And the playoffs are now most definitely on…
After two games that could have made us book our summer holidays already, we now find ourselves in the driving seat and with the game (if not the points) in hand.
It’s all getting a bit real. And surreal.
Thankfully, I had two reports from deepest, darkest Devon. OK, one proper one and a Tudor haiku:
Defend a corner:
Counterattack… Wombles score!
And now from Secret Agent…
So Garg Navy 1 Womble Army 2 was pretty much what I expected. Despite previous performance being no guarantee of future return, points from Home Park are pretty much a foregone conclusion. As are late winners (Tok’s effort in our first visit anyone?).
The feeling of optimism was not dampened by seeing the major delay on the M4 at Swindon or the closed both ways affair on the A38 after Exeter.
A swift detour first via the M3 and A303 and then a northern excursion around Dartmoor preceded a half hour search for somewhere to park at 2.00pm and missing lunch at the pub. Never mind as the pasty van parked in the bus stop had a few left to sate us all.
Into the ground and a decent number of away fans made the atmosphere decent. It was some sort of bizarre experience to hear the Lord’s Prayer, a sermon and the National Anthem but the flags were very smart and blowing well in the wind.
With all this excitement we kicked off four minutes late and we’re still a bit dozy when Plymouth rattled our bar within thirty seconds. Cue everyone waking up and starting to realise that they were there to play a game.
Plenty of good football played by both sides but not much goal threat until Plymouth got a corner. The ball was cleared out to Jake Reeves who, seeing a huge empty space in front of him, ran forward at pace with the ball and passed into the path of LTB who slotted past the keeper. 1-0 and thanks very much.
Rest of the half was fairly even but Roos wasn’t troubled too much.
Plymouth came out about four minutes before us and the ref and stood around waiting. However, they were keen to get back in the game and decided to keep the ball and attack with vigour.
We had a few scares but nothing seemed like going in, then, despite the ref (more about him later) missing the hand ball by their player in the build up, a cross from their left cleared everyone and left Carey unmarked to strike a sweet shot past Roos right hand.
Both sides wanted a win and the midfield seemed as wide as the Grand Canyon at times, but the game swung from end to end as chances were made and missed/cleared/saved.
After a hard time chasing and harrying up front, LTB and Elliott were withdrawn for Bayo and Bayo2. Some in the away support weren’t too pleased, but the former two had run themselves ragged.
Bayo was there to hold the ball up better but Azeez had a couple of chances where he forced the keeper to make important saves. Then a bustle between Bayo and the centre back over a ball bouncing into the box entices the keeper to come for it just as Bayo nodded it over him and it bounced into an empty goal.
Cue a surge to the front if the stand and celebrations. Bayo looked happy too
Five minutes of added time was seen out in comfort and another away win notched up. Happy away day again.
Plus points: a win, away, defending well, jumping into the playoff spots.
Negative points: none really, the ref was a bit…
The referee’s a… Not much cop. He gave us one free kick in the first half, missed so much and allowed their centre back to body check Bayo and wave it away. At least he didn’t give a foul for our second although it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had!
Them: a more than decent team. Saturday was the first time they have been out of the top three since the third game of the season and may have been top for longer than Northampton.
Was it worth it? Are you serious?
Next week – Creepy at home. Can we do the double over them for the first time? We need to.
And right now, “need to” is going to be the operative phrase…
If we do find ourselves planning games after the 7th May, games like this might have been part of the reason why. Beating teams above you is always nice, and especially in situations like ours right now.
One can safely assume the worst is over, in regards to our form, although there is always the potential to ape Jordan Spieth at Amen Corner last night.
Especially as we still have to face Daggers, St. Evenage and Newport.
It’s ironic that when put in those terms, we might have had the two easiest fixtures possible just gone. Of course, we should win against Crawley, and we should follow that up at Victoria Road…
Still, we’re in the driving seat, and given how most of the other teams around us are incapable of doing anything right now, we’ll happily take the reins for seventh.
Thinking of Saturday for a moment, if it’s going to be one of the last contributions from Akinfenwa for us, scoring the winner like we did wouldn’t be a bad one.
