Thursday, 19 March 2015

Time to start winning

SINCE Russell Milton took the reins at Whaddon Road, everything has been positive.
The atmosphere has been better around the club, and the results, from the low base of the disastrous Paul Buckle era, have also seen an undoubted upturn, with one defeat in six games.
However, one crucial thing has not improved. The league table. It still makes worrying reading with the Robins below the dotted line of doom.
In isolation, draws at Newport and Portsmouth are good results. In a ‘normal’ season you would come away from those games thinking ‘fair enough, we’ll take that’ and move on.
This is not a ‘normal’ season however, and closer analysis reveals the continuation of a worrying Achilles heel which had set in long before Milton took charge -  the inability to hold on to a lead and grind out a priceless win or two.
Since the start of 2015, the Robins have led against Morecambe, Luton, Accrington, Mansfield, Newport and Portsmouth. All six games were drawn. That’s 12 points gone.
It’s not a new phenomenon. In Mark Yates’ two play-off seasons, chucking away leads cost us an automatic place in League One. Now it could be even more costly.
On May 2, these will be the games we will look back on ruefully and think ‘if only’.
Even two or three of these draws turning into wins would have seen some valuable breathing space open up.
Now, the next two home games with Exeter and Plymouth plus that Good Friday cruncher at fellow battlers York loom large as games where at least two wins are needed.
No-one else is going to get us out of trouble. We have seen that starkly in recent weeks.
After the Newport game last Friday, the results of fellow strugglers 24 hours later could not have fallen better as Tranmere lost while York and Carlisle battled out a 0-0 draw.
Then on Tuesday night after the Pompey point, news of unlikely away wins for Carlisle, Tranmere and – most worryingly of all – Hartlepool took the gloss off things and returned the Robins below that fateful line.
A few weeks ago, the Pools needed snookers. Now they are back within touching distance, so from it being one team from four to go down with them, it is a five-team free-for-all with two to head off on that Vanarama tour.

Performances have been better in recent weeks - that is not in doubt. Now we need to see the maximum dividend for that improvement, starting tomorrow.