Losing one football match is not a disaster. It was the manner of Tuesday’s defeat against struggling Braintree that makes it seem so.
Last season a wretched run was ended by a spirited 5-1 away win at Amlin Stadium.
I travelled looking for more of the same; instead we were treated to an abject performance, and worse still the repeat of all the faults of recent weeks. Poor start; soft goals conceded – no fire power and worse – no confidence.
Given the undoubted strength of the squad the team’s performance was unbelievably poor. It pains me to write like this, but the column is worthless unless based on fact.
No-one could have left Braintree feeling anything but disappointed. I was angry. We must remember we are still fourth in the league and placed well for the play-offs, but at the same time take into account the recent spell of poor form. Without doubt the club is moving forward.
We all know how – but the football needs to reflect the undoubted off the field progress.
At the moment it is not. Other questions need to be asked also. Why is the team playing so poorly? Why are the same faults happening again and again? Is it selection, tactics, lack of form, morale or motivation? You may think this is too long a list. If so, you were not at Braintree. I was.
Manager first. Wrongly accused of being passive on the touchline and without a plan B I know how much he must be hurting. We have seen several examples of plan B already this season, also plan C. Watch the man, watch the game and you will agree.
A strong squad when fit will always bring selection problems and I can find few people who agree on our best starting XI. Most were pleased with selection last evening – especially the return of Green and the opportunity offered to loanee Jarvis, so I am not criticising the manager there.
I have other questions, and the first concerns captaincy. If Jamie is now captain because of his seniority and captaincy experience, why did he not wear the armband from the start of the season? If Eddie was the man of the moment then why not now? Is it because he has not signed a contract extension? Eddie has lost form and his ill-disciplined performance against Braintree is evidence the change is yet to work. Perhaps the most important question concerns motivation.
The last two games have shown us losing to inferior sides who seemed to want victory more. Are our players hungry enough! Can an eleven be found that the least are as good as the sum of their parts? Racine and Taylor are fine young players with exciting futures in front of them but are currently devoid of form.
Give them a rest. Bring in the experienced Todd at centre-half; his experience could be just what the team needs. At centre forward play Styche but tell him he will be selected for at least three matches.
That relieves the pressure on him. Only playing for snatches of matches gives him no chance to settle. I know this is a risk – but one that could pay off.
Next hold a ‘clear the air meeting’. All should be allowed to speak without fear or favour. Start it something like this, "We are all in this together, we have a real chance of promotion – how can we move on?" Hopefully a united group with a new resolution will be the result.
I have considerable personal and professional regard for the manager and hope he can continue to take us forward. He is a genuine football man and if you cut him he would bleed FGR. Now is far from the time to move him on.
We are fourth safely in the play-off zone. That question is for the season’s end. Now is the opportunity for us the crowd, the 12th man to show what we can do. Boxing Day is just the match to get vocally behind the team, of course they should give us something to cheer first and isn’t our current league position just that.
If the team are below par or falter by all means boo, but leave that to the final whistle.
Anything else plays into our opponent’s hands. Perhaps a win at Woking on Saturday and a point at home to Newport on Boxing Day will raise everyone’s spirits.
My team – if fit Russell, Turley, Oshodi, (C), Todd, Stokes, Brogan, Bangura, Green, Klukowski, Styche, Norwood. No selection is far from easy.
I will settle for getting eight correct. You try! Merry Christmas everyone and hopefully a stocking full of points.