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Fleet Street

And the season starts…. now. Well, sort of.

It’s hard to think that this time next week, we will be jizzing over three points at Scunthorpe, or walking around predicting doom and pestilence for the remaining nine months of the season after a 3-0 gubbing.

For now though, the last PSF is over, and thankfully Ebbsfleet International 1 Haydons Road 2 was a good way to round it off.

The game was “much better” than Aldershot on Friday night, apparently, and definitely more promising than Wycombe was. It seemed like more of our players knew what they had to do, and while there’s still a bit of ring rustyness – there’s reason to be confident again.

OK, I’m still convinced that we should have played Appiah and McDonald together a bit more, and there were some playing on Friday night who should have been here today instead. But as somebody said – we now have options.

Yes, we have the real potential to have a plan B (especially if we get the promised/threatened lump in this upcoming week). Hell, some weeks it would be nice to have a plan A…

The first half was, ahem, non-descript. As in, one could look at the scoreboard thinking it was nearly half time and it only showed eighteen minutes. Not that the weather helped, mind you.

After the break though, we went up a gear, and despite Cody having his penalty saved – one B Fuller scored his obligatory goal-every-four-years. From a corner, no less, and it wasn’t a bad strike either.

It’s just a shame that only 600 or so will ever be able to say they were there. Though like Rob Ursell’s wonderstrike against Barnet in a PSF many years ago, it’s all a bit Sex Pistols/Manchester Free Trade Hall.

Still, we needed a test, and we got one. Long made some good saves, and was finally beaten from a free kick (that might have just been a penalty). Not that it mattered, as Barcham scored an absolute blinder himself.

And that was kind of that, really.

I guess we can call this pre-season campaign a successful one – only Wycombe gave us any cause for alarm, and even that was because it was a bit of an avant-garde type approach.

We’ve learnt that we’ve got a decent keeper now, with a back line that doesn’t seem to cause you to have a stroke every time an oppo player comes near. We can rotate in midfield, and up front Cody McDonald is already looking like the season has started.

Kaja looks decent enough, and if need be I wouldn’t hesitate to put him on as a sub at least in proper games.

Flip side? I still think we should have played our likely starting XI on more than one occasion. Lyle Taylor getting injured hasn’t helped, and one wonders if we’ve got enough up front right now.

But if they’re our main issues in this phoney war they call pre-season, then maybe it will be a decent campaign after all? Though I reserve the right to change my mind in a week’s time if we get stuffed at Glanford Park…

Plus points: A win. Decent strikes. Looking a bit more coherent.

Minus points: Penalty miss. Deji coming off.

The referee’s a…: I wonder if he would have given some decisions (or not) if it had been a competitive fixture?

Them: Up for it, good equaliser and gave Long some match-winning save practice.

It was nice to see Danny Kedwell back, and thankfully not score against us. Whether he feels he would have done better had he remained with us we’ll never know, though playing for your boyhood club is always tempting.

Their fans did seem to treat it a bit like a competitive fixture, though apparently they’re salivating at the thought of playing Maidstone in a few weeks time. I’m sure there’s a joke about relationships in Kent here, but I’m not going to make it.

Still, it was pleasant enough. Ebbsfleet is a bit of an odd club, because we always knew them as Gravesend and Northfleet before its rebranding after the nearby rail station. It’s always been one of those “traditional” Conference sides as well, like Alty and Sutton.

Their new stand has an interesting design, but once they rebuild the whole thing it won’t look too bad. Piss easy to get to, as well – never has a station car park been so handy.

Oh, and their goalkeeper clearly played for the Brazil women’s national team at the last Olympics…

Point to ponder: Whither Chris Whelpdale? He’s now departed, ended back at St. Evenage, and it’s almost like he was never here to begin with.

Which is a shame as like Barnett, he came with high hopes but things conspired against him. That said, when you have a reputation for permanently suffering niggling injuries – and an implication that it’s not solely down to bad luck – your card does get marked.

One only supposes he was one of those told he had no future at the club in the summer, and it’s best for all concerned that his contract finally got cancelled. Not to mention how quickly he resurfaced in Hertfordshire.

Still, he’s off the wage bill, which frees the way for possibly Michael Smith to return. Or somebody else to come in, anyway. Which begs another question – do we go for a lump or for a project?

And no, that’s two nouns that don’t normally get compared in everyday conversation.

We do need something different up front, which is why I’d go for the former right now. We’ve got Antwi for the latter, and I’d rather we bring on our own than somebody else’s Academy product.

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The weather. Is it July or October? 2) And to make it worse – we had a drinks break on 30 minutes. I guess the beverage was Bovril. 3) What the fuck was that song they came out to? It was about pies or something equally banal. Probably from a Barron Knights tribute band as well.

Anything else? Yep – although it’s not on the OS yet, NPL becomes that little bit closer with Andrew Scott Ltd getting the tender.

While the S106s continue to be the planning equivalent of Waiting for Godot, and the dog track having to be slowly dismantled, it’s good that we’re getting all our ducks lined up in a row ready to really start motoring once the final green light flashes.

They don’t seem bungling amateurs at this, with them doing work on Stoke’s ground. Plus, the rugby ground at Llanelli would look good in our colours. If NPL is as intimate, then imagine a night game in a cup where we run out winners – how much that place would be bouncing.

And yes, imagine it when we’re losing 3-0 to Southend on a cold February when it’s pissing down 😉

Still, it becomes ever more real, and with luck the S106s really are reaching their conclusion. That will be another big psychological hurdle, and we can finally get down to what we’d like from it.

I note that there’s some talk of safe standing, and I would expect that we would make some provision for it – if only in terms of being able to put it in cheaply and easily on a retrospective basis if the law changes sufficiently.

There’s a desire for it, judging by the smoke signals, and if we can do it without losing the £1m in grants that it’s supposed to cost, then I would be all for it. This isn’t the 1980s any longer, after all.

Still, that’s all to look forward to. As an aside, did you know that yet another greyhound track (Hall Green) is shutting up shop tonight? More to the point, did you care…?

So, was it worth it? I guess so.

In a nutshell: Enjoy the last weekend that won’t get ruined by the football.