That flash of light is the Footballing Gods realising AFCW are practically safe…
So, Waitrose 3 Co-Op 1. Or more accurately, the result that effectively guaranteed us League One football again next season.
It’s quite fun this morning to look at a wall planner with the fixtures on, and realising a) we’ve got six games left where the results don’t quite matter now, and b) we haven’t left March yet.
You would have given your right bollock to be safe by the time we played Oldham, so you would have handed over your other one to have an easy – and much welcome – end of season wind-down.
Before we go on, a quick point of order – we can technically still go down, though it would have to be the fuckup of all fuckups to find ourselves in L2 next season. It’s a 12 (13 including goal difference etc etc) point gap with six games remaining situation, and we must be mindful of that.
True, we would have to lose every single game, and by some margin, and that assumes that NA wouldn’t get the players in and give them an uber-bollocking in the meantime. But we’re 99.99% safe, and we just need to cross the line.
For all intents and purposes, we’re playing in this division again next season. But I can’t wait until it’s 100% confirmed.
We can (and will) go into what L1 was like for us in future weeks and months. But I’ve heard the stat this morning that had we beaten Southend, we would have been three points off the playoffs this morning.
The trouble with that is that if we hadn’t got last minute goals against Coventry and Charlton, we might still be looking over our shoulder. And it’s all a bit a case of, if my aunt had a beard and was called Clive, and all that.
It’s all irrelevant. Especially as she died in 2014.
You might have twigged that I’ve barely mentioned anything about the game, which was a bit of a strange one. Yes, we won, and not for the first time, we managed to put in a five-minute goal blitz that sealed the points.
But though we were a man up, we could have easily been a couple of goals down within the first 15 minutes. Not only that, but when we did look all nice and secure, Shea let a bit of a soft one in, and it all went a bit wank again.
It was like watching the Southend game, with the amount of shit passing, and general lack of any resemblance of a clue. We didn’t get away with that on Saturday, but we did last night.
Had it gone to 3-2, I honestly wouldn’t have fancied our chances at holding on. And when next season’s planning properly starts (no doubt this morning), that’s something we seriously need to look at.
Still, they didn’t score again, and we’ve got the three points. And that’s all that matters.
To be fair, we took our goals well, and the fact they all came in quick succession is a bonus. And seeing a game of rock/paper/scissors for the penalty is one of the more surreal sights of the campaign.
And it’s a good job Parrett buried the spot kick after all…
Plus points: We won. More or less safe. Goals well taken. Tom Soares. Parrett. Back to winning ways.
Minus points: Still shit for a lot of it. Subs changed game (in a bad way).
The referee’s a…: He sent off one of their players, so deserves a big kiss for that alone.
Them: Could have buried us within the first 15 minutes, and perhaps should have done. And only got going again when the game was as good as lost. Liked to pick up a few bookings, which ultimately cost them.
Rochdale are one of those clubs who are always “there” in the lower reaches of English league football. Didn’t they spend something like 40 years or something in the fourth tier, before doing the football equivalent of buying a bigger house?
They’re also the kind of typical big, brutish Northern club that being a bunch of wussy Southern softies, we used to struggle against. One thing that has definitely changed in recent years, and certainly for the better.
Point to ponder: Why is it that whenever we go ahead, we spend the following 15-20 minutes avoiding the ball like a Franchise fan avoids soap?
Seriously, I’ve read a few times in recent months that we take the lead, then all of a sudden we go to pot again. It happened last night when it became 3-0, and even at Scunny away** we let them back in at 2-0.
** – for those arguing we didn’t do that against Franchise, I did note that many said we looked confident “for once” when 2-0 up. Which may prove my point…
It makes routine wins much less comfortable than they should be, and this season alone it’s cost us points that otherwise might have mattered.
I said above “recent months”, but it’s also stretched back to much earlier in this campaign – think of when we let a win slip at yesterday’s opponents. True, the very much maligned Ryan Clarke got the blame, but a lot of observers said how negative we were for a long period.
We paid for our timewasting at the Ricoh arena as well, and doubtless you can think of other occasions when we’ve handled taking the lead badly.
The question is, why? Do we lack the ability to focus? Are we quite mentally weak, for all the praise of having a “backbone” this season? If so, we might need to get somebody in with proper leadership qualities this summer – I know we have strong characters like Darius, but he can’t do it on his own.
Is there some issue with our game planning? Does make you wonder why it happens more often than not.
Obviously, it’s better to have this particular issue rather than something like a leaking defence or a bunch of eunuchs up front. But somehow, you wonder just what we could do if we overcame this mental block…
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) “I want a penalty, we haven’t had one for ages”. Your editor, a couple of times last night. 2) Will mention the rock/paper/scissors thing again. Perhaps it proves a competitive zeal in our squad? Or our lot are kids at heart. 3) Lot of watering beforehand, for some reason. No wonder our lot struggled to keep upright at times.
Anything else? I suppose from NA’s point of view, today is the first day we start properly planning for 2017/18. Contracts to be signed, players to be kept or let go, and figuring out who is available and at what literal cost, that kind of thing.
Unlike last season, which when you think about it finished ludicrously late, we’ve got something we haven’t quite had for a least a year – time to think and plan.
The need to avoid the second-season-syndrome is always a vital one – it killed Terry Brown off as a Football League manager – although it’s telling NA wants to keep this particular group together.
Signing Barcham, Robbo and whoever else we’ve tied down is no accident. Our squad has coped with League One football, it’s not out of its depth, and if we’re being honest – we don’t need a major overhaul this close season.
There’s always the danger of losing vital players of course, and I hope we can get Tom Elliott to sign, and there will be the inevitable departures. But I suspect they’ve been known about since the beginning of the year.
Obviously, we’ll leave it up to Ardley and co, but one wonders if we’ll go for Parrett-type signings? Namely, our League One status helps persuade a player who is good enough for our division but is being looked at by L2 sides.
And you can’t argue he hasn’t done well for us.
Which begs another question – how many are we likely to bring in before August? My guess would be about three or four “proper” signings and probably a few more youngsters too. You can discuss amongst yourselves what positions, but I don’t think there’ll be as much chopping and changing as there has been in previous summer breaks.
Perhaps we’ll go for loan signings this summer? This season has been the first time I remember for a long while where we haven’t had a player who belonged to somebody else – probably since we went professional.
And that was a lot later than you think – the 2010/11 season was when we finally twigged we couldn’t be amateur any longer** – and in previous campaigns we overdid the loanee stuff.
** – on the field, at least. Some argue we haven’t figured it out for off-field matters even now. Not me, though 😉
I guess that too depends on who becomes available, and how much we’re prepared to take a risk on a player. And no doubt phone calls are already getting made to various clubs asking them to “let us know if he becomes available”.
We’ll be busy, and the hard work starts now, but as the old saying goes – it’s a nice problem to have…
So, was it worth it? More than Saturday was.
In a nutshell: League One again next season.