: to give you an idea of how bad this game was, your editor left 15 minutes early and got the train back “home” to Birmingham. I have never been so glad to see Brum, which tells you everything…]

What disaster awaits this year or maybe I may be presently surprised. Whatever happens it’s the volunteers away game so should have a good day with that. If we win just a bonus.

Before we’d set out on what was for me a rare away day experience – courtesy of Iain McNay (who was ill and didn’t make it) and Cherry Red Records sponsorship of the Volunteers’ Away Day  this year to Burton Albion – my daughter, also a volunteer had pointed out our Golden Goal compatriot’s Facebook post of Friday.

It seemed to me to absolutely hit the nail on the head after the encouraging performance the previous Tuesday night against Chesterfield; we went with a degree of hope; a realistic view we might lose to a side fourth in the table but hoping for something out of the game; but from our own point of view just going to thoroughly enjoy the day out with fellow volunteers and fans, come what may.

The volunteer away-day results after such beering and dining have generally been pretty poor; as far as I can recall one win in 5, away at Histon on the very first away day venture.

The only other positive result was a 0-0 at Forest Green with Lee Minshull playing up front as a striker. Other than that it’s been pretty disappointing result-wise after a nice start to a match day.

So perhaps that is why it seemed – indeed on the coach back we all kept mistakenly referring to it as a win – that Marmite 1 Strawberries & Cream 1 really did feel like a win.

The unbridled joy of scoring the equaliser EIGHT minutes into added time accentuated the feelings of both relief but also justice for, though this was no vintage performance by a long way, having a go and Having A Fucking Shot On Goal.

Despair and joy within a minute.

Not that we were alone in not HAFSOG. Apart from the penalty Burton scored, I really struggled to remember another shot from them in the first half; the FLS highlights reminded me of their other cross-shot effort Ross did well to save and the defence eventually cleared.

Second half, yes they had a couple of long range efforts and the free kick Ross always looked like he would save, but for fourth-placed, Burton this seemed woeful lacking in trying to kill us off, particularly against our rash of about a half-dozen half-chances that suggested most momentum was with us. It’s just again we could not create that clear chance that their goalie would have to meaningfully save.

So what changed things around at half time? Well, Pell went off to be replaced by Wyke – two up front I suppose now – who seemed to get going on Saturday whereas on Tuesday he struggled to get into the game. Why Pell went I have no idea as he had been we thought one of the more positive players in the first half.

Fuller – chosen apparently to play left side to man-mark the winger – had succumbed to injury and Richards dutifully took his place. Perhaps it was this injection of youthful enthusiasm that saw us up the tempo and start to actually get the ball forward, even if that did come back with monotonous regularity as Hylton struggled yet again to impress.

It came as no surprise when he was replaced by Midson, particularly after a petulant argument with the ref where he seemed to have hauled a Burton player to the ground in midfield whilst St Luce was on perhaps his only free run with the ball of the whole afternoon on the wing!

And Midson, if not in the best form of his life, at least added extra experience that helped simply to keep the ball in or near Burton’s penalty box. And whilst it is there, you might score and they cannot.

But, as a very occasional away fan here was a depressing similarity to what I watch at Theme Park KM I thought. A poor first half; an increase in urgency once a goal down; and a hopeful mad flurry of high balls aimlessly at a physically dominated front line (Burton’s back line weren’t that big).

I had hoped away from home our game would be ‘different.’ It was not.

But we got there in the end, thanks to Francomb’s three corners in quick succession (even if he did put one straight out just before). It showed how getting the ball in the mixer does create the chances at this level. It really is that uncomplicated.

Perhaps our Fleydon needs to do two new banners; one for behind the goal with HAFSOG on it and the other for the Manager’s/dressing room with the word KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid.

