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U Bend

To think I was supposed to be at Reading v Cheltenham last night, but it got cancelled…

Once again, another midweek SW19 update about a great performance that deserves remarking on.

Coventry last week, Colchester last night. And Chelski begins with “C” too.

It’s funny how things work out – the romantically named Jobserve Community Stadium was the scene of our last away win, back in December 2022.

While a trip to Essex brings back memories of the Ryman Premier days, it was an evening that makes it all worthwhile.

I’m doing a writeup this morning because I couldn’t do the 1am update I anticipated.

Spending about 45 minutes trying to get out of Colchester itself, then going through the backroads of the county.

Then finally getting on the M25 and immediately being rerouted to Tilbury and back.

And then having to go through Croydon about 00h45, which is ropey enough at the best of times.

Thank fuck we won.

Rumours there are still some poor Wombles having to navigate yet another B-road remain unconfirmed, and chances are we may need to send out rescue parties.

I’m sure anyone still lost in hostile territory has that warm glow of victory that hasn’t fully subsided.

Except it wasn’t just a win, it felt something more than that. Something described in the last SW19 update as “embryonic”.

Or to quote somebody while everyone was walking out, this is much more like a Wimbledon team again.

The scoreline says it was 2-0, and we only added the second late on. Which in itself is a good stat to read.

But it doesn’t tell how many chances we had, how we kept going until one finally did go in, how it feels a massive upgrade on the previous two seasons already.

No, it won’t last, and I expect we’ll shit the bed at GGL. But right now, it’s seriously great to watch.

When the opposition manager says we deserve to win and not show any sour grapes (take note Phil Parkinson), then that’s what you want to hear.

There’s still a fair amount that could be improved though, so I’m not yet joining in the “going up” chants.

Our back line needs strengthening in the full back positions, and one wonders if that will be sorted out with a loan this month.

Although to be fair, it played well last night for the most part. Lee Brown especially, even if he is deceptively slow.

Sometimes, you got the sense with a bit more quality up front it would have been the 5-0 gubbing somebody is going to get this campaign.

The Iraqi Scouser clearly needs a goal, and when he was subbed he looked like he’d just got off a flight from Baghdad.

But play like we did last night, and that first strike will come. Followed by a second and perhaps third.

And I think that’s the most important thing right now – you know there’s been a massive upgrade.

Pell and Manbun came off the bench last night, when last season they would be nailed-on starters.

I mentioned the defence was tighter, and having Bass in helps massively. You don’t sense he’s going to literally drop the ball at a moment’s notice.

Tilley is already becoming a cult hero, and he’s currently our top (OK, only) scorer this campaign.

And the players seem to know they’re on the start of a potentially good thing. No OTT celebrations at the end, but a genuine sense of satisfaction.

If you want a comparison to how much better we were from last season, don’t focus on the shitshow post-February, but instead Crawley away – almost a year to the day.

Like last night, we won 2-0. Unlike last night, we seemed scared of going forward against poor opposition and passed the second half to death.

We might have similar if not identical points to this stage in 22/23, but we are a lot, lot different now.

And better.

Finally, a word on Johnnie Jackson, who turned 41 yesterday but must have felt 91 at times last season.

Last night might have been the first time where it’s started to properly “click” between him and the supporters.

I don’t think he’s been particularly loved as a manager, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Whether it was that infamous post-season Meet The Manager, or a realisation that if he fails at AFCW his managerial career is over I don’t know.

But little things like acknowledging the crowd when they chant his name is something else that’s different already.

Fans singing “Happy Birthday” to him must have genuinely touched him, and that wouldn’t have happened a mere few months ago.

It might be a bit vomit-inducing, but let’s be honest – half those singing it wanted him sacked by March…

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