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And relax


The pressure is off, we’re nice and safe. And we even managed to do it with a win.

So, let us saviour Francis Drake 1 Emma Hamilton 2 a bit, shall we? As a spectacle, it bordered on dreadful at times – I think even I could have kept the ball better than some of our midfielders.

But a win is a win, and especially one that ensures we can get to play Stevenage and Luton in the League next season.

Actually, yesterday proved the HAFSOG movement to be a valid and progressive one, if only because that’s how we managed to win. The Plymouth goal was a decent strike, to be fair, but we failed to boot it away to begin with.

At times we were slow, basking in the sunshine a bit, and looking like we were in pre-season mode again. And wondering if the Newport game took it too much out of us.

However, it did prove the point that many fans have made this season – no matter how ordinary or bad you are, when you have a go you often get something. Yesterday saw the clicking of Appiah and Midson together. They knew the Plymouth defence wasn’t all that, just like most defences in this division, and we eventually got our reward.

I watched our goals again, and Midson slotted that home better than it looked in the flesh.  Appiah was the star of yesterday though. Showed his pace, scared the shit out of the opposition defenders, and took his goal very well. NA was seem talking to him with his arm around him afterwards, so perhaps he’s trying to persuade him to put a good word to Tony Pulis?

Which does raise question marks of a good kind about our strike force. Do we break this flourishing one up? Will it be broken up for us, if Palace see Appiah’s future elsewhere?

Indeed, is Midson playing for a new deal that many (most?) still think unlikely? We’ll find out in a month’s time, but yesterday – for once – our strikers did what they had to do.

It could have been more, and Plymouth couldn’t have complained if it was. Although they came close a couple of times too…

Anyway, the big deal is that we don’t have to worry about the league table any longer. We are safe, and the last two games of the season can see us pass the ball nonchalently about and looking like we don’t have a clue where the net is.

So, no change there then…

Plus points: We won. Midson. Appiah. Coming back again. Looking more potent up front than I’ve seen us for a while (not saying much though). Great save by Worner at the end.

Minus points: Going behind again. Pell and Sammy Moore were shite.

The referee’s a…: Booked our player for diving when it looked a penalty, but apart from that no real reason to plant a bomb under his car.

Them: I think I’ve found a side that sticks to the dogma of tippy-tappy football even more than we do. What makes that even stranger is that their manager is John Sheridan, hardly a modern product of UEFA coaching courses.

I didn’t realise that they had lost five out of the last six games, and to be honest it showed. Their goal was down to us pissing about at the back, although it was a decent strike, and you sense that if they can have a run of form then so can we.

When they kicked off for the second half they immediately managed to put it out of play, which kind of summed them up.

Crowd was deathly quiet, though we were hardly Fenerbahce ourselves. Still, they were friendly enough, the pasty stall outside was lovely, and they even gave us this nice welcome :


I assume it was a friendly welcome. Perhaps it was more a cruel reminder of how long the A303 is.

Not too sure what was more dodgy though – their cheerleaders or their Pilgrim mascot…

Point to ponder: With regards to the strike force, I wonder what NA is thinking right now? To his credit, he has (slowly) started to play the system to the players rather than vice versa, and we have now only lost two in twelve games.

OK, we’ve also only won four as well, and only one of those at KM. Christ, you’ll be wanting blood next.

While he gushed about yesterday being one of the best performances of the season, which I have to say doesn’t say much about some other games, there’s still issues within the squad.

It seemed that midfield is a weak area. Pell has gone off the boil, and at the risk of being burned alive here – I don’t think we’ll miss Sideways Sammy at all. We automatically assume that the forward line is the weak area, but perhaps we’ve been looking in the wrong place after all?

I still expect neither Midson or Appiah to be here after t’Stanley, but our recent run of good form shouldn’t hide far too many lousy games. This may be an Indian summer for some players, but they still didn’t perform when it mattered more…

Granted, our boss took a lot of the flak, deservedly too. But it would be too short-sighted to base next season’s plans on a couple of decent results – much of this squad won’t be missed. The back line certainly would, but the rest?

