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Nearly there…

Hard to think that we’re already at Easter. That time of year where seasons are made or broken, where you have to get used to the idea of games on a Friday afternoon.

And where it’s hard to resist making a “crucified” comment whenever somebody loses 4-0.

This very Holy Week, in 2014, AFCW is so near the finishing line it’s almost impossible to get your head around it. Almost having nothing to play for? We have two games in the space of four games that even a point will probably see us there.

You can read the remaining fixtures of the strugglers here. We’re not mentioned, which is a good thing I suppose. Everyone on that list has to play each other once at least, in fact all bar Northampton have to play other strugglers twice.

Except for Wycombe, who would probably sell their arse to their lifelong (sic) Buckinghamshire neighbours over the summer just to get a win out of that lot.

Needless to say, our biggest issue tomorrow will be ourselves. Will we metaphorically switch off, thinking we’re safe? I seriously hope not, as the mathematics can still bugger us about if we’ve already gone on holiday.

And we shouldn’t be talking like this, when the probability of us going down is actually 90 to 10% against it. Be honest, you don’t trust this lot to make it nice and comfortable, do you?

Obviously, one has to insert the usual caveats about our alleged strike force, but I refuse to accept we can’t get anything from any of our final four games. In fact I would go so far as to say we’re capable of getting something from all of them.

True, four consecutive 0-0s would be quite fitting this season, but put it this way – if we somehow find ourselves in the Conference after being at this stage, I’d expect immediate resignations.

And not just NA either.

Actually, this could be an interesting final 360 minutes (plus Ardley Time) of the season. I say that after reading Barry Fuller’s comments that he made on Monday:

“We’re taking the last four games as seriously as the first four. We know if we do our job on the pitch, who knows what will happen with contracts?”

So,  who isn’t guaranteed to wear a new Admiral shirt next season? We know that Jack Midson is out of contract, ditto Will Antwi (check the article date then do the maths).

We can guess that Seb Brown will be on his way, and I think Sammy Moore’s deal is up too. Reading this from last year, it sounds that Luke Moore and even KSL may not be able to guarantee job security too…

And that’s just the ones we can make educated guesses about. When we discovered that Benno automatically earned a new deal from making a set amount of appearances, you have to wonder who else is on such arrangements.

The mantra at the moment is to get the highest points total since we returned to the 91 Club, which is fair enough. But is there more to that than just a brain-cleansing end of season run?

Team selections could be interesting from now on, as some (many?) players really are playing for their future. If they’ve got any sense, we should see barnstormers from those who need to persuade our boss one last time.

I did say “if”.

Chances are, NA has (semi) made up his mind who is leaving in the summer already. Again, whether that will affect how some players will perform – why bust a gut if you’re not staying? – remains to be seen.

This all said, the team have been able to grind out results recently. Many things can be levelled at both manager and squad this season, much of it justifiably negative, but becoming hard to beat is one of the better accusations.

One final hurrah for many of these players? Especially up front and in midfield? I still wouldn’t be surprised to see absolutely nobody who is currently our supposed forward line to be here next season.

Midson might be here, but you suspect NA has been planning to replace him for some while now. Hylton has been a let-down, he’s not done enough to warrant being a summer signing and he would be too costly to be a third or fourth choice striker.

He’s not ours anyway, and neither is Appiah. Whether something can be done with Palace over him, or whether they’ve got other plans we don’t know. But I guess we should make the most of him while we can.

Sheringham will never be a League Two player, ditto Strutton, and I expect the latter will only be in our squad list as he’s still rehabilitating with us. Guess both will be on season-long loans elsewhere next season if we can’t get shot of them.

Could we see a couple of young strikers getting some game time before the season ends? Assuming we’re definitely safe, it wouldn’t hurt if Shaun North thinks it won’t damage them. Let’s face it, they couldn’t be any worse…

So plenty to be getting on with. It’s a decent crowd expected tomorrow (your editor is in Bournemouth working again, but I am off to Plymouth on Monday…), and we haven’t had too many games where we’ve expected a good performance and got it.

It wouldn’t be a bad time to start, and as said previously – we’re owed a good win. Especially at KM.

Assuming we fulfill our side of the bargain, we get to visit Kenilworth Road again next season. Yep, Luton finally served their sentence in non-league and have been released back into proper football again.

I think we can all imagine what their fans are thinking right now, and perhaps Eastlands and Seb Brown won’t give them nightmares any more? 😉 Also, they had to win the title because their record in Conference playoff finals really was shit.

Needless to say, being “big” doesn’t mean you’ll escape up through the bottleneck. Wrexham is a great example of that, the likes of Grimsby and Cambridge United are relying on the pant-soiling that is the playoffs. And I bet right now fans of Mansfield and York are wiping their brow and thankful they don’t have to go through that again.

And should be a timely reminder to us of why we should never even think of going down.

I’ve dared myself to look at the playoff contenders in the Conference (still can’t dare to look at L1’s strugglers) and could we be seeing next season the first club to go straight back down?

I’ve no idea how good any of the four playoff contenders are, although Appiah helped Cambridge United a bit. And the Abbey was always a popular away trip for us in the Conference days.

Personally, I hope Gateshead go up, if only because they might move the away game to the evening and therefore a night on Toonside. Not to mention that will probably mean one relegation place sorted already…

There are, and will be, calls to make it three-up-three-down. Certainly Cambridge will feel pissed off if they’re in the Conf again next season, and arguably ourselves, Crawley and Luton should have got promoted that season.

I believe our own boards are in favour of the idea, though most of the rest of the FL aren’t. And it’s fair to say, it’s a bottleneck – especially as four teams go up/down to/from L2 and L1.

While your editor isn’t an Against Modern Football bore, I do have a bit of a traditionalist outlook on some things. And I think that a place in the Football League is a sacred one that must not be given away so easy.

Therefore, SW19 calls for the re-introduction of re-election. It worked well for so long, it’s not a closed shop (as WFC proved in 1977) and let’s face it – if Franchise found themselves down there it’s not like they’d get many votes…