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Pier Pressure

A sunny day, that odd warm glowing feeling? I believe the medical term is called “AFC Wimbledon winning away”. A rare affliction, I grant you.

Yes, we did win yesterday. Yes, it was on the road. Yes, it was against a Southend side who had won three games on the trot. And no, it wasn’t a fluke…

While your editor was at Millwall watching them score in Ardley time, George Lear put fingers to keyboard…

Well, The Only Way is Essex 0 Made in Wimbledon 1 felt HUGE (even before hearing about uncomfortable results from Northamptonshire and Bristol.) The vigour with which the fans and players celebrated at the end showed what it meant to the club.

In truth, we have had to suffer many of these close home defeats ourselves and we know how galling they seem. Now we can enjoy one of our own away.

We shaded the first half in terms of possession with neither team having any great chances. They had more of the ball in the second half and some real chances but we got the pen and Jack (just) squeezed it in.

Plus points: Ross Worner back to his excellent best, plucking numerous crosses out of the air and pulling off one spectacular second half save. The defense was as solid as a rock. Frampton makes a huge difference and I just felt that we were so organized today that we wouldn’t let a goal in.

Our penalty was a stonewaller and well won by Appiah. Barry Fuller his usual combative self. A word for Tom Richards who impressed me despite losing possession a couple of times in dangerous places. Pell broke up play well.

The away support was magnificent. The old cliché of singing from 0-90 mins without stopping held true.

Minus points: Still as impotent as a ninety year old man who has forgotten his Viagra upfront. We had some nice possession up front in the first half but no end product. I am struggling to remember any chances in the second half at all (apart from the pen). HAFSOG still very much stands. We did look a little less clueless when Hylton came on (although he was clearly out of shape).

The referee’s a…: He wanted the game to flow and gave us a pen so was ok in my book.

Them: Average. Southend show us we can get to the playoffs next year. They huffed and puffed and put us under pressure in the last half hour but really offered no more than we did.

They’d won their last three matches but before that had been on a thirteen match winless run. This is the type of division where you can do that and still be in the playoffs. They were absolutely nothing special.

A big crowd today, as well, but very quiet. If they sneak up, they will struggle. I must say (and I’m probably in the minority) that I like Roots Hall – a proper, tight lower league ground, although could have done without the piss skating rink in the toilets.

Point to ponder: (1) Has this recent run been the moment when we finally became a League Two team? We’ve only lost two of the last ten (1-0 in each) and, although we have only won three, we suddenly seem very hard to beat. We would have hated ourselves if we’d been the away team at KM, employing every trick in the book: timewasting, diving, moaning to the ref, staying down after injuries etc but it seemed to work and maybe that is what we have to do more of next year.

(2) As a huge Jack Midson fan, I painfully was forced to see him through Ardley’s eyes today. He was poor. I lost count of the times he lost the ball/had drifted out of position/failed to provide the link pass. Yes he scored the winner but maybe today I saw why he won’t be with us next season.

(3) As Neal came to applaud the fans at the end I was reminded again just how inexperienced he is. What other job puts you under the spotlight at such an early stage in your career? Tactically he might sometimes frustrate but he deserves a lot of respect for not bottling it.

Truth is stranger than fiction: Their ball boy in front of us having a good old chuckle at some of our songs (his favorites being the Jeremy Kyle song which had him in stitches and the good old Champagne song)

Anything else? We should have been safe after today but this season is so competitive that it feels like we are not yet there.

So, was it worth it? We won. Against a team in the Playoffs. Away. Hell yes!

In a nutshell: Bring on the rejects!

So, are we safe? Mathematically, no way – we are still six points away from the dreaded drop zone, but with four games rather than five remaining.

But we are probably safe. Northampton and Wycombe have to face each other on Good Friday, which if we weren’t playing could be a tempting place to spend the day when Jesus got nailed.

So that’s one less game that one out of the bottom three has to catch us up on. So that’s a maximum of nine points. But then, Wycombe have to face Brizzle Rovers, so if Wycombe lose both of those…

We have a superior goal difference (oh, the difference a year makes…) over all of them, and I think even putting in Stuart Cash with MMK and Warren Cummings might struggle to overturn it now.

I said “might”.

So in a welcome reverse from last season, we have a seven point cushion in actuality rather than a six point one. Which makes it three games somebody has to catch us up on to begin with.

And all that assuming we don’t pick up another point this season. Which admittedly does throw a spanner in the works…

To be honest, I hope we spend this next week just focusing on beating Newport. Believe it or not, we’re capable of winning at Theme Park KM (the place where all visitors go home happy), and we’re due a win.

It will make the Easter Monday trip down to the West Country a lot nicer too.

A point would probably do it as well, but three definitely will. At least, all-but-mathematically. There’s enough to play for, and to be honest with the negative shit we’ve suffered this season a barnstorming finish is what we’re owed.

It sounds as though we might have finally figured out how to deal with League Two. If you can’t build a swashbuckling team that passes every other team off the park – and I cannot remember any team in this division doing so for a while, perhaps ever – then the next best thing is to be battlers.

Which by the sound of it we did yesterday. Southend are a better side than us, the league table doesn’t lie, but not so much better that we couldn’t get something from them.

During the suicide pacts after York, the comment was made that that NA underestimated our players and over-estimated the division. I guess he may have finally taken that on board. If you put in the nuts-and-bolts, don’t try and be fancy and simply have something about you, you’ll always be OK.

It was interesting to note that Sarfend fans were saying that we were timewasting a bit, that Appiah was a cheating bastard and that we came for a point and got away with three.

Actually, I say “interesting”. What I really mean is “glorious”. It’s absolutely great to hear that we’re finally moving towards being streetwise, that we’re a little bit more cynical and bit more professional.

Or in other words, a bit more cuntish.

I doubt if I’m alone in saying that I’ve never really liked this goody-goody approach in recent years. It just marked us out as naive, that we didn’t really understand what professional football was. All this “fair play” shit that tried to live up to a Corinthian ideal that never properly existed in the first place.

We may not be able to keep Appiah, but it sounds he knows how to play opposition defenders. It’s hard to think that the likes of Benno, Framps and Fuller wouldn’t know the tricks of the trade either, so to speak.

I guess NA is finally learning as well, and maybe he’s had to go through all the brickbats aimed at him to get to the obvious conclusion? Shame he only found it out in April rather than January/February, as it may have been a very interesting end-of-season campaign if so.

We wouldn’t have flopped so badly in February, that’s a sure mark.

What this will do for his summer plans remains to be seen. Will he keep one or two players that he was going to get rid of? Does he have new players in mind who will do the jobs of Midson and Appiah better? Can he fight his natural urges to go back to his UEFA coaching manuals, rather than keep with the style of play that wins at Southend?

Benno has extended his contract for next season, given he’s made a set number of appearances this season, so thankfully we won’t need to do too much at the back this summer. A better version of Antwi, perhaps, and maybe a new LB and whoever else becomes available.

Obviously, up front has to be the priority. There were a couple of comments that we still looked like we couldn’t score with a nymphomaniac, and it’s fortunate that we’re nearly there enough for it not to cripple us now.

I see Luke Moore returned yesterday. Will he score his customary late-season goals to justify another year’s contract? Speaking of somebody with that surname, is Sammy Moore still suspended? Is he injured?

If he isn’t, perhaps we might be getting an idea of who could be the latest victims of the post-season cull in the next four games…?

Anyway, for now there’s a lot of confidence about now again, more so than in recent weeks (months?). Amazing what a win can do. But then, it feels as though we’re finally back on the right track again, as though we’re developing a purpose.

And that’s something that’s not been said too often this campaign…