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Wombling Merry Christmas

I don’t want to make any of our mature fans feel old, but this came out a year before I was born…

As is usual at this time of year, and even more so than the previous eleven months, I legitimately have no idea what day is what right now.

I believe yesterday was Saturday, but I’m not entirely sure.

It doesn’t help when you get games this Tuesday and Friday as well, not to mention a week tomorrow.

Which is Monday. I think.

Anyway, brain frazzling or not, AFCW stands in a good place at this moment. And we’ve come off the back of what I consider the most impressive win of recent weeks.

No, it wasn’t the gubbing of Swindon or Ramsgutter, or the way we dealt with Notts County. Nor indeed was it Pompey in the Dodgy Dave’s Motors Cup, as good as it was.

As 1300 (plus a few in the home end) on Friday saw, Crawley could have gone wrong in the end.

Very wrong.

That our ten men defeated their twelve, especially looking dead on our feet towards the end, says something good about us.

Yes, it was straightforward until JJ then Joe Lewis saw red. Then they scored and it got more uncomfortable than seeing a chugger catching your eye and rattling their tin in your direction.

Cometh the hour, cometh the Bass as they don’t say.

But games like that prove who you really are. And on Xmas Eve 2023, we’ve proven we’ve got some mettle.

We can always improve, of course. As good as it is seeing Manbun scoring again (and it’s much better for us when he does) we’ll still need to complement/replace the Iraqi Scouser.

Perhaps sooner rather than later, if we can’t delay him going on the Iraqi tournament** training camp in the new year.

** – I’ve made this shit joke before, but the fact it’s called the AFC Asian Cup suggests the previous Asian Cup was franchised out to Bermuda.

The way we sat back when it was ten men, rather than try and kill the game off with a third may have disappointed some people.

To be honest, I think the players knew that if they tried anything with that official on Friday night they’d be fighting Lewis for the shower gel during the game.

Case in point : AAH ran through, was tackled by their player in the box but he didn’t go down. He was on a booking, and I think he subconsciously knew that he wasn’t going to get the penalty.

Which if you consider this, makes our win at the Broadfield even more impressive.

Why? Well, any decent football team learns how to play the conditions, which includes what you can get away with in regards to the officials.

If you’ve got a ref who will let near-genocide go for the opposition, and will caution you if you even consider breaking wind, you have to deal with that.

Breaking up play with injuries etc may help, but if we had done that on Friday we wouldn’t have even ten men on the field left by the end, so we did the right thing.

No, it wasn’t pleasant to watch in the end. But it made it much sweeter when the whistle was blown, and not just because it was our first away win since Harrogate in early October.

I can’t disagree with anything Terry Skiverton said after the game, although it says something about modern football when he mentioned that he “can’t wait to see their data”.

Just a couple of other little things before we move on from Friday. Don’t underestimate how important it was to be able to put on Pearce for Lewis as a straight swap.

And is Lee Brown practically gone now? He had a cameo at Pompey but not even on our bench for league games any more.

Also, what’s happened to Paul Kalambayi? Injured? Caught being on a train again?

It goes without saying that last season (and perhaps earlier this campaign) we would likely have lost that game. There’s undeniably a change in us, and that’s a good thing.

Crawley still don’t like us, and Bass having a bottle thrown at him doesn’t surprise one iota. And was there a little bit of nawtyness after the game?

I was told about four years ago by a Crawley press bod that they simply want somebody to have a rivalry with, and we’re a top choice for them apparently.

Don’t get me wrong – the needle in the Conference promotion days was fun when Steve Evans was in charge of them, but it’s a bit one-way these days.

I’m not sure about the OS calling it a clash between “two old school rivals“, either.

Which sort-of leads us onto Boxing Day. El Suburbico, the Thameslink Derby, the 164 Bus Route Derby etc.

I’ll be honest here and suggest this will be a much trickier game than people are predicting.

Firstly, we looked fatigued towards the end at Crawley, and that’s clearly going to take a toll this upcoming week.

Secondly, the law of footballing averages suggest we’re due a slip-up at Plough Lane. While I’d rather it be Colchester, if we really must have one this week, I fully expect something to happen on Tuesday.

Thirdly, Sutton do have a point to prove. Yes, they’re crap (they lost 2-0 at home to Mansfield yesterday and look like us in 2012/13), and they recently sacked their manager.

But if you’re going to kick-start your attempt to stay in the League – why not do so at your nearest rivals?

I think from our point of view, Sutton is a bit more of a rivalry than Crawley, although it’s really more local bragging rights than anything.

There’s always been this underlying belief that we should beat them most times, and that they shouldn’t ever be above us in the pecking order.

The defeats we’ve suffered at their hands in recent years has stung more than they should, mainly for that reason.

Which may sound a bit arrogant on our part, but considering the size/outlook of the two clubs is understandable.

And anyway, with us there’s only one true hate anyway. They beat Morecambe yesterday by the way, the cunts.

Hope they have a shit Xmas along with our referee on Friday night.

If our attitiude and application is right on Boxing Day, we should get three points relatively comfortably.

But “should” is a big word. And purple patches come to an end at some point.

Even if it does in just over 48 hours time, it’s still very nice to be in the position we are at this very moment.

It’s an actual pleasure to watch us these days, and that’s something we haven’t really said since the second half of 2015/16.

This morning before writing this, your editor had the thought that we spent about five seasons in League One and very little of it was enjoyable.

Us going down still rankles, and our focus must be to return there again – primarily because we mucked it up so much last time.

Even if the worst happens next month, we’ve seen glimpses this season of what we can achieve if we put our mind to it.

And should we hold this squad together by February, make one or two additions and progress like we are, we might have a superb second half of the campaign for once.

Or to put it another way – 2015/16 still had that vibe it was a bit of a fluke. If we repeat that this season, it won’t…

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