I always look forward to these type of games. Early cup matches against lower-league opposition mean opportunities for younger players, a bit of rotation and unreserved seating, and in small doses I don’t mind any of those.
Technically I was homeless for the game, so took up residence in the Lower West Stand to watch our heroes duke it out. Pre-game there seemed to be a mix of opinions on the Twitter timeline, with some wanting the game to be the start of a cup run and others hoping for no more injuries, while some fans were seemingly more interested in Gemma from Love Island’s next career move than the outcome of the match.
I fell very much into the “would like to win” campaign, with winning breeding confidence across the club. As I left the VIP car park (stop it!), it was clear that the attendance would be lower than the general public’s confidence in Liz Truss’ ability to be anything other than a despot, so I wandered into the stand, chortling at the folks who were still trying to work out how to use the Apple Wallet function for their tickets. Always go paper, people! Yes, trees die, but traditions!
As it was unreserved, I was desperately waiting for someone, anyone to challenge either me or someone else about the designated-seat rule. Sadly, no one did and that was disappointing as I was up for a ruckus. Teamsheet-wise it was pretty standard, bar Loum making his debut.
We conceded early which was clearly part of the master plan. It was pretty inevitable to be honest: the midfield was failing to get control of the Puma-made, Carabao-branded football and Stevenage were looking good and growing in confidence. Midway through the first half, I noticed a rogue crisp packet on the touch line. I took to tracking its progress and by the time the half closed, it was by the centre circle. Good job buddy!
The second half was a little better. Mamadi Camara came on and got control of the game, slotting the ball towards big Kelvin up top who opened his body like a seasoned professional and slid home the equaliser. We failed to make the pressure count and the visitors popped up with the winner in the dying embers of the game to send the travelling fans and massive man Steve Evans into raptures.
We looked like a team that had had little time to work on shape, at points looking like virtual strangers. Loum looked ok, Abrefa was very good and Camara changed the game for 10/15 minutes when he came on. Will this performance change the course of the season? No. Is it possible it would have told Ince anything he didn’t know? Unlikely.
Personally, I felt we had enough on paper to win the game and process to the next round. That would have allowed more game time to the younger players and helped their development as it’s unlikely that the bulk of this team would get a look in this season. Big Kelvin has done enough to be part of the squad on Saturday, Loum will be involved, maybe Abrefa on the bench.
But the most intriguing element is what happens to Camara now. We saw glimpses last season of his quality but he was the best player on the pitch in this game. Does Ince chuck him into the match days squads or is a loan move on the cards? Time will tell, but it won’t be long before he starts demanding game time and rightly so.
Until next time.