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At the Races

Is it me or is this Monday morning slightly different than usual?

I mean, we played a team that hadn’t won in five previous league games, who have only scored once in that time, who weren’t in the top four and who had a former player (and assistant manager) facing us.

And we didn’t lose.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re finally learning how to play this division after all? It would have taken us four years to do so, although when we went 1-0 down there was a definite air of deja vu all over again. Especially when Shea ballsed up for it (disclaimer: I haven’t actually seen either goal yet).

That we came back before half time, could have won it ourselves and got something out of a game we would normally have lost is a step in the right direction.

True, a couple of post-match comments from those there said we were poor to average, although again – we’ve heard that before without the bonus of a point.

Or to put it another way, nobody has been bitching much about us this past couple of days.

Oddly, that was the case against Newport as well. I think last week people really did write that one off. Me, I spent a lot of it thinking that about 6 years ago that very fixture was in the Conference South – how times change (or not).

So what is different from the horrors of Stevenage and Accrington? Beating Burton and Morecambe for a start, although we’ll know more about ourselves when we face Plymouth/Tranmere/Northampton.

It’s weird that our next two league games are against the teams who are currently top and second top respectively. It’s even weirder that neither of them hold as much fear for us as playing Carlisle or Hartlepool would be.

Yes, we should lose our next two games. But then, we should have beaten the strongest two teams in the entire Football League right now too (because they prop up the rest of the 91 Club….)

Still, at least not much of significance is happening right now – except for the obvious event, which I’ll come onto a bit later. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because at least it means things aren’t going wrong.

It was a surprise to see Captain Mark Phillips go on loan last week, especially as Benno is starting to creak a bit more. Christ, the guy celebrated his 33rd birthday on Saturday.

I hope that Phillips is one of those moves that is to actually get game time rather than proverbially, as like Arthur and possibly Worner this season alone, there’s this feeling that the revolving door is starting to turn yet again.

Centre back wise, it seems we’re relying on either somebody drawing his pension (Benno), somebody who isn’t ours (Barrett, although I suspect he’ll be our first permanent signing come January) and somebody so injury prone he gets crocked from picking up a paper clip (Framps).

Either Phillips is good enough, or he isn’t. Which may sound like a blindingly obvious statement, but it is a bit odd that we’re sticking with a 33 year old but letting a 32 year old back to his old club on loan.

Which makes you wonder why we signed Phillips in the first place.

I wonder if we’re already making initial plans for what to do in January? We shouldn’t be involved in yet another tussle against the drop zone this time around – if we are, then it’s time to put new ink in the AFCW printer for Ardley’s P45.

But there were some comments after Saturday that we still look shit in the midfield, so maybe that will be the priority? At least your editor is starting to feel vindicated after increasingly negative comments about Sammy Moore 😉

Perhaps a young CB who will be here for the next couple of years, and perhaps another striker (unless AFCB really do shaft us and sell Tubbs in January, where we will definitely need to replace like for like) as well? Nice problems to be thinking about already, without having to constantly bail out water.

Speaking of non-existent midfielders – whither Harry Pell? If anyone needs to go out on loan “for game time”, it’s him. Yet oddly he’s still in AFCW colours at the moment.

Is he, to put it bluntly, unloanable? Suspension is one thing, injured is another, and being fit-but-not-match-fit is the sort of thing Louis van Gaal says. But if he’s none of those things yet he’s still here, something is awry.

Which would be a shame, as at the beginning of last season it was a case of when, not if, he would be a rare big money move out. Sadly for him, football is littered with youngsters in the same predicament as he is, who are on the scrapheap at 22 because they’re just passengers.

Of course, we could be saving him for tomorrow………..

I have to be honest here, and admit that this latest tour of the Franchise circus has passed me by. Maybe it’s the JPT thing, a tournament you tend not to give a shit about until you start reaching quarter final stages when it suddenly starts becoming interesting.

Maybe it’s because of the club’s continued reluctance to accept that we’re even playing them? It can get away with that a little bit more this time around, because there wouldn’t be much more buildup if we were facing Cheltenham again.

Personally, I hope we put out a strong team that at least tries to make up for the C1C debacle. To actually win at their soulless hovel full of soulless token human beings would do a lot for our self esteem.

And it might even finally test the quip somebody made after our last trip there, namely if we beat them we never get to play them again. The Footballing Gods are like that.

Even if we lose there yet again, at least let’s try not to wave the white flag so readily this time. The League Cup was embarrassing, and I don’t just mean the way we celebrated a consolation penalty.

Shit performances are bad enough, but when it’s against the worst possible opponents, it really was hard to swallow for a good time afterwards. At least in the first game we lost to an ultra-jammy last minute goal, but we were proud.

So there’s no excuse tomorrow not to have a bit of pride restored in this fixture. It’s winnable, despite Franchise’s current form, and the squad and playing style is more settled than it was in August.

Hell, win tomorrow and I’ll forgive anything the team does for about the next few days.

One final thing about the JPT tie – I note that you can’t buy tickets on the gate, unless you go in the “home” end. No doubt they will ask questions on the gate about the favourite team of the locals, so brush up on your Tottenham Hotspur history.

I wonder how many of us will go this time round – certainly not over 1000, probably not even 500. That said, there are a relatively large amount of people who will want to be at the Frenzydome, something I’m not sure the club fully appreciates.

We probably wouldn’t take as many to Sixfields tomorrow if we were playing Northampton, which would say a lot.

This will be the first time we’ve put in such ticketing restrictions, at least the first time I can remember for a long while, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been implemented before.

It’s not before time, and for high profile games it’s a good idea to have one – the vast majority who want a ticket will be able to get one anyway.

Also, we’re on the upper tier, so if any “on the pitch” types want to do just that tomorrow – remember to go head first. Who knows, the impact might even permanently damage the foundations…