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Good Friday (Dis)Agreement

That’s the first part of Easter out of the way. I’m relieved.

If we somehow find ourselves extending the season after Walsall at home, we will probably ignore yesterday at Plough Lane.

Drawing 1-1 against Harrogate – with, by all accounts, a first half that shat the bed so much we needed a new mattress – isn’t on the surface of it a brilliant result.

At the same time though, at this stage of the season any point counts.

It was why the Great Escape (versions 1 and 2) ultimately became great, because we got the points when not playing particularly well.

It’s a bit different this time round, because for once we’re fighting for something that’s actually quite nice.

That we’re a point off the playoffs, with five games remaining, isn’t a bad place to be in.

Granted, others have got games in hand over us, although Crawley’s surplus fixtures are away at Mansfield and away at Wrexham.

If they do win both of those, they probably deserve the right to play Franchise in the semi-finals.

But that’s for the future. I wasn’t there yesterday as you could tell (I was at Brentford’s training ground of all places), so I got to listen to us on WDON coming back.

The first half was universally panned, although to our credit we were better after the interval.

Whether we were much better is open to interpretation, but we got the goal via the Franchise Slayer and you could sense we would go on to win it.

Except the referee had other ideas…

I’ve watched the Curtis dismissal, and it’s a yellow at worst. Perhaps a bit clumsy but nothing more than that.

No wonder JJ was apparently fuming, and no wonder we’re putting in an appeal.

Whether we’ll have it overturned before we head to Edgeley Park on Monday I don’t know. I suspect not, and that means we’ll need Kelly and co to step up.

After all, we’re only playing the league leaders next at their place. No pressure, like.

Actually, I’ll be happy when the final whistle on Monday goes, because then the worst for the regular season is over.

We might get a pleasant surprise, though more likely we won’t. I expect a loss against Stockport, perhaps a 3-0 gubbing.

But given the way this season is going for everyone (not just us), it would be absolutely typical if we end up winning on Monday after all.

And of course, it would be even more typical to follow that up with a loss against Salford.

Actually, it’s a bit of an insane division this season right now. Nobody seems to want to claim anything, even a relegation spot.

Us playing Sutton next season was unthinkable until about a month ago, but now they’re hitting form at the exact time they need to be.

For the race for seventh, that’s going to be a case of who can get those wins at the exact time everyone else doesn’t.

I don’t think it will be us, although we’re currently on a middling bit of form. It’s been a mixed March, which started out beyond brilliantly then went to pot when we played Newport.

After Monday, most of the games are winnable, at least on paper. If you’re going to get in the playoffs, we need to find the net and keep them out the other end at the same time.

It’s that simple.

I’ll be honest here – it’s difficult to write too much else because I don’t think there’s much more to say right now.

We’re still in the hunt, in a season and division where anything can happen and probably will. I would have killed for that in July 2023.

Finally, and this was one of the biggest complaints from yesterday – the red shirt.

I know this club likes to signal how virtuous it is, and it sometimes gives the impression it values moral purity over success.

But if we ever change the shirt colour for a home game again – make sure the opposition aren’t wearing blue.

Many people in the crowd yesterday became Harrogate fans by accident, and even watching it again on the highlights – it just felt wrong.

Changing normal shirt colours is not something I’m keen on, although I can put up with it if it has a club or local connection.

The white shirts when we played Brizzle Rovers in 2011 and Sutton’s Royal Marsden strip, are fair enough for the once-off.

But War Child has precious little to do with AFCW or Merton, and I think it’s because the guy behind Sports Interactive is involved with them.

So we put ourselves at a potential psychological disadvantage at the whim of a sponsor.

Ultimately it didn’t matter because we didn’t lose, but if we had suffered defeat you could blame the shirts in part for it.

I don’t doubt the players themselves found it odd to be playing a team in blue at Plough Lane, and by all accounts the crowd was confused and therefore dead in the first half.

Personally, I think there’s too many fundraising pledges generally these days, not just in football, and many organisations are as corporate as Amazon.

Besides, AFCW does enough for charity as it is – just look at Harrogate’s goal for starters…

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