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Oh dear

Is it safe to come out yet?

I’m going to try not to dwell on Plymouth, because others have said more than enough. But already the optimism has been well and truly dented, and the distrust of 3-4-3 has already swelled.

This site avoids tactics and formations like the plague, but we should have been warned about it with NA’s pre-game comments that it wasn’t properly grasped yet by the players.

Actually, there were definite signs during Millwall and even Cheltenham that an opposition who has a go will get joy against us, so either the players had better get to grips with it quickly, or Ardley is going to find life getting uncomfortable.

He – and we – are lucky that it’s the first game, and that it’s refocused our minds. However, this came up a few times in post-game venting, and it’s a tad concerning : our heads dropped.

That might be just a reaction to apparently playing so well, then finding ourselves two goals behind. We didn’t have the worst result in the division, and it was often the case in the WFC era that losing the first game of the campaign was sometimes the sign of a great season ahead.

But if the players have no confidence in 3-4-3 full stop, then no amount of psychobabble about stats will win us games. And if players don’t have any faith in what they’re being told to play…

It’s telling that NA has said we’ll change our formation where needed. He might need to, not just because of Cardiff tomorrow but because of the damage in confidence a second defeat would do if he doesn’t.

We’d be stupid – OK, suicidal – to try it against a Championship side. I fully expect us to stick with it for the next couple of games beyond that, however, because NA is clearly wedded to the ideology of it.

Of course, what happens if we do that then lose the games is anyone’s guess.

Hopefully, it won’t come to that, although our boss is already blaming our players. This is a feature of Ardley’s tenure that really sticks in the throat, because more often than not, they’re not the ones at fault.

And what has touched a raw nerve this weekend is that we know these are good players. Fuller, Robinson, Osbourne and Kennedy are not bad defenders, if anything it should be the most solid back line we’ve ever had in the AFCW era.

If they start letting in two goals a game on average because of how they’re forced to play, what’s that going to do to their belief? And more to the point, our goal difference?

I note that up front we didn’t score, despite having three strikers on the field. So, the same return as when we had just one then. Again, that’s another part of the field where we can’t afford to drain their confidence without good reason, especially as when we do have good spells we can’t put it in the net.

Mind you, there were already some comments made about Akinfenwa, namely why we keep having to pump the ball up to him when the only other plan we have fails. Given the over-reliance on stats, I’d like to see the spreadsheets when we start doing that.

Enough all said, I just hope this is a blip and it jabs us up the arse for tomorrow in South Wales. A win there will do wonders for our present state of mind, and even a credible loss (as in, play well but just get caught out) won’t seem so bad.

We’ve pretty much waved the white flag for this tournament for so long now, so to have a run in it would be very nice indeed. We saw what a JPT and FAC run did for us last season, in more ways than one, and besides – we’re due a win…