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Tick tock

AKA it’s a results based business…

I was planning to go to Sarfend last night, but instead I got asked to go to Brentford instead. As seems depressingly predictable, I think I got the better deal. STTA braved the Dartford Crossing, though…

I’m always interested to see the players and manager’s faces at the end of a game.

What I saw when they came over at Roots Hall told me two things; Neal’s not sure what else he can do to get us a result and the players don’t look like they believe they can turn this around any time soon.

The problem is we played well, we were the better side for long periods of the game. But we’ve come away with nothing, again.

We created a number of clear goal scoring opportunities, we even looked dangerous from set pieces. From our best dead ball delivery we hit the post and then in turn Cody, Deji and Darius all missed glorious chances to bag us a point.

So this is Neal’s conundrum, his players are playing well and the system in which their deployed is creating chances, but our finishing is diabolical.

The imbalance in the squad is clear but I don’t think that’s a reason for our decline to become terminal. We just need to put away one or two of the chances we’re creating.
So why can’t we score a goal?

I wonder if our strikers have lot a bit of identity. Lyle was a centre forward when he arrived (remember the hat-trick in his first appearance) but is it his responsibility to score goals now or is he a right winger?

Cody has always played off a target man but now finds himself alone, feeding off scraps and trying to create his own chances rather than working off a supply of flicks and knock downs.

It was noticeable how much more dangerous he looked when Darius came on to partner him up front in the latter stages of last night’s game.

I mentioned in an earlier report that we appear to have signed three of the same striker. Appiah, MacDonald and Taylor could all play well in a front 2 with a target man but don’t seem very effective playing in different roles across a front 3.

Because our strikers have been put in unfamiliar roles they appear to be taking a while to find their feet and as we create fewer chances than they’re used to the pressure increases to convert the ones that do come along.

One thing is for sure if we continue not scoring goals results like last night will continue to happen. We played a poor Southend team who apart from the first 15 minutes barely troubled us. I haven’t checked the stats but it felt like we had more possession and created more chances.

But as usual we gave them a helping hand with their goal, failed to convert any of our chances and ultimately walked away with another defeat.

That’s becoming a habit and habits are hard to break.

We need to do something different. I’d like to play a front 2 on Saturday, whether we do it in a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 others will know better but we need to change things up top.

Our front 3 have contributed 4 goals in 10 games, if we keep that up over the season we’ll get 18 goals from them and be heading back to Mansfield next year.

Plus points: Will replacing Robbo. Parrett’s creativity.

Minus points: the first goalkeeping blunder, our dreadful finishing, that sinking feeling.

Point to ponder: I heard someone pose the question will we soon be forced to start Darius up front.

There are a few problems with this. Firstly although I’m sure he’ll do it for the team Darius wants to be a centre half. He didn’t enjoy being used in 3 or 4 different positions by Stevenage and was looking forward to establishing himself in one role when he came to us.

Secondly starting a central defender up front means Neal holding his hands up and saying I’ve fucked up. Is he ready to do that just yet, and indeed should he – not for me.

And thirdly that means 1 or 2 of our other strikers sitting on the bench, that’s a lot of wages sitting on their arses waiting to play in turn alongside Darius.

Anything else: we badly need a result on Saturday. I see a bit of doubt in the players, understandable now we’re 10 games in. The last thing we need is the ‘scoreboard pressure’ of dropping into the relegation places.

Last night’s results have bunched things up at the bottom and a couple more poor results could see us cosying up to Plymouth at the foot of the table.

Was it worth it: good atmosphere in our end

In a nutshell: cows arse and a banjo

While doing the usual casual glance at various social media outlets before writing this, I came across this very sobering stat off Twatter. I forgot who posted it, but it should make even the biggest sycophant sit up and take notice:

League One Top Goalscorers 2017-18:
8 – Marriott
8 – Moore
8 – Pitman
7 – Cole
6 – Beckford
5 – AFC Wimbledon

Scared? You should be.

Actually, it was quite interesting reading post-game reaction, as there were one or two very pointed comments towards the club itself from people I would have put down as “loyal”.

You see, it’s all very well to say we’ve created chances, but didn’t put them away. In isolation, that happens, and it’s one of the annoyances of football – especially seeing Long’s mistake on SSN this morning.

But this has been going on since about November 2016. And the credit in the bank has finally been drained dangerously low.

Forget “luck”. You make your own luck anyway, and you don’t go on bad streaks of it for too long. If you’re constantly struggling, then it’s because you’re poor, not unlucky. Besides, TB’s last games had more than their fair share of “bad luck”.

Come to think of it, there’s a definite similarity between September 2012 and September 2017. The odd good result standing out almost embarrassingly amongst a storm surge of shite. We may not be freefalling this time, but it’s been replaced by a slow strangulation.

And just like five years ago, there’s a definite sense of where the fuck do we go from here?

I sense the club would rather not sack Ardley, but it has to look at results first and foremost. And also ask why it’s gone backwards very quickly again after Gills and Blackburn – that suggests a problem fundamentally much deeper than “only” putting it in the back of the net.

One wonders if we’re about to experience this again, though preferably not airing our issues out in public this time. But you’d have to be firmly tunnelled up the club’s arse to believe there isn’t massive change needed.

This may sound a bit like tinkering around the edges, but as STTA suggested in his Franchise report, there’s two things we should do with immediate effect.

The first is to get a proper strikers coach in. Doesn’t even have to be a full time one, although it would be better if they were, but somebody who actually knows where the goal is. More importantly – they’ll need to get inside the head of Cody, Taylor and others so they can do it themselves.

We have one for a goalkeeper, so why do we undervalue it for something that needs urgent surgery?

The second is to get in a Shaun North type individual on the first team coaching staff. If the club wants to keep NA in his job, then he’s got to be told by somebody with some gravitas that his ideas aren’t working any more.

North did that when he was with us, and we were better off for it. Even if you just promoted Alan Reeves, although I would much rather somebody without any ties or connections to AFCW or Wimbledon FC.

Our collective obsession with trying to recreate the past with people we grew up watching doesn’t do us any favours, and just makes us insular. AFC Wimbledon is a professional football club, and not a Wimbledon Old Boys social club, although sometimes it’s hard not to think it’s the latter.

And don’t give me the “but it will undermine the current coaching staff” bollocks. The results alone are doing that already, and right now, we don’t have much choice.

We’re in a cycle of failure, and it will take a fierce jolt or two to break it. And break it we need to do, because although it’s only September we’re sleepwalking to a relegation battle. And a fight I don’t think we’ve got the bollocks for.

That said, I do not believe that relegation is inevitable this season. I believe to go down this campaign, when there are so many other teams not much better than us, would be an act of vandalism.

Nor should we accept going down anyway. We worked fucking hard to get to L1, yet without changing things we’re waving the white flag already.

Rochdale is going to be pivotal, and even then it might simply be buying a little bit of time but not much more. But Saturday evening will be one of the most interesting for some time.

Oh, and the comments section is back open again. It’s cheaper than therapy, although unlike phoning the Samaritans you won’t get a sympathetic voice on the other end…