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Cloak and Dagger


(updated 31st July, right down the bottom)

Just think, everyone. This time next week, we’ll have played a competitive fixture…

And after Conference 0 League One 1, I think we’ll all be glad to play proper stuff again. Both on and off the field, if truth be told.

If you couldn’t be arsed to go today -which applied to 99% of us, sans your editor and a couple of others – then you really didn’t miss much. We won, with Fitzpatrick netting. Everyone got their 90 minute runout, and the four games in a week have finally come to an end.

And that was really that. Too many overhit balls, a few crap passes, and an all-round sense that the players are just going through the motions so they don’t get injured for Walsall next week.

It was the same last night at Woking, with our JPT-esque squad, though at least Tom Elliott netted twice at Kingfield…

Have we learned anything? Not really, I guess we’ll not be up to speed with our match sharpness until nearer the end of the month.

I don’t think we look a bad side, we seem to have an idea of what we’re doing. Our pace might work against us, and we still need that fourth striker to change things for us.

But overall, it could have been a worse pre-season for us – all things considered.

We didn’t get anyone crocked, although there’s still time for that. Our defence is starting to look in tune with each other, though midfield might need to start clicking sooner rather than later.

Are we ready for Walsall? Probably. I don’t get the sense we’re underprepared, like we were under TB’s two pre-season campaigns in the FL.

We haven’t had a stupid new playing style to contend with, unlike last campaign, which thankfully got binned at the right time. And there should be the momentum from last season still around.

So we basically now sit and wait until we go to the Bescot next weekend. There is the Meet The Manager next week, so be warned if he starts getting out his Powerpoint presentation and flipboards…

Plus points: We won. Ended pre-season going in the right direction.

Minus points: Probably not entirely match sharp. Feels like phoney war.

The referee’s a…: The lino gave Barcham and Taylor some dodgy looking offsides, so at least the officials are now performing to the level we expect during the regular season.

Them: When we played at Dagenham last time, in the game that (almost) made your editor believe we’d reach the playoffs, I wrote this about them:

I feel a bit sorry for Daggers, as I think the rigours of Football League life were ultimately too much for them. Culturally, they’re a non-league club, perhaps a more successful version of Woking, and as such they’re going back to their natural position.

There is a sense of them being a backwater, especially considering they struggle to get support in West Aaaam territory, so unless John Still does his usual we really might not play them again for a long while.

£21 to get in is a bit of a pisstake, although the bar under the stand at half time was welcome. Even if it did serve only Carling products.

Apart from it being £12 instead of £21, the same applies today as much as it did in April. They might do well next season, although going there did have the same homely vibe as Woking did last night.

It summed it up when their PA bloke announced they were hosting Southport on the opening day, then off to Chester and then to Guiseley, with the follow-up quote : “You might need to find that on a map”.

And listening to that makes you realise one thing – we must never, ever return back to non-league…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) 98 of our fans there, which was announced over the PA for some reason. Worrying thing is, that will still be bigger than some away turnouts in that stand next season. 2) Did you know that if you’ve forgotten vital equipment, you can write match reports from going into Ladbrokes and nicking half their pens and betting slips? You do now…

Anything else? I’m not really sure what else to add. All the practice games have finished, the next time we run onto the field the result will matter, and by the time we face Scunthorpe at KM these fixtures will have been long forgotten.

I get the impression there’s a lot of trepidation, at least with the supporters. We’re expecting a struggle, indeed quite a few think we’ll end up back in League Two in nine months time.

The truth is, we don’t know what to expect. It will be harder, but how much by? Will the likes of Coventry, Sheff Utd and Bolton be toying with us, or are they just big names that are there to be shot down?

That is why 2016/17 might be the most fascinating for some while. We’re not as naive as we were when we entered L2, although we are finding out the hard way what happens when you skimp a little bit on signing a forward.

We could struggle, yet we could equally do OK. I’m reliably informed that apart from the very good sides and the hopeless cases, most of L1 is a much of a muchness, which if that’s true – this season could end up surprising people. In a pleasant way…

So, was it worth it? Glad the games matter from now on, to be honest.

In a nutshell: Bring on Walsall. Please.

***UPDATED 31st July***

And finally…: Yep, if you’re a Merton/Wandsworth resident and you haven’t written to the Mayor yet, do so. It’s more or less a letter of support, it will only take a couple of minutes, and while it shouldn’t affect things too much, it’s never a bad idea to remind everyone we haven’t gone away…