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Robins Nest


Now that’s what pre-season friendlies should be…

With the season proper starting this time next week, it’s always good to finish it with a game like Epsom 3 Cheltenham 1. And it’s even better when you have some idea of the starting XI when it really matters.

With the addition of A Triallist Paul Robinson this morning, it does seem things are finally complete. We’ve got the full squad, we sort of have an idea of what we’re supposed to be doing, and I think it showed today.

True, they had a bit more play than I’d liked, and I think three at the back will undo us at times, but you’re not worried. Or at least, shouldn’t be.

There’s not that undercurrent of fear that things haven’t gelled, that you’re pretending to yourself that everything will be OK once the proper stuff starts.

Or in other words, you know that pre-season being solely for fitness was and always will be a crock of shite.

We could have started the season today without too many issues outstanding. As it was, it was still pre-season, which made some of the tackles a little bit less, ahem, contested.

I’ve no doubt we’ll use this week of training to sharpen up, and maybe figure out why we’ve let in yet another goal right at the end. But even that shouldn’t take away from some decent finishing.

Robinson’s goal was a great way to introduce yourself, especially after 90-odd seconds. I think he rather liked the “One A. Triallist” and “Sign him up” songs afterwards, and the best thing about him is – at least we won’t get gazumped by Pompey.

And yes, I know he was at fault for their goal. Don’t make him feel that unwelcome already, we haven’t properly signed him yet…

Lyle seems to be the player you continue to hope Azeez will be, and at least Akinfenwa knows where the net is now. All we need is Elliott to do likewise and maybe we can finally banish the memories of Tanner.

All in all though, you can allow yourself some optimism, even if it may occasionally be misguided. At least until next Saturday when Plymouth gub us 4-0…

Plus points: We won. Pretty comfortable. Robinson looks good. Ditto Osbourne. Another good finish from Lyle. Looking more of a team.

Minus points: Their goal.

The referee’s a…: As we’re in a good mood, let’s be generous and suggest he’s still in pre-season mode as well. I got the feeling a couple of instances might have ended up with a booking in a competitive fixture, somehow.

Them: This game was a bit surreal, because a) we played them only three months ago in the Football League, and b) they came to us rather than the other way around.

They will probably do OK back in non-league football, although I expect they’ll be looking to emulate Brizzle Rovers and only have one season of the NLP covering their games.

Apparently, very few if any of their squad today faced us in May, although at least Harry Pell should fit in better there.

Cheltenham are living proof of what happens when you don’t keep looking to improve your team, and see if your manager is doing a good job. There was something of the sense that their demotion was un-necessary, especially as like Aldershot, Barnet (before they returned) and Macclesfield they were a club we looked to emulate in L2.

Mind you, they did pay us money for Banjo “Byron” Harrison from us, so maybe they deserved to go down for that alone.

Obviously the game caught the imagination of those in the south west, because only 38 turned up. And I bet 30 of them lived in London. I doubt if we would have taken significantly more if it had been reversed, but it did add to the oddness…

Point to ponder: I wonder if this campaign is about to be the put-up-or-shut-up one?

It becomes a cliche every pre-season, but this time you can say it with some justification – this is the strongest squad of the AFCW era, and it finally has to reflect that in league position.

We’ve always been “good enough”, but things like losing strikers in January has always set us back. And it’s always been quite disturbing how we’ve always failed to deal with that.

This shouldn’t be an issue at all in 15/16. Akinfenwa we know about, Lyle Taylor has looked decent in pre-season (Derek Duncan Syndrome™ notwithstanding) and Elliott looks a handful. And I haven’t mentioned Azeez coming good.

We shouldn’t have too much upheaval, form/injuries notwithstanding. As we saw today we look a unit, and L2 is always a division where an organised team can do very well.  So we might have simply run out of excuses this upcoming campaign.

It could start getting difficult for NA this season if we still don’t think we’ve moved on. There is still that question over him whether he can take a good squad (like he has now) further – a question that even now, has never been fully answered.

If he can, then great. If he can’t…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) What is that music Mikey T played over the PA five minutes before kickoff? 2) On that same subject, it was clearly 1980s Compilation Day – even Spandau Ballet got an airing. 3) Surprised how low key it was, generally speaking.

Anything else? I didn’t do an update for Thursday against Ks, but I’ll just say this. It simply re-affirmed my view that should NPL happen, we should just wash our hands of the whole relationship and let Chelski deal with them.

And if they end up a decade from now at Corinthian Casuals with barely a pot to piss in, they really aren’t our concern…

So, was it worth it? I would guess so.

In a nutshell: The season starts here.