Sunday, 11 September 2011

Hinckley United 3 – 2 Halifax Town; 10/09/11.


That sound you hear is Lynne Truss screaming.
It takes some thinking to reflect on summat like this, and I'm not going to claim to have each solution to every problem dealt out from a neatly-stacked deck of strategies. For the benefit of the hapless reader of FTS, let's go through the whole wreck of today and pick things out from the rubble.

I honestly don't think I've begun a day with the Shaymen without some optimism. Usually I have the full, three-point optimism, other times I hope for a well-earned draw. The end of the Jim Vince season was the only time I wasn't oozing with confidence, but even then achievement felt as if it were nearby. With Hinckley having already lost five games albeit with a manager who's lead them safely along for 14 years, setting off at 11am today I felt this optimism and continued to feel it for a pretty long time. I'm now going to skip the usual frivulous "then I bought a badge, then I ate a pie, la-di-da" wank I usually write on away days, in order to grind a few gears.

Stinckley are the most incompetent team we've met this season. From the opening minute we were freely bombarding down to Stinckley's terraced end goal and it took only a minute for their players to become mardy, bemoaning every ref' decision, even ones that went their way. Whereas working through some teams' back lines is almost like brain surgery, manouvering the space Hinckley left us was easier than sewing a button. We did the usual Town thing and took our time with it, though with the spontaneity and pace we used to be capable of would've startled their lumpen looking 'keeper Danny Haystead. Indeed, no Town fan at the DeMontfort today felt we only had the potential for two goals. Instead, we operated at the pace of a pre-season friendly. When playing one league game a week, you don't operate at a friendly pace. When playing one league game a week, you have the energy reserves to . . . well, y'know: if you can potentially score six goals, you should try to score those six goals.

Lee Gregory was given good service on the first goal and was clean through on goal. Haystead came off his line and the lob into the net was perfect. In the second half, when débutant Terry Dixon's shot was parried away, Harry Winter did a successful job with a gnat's fart of a kick into an open goal. Throughout these 65 minutes leading to the goal that made it 2–0 Town, Stinckley were playing to the standards of a Step 4 team. But we were mediocre. We were mediocre, and even when we approached the goal we weren't clinical. As usual. It felt like we were arbitrarily planning attacks when we had the ball in their half, taking our time before foolishly giving away the ball, only to dispossess them again.

The Shaymen speed down the flanks once again.

This was a cat-and-mouse/piggy-in-the-middle style of play, and it's the style of play you should only be happy with seeing if your team's at least 4–0 up. Instead we took to it from kick-off until Stinckley started scoring.

Stinckley would go on to have six shots. Of those, three were on target and those three all went in. The deceptively quiet frontman Andre Gray found space for a decent shot out of Simon Eastwood's grasp four minutes after our second goal. A little while later, Gray fed a perfect cross for Danny Newton to head in from a few yards. And with a few minutes to go, that Andre Gray again was through, and when Eastwood's dive for the ball got the man instead, Stinckley were rewarded with a penalty which former Town reject Luke Dean netted. A man who couldn't impress when we played Wakefield in 2010. This always happens.

As the transition in the above paragraph took place, Town went from their barely-acceptable grade to which they'd played for the entire game (and the vast majority of the last four matches), to timid, to eleven Tom Harbans, all clambering over each other to show how feckless they could be in a moment of need. The confidence in the team was astonishingly low, and it doesn't take a conceited man to demand a team like Halifax Town to play to their assumed prestige. We've a splendid ground and 1,000 fans who won't be put off by several months of performances similar to the first dozen hours of competitive football seen this season. For a squad to flourish, tweaking it should be kept to a minimum. However, if one or two players are shown the door this week then Aspin will still know what he's doing and it'll all be a greater good.[1]

It's always a good idea to use words sparingly to keep their full effect. With that in mind, this performance was a disgrace.[2]

Anyway. Congratulations! You've successfully(?) read through eight paragraphs of boundless misery, and some of my more constructive thoughts following that horrid alternative reality world that was the final quarter of this Saturday's match. A credit to the handful of Stinckley fans who sung on their team. If only I could get my fellow Shaymen to do the same.

Tell you what though: as I came out of the ground, I felt the urge to laugh. I don't know if it's me learning to mediate myself, or if I'm just going crackers. It's either the most healthy thing to do in this situation, or the least healthy.

If you don't bother watching us' next match this coming Saturday, home to Vauxhall Moors, you'll have chosen the worst time to tune out. Because (and this is today's only positive): when we start playing well for once, it's going to feel mint.

[1]  Encouragingly, in this weekend's official interview, Aspin shares the same speechless disappointment as any fan who's done the 250-mile round trip while keeping his natural level-headedness.
[2] Tough love, honest.


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