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Forest Grim Rovers

Oh dear, that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Last minute goals against you, especially ones that put you behind, always suck the big one. But somehow, crashing out of the FAC this weekend has really stung.

And I mean, stung.

Granted, it’s not the most embarrassing result any FL side has had this weekend. Step forward Barnsley, Notts County, and Brizzle Rovers. And Saturday’s fixture may well be a L2 one next season.

But this has really pissed people off this weekend. OK, I was at Fulham watching Kit Symons going to the gallows, but even from relative afar, it all sounded depressingly predictable.

Anyway, I got a report from Whatadom. Back after the break…

What to say about this game….

Well it was pretty clear that when the draw happened I thought ****! That’s our FA Cup run over then. The feeling didn’t change on Saturday morning with the weather looking utter crap, and all it really did was tell me what I knew already.

And it was confirmed upon reaching the Fountain pub with my bold statement of “We’re going out of the cup today,” being confirmed with like minded supporters.

Ok, so why this feeling? Us Pre Match – Won 3 in a row and knowing it would end and with the normal bollocks from players saying how they are up for it.

The Conditions Pre Match – Horrible Day to wake up to.

Them Pre Match- Top of the Conference, and therefore used to winning even when they play crap (a bit like us when we were non league). Supposedly they take a lot of influence from the film Moneyball to player recruitment (i.e. sign crap players with decent stats).

The Match : Well the giant killing was on after 6 minutes when we managed to muck up an easy clearance. I think multiple things went wrong here. First Wilson got his angles wrong by rushing off his line, and Bulman faffed around when he should have punted the ball into row Z (do we even have a row Z, I hope NPL will have a row Z).

So that seemed to spur us on, and the Equaliser came from Callum Kennedy who smashed it in like a defender. To be honest from the rest of the game and until the 85th minute we looked the better team, and looked League 2 quality and they looked non league.

But….. (and I will sound so Ardley now)

Where was the final end product ? We simply did not deliver anything in the final 3rd, and my biggest disappointment was that the keeper was not made to work hard enough in the second half when we were on top.

The big moment for us to win the game alas fell to Barry Fuller, and you just felt, for Christ sake, why did it have to fall to someone who has only scored 3 goals in his career (so good career choice to be a full back then).

But we showed our league two credentials and decided to not play the last 10 minutes. Alas when you play a team that is used to winning they will play and have the belief that they can win at any time (again remember us in non league days when we’d score a lot in the last 10 minutes). So was it really surprising that FGR found a winner ?

Good Points : Toonga making his debut, and looking like with the right coaching he could be making some more first team appearances. Toonga caring. Azeez looking hungry and pissed off that he started on the bench. Taylor running his socks off. Elliot being ok as a big lump and not fouling as much as BEAST. Reeves demanding more running an energy upfront to make something happen. Wilson looking relatively comfortable with basic keeping abilities

Bad Points : Wishing we had BEAST instead of Elliot as our Big Lump in a cup tie. Rigg is a bit rubbish at right wing (Francombe any day). Thinking that at 80 mins we’d settle for a replay? No second option on our right wing when Francombe is out, and Tom Beere not really exciting you when coming on. Not starting Azeez up front. Not having a decent shot stopper between the sticks

Truth is stranger than fiction : Portsmouth winning their first FA cup game since the semi final in 2010. The Gloucestershire press describing FGR’s achievement as a ‘Giant Killing.’ Really AFC Wimbledon as a giant killing ? Show’s partly how far we have come since 2002 to be described as Giants.

Point to ponder : Going out of all of the cups in the first round this season will not reflect on Ardley’s next review will it? As I wrote in my last Morecambe article, Ardley will be under more scrutiny now, and the poor cup showing may result in a lack of funds being available in January and the close season should we need to strengthen for that playoff surge.

Was it worth it : I knew we were going out when the draw was made

Didn’t exactly sound a barrel of laughs.

Asking around those who went “in real life” (ie not off t’internet), it sounds like we only properly played in fits and starts, when we needed to.

The rest of the time sounded quite dire. Remember those FAC games against the likes of W&H back in the day, and how meekly we surrendered in them?

One has to suspect there was a large element of complacency on Saturday. It usually happens, especially when we get pre-game comments like how much we’ve clicked.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that FGR took advantage of that. They obviously sensed they could get an upset, especially if it’s true we decided to try and win the game by seeing how much we could pass it sideways.

Which does beg a question – if we had won the last three league games, why did we try and change it? Why have we once again stifled any momentum? Was that Ardley – once again – trying to be more clever than he actually is?

It’s interesting how in the space of 90 minutes he’s suddenly being disected again. Before the game, there was a lot of contentment about beating t’Stanley, York and Hartlepool.

Since 5pm on Saturday, even those results are being looked at again less favourably. We won in Lancashire, but we were 2-0 down within ten minutes.

York were so shit that they axed their manager soon afterwards, and Hartlepool weren’t much better. So instead of us “clicking”, it’s now us simply being in the right place against the right teams…

Either that or else your editor really ought to leave the country more often.

When that sort of thing happens, it suggests there’s a lot of hidden disillusionment with the current regime. NA doesn’t get anywhere near the benefit of the doubt he used to any more, and even just one bad performance (if not result) brings things up to the surface again.

We have, once again, crashed out in a cup competition in the first round. That is quite simply beyond piss-poor, and especially as we “need” cup runs these days.

The season is by no means over, but now there is real pressure to make the league campaign more “interesting” (and I don’t mean fighting relegation).

League Two is a bit weird insofar as any team in the top half has a theoretical shout at the playoffs, because there are so many places up for grabs.

Right now, we’re in that category, but do we have the ability to go on the much-needed run? Not just in talent, but in terms of getting the job done consistently.

Teams that have a couple of good results, give it the big one then find themselves slapped in the face don’t get into playoffs. Teams that have a couple of good results, knuckle down even harder and go for 6/7 game winning streaks, do.

The former describes us to a tee. The latter hasn’t applied at all to us since the days of the Conference. And let’s be honest here – can you really see us making a sustained run of form without fucking it up?

Yes, we’ve won the last three games, but how long before we find ourselves without a victory in the same amount of fixtures? There’s been for a good while that niggling doubt that if we did win a few games we’d still fail to build the momentum from it.

Should we bounce back at Fratton Park this Sunday, we would have four straight wins. That should be a major cause for optimism, yet it doesn’t feel like that this morning.

That remains our problem, and TBH I’m not sure how we get out of that mindset for this season** – there’s quite a widespread (and eyeopening) lack of belief that we won’t do much more than what we’ve done the last three years.

** – note the careful choice of words at the end of that last sentence, by the way.

That’s certainly true of the supporters, and one has to wonder how much the players think that as well. No, they’d never admit that in public, but results and performances don’t lie.

So while there’s still a lot to play for right now in theory, don’t be surprised if the whole NPL thing becomes the sole distraction for this season. It might end up saving our sanity…