So moving on …

Plus points: We drew. Coming from behind (again). Heads never dropping (at least on the pitch, most in the stands were in their hands ;-). Francomb’s corner delivery which gave Frampton his heading opportunities including hitting the post. Jones’ ability to keep his shots down (a previous one the corner before was going in before deflected over the bar) i.e. actually having the odd FUCKING SHOT ON GOAL.

Minus points: Their goal. Injury to Fuller. Danny Hylton

The referee’s a…: Honestly? Love the man 😉 Seriously didn’t notice him that much apart from the Hylton moment when I think no one had seen what was going on. He got and continued to get a lot of heated comments from the Burton manager about the added time but he seems to have taken into account their time wasting and injuries fully.

One of their guys got really laid out by Sammy M second half. They also did a substitution within the added time and I presume that does not eat up the time. As Ray on the WUP guestbook pointed out it is a ‘minimum’ of 5 added minutes that is put up.

Them: Tidy little ground with seating house just under the hospitality boxes within the main stand with 3 sides of terracing completing the low rise modern-built stadium. Think KM redeveloped for today. Reminded me a lot of our previous visit to Forest Green Rover stadium, even down to a déjà vu moment of walking down the length of the main stand to our hospitality suite where we had drinks and lunch.

Apparently, on the FLS show the Chairman said they were building up slowly and were debt free. Admirable. But passion free as well? I’ve never seen such a quiet home crowd; they seriously only  cheered the penalty going in and their substitutions. That is all. It makes KM look like a constant hive of activity all the time. And only 2,592 there seeing promotion hopefuls, with us contributing around 200.

As a team, didn’t they lack urgency and commitment for a team at the top of the table? It was frightening to think that this insipid collection of players were supposedly that much better than our shower.

It just showed what a little bit more application and willingness on our behalf could and maybe should have done. I am unsure if the lack of passion on the terrace or on the pitch affects the other, but we really did manage to resurrect things at this morgue. I also doubt they will go up, probably via the playoffs as you can’t see the spark to progress. Bit like us really at times.

Point to ponder: Just one frightening statistic published in their programme  on the basis of first half performances alone, a table reflecting those ‘results’ then would have us 23rd in the table! Who says statistics do not lie?

Truth is stranger than fiction: Identikit stadiums are us! As mentioned tidy but just like other new stadiums, I presume New Plough Lane in its modular form and build, to expand when required, will be of a similar nature.

In some respects good – the hospitality rooms were impressive – but you have to paint on the blank canvas to provide a home. Something we will have to seriously consider when the time comes. And history is usually the best way to go in terms of theme.

Anything else? Given other results for the teams below us, this was definitely a point gained.

We remain in 15th, slightly ahead of where we were this time last year (42 pts and GD of -19). But the fat lady is still only warming her larynx up! On Tuesday we sit it out whilst a lot of the other teams with games in hand play each other.

By about 10pm on Tuesday, bar Newport and Bury, who still have catch everyone else up, we should know our true position in this league and what still needs to be done. The consensus though is moving towards 2 wins and 2 draws being enough (52pts), or if we are greedy 3 wins.

Which makes Saturday significantly important for a number of reasons. My coach companion – Andrew – suggested that the 95th minute Cureton’s winner at Cheltenham was one of the early season turning points. He thought it knocked the confidence and belief in ourselves, particularly as they were seriously struggling, kick-starting their season like we have subsequently done numerously for other clubs this season.

Perhaps now is the time to try to be more positive at KM Neal? After all, Cheltenham away are not the most potent force – scored 17 and gained 6 wins; we’ve managed 15  goals on our travels and 4 wins and we think of ourselves as shit. The form suggests a draw likely.

I’d have to agree to go with Midson and Wyke to start on Saturday as simply they looked the most energetic of partnerships. If Fuller doesn’t make it, then for me bring in Fenlon.

Keep Richards at left back and bring Morris – who didn’t make the trip due to over-playing – into the midfield if you can where he is much more useful. Jones for the perceptively slowing Bennet alongside Frampton should prevent a Cureton repeat (I hope).

