Right, so have we all calmed down a bit now? Last Saturday’s televised failure to beat bailiff dodgers Darlington – who would technically be above us in the table if it weren’t for their ten point deduction – produced the biggest lot of noise we’ve heard all season; but none of it actually at the ground… Which I guess is what Hilly’s saying really isn’t it? Perhaps we shouldn’t post on any message boards or go down the pub for a week, and we can build up our quota of football noise to release at the actual game. It’ll be like a Galatasaray home game but with more frowning.
So – automatic promotion will have to forgotten then, for this season at least. I think that’s where all the crap spouted on message boards and from people’s faces came; the sudden realisation that we might have to go to Wembley again. Think of the cost!
This Saturday we play Nick Owen Town; and we only need a point to confirm our spot in the play-offs for a second consecutive year. Just read the last part of that sentence again. Second…. Consecutive…. Luton – well, they’ve got nowt to play for any more, they’re already down, but isn’t it always the case that teams who are already relegated start playing well again? The fact that it’s their last home game in the League adds a bit of pressure too – not to the players, but those fans who’ll be travelling daarn saarf on Saturday, the ones who’s fingernails will be demolished before they’ve even reached the M1. I’m not looking forward to Saturday at all, knowing we have this must-not-lose thing going on. But at least it’s only a tenner in.
If the Luton Town match is our last chance to save the season (which it isn’t), then the man fulfilling the role of saviour will be Gary Jones, who has finally started first-team training again after what feels like three months out with a gammy knee. He’s been running on it for a couple of weeks now, but found it hard to turn at full speed… absolutely no change there then. Joking aside, it’s no coincidence that during our two most prominent downturns of form this season, Jonah has been missing with injury. You can almost feel the players crying out from him on the pitch when he’s not there, and we’re losing. You can almost hear it from the fans too. Something’s missing when Jonah’s not there, something intangible. I almost want promotion for Gary Jones more than I want promotion for myself. Almost.
Grimsby Town fans have another hypothesis for our lack of wins recently, however – the Tom Newey effect. They’ve even got stats to prove it, that state – even if the man hasn’t been playing – that teams win 30% fewer games with him in the squad. Hard to argue with cold, hard fact – which is what this is. Newey to Bury, anybody?
Closer to home, Hillcroft can feel the pressure from the fans too. “At this time in our management careers we feel vulnerable because results aren’t reflecting the way that we are as people, so we are there to be shot at and a lot of people like shooting at me and Flicker!” said Hill, presumably continuing the terrorism-based theme from a couple of weeks ago. “Getting just one point sounds easy but sometimes getting that 100th run when you are on 99 in a test match is a difficult one.” Indeed it is, just ask Alex Tudor.
A situation which should help Dale stumble over the line this Saturday is the clean bill of health the squad has. Only Scott Wiseman remains an injury doubt for the game against Luton Town, and there are no yellow card suspensions either. Chris Dagnall, who scores less than he deserves, is likely to partner Adam le Fondre up front again, unless Hilly fancies a change, and Jonah is likely to replace Clark Keltie in the midfield. Beauty out, beast in. Luton Town – well, let’s just hope to God they’re as awful as they were when they played us at home.
Just a quick thought on ideas for the new sponsor next season… does anyone else fancy the word SAKO emblazoned across the shirts for the next year or two? ‘Heart of steel, cruel, and totally insensitive’, boasts that Finnish gun maker’s website. ‘A perfect mate for the weekend trip’…
Written by Matt Boothman on 23rd April 09