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Almost there

Hard to think the season will be over this time next week…

To be honest, I wish it was finished and put away in its grave already, because we’ve still got another six days mulling over various permutations and – if you’re like your editor – playing out every worst case scenario going.

And doing all this after a game we won.

Make no mistake, winning yesterday was as massive than various points ground out at certain times of the season. I’ll even go a step further and say that beating Wycombe was bigger than the Luton result on Tuesday.

Yes, really.

I think it’s because while the game against the not-quite-so-Champions-Elect (and I thought we did things the hard way) was a free hit, yesterday was one where a draw really wouldn’t have done.

Add to that our shit home form, and our opponents were the ones who could have been a banana skin as well, and you can be forgiven for nerves.

Although weirdly enough, the pre-game vibe wasn’t like the one against t’Stanley or Brizzle Rovers. It was more like the playoff final at Wombley, or even THAT Fleetwood game, to an extent.

I suppose it’s because this time, we had to show up and perform.

Which we did. Not that we like to make it comfortable for ourselves, of course. Piggy having his penalty saved could have set the tone for the afternoon, ditto them equalising.

Us going up 2-1 was one thing, but that second half just d–r—a—-g—–g——e——-d.

At least, that’s what it felt like in the Millwall press area (I’m surprised they didn’t lock me in a cupboard, although they too were keeping tabs on Rotherham at WBA). It must have been hell watching it.

Which might explain the emotion at the full time whistle seemed more like relief, rather than euphoria.

I could get into the superlatives of spending 189 days in the bottom four, and finally getting out of it yesterday, but as we all know – we’re not safe yet.

I suppose that’s tempered things just a fair bit, although that’s better than getting carried away…

Let’s face it – we could have been relegated last night. Instead, we’re two points clear and with Southend a buffer between us and the drop.

More on that a little bit later, but we were due a weekend of the most perfect results you could imagine, and we almost got them.

OK, Walsall won (and they might end up being the dark horse next Saturday), but who could have predicted Bradford beating Scunny? Or Plymouth getting truly gubbed at t’Stanley?

And Rochdale helping us out as well.

In short, all the stars aligned for us yesterday, and for once we took advantage. And perhaps at exactly the right time, too.

Well, if we’d done that next Saturday then it would have been perfect, but we may not have got another chance like this one.

I do glance at the current table sometimes, but I’ll probably look at it next week assuming we’re the right side of the relegation line of doom.

But from now until after the game at Valley Parade, our mentality changes.

It might not be a bad thing that we’re two points ahead, rather than three, because it reminds us that there’s still a job to be done before we can shut the lid on this season.

Really, though, it’s in our hands to the point where if we do go down after all – we would absolutely deserve it.

The result at Glanford Park yesterday was a shock, and playing relegated teams is often more tricky than it should be.

To paraphrase Jimmy Armfield in the Leeds v WFC 1975 programme notes**, Bradford gave Scunny a lot of trouble. Any team that can do that can give AFCW trouble too.

** – if anyone does have that article, he was quite prescient. Talking about regionalising Div 4 to allow the likes of us and Wigan in, enforcing standards for stadia, and how Div 4 players have better fitness. He wasn’t a bad co-commentator either.

But next Saturday, we are playing the bottom side already demoted. And they’re in that position for a very good reason.

Two of the other three teams are facing each other (Plymouth v Scunny), both of whom match each other for shitness. Somehow, I don’t think that fixture will be one for the purists.

Southend are at home to a Sunderland side who should be raring to go into the playoffs with momentum. I really hope they don’t put a weakened squad out.

There’s also Walsall, who if we lose could well overtake us if they win at Shrewsbury.

Obviously, defeat at Bradford puts us at the mercy of everyone else. You’d only want Scunny to win out of all those, if you had a choice, but as this season should have proven – it doesn’t always work like that.

A draw makes things a lot better, because then Plymouth have to win by four or more goals to overhaul us. OK, Southend would finish above us if they beat the Mackems, but we’d still be safe.

If we win, all the above scenarios are irrelevant. Every other team who wins their game could do it by 10-0, and they still would finish below us.

And that is the attitude that must be drilled into us when we return to training tomorrow.

To be fair to Walter, I guess that’s what he’s thinking, if his OS comments are anything to go by.

Saying that we’ve got a “fighting chance” is the kind of language you use when you’re two points behind, not in front. But approach wise, it’s a good one to have.

If we’re professional, and focused, and don’t get carried away and act silly, we’ll be a League One club next season.

One thing I hope is made clear this week is reminding the squad how much hard work they’ve done to get to this stage, and how much they should appreciate what they now have in front of them.

Since Walter has got here, we’ve been the chasers. Now, for the first time, we’re the chased, and that’s something different to handle.

It will be interesting how our players adapt to that. Maybe they’ll relax a bit more and play better as a result? Hopefully the enormity of what we’ve achieved thus far won’t get to them.

But then, more than a couple of “not done yet” jabs, or “we’re still not safe” reminders won’t hurt. We tend to perform better when the poker stick is hovering around our arse.

Going through all these what-if-we-lose scenarios won’t be fun this week, but it’s a good way of shedding any complacency that may now build up.

Nobody this morning seems to think it’s job done, and that’s a good thing.

Simply put, it’s all on a plate for us next Saturday evening, and we really couldn’t ask for a better set of fixtures.

And yes – we’ve earned the right to be in this position that we would have killed for so many times this season. Especially when we were ten points adrift…