Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The big picture

AS we approach October, we could so easily be sat top of the table - which I feel would have been remarkable given the massive summer of change we saw.
So therefore the loss of five points late in the games against Forest Green and Tranmere, while disappointing, is not really the end of the world.
I suspect many Robins fans heading up the hill to Nailsworth would have taken a point at 7.45pm last Tuesday, even if it was then a bit difficult to swallow two hours later.
I didn't feel we played that well at the New Lawn, especially in the first half.
I felt we were too deep in midfield for most of the game, which left Danny Wright and Amari Morgan-Smith isolated, and we struggled to get much going.
On the plus side, we probably created three decent chances and took two of them - the other being the AMS chance which was saved by Maxted, who also blocked Jack Barthram's follow-up.
We did most of the defending, Dillon Phillips was the busier keeper, so all in all maybe a point wasn't that bad after all.
Yes, we could have gone top, taken the bragging rights, called ourselves the county's number one team again, whatever... but we did none of the above, so we can try again in November.
Then it was on Tranmere, and once again in hindsight it was a chance missed.
Once again we could have ended the afternoon top of the league as other results more or less went in the right direction for us, but we couldn't take advantage of it.
With Harry Pell banned, Gary Johnson had to make one change and Asa Hall was the natural replacement. He did well enough - but the gaffer decided to go further.
The two Jacks, Munns and Barthram, were rested for James Rowe and Lee Vaughan and in hindsight I didn't feel those changes were as successful, and were unnecessary.
It seemed a strange decision from the manager, who has preached consistency all season and looked to make as few changes as he can, then opts to rest two players,
Saying that, I was pleased to see Rowe given a chance to start as he has done well from the bench in little cameos, but he didn't take the opportunity. After a promising start he faded quickly out of the game and it just passed him by.
Vaughan and Barthram both give energy down that right-hand side, and Vaughan got into a number of good positions again but I feel Barthram's supply is more consistent - although Vaughan did supply a cross for our one decent chance, Wright's header which was saved.
All in all, the game was very tight with both teams more or less cancelling each other out. It was a bit of a non-event, with few clear-cut chances and neither goalkeeper kept busy.
From early on, it was either a 0-0 draw or was going to be 1-0 either way. The smart money would have been 0-0 as neither side did enough.
AMS rightly had a goal ruled out for offside, and then when he went through and seemed to be fouled, I thought the highlights showed him simply losing his balance and if there was contact with the defender it wasn't intentional.
Tranmere's stall was well set out in the second half as their keeper took longer and longer over goal-kicks and clearly they would have been delighted with 0-0,
It was going that way and makes the sucker punch goal even more disappointing - but I am going to stay positive and look at the bigger picture.
We made 17 (I think...I lose count...) signings in the summer and I admit to surprise at how quickly it has knitted together.
It could so easily have gone the other way and let's be honest about it - not many of the so-called pundits had us in their favoured challengers at the top.
But all the indications are that we are going to be in the mix for the top five, and maybe also for the top one as we reach the quarter of the season stage.
We have seen good performances, resilient performances, battling performances, committed performances and some not-so-good performances which have still brought some reward.
We have lost two games, both to goals scored after the 90th minute of the game and the whole mentality around the club has changed for the better. And yes, it needed to.
Now we head into another congested month with six league games - five against sides in the top 10 - and our foray into the FA Cup, which, as we know well, is financially important.
After Halifax on Saturday, we play Braintree (9th), Gateshead (2nd), Bromley (4th, and flying), Eastleigh (10th) and Grimsby (7th). A big month.
By the time we leave Blundell Park, we will have played 19 league games - and we will be remarkably nearly halfway through the campaign after three months.
A good month will really set us up for an assault on the title. A less good one might leave us fighting it out for the play-offs - yes, I feel it might be that pivotal so soon.