And that concludes the pre-season bonanza…
It’s always good to end with a bit of confidence, and after a bit of a slow start Paras 0 Insurgents 3 gave us exactly that.
It may not be the full starting XI that will take to the field against Shrewsbury a week today, but it’s pretty clear that most of what was on show will be. True, a couple who played at Havant last night (ie Francomb) will likely be playing, but those who went today will know mostly what to expect.
Truth be told, it wasn’t a very good first half. And I did wonder if training camps like La Manga are all they’re cracked up to be – we did play a bit like we were still on the golf course.
Not to mention it damaging Framps.
Still, we started to get back into it. I don’t entirely believe Andy Scott when he said :
“(his side) without a doubt were the better team in the 1st half”
I guess if we had scored before half time it would have been the same result.
All of which makes
Tom Beere’s Harry Pell’s slow motion free kick literally a minute after the restart ever more welcome. Seriously, I think the slowness of it all fooled everyone, although given the muted reaction everyone probably thought it had been disallowed for taking too long to go in.
What was good today was other players bar Tubbs and AA getting on the scoresheet. You can see the goals here, and I’m sure that KSL was fouled in the box for the third. Still, Rigg didn’t mind taking the free kick.
So all in all, there’s not much more to add. At least in this section. There were no further injuries, which is always welcome, we look a world away from the scraggly bunch of retards who stunk the joint out at Margate, and all of a sudden we’re looking forward to next Saturday.
I’m sure that optimism won’t last…
Plus points: We won. Clean sheet. Wider range of goalscorers. Looking more comfortable as the game went on.
Minus points: First 35 minutes.
The referee’s a…: Honestly didn’t notice him until he blew the full time whistle. He could and should have played more injury time though, so deserves death threats for that alone.
Them: Played OK in the first half hour, although I can’t see them making the playoffs without adding to their forward line, somehow.
It’s funny to think that when AFCW started, playing Aldershot was one of the Holy Grails we wanted to attain. Just in the FA Trophy, as playing them in the league – as in, the Conference – was clearly too optimistic to dream about.
How times change.
Those with longer memories may remember your editor going to the Recreation Ground last August Bank Holiday, and today merely reconfirmed the views from back then.
Their problems have been well documented, and if nothing else we should use them as a test case of how not to squander your Football League place. Although I still sense that Aldershot are culturally a Conference National club, and they might be at somewhat of a natural level.
It was weird listening to PA announcements about them coming out of administration, and talk about being more financially sound than they have been for a while. Perhaps being in the FL put them in more of a precarious position than we thought?
Point to ponder: Harry Pell at centre back? He was there today, and I don’t think it would have changed NA’s mind in getting in another CB to replace Framps.
I’m not saying he’s completely useless, but against some of the better forwards in L2 he’ll be ripped apart. And this causes a problem for him – midfield wise, we could play Bulman and Sammy Moore without too much of an issue. We don’t actually need him unless he’s on good form.
Him at the back is only likely to happen if Framps, Benno and somebody else gets injured – a stop gap, in other words. At least, that how it felt seeing him trying some clearances today.
It’s fair to say that he hasn’t really shone in the last three weeks. He’s too “senior” to play a cameo or two in the u21s (although I think it wouldn’t hurt him) and you have to wonder if he should go on loan somewhere to build his confidence up again.
That’s different from throwing him on the scrapheap, and at the Meet The Manager shindig NA was very quick to point out how young Pell still was. We talk about the youngsters like Beere and Jacquart needing to be nurtured (and it was a good sign to see how they stepped up a bit more today), but perhaps the one needing most attention is our #12…?
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) “Alive and Kicking” over the PA as the teams came out. Either a reference to Aldershot’s recent problems or a PA announcer still stuck in 1985. 2) Strangely low attendance, considering how relatively easy it was to get to. Should have known something was up when I got to the neighbouring car park at 1345 and it was half full. Mind you, this is the last free weekend for many and it was sunny.
Anything else? And so the phony war has ended and it all starts again seven days from now. It hasn’t been a bad set of PSFs, mostly, and there’s enough to keep us optimistic.
The last competitive first team fixture we played was t’Stanley, back on the 3rd May. That was thirteen Saturdays ago, unless I can’t count, and it feels like a lifetime away. We’ve overhauled our front line, and given everyone a collective boner in the process.
There’s been quite a relaxed atmosphere this close season, more so than the one a year ago looking back, and once again today we looked a happier set of players. Even if NA was pretty animated on the bench in the first half…
On the field, at least, there’s been a definite upgrade in standards. I don’t think we’ll win the division, or get promoted, or even get in the playoffs unless we hit some good form at the right time and stay lucky.
But we should expect an easier ride this upcoming campaign. Our return to the FL has, in truth, been a much harder one than many expected, and we’re “owed” a good season.
There’s going to be plenty of opinions that L2 will have got better, and in one way it will have. But it is still League Two, and it won’t change that much – in both style and quality of personnel.
We’ve learned this pre-season that AA may need to fine-tune his game to find our players when he does his flick-ons, but that will come in time. We know that Tubbs can finish (most of the time), which is something we’ve lacked since – well, at any point in the FL era.
And I include Midson in that.
We’ve learned that if Worner got injured/stuck on the A3, Shea is a more than adequate replacement for him. We’ve found that Jack Smith looks pretty decent (and I think he played RB today – so we don’t need to worry so much if Fuller gets crocked).
Our midfield and defence doesn’t look the worst it’s ever been, there’s been no alarm bells sounding off this past three weeks. True, there are some issues – our centre back pairings may be an Achilles heel, especially with Framps out, although Phillips and Benno played with each other at Brentford.
If we’re being honest, neither KSL or Chris Arthur will be anything more than impact subs for a good while. Azeez is going to need working on, and we’ve mentioned Pell too many times.
But as my old nan used to say, if that’s all you’ve got to worry about, you’re not doing too badly…
So, was it worth it? I’m going to miss pre-season friendlies – they’re so hassle free.
In a nutshell: Three points next Saturday, please.
And finally…: Not too many comments from the Havant game last night, which your editor went to. So here’s a quick recap:
£12 to get in – a rip-off. Mistake by Phillips for their goal. Like today, got into it more as the game went on. Locals still love Chris Arthur. Azeez kept getting into great positions almost as many times as he failed to hit the target. Jacquart made the difference as he came on.
It’s very easy to get confused between Byron Bubb and Bradley Bubb. A couple of triallists for us, get the feeling we won’t be seeing them much more often. Callum Kennedy played – again – and you have to think he’ll be a contracted player again, especially with Framps out.
Ed Harris played for them. And so did Warren Cummings, who looked a bit slimmer and a tad faster than he was with us. Unless Conference South is slower than we remember it.
Oh, and Alan Reeves was there. He looks a lot older than I remember him, though perhaps the own goals he specialised in made him age prematurely. Also there? One Shaun North – who was in quite deep discussion with one Mr Reeves….