Our manager did mention in that link above that his approach to fitness was finally paying off, which is why I think his “out” list could have some interesting names on it.

I don’t doubt he’s been making notes about which players were more reliable than others, and while IMO he overdid the “players didn’t follow my instructions” schpiel this season, he shouldn’t have to keep coaching them.

We found out last week that he prefers loanees up front as he thinks they’re better value for money, although I’d like to see us ask Mike Richardson to pay for Appiah if we’re going to have players we already know.

Anyway, it’s interesting times ahead, and in a good way too. NA now has the luxury of being able to run the rule over the AFCW roost two more times without it mattering. Two more wins would be excellent, if a little bit cheeky…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) 270 of us there yesterday. Thought it was less TBH, but still not bad for a shit journey at a testing time of year. 2) Plymouth must have the highest ratio of fans over 75 years old. Seriously – it felt like the AFCW defence meeting up for a few drinks somewhere. 3) Realising just how empty places like Somerset and Wiltshire are. No wonder they use animals for their enjoyment, it’s not like you’d get caught.

Anything else? Yes. We are safe. Enjoy looking at the League table. Enjoy the last two games which have nothing on them. Almost literally. Enjoy that weird end-of-season feeling that we only properly experienced in the first AFCW era Football League era.

When you think about it, we’ve been put through the ringer in one way shape or form for most end-of-seasons since 2002. OK, before 2002 as well, but that was trying to keep WFC alive. Consider the following:

– 2002/03:  cathartic first season as AFCW. Nothing really mattered at that time.

– 2003/04: promoted very easily. Got genuinely boring.

– 2004/05: promoted very easily. Got a little less boring.

– 2005/06: failed in the playoffs semi finals.

– 2006/07: failed in the playoff semi finals again, Darlogate hangover.

– 2007/08: who know where we would be today without Mark DeBolla’s free kick?

– 2008/09: only getting promotion on the last day. Game at the Axewounds managed to be more tense than the Luton playoff game.

– 2009/10: forgetting how much we freefell at the end of that season.

– 2010/11: Eastlands. Nuff sed.

– 2011/12: Operation Survival, about 3 games to go.

– 2012/13: Jack Midson and THAT penalty.

– This season: actually safe at Easter, realistically safe after Southend away.

So it’s been a bit too nervewracking in one way, shape or form for most of our current guise. And even this season hasn’t been stress-free – remember, we’ve had to wait until today to be properly safe.

It’s relaxing, but it’s also a reminder that this squad needs to be taken up to the next level. As said earlier, there was still too much dross that you couldn’t even blame on NA’s tactics.

Still, we can look at other teams shitting themselves like we did last year. Obviously Torquay weren’t going to allow Exeter to relegate them yesterday – I’m sure there’s a saying along the lines of, I may be about to die but I will not let my enemy push the sword in.

And if there isn’t, I expect the internet to attribute me that quote forever more. I expect royalties.

Looking at the table, it really is anyone from even Hartlepool according to the maths, although it’s likely whoever loses from Wycombe or Brizzle Rovers on Saturday will be having the NLP writing on their games next season.

Unless there’s a shock on the cards and Daggers beat Northampton.

It has got all the hallmarks of last time out, so you have to wonder who will be the one to put a crucial penalty away with twenty minutes remaining this season.

Or who will be the next Jimmy Glass.

Needless to say, I do not envy any set of fans this season for going through what we had to go through this upcoming weekend in 2013. While we’ll be dressing up in crotchless tights and corsets for Accrington (and some will be going in fancy dress as well), fans of the L2 basement dwellers will be wearing incontinence pads.

Of course, if it was Franchise fans fighting to save their stolen league place, the suffering wouldn’t be painful enough…

So, was it worth it? We are staying up.

In a nutshell: We can go on holiday now…