Alas, we can no longer use Bury as our bitch this season…
Anyone who claims that we were going to gub the Shakers again for the second time in a week is probably lying. There was a bit of apprehension beforehand, which makes our ten goals in five days even more of a gobsmacker.
STTA was there to witness the carnage…
As Wimbledon fans in recent times we’ve become accustomed to avoiding that hope, you know the one that kills you.
I sensed a lot of that in the build up to game 4 of 4 against a Bury team that make Steve Evans tax affairs look well organized. We knew we should and probably would pick up a comfortable 3 points but nobody wanted to say it out loud.
So maybe 19th November 2016 saw a few of those accumulated scars healed once and for all. You see we can put struggling teams away, we can produce our best form at home and we can maintain our momentum.
The first 25 minutes those 0-0 bets looked a good prospect. Bury showed the fight and determination you’d expect from a team who’d had their trousers well and truly taken down 4 days earlier.
Then the defensive frailties we’d seen in the cup game reappeared and in the space of 3 minutes the game was over.
Whelpdale netted the opener after good work from Poleon. Dom added number 2 himself latching on to a ball in behind and Tom Elliot got the third after more neat build up play.
Ten minutes later Francomb made it 4 from the penalty spot, cooly converting the spot kick he earned himself.
The poor old Shakers did manage a consolation goal just before half-time, the sympathetic** applause from many home fans was a sign of how comprehensively we’d battered them this week.
** – SW19 note: is this one of the most patronising things you can ever do to an opposition? It’s the football equivalent of praising a toddler for not wetting the bed the previous evening.
The second half was a non-event. Francomb added a 5th, Bury added nothing. We had the luxury of withdrawing Robbo on 68 minutes shortly followed by Tom Elliot.
In all honesty we could have taken half the team off.
The clock ran down and as the ref blew his whistle you could sense the relief for Bury players and fans alike. The Autumn quadrilogy had seen a combined 1,864 miles travelled, 376 minutes played and an aggregate score of 14-4 to the Dons.
Plus points: Goals. Oozing confidence. Strength of the squad. We’re back in the play-off spots.
Minus points: that’s a tough one, we conceded a goal.
The referee’s a…: who notices the ref on days like these?
Them: seem to be in as much trouble on the pitch as they are off it. Their injury problems are well documented but from 2nd in the league on 1st October they are now 18th with 8 straight defeats in the league.
That sort of nosedive is hard to pull out of so no wonder they’re now as short as 2/1 for the drop.
Point to ponder: is it me or is our transfer business starting to look pretty tidy? Not the big names, I’m thinking of yesterday’s performances from Chris Robertson and Seth Owens. Robertson on a free from Ross County and Owens plucked from the now defunct Brentford academy. Combined wages of not-a-lot.
With 12 teams in our league having similar budgets you have to be smart in the transfer market to get an edge. Great credit must be given to Ardley, Bassey, Coxy and Bayzo for the time that goes into this side of their role and the strength of the squad we have as a result.
Anything else: last time I wrote for SW19 I finished by saying that if we came through the Bury/Posh away double unbeaten we could start thinking about more than just staying up. Well we won both those games and in my opinion we’ve improved since by showing we can rotate without weakening the side.
I’ll say it quietly but I’m starting to think we’re genuine play-off contenders. Whether we can maintain our challenge remains to be seen but I’ve got a feeling this squad think they’re good enough… and that’s half the battle won.
Where next? Millwall on Tuesday and an opportunity to pit ourselves against a fellow play-off contender. This will be another tough encounter but we should be fresh having rotated the squad very effectively.
I’m not going to put the mockers on it by offering a prediction but I’ll be travelling to The Den in confident mood.
So a guaranteed 4-0 win for the Lions on Tuesday, then.
First things first – SW19 is claiming all credit for the past week, because I said that we were starting to look impotent up front and due a bad run of form.
I guess they really do print out old comments and leave them for the players in the dressing room.
OK, I’m joking (I think), but I seriously doubt anyone saw these last two games coming. Indeed, if you had suggested we would have been happy with either winning the cup game or yesterday, we’d have taken that.
But as it stands, we’re in the playoff places. And all seems well.
Whether we’ll have a reality check in SE London on Tuesday remains to be seen – to be honest, we won’t play somebody as insufferably shite as Bury each week.
It might temper more than a few cockwavers who have convinced themselves already that another trip to Wombley is on the cards – that is, if we fail to get automatic promotion.
We might, as STTA said, be starting to look genuine playoff contenders, and if we continue this up to February or March, then perhaps the faith may be justified after all?
Even if it’s just a false dawn, we’ve outdone our own expectations already. We’re sixth, and not sixth from bottom a month before Xmas. As unlikely as scoring ten goals against the same opposition twice in a week.
It does sound like we’ve a) come together, and b) been able to rotate without too much upheaval. Though perhaps in the first case we shouldn’t be surprised.
Why? Well, we have kept a lot of the squad that got us up last season, but more importantly after a dodgy start we’ve found our feet.
True, we had to take drastic action when the Ryan Clarke situation finally reared its turd-coloured head, but Shea has thankfully saved us.
Literally, on a couple of occasions.
But being able to change things and it working has helped. We’ve got more faith in our thumb-sucking youngsters this season, which helps things too.
Rather them than yet another loanee who’s there just to do a job.
Again, that’s through necessity with the loan window changes, but one has to wonder how many teams have been caught short this season.
Seth Owens isn’t one of our own, so to speak (we got him from the Brentford academy), but he’s 18 years old and able to come in at LB without anyone worrying.
Oh, and it does help when the likes of Robbo and Fuller haven’t yet hit the wall. Chances are it could be their last season for us, or at the very least we’ll need to plan for their replacements sooner or later.
But they’ve made the step up to L1. And our results show why we’ve needed them to.
One final thing, just to keep the giddyness going. Your editor was at Reading v Burton, and the Brewers are somebody people might start tempting to comparing us to.
They’re no bigger, or dare I say richer, than ourselves, and while they weren’t very good yesterday, they prove what can be done if you get the right team at the right time.
I expect they’ll go down this season, because they can’t win away. And the Championship has spat out the likes of Yeovil and Scunthorpe in previous seasons.
But there’s always that extra bit of motivation about reaching the second tier. That’s where we were before 28/5/02, and it does have that sense of unfinished business about it.
FWIW I don’t think it will happen at least until we’re ready to kick the first ball at NPL. If we did, then we’d have to seriously consider groundsharing** in the meantime.
** – it’s telling how little resistance there is to this idea amongst fans if/when the circumstances will deem it necessary, which either means a dose of pragmatism or people really don’t like KM after all.
But last week I wrote about going full circle. And right now, it seems like we’re continuing to do exactly that…