Not a bad way to start off the business end of the season…
If you had been offered Tea Bar 1 Rockers 1 beforehand, you would have gratefully accepted it and immediately turned back towards the M25.
As it was, it turned out to be one of the more satisfying fixtures of the season. Hell, one or two may have even been disappointed with the draw in the end.
In a way, last night reminded me of Burton away a year or so ago. Back then, we were facing the team at the top and came away with a more than credible draw.
And reading that report from back then, it’s interesting how even a year ago we were talking about perhaps being in the playoffs…
But once again, last night proves that the main difference is that we have a genuinely good strike force. Or more accurately, we have Lyle Taylor.
Without his effort, practically out of nowhere, we would have been heading to defeat. We weren’t playing poorly, far from it, but they had their luck through Roos fucking it up and for all our endeavour – it didn’t quite look like it was going to happen for us.
When he broke, and curled it in, it seriously rattled Northampton. And had that effort which hit the post/defender/goalkeeper/floodlight/local KFC had bounced in…
After Taylor went off (though he’s OK again), we did seem to lose our attacking potency a bit. Azeez has the pace, though he didn’t seem to get to use it last night.
To NA’s credit, he put out our best side when it would have been tempting to put Akinfenwa and Azeez together. Whether we will be forced into changes simply because of fatigue remains to be seen, but you don’t change something that finally works.
Our defence is thankfully long past the disaster zone it has been in previous seasons, although having a genuine L1 quality keeper in Roos helps. We’ll forgive him for letting their effort in.
Sweeney is settling in, and many observers felt he had his best game for us. The midfield still seems like the weak spot, except Barcham, though it proves how little we miss Sammy Moore.
So all in all, it’s another performance to give us a little spring in our step. The weird thing is, over the past few seasons these kind of games have been quite common – it’s the non-descript ones that have caused us grief.
Plus points: We didn’t lose. Looking pretty decent. Lyle Taylor. Solid back line. Still looking a cohesive unit.
Minus points: We didn’t win. Their goal.
The referee’s a…: To be honest, I didn’t really notice anything he did. Maybe he should have got their keeper to change his shirt because it clashed with our kit, but that’s no reason to hound his family.
Them: If we’re being totally honest with ourselves, a large part of the result from last night was down to them entering their sticky patch.
I would have mentioned that they also drew against Hartlepool, but that would have been a bit too churlish. Even for SW19.
They’ll go up, and you can see why they’re top. Good to see Ricky Holmes shooting as well as Craig Tanner though. Come to think of it, the rest of their finishing wasn’t that good – and the amount of crosses they did that went nowhere…
Their PA was a bit ropey, and sounding like Arthur Mullard is never a good idea when you’re describing kids as “cute”…
Point to ponder: Can we keep hold of Taylor? You’d have to think he’s getting watched by clubs higher up, and even if we did go up – could we hold off advances from a Gillingham or even a Charlton in the summer?
It would be a test for the club, probably the biggest one transfer related in the whole AFCW era, because he’s rare for one of our players – somebody who is genuinely sellable.
The only ones I can think of who got transfer fees were Gregory and Hussey. And they were non-league starlets who were worth a (relatively) cheap punt by L1 sides.
Taylor would cost more for anyone to sign him, but there’s still enough money about for somebody to take a punt on a striker who, so far, has 15 goals to his name.
He’s 25, so perhaps coming into his prime, and we shouldn’t forget the Jamie Vardy factor – namely, there’s a realisation by higher sides that there’s some genuine talent lower down.
From AFCW’s point of view, it would cause some quite sizeable rebuilding in the summer, in an area we otherwise seem to have finally nailed.
Akinfenwa is looking like he’s moving on, so that’s one player we’ll need to replace anyway. You expect Elliott to remain, and you’d hope Azeez is stuck with as well.
We’d be able to afford to at least some improvement on Taylor’s contract, especially given the likely departure of Mr Nandos. And from Taylor’s point of view – he’s been a bit of a footballing nomad, so he is at least settled here.
He’s clearly enjoying his football with us, especially now he’s not been crippled by the three-up-front bollocks, and he didn’t half enjoy scoring his goal last night.
But careers are short, and you wouldn’t blame Taylor for having his head turned in the summer. It’s up to us to deal with it if it happens…
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Your editor got to sample the delights of Milton Malsor, and in particular Milton Football Club. I can now die happy. 2) “De de de de, fucking useless”. I’m still singing it to myself this morning. 3) TGI Friday turned out to be a bit of a Womble gathering point, with club directors mingling with the hoi polloi. Didn’t stop one of our number asking a waitress how old she was, however. And no, it wasn’t me…
Anything else? One thing has become clear about the L2 table is how much we need to keep getting results like we have been doing. While this morning has felt very nice indeed, we’re still in the same position as we were after Oxford.
It was mentioned on Monday, but last night proved just how many teams are still well within this playoff chasing race.
We’re able to win games 4-1, but then so are Bristol Rovers. We can get 1-0 results over fellow playoff chasers, but so can Cambridge.
Whoever gets in the playoffs – let alone goes up – is going to have to be very good indeed. Certainly they’ll need to be consistent in a manner that in other seasons will see them go up automatically.
Last night, we did have to play at our best to get a result – even against a team who is starting to find the business end of the season challenging.
I don’t know whether L2 has got better, or simply there are more sides now who are capable of extending their season, but those playing after the 7th May will have earnt it.
Because of this, it’s when non-obvious factors can change things. It was pointed out to your editor last night that we don’t use the word “disconnect” with our team any more.
When Taylor (ITMA) gave a rallying cry to our supporters when we won a corner, we responsed in kind. The players and supporters have managed to reconnect with each other, perhaps for the first time in many years – let alone months.
Don’t underestimate the power of that. Especially in our case, where we’re all too aware of what happens when the opposite of unity occurs…
So, was it worth it? A point at the team likely to win the title? Yeah, probably…
In a nutshell: Inwards and upwards