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Inbetween Devon and Hell


(technical note: I’ve just discovered my keyboard is being arsey, especially with the letter “c”. This report should be OK for unforced typos, no more than usual anyway, but don’t be surprised if I’ve missed something.

And anyone who makes a joke about it is a omplete unt)

You know what, I had forgotten just how far Plymouth is…

Still, in the end it was worth it. Francis Drake 1 Lord Nelson 1 was from our point of view one of those dead rubber games where we could have ended up getting our arse handed to us on a plate.

And if it hadn’t been for James Shea, we would have.

The contest more or less went like this : we started out on the front foot, they came back into it. We lost our way a bit, they didn’t. It was 0-0 at the break. Plymouth attacked some more. Shea made a good save or two. Then they scored.

Then, amazingly, we went up a gear. And it maybe wasn’t a surprise when Azeez scored. Well, he almost managed to put it over the woodwork, but who cares about minor details like that right now?

We came at them a bit more, then we were on the backfoot a bit, before almost sealing it right at the end when their goalie made a great save.

Then the referee blew his whistle and we all pissed off to the pub. Including, probably, the players.

And try saying that last paragraph when you’ve been supping for an hour.

So, what? Well, we’re still 13th, and still in theory able to make a push for the top ten, although our last three games are against the team in 3rd, then 4th, then 91st in the entire Football League.

If we don’t get another point this campaign, don’t be entirely surprised.

That said, NA set out his stall for the remaining games this season, namely getting to sixty points and – more intriguingly – players playing for contracts.

There’s obviously some incentive for the last three games, though what they are we don’t know. Though if it involves the words “Las Vegas” and “Mike Richardson” then we’ll easily get past the points target 😉

If you’re a player though, and you’ve had the intimation that you may not be here next season, you’re going to need to try a bit harder. If anything, playing well when you don’t have anything to aim for is a good test of your attitude.

To be fair, and perhaps proving there’s a gauntlet been laid, we weren’t playing like we were already on holiday on Tuesday. If that’s the mentality we’ll see until after Cheltenham, it may not be so shit to watch.

Speaking of things you’re rather not look at, here’s the rest of the report…

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Came back after the goal. Nearly won it at the end. James Shea.

Minus points: We didn’t win. Went behind. Still a feeling more needs to be done during the summer. Not won away again.

The referee’s a…: Didn’t really notice him to be honest. This may or may not be a bad thing.

Them: I don’t mind Plymouth, and they’re a club you expect to be eventually moving up the divisions again (mentioned this before, but the first game I covered for my current agency was Watford v the Pilgrims in the Championship…).

Will they go up? Probably not, though it slipped my mind until this morning that they’re in the playoffs ahead of Luton. So maybe this was a better result than first thought.

Their reaction at the end was a bit like that of Tranmere a couple of weeks ago – a missed opportunity, given the way they held their heads in their hands.

One of our fans got “spoken to” because of the constant labelling of keeper Luke McCormick as a “murderer”. Obviously causing death by dangerous driving, and excess alcohol in the blood doesn’t count as such then. Are we going to have to put criminal lawyers next to our support in future to tell them the difference between murder and manslaughter?

£22 to get in was pretty steep though, and if that “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign ever happens, it could fuck up quite a few lower league sides…

Point to ponder: Whither Azeez? He, ahem, divides opinion on various internet discussion sites and social media, and there will be some who think he shouldn’t be in an AFCW shirt next season.

Unlike Tanner, who Ardley still continues to have a blind spot for, Azeez does at least score goals every once in a while. He’s certainly more prolific than Strutton/Sheringham/Hylton/Wyke and others who have since departed our car park.

Hell, in all competitions he’s matched the sacred cow that was Jack Midson in goals from last season. And currently with nine less appearances…

Personally, I think Azeez is worth perservering with for next campaign, albeit as the third choice striker. We definitely need another decent goalscorer alongside Akinfenwa, and if we have saved the FA Cup money for such a position then we should be able to do well on that score in the summer.

Azeez has shown more than Strutton ever did, although he does need to step it up in 2015/16 because if he doesn’t – there’s always the dreaded loan deal with Woking.

Though if they go up, who do we send our unwanted players to? And more to the point, will Chris Arthur haunt us again?

Anyway, the other AA has that “Azeez is on fire” chant, which then gets changed to “Azeez is offside”. Which unless you’ve got a humour bypass is pretty funny. Especially when he went down at the end and it got changed to “Azeez has got cramp”…

Truth is stranger than fiction: Seeing a sign for something called the Earl of Plymouth, and finding out it’s a funeral parlour. No, really. You can now make your own gag about undertakers and the bar at KM.

Anything else?  The lack of a supporters coach for this game didn’t pass without comment (including at least one person who booked for it and only found out when they had got to KM…), and it does look a bit bad.

OK, we still took over 140 down to Devon, which is certainly not to be sniffed at, but it could have been more. And should have been too.

Although this is the first time I can remember a coach getting cancelled, there have been a couple of “we need more bookings” type pleas on the OS this season.

It took an external donation to prevent the same thing happening from the Hartlepool game, for instance, and now the coach travel isn’t subsidised any more, interest in using it has clearly waned.

The question is, why? I’ll be honest and admit I genuinely have no idea how good (or bad) Reptons are. After the horrors of WFC coach travel in the 90s, I’ve given it a wide berth, and Tuesday proved how many go under their own steam.

I’ve no idea how true this is, but I have heard stories of coaches not coming with toilets for long journeys. That’s criminal if so. By the lack of takeup on more than one occasion recently, there’s obviously other factors.

OK, not winning away since Boxing Day doesn’t help, neither does sitting 5+ hours on a coach appeal. And the season is winding down.

But couldn’t the club have run a service anyway? A quick glance at Reptons says they have minibuses for hire, so why the club couldn’t have run one of those is beyond me.

But then, the club and “service” doesn’t always go together like it should. On Tuesday, an SW19 reader told me how difficult it was to get a signed shirt as a birthday present.

They got one done eventually, which was down to them happening to “know” somebody who was able to get it done. But it shouldn’t be like that.

Especially as most people who support AFCW aren’t as connected and would pretty much give up once they come across a brick wall.

As the club itself expands, the need for customer service becomes ever more important, and it still struggles to grasp that at times – it shouldn’t be a closed shop, but often feel like it is.

I can testify this myself – as soon as you start going out of the loop, so to speak, it’s amazing how little you can actually find out. And I consider myself reasonably well immersed in the club, so god help anyone who’s not.

There’s obviously more pressing issues with the ground etc, but that does not come at the expense of looking after your fanbase. Even if it’s not deemed massively consequencial…

So, was it worth it? Actually, it was.

In a nutshell: Where has this season gone?