In our last League season, games seemed to follow a pattern. We’d be comfortable and controlled, and then suddenly the stupor would be punctured by a goal. A world-class aberration in a grey fog of lower league drudgery.
I’d leave games thinking ‘if it wasn’t for that moment, we’d have got something out of that’ as if that it was a fluke. I was deluded, because being rubbish at this level isn’t like watching the crap kids at school who can’t co-ordinate their feet to kick a ball. Its not that obvious. Even the worst teams look like they’re competing. The difference is that the bad team shut off at key times, the product of a much broader complacency.
When Port Vale equalised on Saturday, I had a momentary glimpse back to those days. I could feel all the old excuses welling up; we didn’t deserve it, if only there was less injury time, it wasn’t fair to not be rewarded for such effort. Then I thought about our undeserved defeats against Bury and Stockport, and I became consumed with the thought that perhaps we were all just too complacent.
But then, of course, we headed down the other end and snatched a sweet, glorious victory.
The win itself wasn’t the mark of where we are. We would have competed with the league leaders in 2006 and needing to win a game in 2 minutes of injury time requires quite a bit of luck regardless of how good you are.
Why this is different is in the nature of the goals we scored. In the past, faced with having to chase a game, we just didn’t have anything in our locker to carve out opportunities and capitalise when luck presented itself.
Now we have Craddock as the Owen-esque instinctive finisher, Constable the classic centre forward in the Shearer mould. Complementing them is Green’s strength and speed or Midson’s height, or Potter’s trickery.
Last year we overwhelmed opponents with a force of personality that became irresistible. This season it’s all about different dimensions and angles. If we need an option to dig us out of a hole, chances are we have it. And that’s the big difference this season.