So, after a seven day period where we’ve been through the emotional wringer with a game we would never have attended in the flesh, a game where plenty of us did, and eventually come out in a state of mind paranoid Californians would pay thousands of dollars to have…
Daisies 3 Poppies 2, and thank fuck we have six days off.
This game shouldn’t have been close. When you’re 3-0 up at half time and cruising, you should put games to bed. Especially when you’re as good as top of the league. Even if you’ve had a very trying match just 72 hours earlier, you should still be able to just shut up shop, withdraw any sort of sting from the game, and spend the last 20 minutes relaxing and wondering what to have for dinner tonight.
Instead, in true AFCW style, we nearly threw it away. OK, there are mitigating circumstances, and losing Sam Hatton and Ryan Jackson isn’t a good thing, but I think today showed why we won’t win the league : we just don’t how to kill a game off even when running on empty. We have to take out more valuable energy when we should be preserving it. If Crawley or Luton were facing Kettering today, having played last Thursday, they would have still run out 3-0 winners.
Shattered? Yes. Kettering have form for this sort of thing? Of course, they overcame a two goal deficit against Cambridge. And lest we forget, a win is a win after all. Nobody is going to remember us going three goals ahead then conceding two but still getting the three points. But with all this in mind, we still make it far too hard for ourselves when we shouldn’t need to.
It’s a shame that plenty will remember the second half rather than the first, because the opening 45 minutes was a bit of a shock. We played well, looked threatening each attack and was more or less in control. After Ebbsfleet, plenty were fearing the worst about today. Not so much after the Lord Mayor’s Show, more like the following Monday when you’re back at work and realising what a shit job you have.
At the end of this one, you could sense the relief – not just in the stands but on the pitch too. Imagine if we had thrown it away? The post mortems would already be starting, and not just metaphoric ones either. It would have been a horrible little psychological bollock kicking in preparation for Stevenage, at possibly the worst time too.
Still, we got three points, and all we need to do now is keep that mentality we had before the game. Because – and there’s no hyperbole here – we were on course to match Crawley’s 7-0 win yesterday. Take that in against Stevenage and who knows…?
As your editor is as knackered as a first teamer today, this won’t be as long as usual. Still…
Plus points: We won. Three points. Back top of the league. Luke Moore. Seb Brown. First half. Did breakaway at some points in second half.
Minus points: Too close and nervy at end. Dead on feet. Most of second half.
The referee’s a…: Bucking fellend. At least, I think that’s what people around me were saying.
Them: To be fair to them, on another day they would have gone away from Theme Park KM with a lot more than they did. Kind of the typical Conference side we thought we’d play week in, week out when we got promoted. Presume they had some ex-Franchise players, because a couple of their lot got some pretty fierce stick (relatively speaking) whenever they got the ball.
Point to ponder: They had 42 year old Paul Furlong today playing for them. Now, if you’ve heard TB’s post match interview (and apparently in the matchday programme too), he’s looking at loanees in and/or four strikers. No, I’m not suggesting he should go for Furlong, although he wouldn’t be a bad buy for this season. But TB could do worse than look around for another top player in his Indian summer.
Think of how Marcus Gayle was such a lynchpin in the Ryman Prem playoff winning side. No, he didn’t play every game, but his experience was invaluable. Ditto Mick Harford in the mid-90s. Remember during pre-season when Barry Hayles was training with our reserves? He’s now at Truro City. There are bound to be some ex-Prem players reaching the twighlights of their career, but still have something to offer. We wouldn’t keep them beyond the season ending, because we wouldn’t need to.
But imagine us having somebody like Furlong? A body on the bench, with a brain to match. Somebody we can put in to give DK a rest, or indeed play the whole 90 minutes too. Given the youth and relative inexperience of our side, an older head with something to offer would be worth something pretty valuable.
Of course, I wouldn’t suggest we get in the AFCW equivalent of David Swindlehurst…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) They had a black goalkeeper. Why is it, 26 years since I saw Alex Williams in goal for Man Citeh, is this still unusual enough to notice? Then again, how many black shotstoppers can you name? Williams, Shaka Hislop and this guy in goal for them today. And to be honest, it’s a struggle to name many more without looking it up. Surprised Paul Ince hasn’t made an issue of it yet. (2) How sodding cold was it? Although there’s snow forecast this week… (3) Who was the ambulance for that was seen heading towards the main stand just before the break?
Anything else? Not really. I guess it’s going to be a week of looking forward to Saturday now. I hope we don’t let ourselves get carried away with it – we really are one good performance away from the third round proper, and all that entails.
The FAC is sometimes accused of making teams who do well in it lose their league form. From our point of view, it’s woken us up a bit – the first half today was something I haven’t seen us play like in quite a while. And while it’s impossible to prove, surely there would have been some confidence brought into today following Ebbsfleet. That spell certainly won us the game.
It’s often said that the 1975 FAC run was the catalyst for WFC to succeed in the re-election old boys club procedure for eventual League football. And christ, it’s good those days of the Rochdale chairman offering champagne to promoted clubs (true story) are over. What would victory on Saturday mean to AFCW? Unlike the FAT, which while nice to win is a hinderance for the top Conference sides these days, the FAC still has a lot of meaning beyond a bank balance.
Not that the money won’t help us, of course, but we need that barnstorming performance to kickstart us again. Why not Saturday? Good time as any : we’ll be on telly, I think the gap between us and Stevenage is narrower this time round (despite them being high up in L2), we’re at home – OK, bad example – and we haven’t had that game yet. And no, I don’t mean the Franchise one – I mean the type of season-defining game that you live off and motivates you. Think Chelmsford at KM in the Conference South.
I suppose you could count beating Crawley, though one could argue our recent decline started after we won the World Cup that evening…
So, was it worth it? Eventually.
In a nutshell: Get some rest. We need it.