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A Good Shoeing

Can we? Can we…?

Calmed down yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t, mind you. Yesterday was that sort of day.

I bet there’s some of our fans who have woke up this morning, forgot the clocks went forward, and thought they’d overslept after overdoing it.

But then, that’s what winning a game does. Especially in what can mildly be termed as dramatic fashion.

While getting draws hasn’t been the end of the world some felt they were, yesterday was a legitimate must-win game.

If we’d had yet another tie, it wouldn’t have killed our survival hopes but you’d be wondering where the next win would be coming from.

And as for a loss…

Before I go on, I will announce that I’ve got a (self-imposed) ban on watching our games right now.

The last game I viewed was Hull at Plough Lane. I’m taking one for our survival.

So while you were dancing round your living room, I was driving down the A40 towards Shepherd’s Bush.

With almost unhilarious consequences.

By all accounts, up until those last few, dramatic minutes, it was two teams that will be in League Two next season.

While the Charlton performance won many admirers, the Cobblers would have lost them again.

This is one of those unwritten rules of football, by the way. Just like cup finals are often crap to watch, “must-win” games are usually tense, edgy affairs with little quality on show.

If we’re successful, we tend to remember the result, and time rewrites it so that the game was a heroic, barnstorming affair.

Though in this instance, at least the end will justify any future rose-tinted recollections.

Upon seeing Piggy’s goal, sometimes you need a bit of luck. Who cares if the Northampton player cleared it and it hit our star (?) striker?

To do it with two minutes left is – or should be – the killer blow.

I can imagine everyone’s reaction to us going ahead, just as I can imagine everyone’s reaction when they announced five minutes additional time.

And I bet your reaction to awarding their penalty was the same as mine. Chances are you said two words in very quick succession, the first being “Oh”.

A real proper kick in the teeth, and in the stomach and bollocks too.

To seemingly let it slip so late on (it was only afterwards that I realised it was 97 minutes) might have killed our season there and then.

But cometh the hour, cometh Mr Nikola Chivarov Tzanev.

We have a new goalkeeping hero, and he’s a Bulgarian-Kiwi. Yes, he has dual nationality, though with a name like his you shouldn’t be surprised.

And the solution to a problem position may have been under our noses this whole time.

Sometimes, one incident can make a goalkeeper as much as breaking one. Tzanev gives you confidence in a way poor Sam Walker didn’t.

Have we heard any more about our Reading loanee’s injury? Or will he be quietly returning to the Madejski?

The save might not have been anything other than routine – you just have to guess the right way – but you’re watching it over and over again, aren’t you?

I know I am.

Could this be the 4-3 at Rochdale moment in the Great Escape (TM)? There’s a few similarities, even down to almost the same opening sentence I wrote back then.

That was/is genuinely coincidental, but the feeling I had after that game was very similar to the one I had yesterday.

We know it means jack shit if we don’t build on that, which might explain MR’s post match comments.

He sounded like he was pissing on a few chips after such a momentous result, but from a coaching point of view he might feel we won’t stay up playing like that.

I have to say, I’ve long felt we overplayed the importance of results in March, at the expense of those in the next month.

True, we could (and should?) have won a couple more games, but we’ve done the important thing of ensuring we have little damage.

Before Shrewsbury away, if you’d offered me fourth bottom, level on points with fifth and two games in hand by Easter – I would have snapped your hand off.

Obviously, losing games this month could have sealed our fate by now, but one point is always better than none at this stage of the season.

And if you’re like your editor, you’ll think that playing against fellow strugglers is actually a lot harder than facing the mid-table teams with little to play for.

Teams like Northampton and Wigan are, like ourselves, scrapping for every point, because their own safety relies on it.

In April, we’ll be facing teams like t’Stanley and Fleetwood, who might be more relaxed.

I’m not suggesting we’ll be gubbing those teams like Peterborough did to poor Accrington yesterday, goals will continue to be an issue.

But we’re in a better place now than we could have been. And we can definitely improve.

Some clearly don’t like Robbo’s possession-based tactics, although as he’s admitted it’s partly done to convince Premier League clubs to loan us (better) players in the future.

He can also point out that we’ve now earned 14 points from 33 since he took over, and that we’re not collapsing when we go behind.

In GH’s last eleven games, we got two points. QED.

One final thing before we can relax just a little before Plymouth on Friday – how good would yesterday have been with a crowd?

While I’ve got used to games behind closed doors, not being able to be there is starting to grate now.

I wasn’t working yesterday, and on more than one occasion I did think how much I missed planning what time I’d leave home for SW17.

Imagine the roar when Piggy netted. Imagine the reaction with their penalty. And imagine the damage done to the roof when Tzanev saved.

Those days will return, but now it just feels like we’re missing out on too much.

On the flip side though, we’ve saved a fortune in clean up fees from not having the bar open afterwards…

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