The game on Saturday marked a quite remarkable turnaround, on the pitch at least. Our visit to The Valley back in October was quite honestly one of the worst away performances in recent memory for me and, at that point, there seemed no way back for this set of players and their manager. A few short months later and the stats are about as attractive as a perfectly iced baked good (ie, very):
- Lost once in 12 league games
- Unbeaten in five league outings
- And loads of other stats I can’t be bothered to research
Basically, it’s pretty good right now and the visit of the Addicks felt like a really big sea change in both our prospects and also our overall confidence.
I was feeling good heading into this game anyway, but the brunch I was served at The Switch in Tilehurst put me in an even better state of mind. It was genuinely, genuinely, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I hadn’t been since it opened which is basically appalling on my part as it would take around 23 minutes to walk there from my house, as the crow flies. Really good stuff - big fat recommend from me.
Brunch eaten, it was off to the races/League One football. There was always a danger of course that the new-manager bounce (which isn’t actually a thing, by the way - it doesn’t exist, it’s nonsense) would derail our fine form. With an unchanged 11, from the off it looked in our favour and frankly, it would have been a travesty had we not collected all three points.
We didn’t start hugely deliciously, but to be fair to myself here, I was distracted by the amount of clowns around. Or at least, clown wigs. I don’t like clowns: I don’t have a major fear of them or anything, they are just off-putting, aren’t they? Almost the complete opposite of what their very function is supposed to be. Clowns aside, the atmosphere was very nice indeed and a pleasure to be part of.
I don’t want to dwell on the ref, but goodness me he was trash. The handball he missed had me making the face I make at my barber when I ask him to cut my hair short on top and he says I’d rather not and then I say why and he sort of points to the top and makes a grimace. In short, my face was disgusted but also embarrassed for him (the ref, not my barber).
At the water break, I felt we were mostly in control and not looking to throw away the game like a middle-aged chap disposing of his Greggs steak bake wrapper. No, I felt confident, happy and generally pretty satisfied with how things were going. Of course, all of those feelings evaporated like an ice cream on a hot pavement as the second half commenced. It was almost like an anti-team-talk had occurred and we looked bereft of confidence.
Femi Azeez breaking the deadlock when he did was massive. Aside from the celebration of the goal, you could sort of feel a massive sigh of relief leave 3.5 sides of the stadium as the winger wheeled away towards the north east corner of the Whitley Bowl. The second goal was when the real party started. It was an absolute certified banger of a strike and honestly, I loved it so much.
There was a real positive feeling around the place at full-time. It feels like we are moving in the right direction on the pitch for the first time in a while. That’s a huge credit to the players, the staff and ultimately the fans who have been magnificent this season.
How far we can now go is an entirely open-ended question but one thing is absolutely clear: we know for certain how good we can be. A big week awaits us, but these players can cope - they’ve proved it over the last few weeks and for once, I’m excited about the challenges that await us.
Until next time.