Rochdale is the birthplace of the ethical but overpriced convenience store, in case you don’t quite get the reference.
As you enter the town, there’s a bridge with a painted sign of “Rochdale – birthplace of co-operation”, which kind of describes how helpful they were to us on Saturday.
First things first, this isn’t a “proper” match report, even if I was there to witness a rare victory.
I’m now away until Thursday week, and sadly I don’t have three hours spare to write it all up.
It’s also my birthday tomorrow (Tuesday), so with luck the team will give me a nice present by gubbing Crewe.
I’ll be the other side of the Atlantic when the game kicks off, which some argue is the best place for me…
But it’s a much nicer feeling all round right now. Certainly compared to this time last week, which has to be one of the most surly post-match atmospheres in some time.
Maybe losing to Slutton was that step too far?
Saturday perhaps wasn’t a vintage performance, but we certainly deserved to leave Spotland with something.
We still have weaknesses, and a better team than Rochdale might have denied us three points.
But we won a game. And that’s never not a good feeling.
As per usual, my journey up north was pretty shitty, seeing Birmingham from the motorway for an hour longer than necessary, that type of thing.
I got there about 30 minutes before kickoff, so you can imagine my pre-game mood.
An SW19 reader pointed out something in the warmup though, as if there was something different about us.
In his post-game interview, Manbun talked about how something needed to change, and to be fair we saw a vastly contrasting approach from Sutton.
I’m sure it involved going to the training ground and clearing the air. Even an HVAC system on a plane does that less than we do.
Dodgy first couple of minutes aside, we did look different – and better. More direct, more “basic”, more in-their-unwashed-Northern-faces type of thing.
Having Woodyard starting helps, with his unrivalled ability to pass to another AFCW player paying off.
We looked more like a team stabilising in L2**, rather than one freefalling its way to non-league.
** – yes, I know we shouldn’t be saying that, and it’s a very low bar we’ve set ourselves, but sometimes you have to accept where you are at the moment you’re in.
Assal should have buried a chance he got, before he commendably gave us the lead with a decent lob.
Really, we deserved to be in front by that stage, and for once we took advantage of a good spell.
It was a bit like the Bradford game, insofar as we were playing decently enough for you not to worry about the rest of the season.
As usual, it was a little bit flat after the break, but those with televisual highlights to hand can marvel at our second goal.
So majestic. So beautiful. So typical Wimbledon that it should be hung up in the club’s museum for the world to gasp in awe at.
Seven seconds from whoever’s boot it was to the back of the Rochdale net. Lovely.
If that was traditional, so was the way we managed to let them back into it about ninety seconds later.
I’ve just watched it for the first time since witnessing it in the flesh, and Tzanev’s wandering act looks even worse two days later.
One suspects we’ll only properly move upwards when there’s somebody else in goal, as even now the Bulgarian Kiwi fails to fully convince.
And this kind of thing is a major factor why so many get on the team’s back when it goes wrong.
Not our goalie, but the pathetic way we gift the opposition so many easy openings.
I didn’t write it down in my notes, but I was going to say how much I hate this team for throwing away so many unassailable positions.
Especially against opposing teams who are certainly no better than we are. We’re crap, but we’re not the only ones.
It’s got to be an illness of some kind, one that manifested itself last season and will take some time to shift.
To our credit, we genuinely did try and get that third goal which we might have deserved.
Contrary to what some have said afterwards, I don’t think we timewasted that much afterwards.
Many if not most of the stoppages were genuine, and besides – what use is it to us having seven minutes of injury time rather than, say, three?
In fact, if we are seeing the game out “professionally”, then great. Even better if it boils the piss of the opposition.
We need to learn shithousery, as for too long we’ve been the bucktoothed idiot kid wandering around the playground going “will you be my fwend?” and allowing the big boys to steal our pocket money.
Although some of the biggest complaints about came from our own supporters after the game. Perhaps they were just unhappy we won?
Probably the happiest guy this weekend had to be JJ, who interestingly enough was deep in conversation with the officials after the game.
How close he was (is?) to getting the sack I don’t know. I won’t be surprised to hear that he may need a certain amount of points to remain in charge this/next month.
He was keen to say how unified we are as a team afterwards, and I did sense there was a bit of that afterwards.
Doing the manly hug thing with Gunter and somebody else as well (Pell?) in the post-game celebrations may be for public consumption (ditto the pre-game huddle we did).
But I’m not sure if it was.
The squad and coaching staff has had a massive battering from all sides recently, and we might have had a reckoning after all.
We have weaknesses, but even we shouldn’t be looking at the relegation places. And I wonder if we’ve twigged that.
In addition to that, we didn’t play like the manager was going to get the axe, if that makes sense.
We might show glimpses of what we could be too little, but the reaction on Saturday hints JJ will be around a bit longer.
A team that isn’t playing for their manager doesn’t put in a performance like we did.
We’ve now got two presumably winnable games at PL this week, and it would be nice if we could be unbeaten by the time Harrogate ends.
Having three in a week normally gives your editor cold flushes, but if we’re going to kick on some form, this next few days wouldn’t be bad timing…
Anyway, in the absence of a proper report, a couple of other observations from Saturday.
Does anyone hate Rochdale? Presumably Bury (RIP) and Oldham do, but outside the Satanic milltowns nobody else seems to.
They seem quite inoffensive as a club, even if they have a drum in their home support.
Speaking of which, the attendance on Saturday was 2568, of which 222 were from t’smoke.
Considering we panic when our home crowds go below 7000, that should remind us we’re not the tinpot little club some think we are.
When you go to places like Rochdale, you realise how well supported we are for this level, and perhaps AFCW itself should start reflecting that.
Having Woodyard back helps, and he managed to last almost the full ninety minutes. We’ll need him.
Hudlin again didn’t feature, and you do wonder if he’ll head back up north come January (with Zach Robinson returning from his Scotland exile).
And finally – this might end up becoming a semi-regular feature in SW19 reports, but the in-ground cup of tea was £2 and quite drinkable.
It’s a quid more than it should be, but you realise just much of a rip-off in-ground catering is when that becomes decent value.
No, I always try and eat/drink outside where possible, but funnily enough they don’t allow you outside grounds at half time for cheaper scran.
Anyway, back on the 3rd November. We might even win another game by then…