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Cheltenham Festival

Bloody hell – where did that come from?

If you were the sort to be over-critical, you could argue that today was against dross, that we were far too lazy in the last fifteen minutes, and we would have struggled against a better team.

However, if you’re that much of a miserable fucker – FA Cup 5 Gold Cup 1 will have ruined your day.

For everyone else though, feel free to saviour a result (and performance) that strangely was both coming and needed.

Coming, because when we were playing well earlier in the season, there was always the possibility that somebody somewhere would get spanked.

Sutton away came close to that, perhaps Tranmere at PL too, but they were never as comprehensive as this.

And yet needed as well, after the last two games especially. This was not only a tonic but half a litre of gin to go with it as well.

Maybe it’s because it was a strange buildup to the game, namely there wasn’t one. Or if there was, it was pretty low key.

In the beginning, Cheltenham looked just a little bit sharper and fitter, without doing too much to hurt us.

But we started to get into it, even if we did keep getting offside a lot.

Finally, we managed not to do that, and it was a great strike by the Iraqi Scouser to set us on our merry way.

As somebody near me said, that’s an extra £100k on his transfer fee in January.

I did put down in my notes that we needed a second goal, as our problem this season has been killer instinct as much as anything.

Which we got, while your editor was queueing up for a cup of tea.

Admittedly, I thought Cheltenham had equalised, though it was Tilley instead who found the net.

Quite a good touch as it goes, though I’m not sure the Cheltenham keeper would entirely agree…

This being AFCW, one was quite nervous that we were 2-0 up, and you always fear the worst when we’re ahead like that at the break.

It must have been one of those days though, when not only did we manage not to fuck it up, we even looked for a third.

Like Bradford a couple of weeks ago, we managed to miss a sitter. Unlike Bradford a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t kill us.

Tilley’s effort pretty much sealed the game from there on in, and even your editor was almost starting to relax.

I said “almost”.

Manbun came on, and with a decent couple of deflections shot made it almost unfuckupable. Not that he wasn’t claiming credit though.

The best was saved until last though. After missing at 2-0, Lemonheigh-Evans made up for it in some style.

You could see it hitting the net as soon as he struck it, and really it was what we deserved.

So why was I still nervous at five goals up?

I think we just simply switched off on 75 minutes, and Bass was probably just waking up after being underemployed all day.

I was glad we were five goals up rather than two, put it that way.

Indeed, it might have got a little bit uncomfortable when they got their penalty. I don’t think it would have mattered, but it would have been nice to have just enjoyed the game without the usual PTSD creeping in.

Mind you, their spot kick made ours look good…

To our further credit, we looked to get a sixth. We failed, although it wasn’t for the want of trying.

But really, you just couldn’t fault most of that. The players got a deserved ovation off, and so did JJ.

He can’t be unhappy with what went on, and his comments on the OS say a lot. One of which jumps out at me which I’ll come onto later.

For now though, enjoy the rest of the weekend. The FA Cup draw is on tomorrow at some point, and it’s a strangely satisfying feeling knowing we’re in it.

Shall we?

Plus points: We won. Five goals. Tilley finding the net again. All round decent performance. Trying to score even in injury time.

Minus points: Their goal. Their penalty.

The referee’s a…: Let a fair bit go, wasn’t impressed with some of their players getting fouled. Can’t really think he did much wrong generally, although he didn’t really need to get too involved.

Them: Shit, basically.

This fixture is pretty likely to be a L2 one next season, unless we get our arses in gear and repeat 2015/16.

Apparently they were starting to get a bit of form, so it was doubly impressive to give them such a fisting.

I rarely if ever link to an opposition manager afterwards, but I think Darrell Clarke was close to twatting somebody.

He couldn’t be blamed if he did, mind you. Their first shot on target was their goal on 75 minutes, and that was only because we were feeling benevolent by that stage.

The spot kick of theirs was what happens when you’re shitting the bed at the bottom of the table. I think we’re still in shock at what we saw.

Not too bad a turnout of theirs, although I trust the local boozers did a decent trade when it went 3-0 to us…

Point to ponder: Was today a reaction performance to recent weeks?

I mentioned a comment from JJ earlier, and it’s this:

There’s been a lot of questions internally this week. It’s been a tough week. We hit it head on as a group. We reminded them of how good they are – showed them the data of the league games we’ve played.

You can’t deny the last two games have been horrible, and it’s even put the manager’s future into focus again.

Games like today will help, and we played like we had a massive point to prove. Granted, we had the perfect opponents, but how often have we played piles of toilet and lost?

What pleased me was how we were looking to make it 6-1 even before injury time. If we had, nobody could have complained.

And this against a side in League One as well.

Jackson is right – we’re not a bad side. Today proved that, and the players must now have a confidence boost.

We can do it, and it would be great to see this kind of thing more often.

Time will tell if we’ve turned a corner, or whether we just happened to turn up against dog turd.

Next week wouldn’t be a bad way to carry on, though I think most of us would happily see us repeat today in a fortnight…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Police dealing with an incident on Waterside Way/Plough Lane beforehand. Anyone know what happened? 2) Queues ten minutes before kickoff. People seem to have decided to get into the ground as late as possible these days. 3) Still seeing Tempest era shirts being worn. They weren’t that good.

Anything else? So, who do you want in the second round of the FA Cup?

This stage of the competition is always a strange one. It doesn’t have the Big Boys coming in, nor does it have many of the obscure teams that we inevitably struggle against.

Such is its obscurity as a round, I believe we have the highest ever TV audience for this stage of the competition (I’ll leave you to guess the game).

Plus, because it’s the second round the next stage is so near, and yet still so far away.

I’m not sure if I want another L2 side, a L1 outfit, or a Conference one. And I’m definitely not sure if I want to play it at SW17, giving how well we usually do.

As we sung to Cheltenham today, how shit must you be…?

There’s still some intriguing ones. Alfredton, Maidstone and Barnet are the sort of ties that get shown on telly if we’re away.

We could play Neal Ardley’s York, if they overcome Chester in a replay. Ditto Scarborough Athletic.

Maybe we could have a fun one at Aldershot. Who must have had the FA Cup result of the day, scoring seven against presumably Swindon’s youth team.

And I note there’s Ramsgutter as well. No, I haven’t forgiven. Or forgotten.

I suspect it will be none of those, and it won’t be an interesting one regardless. Indeed, I’m half-expecting somebody like Oxford or Brizzle Rovers.

Mind you, if I had to choose, I’d pick Reading away. A venue I know very well, and one I might get asked to cover professionally too.

For some reason though, I can’t find Franchise on the list of teams who got through to the second round. Must be an administrative error…

So, was it worth it? Oh, absolutely.

In a nutshell: Magic of the cup, indeed.

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