And just keep that back line up the pitch for 75 rather than 45 minutes. And we might just get the ball in the mixer enough to create some credible chances at home!

A win puts us then above Cheltenham nearer 10th than 15th and at this stage of the season that could be a real psychological boost. Whilst work then would still need to be done it could be that if Rochdale get a result against Northampton they would be 9 pts behind with 6 games to go.

A lot to make up as games run out. But of course it might not be them… for example, both Newport and Exeter who shared a 1-1 on Sunday are on runs of 1 win in 14. It will be another one close to the wire. Let’s just hope we are not too close come that time.

So, was it worth it? At just after 5pm on the coach, you better believe it!

In a nutshell: P5 W1 D2 L2 – mid-table mediocrity on volunteer away days.

Can seasons turn on moments like that? It would be nice if it did – after all, if we went into a decline after Cheltenham put one past us in the 94th minute…

I guess that the Burton game proved a lot of what we already knew – by the sound of their Twatter feed, in the second half we were creating at least half-chances, although being a bit exposed at the back.

But the very fact that we tried to get a goal is something that is still immensely pleasing 48 hours on. Obviously the whole HAFSOG thing is working…

And it’s not exactly rocket science, which I think makes the all-too-constant negativity even harder to swallow. We did the minimum of trying to get back in the game, and lo and behold – we got something. I couldn’t say whether we got lucky with the injury time by the referee, although we’ve fallen very late to Torquay, Cheltenham and Plymouth this season. Swings and roundabouts, and all that.

I can’t deny giving an under-the-table fist pump in the Bournemouth press box when we scored 😉 I also can’t deny thinking that if we repeated more often how we apparently played in the second half for many more games this season, we’d be looking towards the top rather than the relegation dogfight.

I couldn’t help noticing NA’s reaction after the game, and to be honest he sounded a little bit stung by the recent brickbats. Christ, if he thinks some performances are us “having a go”, then I hate to have seen them when we were trying to keep it tight.

The criticism aimed towards him in recent weeks has been more than justified – the stats about goals scored, and the points etc say it all. I didn’t see it, but apparently against Chesterfield when we gave a sarcastic cheer after HAFSOG Bassey gave everyone the evil stare.

But then, what else do the management team expect? Did NA feel that fans are starting to turn against him? And if they are, whose fault is that to begin with?

Most of us have twigged that this division is a much of a muchness. If you have a go – and yes, HAFSOG – then defences aren’t good enough to withstand that. Ours isn’t, and I genuinely think our back line is one of the better ones outside the playoff positions.

The best description I heard this weekend about our manager was that he over-estimates this division and under-estimates our squad. One wonders whether that is down to them “not following instructions” because they’re League Two players and not Championship ones?

You do have to be a supreme form of shit to go down from this division, and while I don’t think Hylton and Sheringham should be in AFCW colours, all round we’re not a bad side.

It’s all down to having a bit of confidence – fans, players and yes, management too. The reason that the second half on Saturday is still being talked about is because it was a refreshing change to hear about half-chances, proper chances and a last minute equaliser in our favour.

Performances like that are great, but they can also be aggravating, because you know we can do it more often than we show. NA was pointing out in his post-match interview that the players get caught inbetween two stools – but that’s down to how you set them out to begin with.

It sounded a reasonably simple approach at Burton, and the end result was a bit QEfuckingD. And NA has been at his best when he has kept it simple, and set out a team to play League Two football and not one some over-priced UEFA pro course* has suggested.

* – and doesn’t that prove how useless these UEFA coaching badges really are? They just produce robots rather than managers, and while I know you have to have one, the likes of the Pompey manager and the boss at t’Stanley have gone into management first then got the qualification. And to be honest, can you say they’ve become worse because of it?

Will our management team learn from this? If they have, we’ll beat Cheltenham on Saturday. I just fear that such an important stage of the season, we’ll revert back to negative type…