Sunday, 10 January 2016

Perspective

BEFORE I came to my senses I used to post on the Nest forum using the name 'Private Fraser' - the reason being that his Dad's Army catchphrase 'we're all doomed' seemed to sum up the feelings of most CTFC fans, for most of the time.
Now, after Saturday's goalless draw at Boreham Wood, I'm tempted to recall his Warmington-on-Sea Home Guard colleague Corporal  Jones' words... 'Don't panic'.
The result was not what most of us expected and the performance was not great. We all know that, as our last manager but one (or is it two? I lose count) would have said.
Gary Johnson's reaction afterwards summed it up well, but I feel some of the 'glass half empty' reactions to it have been over the top.
I regularly get pilloried for being 'negative' about CTFC.
I feel some of that stick is unfair - the last two seasons for example haven't given us much to be positive about after all - but such is the way of the modern football fan that every 'unexpected' result is met with, at times, a hysterical response.
It hasn't been the norm this season for us to be disappointed. In the past though, poor results have seen players and managers shrug their shoulders and give platitudes about 'going again' and 'watching the DVD'.
But not this crop - they are different. The sight of Kyle Storer on his haunches deep in thought after the game summed it up, as did Gary's response and the ashen faces trudging off the pitch.
It does matter to them that - in the context of this season - they have underperformed and not got the desired result and that is why I am not going to start getting all downhearted and starting to wonder if this is where the wheels start to come off.
I have trust in Gary to galvanise the squad and faith in the players to have the will to listen and put it right. In the past that trust has not been there. This group have earned that trust with their performances and attitude up to now.
However we all know that we aren't going to win every game, but we have gone 15 without defeat and only lost two in 28 so things are still looking rosy.
Our lead is now five points over Forest Green and eight over Grimsby, both having played a game less. It is 12 over Eastleigh who are two games behind.
Even if they win those games, they are still behind us. We remain in the driving seat, in control of the race for the title. It's all there for us.
I feel those three teams are the only ones who can challenge us. Others have dropped away, with the likes of Wrexham, Lincoln and Tranmere now too far back in my view.
There will be peaks and troughs, all sides will drop points when they aren't expected to as we did on Saturday. Grimsby did at home to Guiseley and Forest Green did at Torquay for instance.
If we aren't going to win every game, then neither are the other three, and from now on in, the most consistent side is the one which will win the title. Over the last 10 league games, that's us - we have 26 from the last 30 points, FGR have 20, Grimsby 23 and Eastleigh 21.
Two points a game was the target Gary set at the start of the season. We are four points in credit and maintaining that aim from now on in takes us to 96 points - 36 points out of 54, or 12 wins out of 18... with the goal difference advantage over FGR and Eastleigh as an added bonus.
To get to 97, Rovers will now need 42 points from a possible 57, Grimsby 45 from 57 and Eastleigh 49 from 60 - all tough asks in my view.
Points on the board and a good goal  difference put us in a strong position.
In addition, Eastleigh are still in the Cup and Trophy and their deteriorating pitch might also be a factor as the games pile up. Grimsby are still in the Trophy along with us, while only FGR have a clear run.
But Rovers and Grimsby only have eight home games left, with 11 aways, where neither of them have been so strong. Rovers are lying 12th in the 'away' league table (18 points from 36 on the road), and Grimsby eighth (21 from 36). We are top (29 from 42), and Eastleigh second (25 from 39).
We have nine to play at home and nine away, Eastleigh have 10 homes and 10 aways to play, but sit 10th in the 'home' league table, with a dodgy-looking pitch (even dodgier than ours, groundshare and all)..
FGR are top dogs at home (37 points from 45) and Grimsby second (31 from 45), having based their challenges on a strong home record. We are third having taken 31 from 42 at WR.
But it wasn't only the nature of the performance and the 0-0 result which caused a few to reach for the panic button after Saturday.
The other big factor was the sight of Aaron Downes hobbling off for the last few minutes to add to an injury list already including Amari  Morgan-Smith and Rob Dickie.
The Downes-Dan Parslow axis has been massive for us this year but now it is up to someone else to step up.
Gary has said he wants to look for an experienced player to step in while the skipper is out, and that has again brought the name of Keith Lowe to the forefront.
Some have had objections, feeling he is a return to the 'bad old past' we are trying to forget, that he is too old (at 30 he is a year younger than Danny Wright), or that he has no pace - well, Downes isn't exactly Usain Bolt.
He never let us down in 111 games - a steady Parslow-like seven out of 10 every week. I don't have him tarred with the same brush as those who came after Yatesy let him go to York.
Keith played every game last season - mostly at centre-back - and 16 this season before new boss Jackie McNamara binned him.
He is the sort of player we need, now Gary needs to decide whether he is the answer or if he can find better elsewhere.
It's another January conundrum to add to Gary's wheeling and dealing which has already seen Dan Holman and Cian Harries arrive.
Holman on paper looks a good signing, 14 league goals for Woking and more shots on target than any other player in the VNL, while Harries looked composed enough in the time he was on the field.
Holman's arrival will give more options up front, allowing for a bit of rotation, and it was a shame he wasn't fit on Saturday as I thought Billy Waters and Danny Wright had off-days and it was crying out for freshening up.
Other decisions surround James Dayton's short-term deal, which ends on January 19, and Ryan Jennings, who is here until January 30.
Dayton had a game for Leyton Orient's reserves last week and it may be that the higher-priority need for a defender may end his stay with us. I must admit I haven't seen much from him - granted, he hasn't had starts and been forced to try and have an impact off the bench.
Gary has preferred Jennings in a starting role. I feel he hasn't pulled up many trees either and I think he needs to do more if the loan is to be extended further.
There are seven players he has already decided will be released in the summer, and he will be looking to move some of them off the wage bill early, while making decisions on other issues, such as the loan of Lee Vaughan at Tranmere.
The fun and games have started...