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The Cup Runneth Over

And the game didn’t get any better from when I took this picture.

Yes, it’s an old-skool SW19 report, albeit from the nerve centre of SW19 Towers. A Sunday afternoon, free on the telly.

What could possibly go wrong?

After Whimper 1 Bang 2, quite a lot actually. Despite the OS telling everyone that it was on the BBC Red Button – it wasn’t.

Fortunately (?), it was online via the BBC I-Player, albeit you had to search for it through the BBC website.

Just in time to see Piggy doing what he does pretty well. If he didn’t, we’d be in right trouble this season.

The goal we conceded was poor, and the goal after half time was equally so.

And perhaps the most worrying thing was – it never improved from our point of view at all.

True, we went up a notch, but there was just so little quality or cutting edge, in a season where we have actually improved up front.

Oliie Palmer started, but I only remember him featuring when he went off.

I know he’s having to come through without so much of a pre-season, but people are already calling him a dud and you can’t really blame them.

Longman, who replaced him, was equally anonymous, and if Piggy gets injured or sold, we’re truly fucked.

At the back, we really need to spend time on getting Heneghan up to speed with those around him, because there was something concerning about those two goals conceded.

Against a League Two side, lest we forget.

I want to say the rest was forgettable. But it wasn’t, because I still remember how poor it was.

There was a lot of huffing, but not much puffing either. I can’t recall much in the way of chances when we were 2-1 down, and that’s what worries me.

If you bombard their goal but the goalie has a blinder, them’s the breaks. But on 68 minutes, your editor wrote “get the feeling it’s not going to happen”.

And unfortunately, I was proved right. Very right. Too right.

So, what? Well, we’re out of the FA Cup and really it’s not undeserved.

To be honest, we got away with it a bit on Thursday, and only got through on penalties. Against another L2 side, again lest we forget.

Couple that with us losing against Gillingham – and yes, you’ve put that out of your mind – and likely defeat against Peterborough on Wednesday, and we’re fast getting in the opposite of a purple patch.

Ironically, this season may be a good time not to have a cup run, because all the perks of one (big club, full houses) aren’t going to happen this time around.

It’s one of the unwritten rules of football supporting that when you go out of the FAC you say we’ll be concentrating on the league. This season, it holds more true than ever.

But it still doesn’t make today’s result any easier.

So, now I’ve got to look back and remember the last time I did an SW19 report. Bear with me, it’s been a while…

Plus points: Plough Lane looks nice.

Minus points: 1330 to 1520 inclusive.

The referee’s a…: I was too focused on our mound of shiteness that was being constructed in front of me. But others weren’t massively impressed by him.

Them: Of all the teams to suffer our first home defeat in 29 years to. At least it wasn’t Franchise.

Deserved it, let’s be honest here. Took their chances, and dealt with us a bit too comfortably for my liking after that.

It was really strange to hear Danny Bulman’s name getting mentioned, then forgetting he’s no longer playing for us.

But it’s a damning indictment of the last few years that we’ve never looked close to replacing him.

Lee Bradbury is their assistant head coach. He interviewed for the AFCW job when TB got axed, as he was seen in the old KM main stand “making notes and having shiny shoes”.

They really love beating us, by the way, although I’m told by somebody there that it’s because they’re desperate for a rivalry and we’re an obvious candidate.

And yes, the days of the Conference promotion season were immense fun. More fun than today, but then so is a kick in the testicles.

Point to ponder: If today wasn’t largely down to fatigue, could we start getting into real trouble?

This afternoon was the first time I’ve actually seen us play since Ipswich last season. I’m usually working when we’re playing, and if not I refuse to pay anything for iFollow.

Whether we were half a yard slower, physically and mentally, I don’t know.

I will accept bad performances happen, and we haven’t been able to properly train for almost three weeks to a month.

But that scared me a bit today.

What got me was the all-round lack of quality, in too many areas. Yes, we’re League One, albeit on a shoestring, but I’m not sure how at the moment.

And it’s another fucking game where we’ve taken the lead, and just gifted it away because we can’t seem to cope with it.

That’s mental weakness. It’s happened too often this season already and it could well cost us our League One place this season.

And no, that’s not a knee-jerk reaction to today. History is full of teams who start well yet find themselves relegated after all.

We’ve ridden our luck a fair bit this campaign already, and anyone with remotely decent scouting will know to get at us when we go ahead. Because that’s when we’re at our most vulnerable.

The transfer window opens on the 4th January and closes on the 1st February, apparently, and the need to get just one or two Danny Bulman types in is ever more apparent now.

Yes, money and finances etc. But we managed to find a few quid for Heneghan…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The BBC is shit at sport. Having commentators who didn’t do their research, poor picture quality, and even down to the second half caption saying the game was at Kingsmeadow makes me glad Sky has most games in this country. 2) Mikey T’s homage to 1970s games in Eastern Europe with the phone. OK, the digital connections (ISDN?) aren’t in yet, but still… 3) Still weird watching a game on the telly.

Anything else? I’m not sure if you can read it, but I doubt I was alone in noticing this particular advertising hoarding pitchside.

After the emotion of Doncaster, where it still largely felt surreal, this was the first time we’ve seen PL as it will be for the rest of our footballing supporting lives.

No, not completely empty – though too many “performances” like that today and who knows? – but a living, breathing, working stadium.

I really do think when fans return, it’s going to be a nice place to watch football at.

Yeah, I’m biased, but it does look like a stadium you’d want to be at if you were neutral. It’s intimate in a good way, but not a rabbit hutch like KM was.

Like all brand new stadia, it will need to be “lived in” (your editor went to Brentford’s lovely new ground on Friday and thought the same thing there too), but time and creating new memories will do that.

But the one thing from ground-gawping today was that it felt more like our own gaff this time around.

Even down to the lousy performance on the field of play.

No, I’m not going to apologise for the snark there, especially after the crap that got served up today.

Donny may have brought a lump into many throats, but there was still a bit of dazed unrealness about that whole evening.

Today didn’t have that emotion, and I think it was easier to assimilate what we’ve got to look forward to (in a good way) in the future.

At a few points of the game, I kept looking at whereabouts my (likely under-used) season ticket will be in the south stand.

For the first time, I could properly imagine standing there and seeing – feeling – the reaction of those around me to the unfolding whale wank.

The more the ground gets completed, and the nearer the day we can step into it, the more real it becomes.

I’ve said that last sentence so, so many times over the past two years, but it’s always remained an abstract concept.

But now, you can look at exactly where you’ll be sitting and knowing that at some point, you’ll be gnashing your teeth with the players right in front of you.

Today sucks, and you can well imagine what the post-game drinks would be like right now in normal times.

And somehow, knowing that makes you feel right at home…

So, was it worth it? Fuck right off.

In a nutshell: Theme Park Plough Lane – the place where all visitors go home happy.

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