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Singing the (Sky) Blues

And it really isn’t funny any more.

As we lick the wounds – yet again – of Groundsharers 2 Groundsharers 1, I’m starting to wonder if this is going to become the pivotal game of the season thus far.

When they scored in the ninetywhatever minute, it was that very weird mixture of being sick and numb, like last minute defeats usually are.

But also, people metaphorically looked at each other and just shrugged their shoulders. Some may have even done it literally, though I wasn’t really paying attention.

This was your editor’s third game of the season (four if you count the shebang) and it’s the third time I’ve seen us lose what should have been a point into none at all.

Rotherham, we looked ring rusty. At Ipswich, we were running out of steam long before injury time. This one manages to feel worse than those two because there was absolutely no reason to surrender so late on.

We have problems, of course. Just the one goal again. An inability to keep the ball again. Too much wayward hoofing (all together now – again).

But in the second half especially, I thought we were showing signs of it coming together more. A few more tackles going in, for starters, and to everyone’s credit we did try and leave St Andrews with three points towards the end.

That it wasn’t even one is sticking in the throat more than ever today.

But then, when the three minutes of injury time got announced, something seemed to happen, and it wasn’t good to see. It was almost like we expected to lose it by then.

Coventry got a free kick on the edge of the box, but thankfully it went wide. We went up the other end and got offside. The rest is history.

I know how we let slip so many leads – we’re feeble, both physically and mentally. But I don’t know why.

Maybe because they’re so young, they still have that inability to see out the games because they’re weary? Which leads to mental errors such as their second goal.

Perhaps they’re simply not good enough? In which case, prepare for a long season to get even longer.

Or it’s simply a case of going so many games without a win that it’s now crippling us when it matters?

All of those are valid reasons, and it’s likely a mixture of all of them. But the last one is starting to be the biggest problem of the lot.

The reaction of the players afterwards told its own story, because they fell on the floor knowing it happened again. For an athlete, they must be having a lot of self-doubt right now.

When you just can’t get over the line, that plays on the mind so much.

I remember when he was with us, Alan Bennett said that when you’re struggling down the bottom, it affects you to the point that you even change what you eat for breakfast because you’re guilty of not doing it on the field.

The team bus back last night must have been almost like a wake. And for all the faults, I certainly don’t doubt their effort.

But right now, effort isn’t enough…

Plus points: We scored. In the game until the last minute. Forss penalty.

Minus points: We lost. Conceding in the 90whatever minute. Too lightweight at times.

The referee’s a…: Trevor Kettle. No further comment, your honour. Though to be fair, he did award us a spot kick.

Them: Overlooked in the reaction from last night was the fact that they are top, and for a good reason.

They were just that half-a-yard quicker, half-a-however-you-measure-it stronger, and especially in the first half they cut through our midfield/defence as though it wasn’t there.

As said above though, once we started putting ourselves about a bit more in the second half, there wasn’t that much of a gap for the most part. And no, that doesn’t make me feel any better writing it.

That extra strength and quality undid us right at the end though, and I guess that shows why teams are at the top rather than at the bottom.

For your editor’s second game in a row, I was parked right near where all the home fans left the stadium, so you can imagine how enjoyable it was being among a load of Midlanders buzzing that they were top.

That said, there’s got to be some seriously mixed feelings for them. They’re doing well, leading L1, and yet being at St Andrews felt so much like WFC being at Selhurst.

We know all about groundsharing and not having your own place, and how it ultimately kills you. I’ve no idea the latest wranglings around CCFC, but there was something depressingly familiar there last night.

Mind you, it didn’t help by the PA playing “Take Me Home Country Road” and some melancholy type tune as they came out. I’ve been to happier funerals.

Point to ponder: Is Wally going to be at the wheel for much longer?

The answer should be obvious – yes. As said in the last update, I don’t think he’s the problem some now think he is.

