Real success typically comes at the end of the season; a cup win, league title or promotion giving you a whole summer to reflect in its glory. No such headspace is offered when you win a mid-season derby; instead you have to have to jam a summer’s worth of self-congratulations into a less than a week.
Inside the club, Chris Wilder’s interview on Yellow Player confirmed that there was a ‘good buzz’ around the club following the win over Swindon. He admitted, though, that the 3 points and ascent to 7th were a complete after thought.
To exacebate things, my own appraisal of the game was picked up by the Guardian who billed it as one of their ‘favourite things of the week’. Suddenly this site was awash with thousands of visitors. It’s fair to say, that this wasn’t a typical week.
It took me a few days to realise that there was a game on Saturday. I hadn’t really given it much thought; perhaps I assumed that the Football League would grant us special dispensation or something. Pre-match talk was of a heroes welcome, not another 3 points.
A pre-game splash of rain helped tone down the sense of occasion and the usually buoyant Aldershot fans – a shadow of the blaze of colour that came to the Kassam back in 2007 – forgot to bring their best drums, meaning the atmosphere was very League 2. Peter Rhodes-Brown couldn’t resist a couple of mentions of ‘Your Swindon heroes’ but the crowd didn’t rise to it too much. It seemed, at first, that despite everything, it was going to be business as usual. Like waking up from a massive night out only to find that you don’t have a hangover (albeit for the reason that you’re probably just still drunk).
We started the game comfortable and in control. They lost a player in a most irritating and benign way – bringing a player down is not exactly dangerous play and it’s only a goalscoring opportunity if Lewis Guy brings the ball bouncing 2 feet above his head under control. But hey, Constable scooped in the opener shortly afterwards and we looked set for a good afternoon.
But when we tried to step up a gear we couldn’t. It was like we had one of those illnesses in which you have a deep and indescribable tiredness. A form of footballing glandular fever.
Which is, perhaps, what we do have. Last year was a lot of fun, but we were caught out by teams more organised and savvy. This season there is more emphasis on assuring the midfield with McLaren sitting to provide a platform for Leven to make plays.
But, McLaren is three games back from injury, Leven just two. Both went from being the creative centre piece to virtually non-existent as game progressed. Whing, who was drafted to play the McLaren role when he eventually puffed off after an hour, really hasn’t found his mojo yet and looked leggy having had to chase McGlashen up and down the left wing. Our engine room was drained.
The trick of bringing on Batt and Potter to reignite some pace didn’t work, partly because the central midfield was gutted. Leven sprayed increasingly tired and speculative balls out to the flanks and everything fell flat. There was no time for a plan C.
It was disappointing, but far from the disaster that many said it was. Leven and McLaren will get sharper. Guy, who would be playing a couple of levels higher if he could score, will be replaced by Craddock. Although it would be good to have points on the board, sitting in 9th a point off the play-offs, away from the headwind of expectation that would be brought on by being higher up, it perhaps a good place to be at this time of year.