Needless to say, it made a lot of people at Northampton happy 😉
(speaking of the Cobblers, who got what they deserved on Saturday – many of them seem to want us to join them in L1 next season, if only because they want to see us gub that lot just down the M1…)
Having watched the highlights again, the first goal (great finish by LTB, by the way) makes a bit of a mockery about not leaving anyone up from a corner.
I’m sure there’s some tactical nuance about it that only those in football can ever understand, but then zonal marking is supposed to work, too.
Needless to say, Taylor and Elliott started together again, so QEfuckingD and all that. Our success/failure for the rest of this season is going to rely on those two – as it has done for most of this season.
Mind you, if we do get something extra out of the other forwards…
Akinfenwa’s goal was the sort that we expected him to get when he first signed for us, and for one of the few times now his physique paid off.
So, what? As said earlier the difficult games are coming up, so best to keep the giddyometer setting on “low” right now. We really are at the stage now where a run of form either way will finally decide things.
The confidence is returning, as it should be when you’ve won two on the spin, and we won’t be better placed to finally remove a few curses.
Of course, if our form in January/February came with the guidance of a sports psychologist, perhaps we ought to hire a priest for some exorcisms in the run-in?
The question comes up again about can-we-will-we, and the answer to the first is so obvious it’s not even worth stating.
As for the latter, I’m still not sure. There’s likely to be a twist in the playoff tail, probably more than a couple before 5pm on May 7th, and we’ve done well out of those thus far.
You can argue about how well we’ll do if we do reach them, although the expectancy won’t be on us if we did. With our current position though, the pressure is on us to stay there.
I can’t be arsed to check, but from memory we’ve hit the playoff positions twice before, and both times we’ve dropped out of them pretty quickly.
It’s why even now, I’m lukewarm about us reaching them, because I’m still not sure about our staying power. Maybe our best bet is to claim the seventh spot on the last day of the season, to make sure we don’t have any time to balls it up?
Oddly enough, I would fancy our chances more in a once-off game (as in, a Wembley playoff final) than getting there in the first place.
We’ve only had that situation where we’ve absolutely had to win under NA once, and never have we needed a Jack Midson penalty so much.
Mind you, that was in the days when our back line were the legendary MMK and Pim Balkenstein. And back then, “it’s in the script” was the go-to phrase.
We’re a much better side now, and I think Taylor and Elliott especially are good enough to make that extra step up when needed. Would they be bogged down by us going out and trying to be too “clever” though…?
Admittedly, my reticence about playoffs etc does come a lot from how ready the club is to go up a level. And I still don’t think a few areas of it have quite reached L2 yet.
There was an interesting debate amongst DT types last week about ST prices, and how they’d go up if we found ourselves in L1 after all.
This might raise some eyebrows, not only with the words “DT” and “interesting” in the same sentence, but it appears that right now our budget would be in the bottom two of the third tier.
In L2, budgets are often a red herring anyway – luck and tactical astuteness play more of a part, as a lot of the players aren’t that good and the style of play is like a brutalist office block.
In the division above though, wage bills tend to make more of a difference. Players like Lyle Taylor become the norm rather than the exception, and you can bet he’s currently one of our higher earners.
That’s not to say that we couldn’t strengthen in the summer, but it will probably require that next level of investment that will give cold feet to many.
ST and ticket prices are pretty much as high as they should be at KM, and one further increase may finally start meeting with resistance.
You certainly can’t keep expecting Mike Richardson to keep ploughing money in, although if he did at least we can no longer claim we don’t have a sugar daddy…
Promotion would be a nice problem to have, but just as I don’t think we were quite ready for L2 football when we won at Eastlands, I have a similar trepidation about the old third division.
Would we go straight back down if we went up? Perhaps, and it’s not uncommon for promoted sides to return to L2 within a season or two.
Not that going down would kill us too much, providing we don’t go too mad over spending, but it’s not something I’d like to experience if we didn’t have to.
Especially if we face those mutant cunts next campaign.
Anyway, enjoy this week. Just make sure you send two very important emails if you haven’t…