Yesterday, he was forced into taking Forss off (I’m not going to make a gag here), because our favourite Finn was one tackle away from getting dismissed. So he put on Roscrow, then later Piggy and Mr Championship-Quality.

He tried to win the game, and us failing to deal with the last three minutes isn’t his fault.

Yet a growing number now want him out. It’s knee-jerkism coupled with frustration, of course, and a victory at some point this century next couple of weeks will soothe a lot of things.

And leaving aside all financial considerations, there’s no real reason to dismiss him. There’s no obvious signs that Walter has lost the dressing room. He’s clearly backing them in interviews, such as the one on the OS from last night.

Oh, and anyone notice the “[W]hen the win comes, which it will on Saturday” comment? As a player, you’d want to hear your boss putting his faith in you.

We’re lacking vital experience in certain areas of the park, but that’s more a boardroom decision**.

** – as a thought, and one for idle discussion – could cutting the budget this season prove to be one of the biggest blunders AFCW will have made in a good while? Especially considering what it was previously wasn’t exactly extravagant…

And we’re in that situation where changing the manager won’t improve things. Especially as we’d likely either get a washed up has-been of a manager who offers nothing different, or an Ardley-clone Academy schoolboy boss.

Neither of whom are going to do much better than our current guy in charge, especially with a remaining budget of £1.24.

But it’s a results based business, and patience has definitely dried up now. We’ve got Brizzle Rovers, Posh, Rochdale and Southend upcoming, and if we are still without a victory then maybe we’ll be more trigger-happy these days?

It would be a radical departure from our previous approach, although that’s no bad thing.

Should he get axed, Walter might feel aggrieved he got the bullet so soon after the Great Escape. Especially considering the guy he replaced got chance after chance after chance, and with us pro-rata playing worse then than we currently are.

In all honesty though, I can’t see that happening. Out of the nine games we’ve played thus far, we’ve had too many poor halves but very few games of outright dross.

Last night we came very close to getting a (deserved) point off the current league leaders, despite some obvious gaps in ability. That should count for something, and probably will.

Still, I’ll happily toss the conspiracy theorists a bone : after the game, WD went to our fans to applaud them. Rather than turning back towards the tunnel area, he went straight for the nearby exit where our supporters would be piling out…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Not that I’m suggesting cash-ins of a popular series or anything, but an ale called Peaky Blinders and some hoardings with Brum City players dressed in garb from that programme. 2) Speaking of a drama I’ve never watched, there was a couple of, ahem, heated discussions in the bar area at half time…

Anything else? Do I have to?

I’ll say this though – things are starting to fester again, and there’s a definite undercurrent brewing.

A win will do wonders, needless to say, and it’s also a reminder that ultimately – it’s the product on the field that matters for the vast majority of people who go every Saturday.

Sure, there’s the social aspect of going to games with your mates, having a beer or three, placing a bet if you’re so inclined etc etc. It’s partly what keeps you coming back.

But it’s something that I think is forgotten too much with AFCW, especially when you get the extra-curricular stuff that is more political activism than football supporting.

I’m aware that the whole Franchise mediation thing really upsets some people, but once it’s all said and done – how many will stop going regardless of outcome? Very few I guess, and those who do are probably looking for a reason/excuse to spend their weekends elsewhere.

You hear a few people at the moment not going, because they don’t want to watch the product on the field and are putting family/finances first. Would they stay away if we were winning? Probably not.

And yes, the club hasn’t handled the needed change into being a L1 level outfit at all well. It needs to move up to that next step, but it seems to forever struggle doing so.

Indeed, the comment above about budget cuts = biggest club blunder is down to it affecting what you see at the games, which is where most people have contact with AFCW.

True, NPL is the most important thing relating to us right now, but that’s as much to secure our long-term future. Once it’s built, and operational, the matchday experience becomes even more important.

If we neglect the playing side of things, people just won’t turn up. Simple as…

So, was it worth it? No.

In a nutshell: Fuck off.