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Plucked Chicken

OK, that might be a reference to the owners of our defeated opponents yesterday…

So, we finally won a game away from home. Without conceding, and indeed, with potentially scoring more than just the pant-soiling single strike.

But be honest – who saw that coming?

Secret Agent traipsed up all the way to cotton mill land. Somehow, one suspects the journey back felt a lot shorter…

So despite plenty of us travelling in hope rather than expectation to the North West for the third time out of four away games, Darwen 0 Darwin 1 was a more than pleasant surprise.

The confidence gained from the performance on Tuesday (not the result) meant an unchanged starting eleven for the first time in a while that I can remember.

Robinson replacing Kalambayi on the bench was the right call by NA as both Will and Deji didn’t deserve to make way. Francomb was retained at left back and MOTM Hartigan started again in central midfield.

We started a little on the back foot against a side expecting to bounce straight back to the Championship after a run of four straight wins.

A few misplaced passes and iffy moments were soon forgotten and we came back into the game and it wasn’t too long before the persistence of Kwesi delivered a goal from a tight angle after his initial effort was blocked.

Cue crazy scenes from the travelling hordes at the opposite end of the ground. The rest of the half was fairly even with a couple of half chances at both ends all dealt with comfortably enough by both defences.

Second half opened up a bit as Blackburn, kicking towards their end, looked to equalise. However, we defended from the front and limited them to numerous corners while trying to use the pace of Appiah to counter attack.

On the one occasion that Rovers created a good chance, George Long made a great claw save that Fuller completed by whacking the ball into touch.

Thereafter, we made the necessary changes to maintain our lead with Barcham and Appiah replaced by Forrester and McDonald, the latter ploughing a lone furrow when LTB came off for Robinson to ensure that “what we have, we hold”.

It was pretty comfortable in the end and Forrester had a chance to seal it near the end but hit his shot too hard and high, but it mattered not in the end.

Plus points: a win, on the road, a first at Ewood Park? Clean sheet. Best games by Kwesi, Trotter, Deji and Parrett. George Long, NA said at MTM that we needed a keeper to win us games and his second half save certainly did that.

Minus points: torrential rain on the M6 that came from who knows where. Nothing else really.

The referee’s a: let the game flow and the tackles be made. Seemed to incur the ire of the Rovers faithful, but was pretty consistent and issued yellow cards to both sides as appropriate.

Them: twenty five odd years ago they were PL champs, fifteen years and a bit ago we were having open trials on Wimbledon Common. Nice ground and decent enough fans. Should be there or there about in the final analysis.

Point to ponder: say it quietly, but are things starting to fall into place? Yesterday was a different game from Tuesday against different opponents but we played our own game for long periods and looked reasonably confident doing it.

And another thing – George Francomb. It seems that whenever we have a problem with a position, GF is asked to cover it. For the last two games, he has covered the left back position in the absence of Meades, Kennedy and Owens, yet has not let the side, himself or the fans down at all.

Plenty of people like to knock NA and his penchant for making sure George plays, but so far this season, George has done much better than last season. Will we see him at his best this season?

So was it worth it? behave!

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised after all? Expectations were pretty low before the game, there was some genuine doubt in our collective minds that we would repeat the intensity shown at Gills, that we would revert to all-too familiar lethargy again.

But I like this version of 2017/18 AFC Wimbledon as much as I hate the version we saw at Shrewsbury/Fleetwood/Pompey etc.

And you want us to keep it up, certainly for Friday, because this weekend is a helluva lot nicer than the previous one. Rewind seven days ago, and such was the mood I think somebody from the club might have been hanging from a noose by now.

Reading around, this might have been close to the perfect away performance. Maybe another goal to show for it, and I don’t like the way we defend for the last fifteen minutes as it is. Kwesi showed what he can do, and the only complaint is that Forrester isn’t fit enough yet.

NA was clearly a bit (OK, a lot) happier after this one, as well he should be. Even just by reading those comments of his, it feels that a weight has been lifted off his own personal shoulders.

True, sightings of our heroic sports shrink last Tuesday have been made, and I don’t find it a co-incidence that he gets asked to put his $0.02 in and we cut out the micro-management as a result.

And hey, we’ve got two of our best performances in 2017 in a week, and four points from two games is nothing to be sniffed at.

I found this interesting article from about three and a half years ago on this kind of thing, and while I doubt the club will want to employ one full time (which I think would be a good idea, as it goes), even a sporadic bit of mental health checking clearly goes a long way.

AFCW can be quite insular and self-contained at times – we tend to listen to our own advice a bit too much, which often turns out to be simply what we want to hear. It doesn’t help us one bit, especially when things go wrong…

Whatever has happened, whatever the reason for the turnaround in the last couple of games, I’m damn glad we found it. Maybe Pompey will turn out to be the St. Evenage-esque turning point after all?

It does also prove that football is largely between the ears. I doubt I was alone of fearing the worse when Taylor said before the game about giving Rovers respect, because “giving respect” often turns out to be “shitting yourselves”.

But perhaps even more than the result (as great as it was), the way we took the frustration from Tuesday and carried on where we left off was the most important aspect of yesterday.

We could have treated that game as good as it got, and reverted back to horrible type. But if you said after Pompey that we would get four points from the next two games, you would have guessed scraping past Gills and somehow drawing at Ewood Park would have been the order of the day…

Having a big character like Darius returning helps, and not before time either. Though if Nightingale and Deji start keeping clean sheets, the motivation he brings may have to be off the bench. Ditto Robbo,

I don’t doubt losing him (Darius, that is) has been a big blow, and the lousy start to the season has happened in part because of that. He might almost be like a new signing.

Oh, and Long proved to be a match winner after all. I liked Shea, but our Sheff Utd loanee is definitely an upgrade. And I still don’t get the obsession amongst some people with wanting to re-sign Roos. He’s gone, and I don’t think he was better than our previous #1. Get over it.

Anyway, this is a nice backdrop before the circus arrives on Friday. I might go, I might not, but I find the whole thing a chore to be honest. At least it’s Friday (because Franchise didn’t want any more windowlickers coming down than they would on Saturday), so we can pretty much move on quickly over the weekend if the worst happens.

But somehow, if we continue like we have done since Tuesday, that might not be necessary…