I never made it to Walsall last night. I’d love to say I wanted to but couldn’t, but in truth, I just didn’t fancy it. Recent performances aside, as stated in a previous post, I travel alone to matches, and whilst the solitude doesn’t bother me, I can’t spread the cost of travel and with a young family it’s difficult to justify. It’s a shame, as this was a fixture I’d ear-marked at the start of the season when I made a conscious decision following last years relegation that I would try and step up my support away from home. I’ve been a season ticket holder for nearly 16 years and missed only 4 home games in that time, but I’ve never been a regular away from home. There is little doubt that following your team away is a different experience from attending home matches, and I’ve enjoyed the half-dozen games I’ve taken in so far this season (normally I’ll do one or two). The support is naturally more hardcore and vocal, not least of all because you are together rather than spread out across The Valley. The ‘tribal’ feel appeals to me, but not, may I quickly add, in a hooligan sense. My attempts to listen to the commentary lasted less time than it took to write this sentence.
After Saturday’s disappointment, I faced up to the harsh realism that the early season excitement and optimism is fading fast – too fast for my liking - and the future of the club is still very fragile. In fact, perhaps most worryingly, the matchday experience never even felt like a promotion push at all – certainly not an automatic one – and that concerns me greatly. To me, our game felt a bit ‘mid-table’ at best. Even the 16,000 gate was a tad disappointing. I suppose a month or so back I would have imagined that as we reach this stage of the season the momentum would have built sufficiently to see our home gates nudging the 20,000 mark, regardless of opposition. We need to find our groove fast or within a month or so our Play-Off place could be under threat and the fear is whether we’ll slip away altogether? Generally, by the following Monday after a poor weekend result I’ve come round a little and started to search for the positives. This Monday I was still struggling!
After the loss to The Orient, I predicted / hoped we’d get 2 wins and 2 draws from the following 4 games. Realistically though, I felt we’d need more than that if we still held any hope of an automatic place. Based on last nights result at Walsall, we now need to go to Swindon and Bristol Rovers and get wins: something I don’t think will happen at either. Further slipping, I fear.
I haven’t had much time to digest the full reports from yesterday’s game, but based on those I have and the match statistics, notably the large amounts of corners we had, I’m again disappointed we couldn’t turn a draw in to a win. I am pleased Parkinson is prepared to make changes, although I’m sure the cynics will say it’s because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m not amongst them in this regard. I’m a massive fan of Semedo - always have been - but I have been questioning whether his role in the team was under threat in favour of a slightly more creative player: certainly a player more comfortable with the ball at his feet. Clearly this must have been in Parkinson’s thoughts when he bought back Racon. Time will tell if this change of approach bears fruit. In Akpo Sodje we have a bigger, more physical man up front and that should help. Fingers crossed Youga is back soon. I’ve not always been a fan of his, but this season he’s been on good form, and I think we’ve missed him.
So, next up Swindon. I’m debating whether to go or not. There's not an awful lot encouraging me to do so. Everything suggests we’ll struggle to beat them, not least of all, they’re in good form and we’re not. But I believe hope always dies last and without that you have nothing.