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Fleet services

In homage of Saturday’s weather. If you’re under 45, you’ll need to hear the original to understand it though…

So, another point. And the fear of a post-Franchise comedown never materialised after all. Simmie recovered from the shite weather enough by last night to write up the following.

It’s Sunday evening and I’m still not quite thawed out after Not Blackpool 0-0 Very Much Wimbledon, and I could essentially write the same as our recent game against Bolton.

I very much turned up expecting to get our arses ripped a new one in a style most recently achieved by the likes of Sheffield United, especially after a certain result during the week.

I mean losing to Cray Valley Paper Mills really could have rocked the mindset of the squad.

To be honest, this was a tactical masterclass by Neal Ardley. 3-5-2 allowed us to nullify Fleetwood’s nippy and tiny forward line, while also using Barnett and Elliott to pressurise their small and nippy defensive line.

There’s a theme developing here. We really could have won this, and that’s in no doubt to a strong performance from the team, and also the management.

Running through the squad, Shea made a few good saves, Nightingale was our best centre-back by far, and managed to deal with anything that Fleetwood threw at him, and even dealt with being put in a terrible situation by *cough* Bulman *cough*’s passing a few times very well.

In midfield, Reeves ran the show, and seems to have taken Nightingale under his wing… if you count ordering him around and shouting at him to use his brain more.

Parnett did ok, but I actually felt like we were missing Soares. Francomb and Barcham worked hard to keep Fleetwood’s wings from causing problems, and came into the game more.

While Elliott and Barnett did a great job putting pressure on what was one of the weakest goalkeeper’s I’ve seen in League 1.

Fleetwood do not look anywhere near as good as Bolton or Sheffield United. The Blades are without a doubt the best team in the division, they play direct fluid, passing football.

Bolton always look like they can score from a set piece and are very dangerous. Fleetwood seem to be set-up to play on the break and exploit the errors that come in the defence from those breaks, and that’s it.

They seemed generally clueless at building attacks up themselves, and I’d be willing to put money on them to come straight back down from the Championship if they went up.

More on their keeper – they seem to want to use him as a Sweeper Keeper, except he isn’t very good. More often than not, our brilliant defending from up front led him to making a silly pass, and on one occasion – he passed to Barnett/Parrett [SW19 note : or whoever], who could have scored from near half-way with a wide open goal.

Bringing Taylor on and going 4-3-3 as Uwe Rosler seemed keen to announce as we made the sub, worked really well. We finished the game on top, and could have scored a couple of times if we took our chances.

Now this is where I have a moan… Why? What was the point in that game? We’re pretty much up, unless we were thinking of having a go at the playoffs, why wasn’t Alfie Egan brought on?

Why weren’t some of our other youngsters who need the time to develop and play for next season being brought on. Should we not be blooding our squad players and youngsters so that next season, our depth is better, and one or two more of our youth are ready to kick-on and become League 1 players…

Robinson, Bulman, Charles etc are only getting older, and some of those players are starting to look a little tired/less effective, this is an easy way to make sure next season when one or more of them start to really struggle, we have replacements ready and waiting.

Plus points: Drawing 0-0 against 3rd in the League. Looking like we could win it. Realising how much we’ve progressed this year. Will Nightingale. James Shea. Tuesday Night… (do I have to stop mentioning that yet?)

Minus points: They could easily have won. The rain. The wind. Blackpool’s a shithole.

The referee’s a…: seemed to be capable

Them: I spoke about them already, so instead I’ll use this to talk about their set-up. I really like Fleetwood as club. Partly because we are their bogey team, and also because they just seem like a nice club with a nice bunch of fans.

The ground still has a modern Conference National newbie vibe to it, and the fans seem similar too. I’m much happier when I’m paying £10 for a game instead of £23/24 *cough* Sheffield United & Bolton *cough* too.

They seem quite similar to us in that their set-up isn’t quite big enough to really do well in the Championship. Both teams can do ok in League 1, but any higher and I think we will get really found out.

When ‘big’ teams like Bristol City and Blackburn and Ipswich struggle in the Championship with wage budgets of £13/£14 million and attendances of at least 15,000, does it become a step too far for us and Fleetwood with attendances of 3/4000 and budgets of £2 million a year max.

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The terrace wombles asking the seated wombles to stand up if we love the club… a collective piss-off when we realise it’ll make us more wet 2) They bang a drum. 3) No pre-match/HT music?

Anything else? I’m still not dry…

So, was it worth it? No.

In a nutshell: Roll on 2017/18

I suppose if we can have a complete inability to beat Northampton, then at least we can hold the same curse over Fleetwood.

So, a point is indeed a point. We’ve done pretty well going to teams in second place and not losing (or in the case of Scunny, winning), and Saturday was clearly no exception.

The fact we played well enough proves that last week against the Cobblers was a distraction after all, and the results might have almost been perfect. We’re not good enough for three wins, so if you need a win, a draw and a loss, we got them in the right order.

Imagine this morning if we’d lost to Franchise and only drew – or worse – against the Cods.

You can live off Tuesday night a bit too much, as a couple of our fans now seem to be doing, so we’ll move on from that happy evening. Instead, we’re now on 51 points and sitting rather decently in the table.

