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Brick Wal

Here we go again…

I guess I should have expected Poundland Stadium 3 Poundland Club 1 from the minute I left SW19 Towers yesterday.

Traffic on the way to the David Lloyd on Bushey Road, M25 fucked both ways when I got on it, and the usual issues around Birmingham.

Because I got there much later than planned, I had to pay for parking (a fiver) and £2.70 for a slightly-better-than-Bradford-but-not-by-much cup of tea in the ground, so you get the idea.

£24 to get in as well. Yes, I know it was £22 in advance, although that too is pretty steep for League Two (though I believe we’re not any cheaper for visitors to PL).

Oh, and while I’m happily on a tangent from yesterday – yes, there are many more match reports this season than previously.

It seems work wise, I’m on midweek games right now and currently victim to some consolidation (?) on various sports desks, which also means the Friday SW19 updates are mostly on hold for now.

Normal service might resume, or it might not.

Which is something I could equally say about our time north of Birmingham yesterday, unfortunately.

It’s one step forward and at least one back with this lot, isn’t it?

About three or four weeks ago, your editor pondered whether our back line is our massive weak spot, the area that costs us too many games.

At Walsall, that belief got proven horribly right.

Of course, them going ahead to a deflection doesn’t help, but to our credit, we did try having a go back. And when Ryley “Doors” Towler equalised, it wasn’t undeserved.

Indeed, we actually played quite well the rest of the half, even having one or two efforts on goal, if not necessarily on target.

Half time came, and one could be forgiven for thinking even we could finally start putting our foot on their throat and come away with at least a point.

That warm, confident feeling soon evaporated four minutes after the restart. We switch off, their player gets the ball and rounds the Bulgarian Kiwi, and the rest is painful history.

It’s not like we didn’t try and get back into it, and if we’d scabbed one it might have been a different writeup today.

But it felt like being three games unbeaten was just a step too far for this lot.

The set pieces were pretty poor, the corners we did earn weren’t much better, and we could be at the Bescot this morning and still couldn’t have scored.

Their third flattered them a little bit, if I’m being totally honest, but it’s not like we did anything to gain a point.

No wonder JJ is saying the whole thing is starting to grate. He called for a fast start, and to be fair he got it.

OK, it was for the opposition, but he was half-way there.

Needless to say, once again a few were piping up demanding his head if we don’t beat Slutton next weekend.

And once again, I don’t think JJ’s job is in danger one bit. I think we’re only finding out the hard way just how deep the rebuilding we have to do is.

Our manager doesn’t get everything right, but I don’t think he’s the problem right now…

Plus points: We equalised. Towler’s first goal. First half after their goal. Seeing Woodyard return.

Minus points: We lost. Piss poor defending. Even more piss poor set pieces. The second half. Not looking like we were going to score.

The referee’s a…: Usual shit L2 quality, although once again we don’t have the nous to use that to our advantage.

It took fifteen minutes for Lee Brown to visibly get pissed off with him, although some would argue it normally takes our left back fifteen seconds to get annoyed.

He wasn’t totally shit against us, mind you. Walsall were offside, and he allowed us to take the free kick in their half…

Them: Three attempts on target, three goals. Says it all, really.

I think this is why JJ says it’s starting to grate, because just like League One – much of this division is full of similarly good/shit teams.

Walsall weren’t much better than us one bit, but they were actually capable of finding the net when it mattered.

It’s easy to forget that this was a League One fixture not so long ago, and the Saddlers are living proof you have to earn the right to stay in the division.

They seemed happy afterwards, and being a professional footballer their goalie was certainly happy to give it large behind the safety of the crush barrier.

The Bescot is an odd stadium. There’s the rather nice looking big stand behind one of the goals, yet the other three sides look like Scunthorpe.

I can imagine if there’s a big cup game, or a promotion/relegation decider, it would be a decent away end, even if the bar under the stand couldn’t cope.

Oh, and it really is sponsored by Poundland. Shame the stadium brand didn’t set the price of refreshments.

Point to ponder: Is Kyle Hudlin already looking like a dud?

Yesterday was made for him, when he came on in the last fifteen or so minutes. But despite being 6ft9, I’m struggling to remember him winning a header.

He’s not even as young as I thought – he’s 22, while Jack Currie and Assal are both 20, and Ogundere is merely 19.

So he doesn’t have as many excuses to look gangly, possibly likely to snap like a twig and appear quite timid as well.

For somebody his size, we should be able to whip it into him, and he should manage to get on the end of any reasonable cross.

But there’s more chance of Assal connecting with his head than Hudlin, and that’s not a good sign.

He didn’t get off to a great start when he got injured after his first or second cameo for a couple of weeks.

And you do wonder if he’s settling into life down t’south, as he doesn’t inspire like Towler (who is 20 years old) does.

I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to find out he goes back to Huddersfield in January, and we take a chance on another striker instead.

Maybe he should start a couple of games to see what he can do from the off? Although given our form, can we really afford to take that chance on him?

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Decent away turnout in the end, although a fair few I didn’t recognise. And some regulars not there either. 2) The chant to Do Wah Diddy. Anyone know the lyrics? 3) If our blue away kit is like 1990s WFC, can we re-sign Brian McAllister and Kenny Cunningham? They can’t do any worse.

Anything else? An SW19 reader after the game described us as “naive” and I think it’s hard to argue against that.

Although considering Lee Brown and Gunter** in particular aren’t exactly young, that makes it even more strange (but not incorrect) to say that.

** – our Welsh international was interviewed by the Currant Bun this weekend, and I get the feeling he’s only using us as a way to play in the World Cup.

Which is fine if he’s putting in the performances for AFCW, but after yesterday in particular, we won’t miss him if he retires in January.

I also wonder if we’re currently suffering what happens to a lot of relegated teams, especially ones who spectacularly spiralled downwards like we did last season.

Namely, the trauma of going down in such a manner takes longer to get out of the system than first thought.

Our opponents yesterday dropped into L2 in 2019 and finished 12th, 19th and 16th since then.

Bradford haven’t done much better, and one only needs to look at where Gillingham and Crewe are right now for further illustration of this.

Which begs the question – if we are to properly rebuild, how long is it going to take?

We can only answer that with time. JJ does need a January transfer window to further change a side which has an inbuilt culture of failure.

He also needs to be backed by a club that wants – even expects – playoffs but thinks he should do that with Luncheon Vouchers.

It’s hard not to think there’s going to be a pivotal moment this season, where the various contradictions of AFCW finally meet head-on.

We talk about playoffs, of returning to L1, to even grandeous dreams of the Championship in five years.

Yet we’re doing that with bonds to pay off, a training ground that should be better, and indeed a club that still seems to believe it can do things on the cheap.

One of these has to give at some point, and unfortunately it’s hard not to think we’ll make the wrong conclusion…

So, was it worth it? Piss off.

In a nutshell: Six defenders on the field and we still let in three goals.

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