Firstly, a massive congratulations to Russ Wilcox and the coaching staff on equalling a 125 year record set by Preston North End’s William Sudell in midweek and then beating it on Saturday with the draw against Wycombe.
The number of draws and the manner in which a handful of these draws have occurred have made it feel like a long frustrating season and you have to wonder where we could have been if we hadn’t have chucked 2 points away here and 2 points away there. However, I genuinely believe that although it has been frustrating, automatic promotion is almost upon us, let the good times roll.
The way in which we have chucked games away in the last 10 minutes, losing 27 points from winning positions have angered and annoyed a lot of fans who vent their frustration out on social media. A lot of these fans are the same who called for the ‘Unity’ badge to be worn on the shirts. Something which has annoyed me, the fact they call for the unity badge to be worn and don’t seem to be very ‘united’ is a joke. You support your team through the good, the bad and the frustrating times.
We all seem to forget that we are 2nd in the league, 2nd from top not bottom like in recent season. What has happened to the excitement of promotion, this unfortunately has eluded us all when we are not winning games. If you don’t support the team when they’re losing then in my opinion you should not support them when they are winning.
The part of the season where I think we was all guilty of this was the run of only 2 wins in 11 before the Plymouth game. A run that would make anyone doubt the capabilities of a team chasing promotion. During that run we recorded a 3-2 away win at Accrington where let’s be honest we were dire and I was thinking what the hell am I doing here on a Friday night soaking wet and 2-0 at half time.
The 2nd half however is where I believed we will go up automatically, the double substitution made by Russ at half time worked a treat, we played fast flowing football as well as we could with the conditions that evening and looked a class team. To win it in the 90th minute was brilliant. The game that followed at home to Pompey was one of the best performances in years a total dominant performance until around 75 minutes where we tired and conceded a sloppy goal in my opinion.
A run of draws after those two performances was really frustrating for everyone but to still be in the mix shows how tight this league is and not as easy as everyone suggests. A tough away trip at Plymouth was around the corner where there was more than 3 points at stake, bragging rights in my house as my housemate is a big Plymouth fan. A team who had steadily risen to the play-offs at the time almost unnoticed, a team who were bang in form and to get the 3 points away there was brilliant.A lot of their fans had said we were the best side to visit their place this season.
A run of 2 more wins saw Russ equal the much awaited record, the fans were ecstatic, that was it- let the promotion party begin. Unfortunately a 0-0 draw at home on Saturday ended that run against a team fighting for their lives to stay in the football league, never was going to be that easy. They had a game plan, to sit 11 men behind the ball which will always be hard to break down.
A handful of fans angered their frustration at Russ Wilcox on twitter claiming he is a Laws clone- useless with no plan b. Even a plan b, c or d would be difficult to execute when a team sit behind the ball. Not for the first time this season and during this fantastic record breaking run have people doubted the credentials of Wilcox. I have to be honest when he was appointed I had my doubts, I honestly did not rate him as a coach, however I thought I would give him time and he is slowly producing the goods. Where we differ to the other teams is when we play badly we don’t drop points which come the end of the season will be vital.
Of course along the way Wilcox will show a lack of knowhow which has been evident in trying to kill games off by making the wrong substations at times but let’s not forget that we are a club in a transition period, just because we are 2nd we should not forget that. A new owner in the summer who has put the cash where his mouth his, a new manager, new coaching staff and a new team almost. All of which have plenty of experience on winning promotions and know what it takes to do so.
A lot of people have said we should have had this league won by now, maybe. All you have to do is look at teams like Fleetwood and Chesterfield who have spent a fair bit previously in this league and failed to gain promotion. Yet we are on the verge of promotion and its all doom and gloom. The thing that has annoyed me the most with the fans is that during the summer there was a general consensus that a mid-table finish with a possible play off push this season would be great just to stop the rot of relegations and relegation scraps, myself included. So what has changed?
The fact we’ve spent big for this division bringing players in like Madden, Syers, Hayes, Williams and McSheffrey to add experience. Experience of winning promotions the vital ingredient. Yes, we’ve not been winning but we’ve also not been getting beat. 7 points clear of 4th place, 2 points of top of the league, what is the problem?
Yes we haven’t played brilliant flowing football but who does at this level. I think where we have been undone a little under Wilcox is how predictable our team sheet is, very little change since day one. I suppose you could argue why change an unbeaten team. At the moment that is my only slight criticism of him, but only a slight one. He has tried to install a passing game which is difficult to do at this level something many people moaned about under Laws. A lot of people towards the end of Laws reign where frustrated by his game plan myself included.
The appointment of Laws at the time I thought was a sensible one, not my first choice but nevertheless I thought he would keep us up. He inherited a poor team, lacking in confidence under Knill let’s be honest Knill had the charisma of an undertaker and the football knowledge of an infant.
A lot of people will disagree with this next point but Laws built the foundations in my opinion for this push under Wilcox. The squad are largely his players, minus the additions in January. However that is not me saying we would have been in the same position at this stage under Laws, I’m simply identifying the work done by him.
Gaining only 24 points in 16 games with an average of 1.5 points gained a game is mid-table fodder compared to an average of 2 points a game under Wilcox who has picked up 48 points in 24 games. A stat which all teams strive for, 2 points a game wins you promotion. This league is all about grinding out results getting points on the board and climbing the table.
You never read of the excellent game in league 2 where the two teams played flowing football for 90 minutes do you? 2nd in the league should be a time to enjoy, but it often feels like previous seasons where we have been struggling.Of course we would all like to be promoted as soon as possible but that’s football, nothing ever goes as smooth as you want it to. Stop moaning and support your club in this fantastic record breaking season.
Up the Iron!
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