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View From The Dolan: What’s In A Cup Game?

Ben has mixed emotions from Tuesday’s cup win.

PA Images via Getty Images

There seems to be a split across the fanbase over how we value this game. On one hand, it is always a positive when you see your team score five goals in a competitive fixture. On the other, it’s impossible to overlook the league situation, which is tragic. Yes, certain players played well (more on that later), yes the opposition weren’t good (or at least, worse than I expected). Sir Steve Coppell once said you can only beat what’s in front of you and the team did that with aplomb.

To question why this sort of performance and result can’t happen in the league is a bit simplistic. Firstly, there’s no pressure in these games (or rather, a lot less pressure). Hell, even I don’t know the rules and regulations of this competition.

It was until around the 60th minute last night that I was oblivious to the fact that, if the game ended in a draw, it would head straight to penalties. What is this, America?! Secondly, it’s hard to take a tournament seriously when it changes its name, with immediate effect, during the competition itself. It’s now named after a glorified garage, apparently.

There’s also the element of rotation. Take my boy Caylan Vickers: currently, however badly Femi Azeez and Harvey Knibbs play, he knows he’s not getting a look in. Even old Rubes said that himself recently (sort of). So what is there to lose?

Yes, he was in sparkling form last night, but he was playing like a man who knew his mortgage was paid regardless. I like Vickers, have always said that, he’s in my top four players at the club who are naturally talented, but you have to imagine where his head’s at now.

Other players, such as Michael Craig and Joel Pereira, did well, but again know they will be second or third choice for their positions in league games. Let’s look at Big E, who again I like a lot. Last night, he played with the shackles off. If things didn’t go well, the penalty miss for example, he didn’t sulk. He just got on with it and actually assisted Knibbs’ goal not long after. Either way, he still scored two goals.

Let’s move on to Paul Mukairu. Again, a decent, busy performance. But he knows he’s not getting a look-in currently against Wycombe Wanderers. And I’m not advocating all these players start the next game, but they didn’t do themselves any harm. There were setbacks in the game; they coped. They wanted to be positive. They looked confident, interested, hungry.

My point is that, despite what Sam Hutchinson thinks (and I will share my views on his little media piece on the pod), these players are alright, certainly going forward. I’m of the opinion we have nothing to lose now in the league. I saw some people saying there is still 90 points to play for or whatever, but we are 10 adrift of safety and we aren’t even at Jesus’ birthday yet. That’s going to need quite some turnaround.

All I’m saying is that I went into last night with no expectation. I was pleasantly surprised at the resilience. And having pondered it, maybe I should do the same with league games? Nothing is changing manager-wise until we get a new owner. Simple as that.

So I’m going to Wycombe with zero expectations, optimism in my heart and a smile on my face. And when we inevitably lose again, I can call myself a complete idiot for ever thinking differently.

Separate note: I took my son last night and we went with his mates and their dads. And they loved it. They were up and down the stairs, waving at the players, enjoying the goals and loving the fact it was past their bedtimes. And that’s what I remember about my dad taking when I was that age: those evening games.

The fact there was hardly anyone there, or that the stadium is basically falling apart or that we are a club in despair, washes over their heads. I just hope in years to come they can and go watch the team in better competitions that this.

Until next time.