I’ve written a lot recently about gaps between us and the bottom, and this latest update is no exception 😉 Guess we’re still paranoid that we will do a slump.

Anyway, we still have a ten point gap (11 if you include goal difference), but that becomes eight (nine etc etc) if you remember that Port Vale still have two games in hand on everyone down there. And yes, it’s nine points from the playoffs.

But I think you can genuinely forget them this time around, for the same reason as we’re 99% safe – there simply aren’t enough games left.

There are eight fixtures remaining, and by Wednesday week that becomes six. Get a couple of decent results against Southend and Rochdale, and April becomes the most relaxing end-of-season we’ve had in a good little while.

Even if we do manage to lose both, the last month of the season has games that are mostly winnable. And yes, famous last words…

I note in the report at Fleetwood about the use of youngsters, or lack of them. And a thought occurred to me – maybe we won’t see them because they’re deemed not to be good enough?

Fitzpatrick was the great hope, yet he came back from Torquay and fizzled out very quickly. Oakley has gone to Maidstone “to seek more experience”, Beere extended his loan at the Heed, and the only youngster who has made any impact is Nightingale.

True, we’d all like to use April to give those named – and others who haven’t – one final chance to impress without needing the points. And I hope NA does exactly that, even if only to confirm in his own mind what I suspect he already knows.

Or to put it another way, when the cull at the end of the season comes, some names on it will dismay the Home Grown And Hungry brigade.

Onto other things, and more proof that I do read the submissions people send me 😉 ), I think it’s correct that we’re nowhere near being ready for the Championship. Christ, we’re just finding our feet in League One.

And it’s going to take a good while for us to be at the level of t’Blades, or indeed whoever else goes up with them.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, and if teams like Yeovil and Scunny have found themselves in the second tier, so can we eventually.

But even when it comes to even the Championship, budgets can be a bit of a red herring – I’m sure I heard it correctly when the commentator at Brizzle City v Huddersfield said that both teams were in the bottom six of spending power this season.

True, they lost 4-0 on Friday evening, but the Terriers are still in with a decent shout of automatic promotion. According to conventional wisdom, they should be third from bottom instead.

Their resources dwarf ours, of course, and until NPL happens (and these guys have even more of an input than they currently do – and £26k is not bad for one evening’s fundraising) it will always remain so.

It’s often said that the gap between L1 and the Championship is a big one, and apparently Sheffield United are considering a fair bit of rebuilding to remain in the second tier next season.

That’s Sheffield United, the best team in this division by far, and who gave us a new hole to shit out of when we went to Bramall Lane.

So no, we’re nowhere near being good enough (on or off the pitch) to getting into the next division up. And you know what? For now, that doesn’t matter.

It’s been said on SW19 before, but I like League One. There’s a bit more of a gravitas to this division that I didn’t feel you get in L2. Plus of course, you get big clubs that are a bit shit (t’Blades, Bolton) but not completely shit (Portsmouth, Coventry next season).

And if we stay in the third tier for a good while, so be it.

Like WFC was, AFCW is effectively a L1/L2 level club. That would put us with the likes of Gillingham, Bury and Swindon, three clubs who you’d happily be compared to, and we’re not quite the “small” club many like to think we are.

Back to spending power. As was the case in L2, it’s very easy for clubs with bigger budgets to spend it poorly. We may have the World’s Smallest Budget™ but more often than not it’s hard to see how it’s made any difference with some richer opponents.

To his credit, some of that is down to NA himself. He does seem to target certain positions where you need to spend a bit more money than others, and without knowing what we pay** I wouldn’t doubt that we can be a bit more competitive than we let on.

** – the old adage of a weekly footballer wage being like penis size applies – nobody really knows it, it’s probably best not to dig too deeply to find out, and any figure is usually exaggerated.

Team spirit and all that helps, which is why we haven’t been fighting relegation this season. We wouldn’t have had the results this week if we didn’t have that little bit extra within the squad that you can’t get with money.

I bet you if you’re looking at sides that are struggling this season, not just in L1, they’ll all have the following in common – weak board, weak manager, poorly scouted players, a squad that doesn’t gel, and/or “something else” that you can’t put your finger on.

We’re not immune to any of that, of course, and it only takes one bad summer to see us (or anyone else) in deep shit from the off. But while the Championship may be too much for AFCW for the short-to-medium future, cementing our place in L1 certainly isn’t.

Finally, you’ve probably already looked at the Championship and L2 table to already plan away trips. It looks like two more trips to the People’s Republic of South Yorkshire again, with Rotherham about to go under and Doncaster willy waving.

The question is, who else do we want to see join them? I wouldn’t mind Plymouth from L2 – bottle job notwithstanding –  and in truth we’d like Luton and Portsmouth to go up as well. Though it would be immensely funny if the latter slipped up again.

St. Evenage are doing what we did last season, by the looks of it, and there are many who would like Blackpool to sort themselves out as well.

From the Championship? Wigan look like they’ll be joining Rotherham, but it’s anyone up to Brum City or Ipswich really. I expect it will be Burton, but wouldn’t it be funny if it was Blackburn – or even Nottingham Forest?

That’s why I like being in League One – you have a very good chance of playing those sort of clubs at least for a season. Former European Cup winners having to go to KM, imagine that…