Despite other bloggers suggesting that we are made of sterner stuff this season than last I find myself feeling significantly less confident about our season than I did two weeks ago.
Southampton came to us without a win and with a miserable four points out of a total 18 available. They had also failed to beat ten man Colchester at home.
Despite the off side goals I believe that Southampton bossed the first half and could have won the game in that 45 minutes.
Norwich had won two, drawn two and lost three. Despite the fact that they both finished above us last season there is no doubt that we have failed to beat two sides that were not in great form. I know they have decent players; I know that most of the sides we will play will be weaker than them; and I know that we find ourselves 11 and 22(12 plus the penalty) points above them after 8 games.
Thus we have had a significantly better start to the season that it makes it difficult for Norwich and almost impossible for Southampton to catch us unless we literally fall apart.
What worries me is that despite our best ever start to a season, and being unbeaten in eight games we are two points off the top and only two points above the play off places. This would suggest that not only may we need to win three quarters of our games this season and draw most of the rest to win automatic promotion, we also dare not lose a game or Bristol Rovers can sneak above us.
It is a disappointment that Chris Dickson scored two goals in the first half hour at Rovers, and if that business is best for the club then so be it, but on reflection I might have been happier if Rovers had lost on Saturday.
The bookies have us as odds on favourites to win tomorrow, but then they did that a few times last season and were wrong. I'm not suggesting that we will fail to win tomorrow, nor am I unable to spot the logic in the suggestions that we will be very pleases with those two draws (especially last Saturday's) next May, but I feel under more pressure now on the basis that we have had a great start, played none of the top ten teams (as they stand today), and could fall as low as third with our first defeat of the season should it come tomorrow.
Parkinson has been quick to praise McLeod's attitude this season, and I'm sure he is right, but he hasn't reassured me that he is the answer, even at this level. He has had a couple of decent shots, and had the ball in the back of the net, but when it was most needed (last Saturday) he failed to hit the target when we were defending a one goal lead.
With McKenzie injured I suspect that we will see McLeod on the bench, and after what I have seen this season I think I'd prefer to shore up the defence or midfield when Shelvey tires than brink on some pace upfront. Maybe Izale just needs a goal to lift him, but he has been waiting for that lift for over two years now and, ignoring what he is earning, he has failed to deliver in my humble view.
Unless we have any injuries I suspect we will see the same eleven start. It is beginning to look as though (particularly bearing in mind his substitutions) Parkinson lacks confidence in those behind the first eleven. This doesn't bode well for the winter with the heavy pitches and the Christmas period.
Anyhow, I refuse to panic, and I know that things are much, much better than most (if not all) of us feared they would be after eight games. Exeter should be one of those teams that I have confidently (and accurately) predicted we would beat without too much trouble. I am going to go for another win, but I'm raining in my arrogance and suggesting a narrow win. I can't choose between a 1-0 or a 2-1. I'd take either at this point.
With Llera on four bookings, Sam Sodje's international commitments (a chance to get some match fitness so maybe not all bad) and several players with knocks and the obvious tiredness creeping in, I am already looking at this game as one of those that any win will do. Maybe my nervousness is doing Parkinson and his charges a disservice, but on he basis that I doubt we will win six of every eight games this season our lead over 3rd place looks very slender.
Colchester will be interesting, and Leeds will be the ultimate test, but in the meantime we need to continue our run of beating all the teams we should beat. Despite Southampton and Norwich being described as real tests of our ambitions this season, I see tomorrow as being the real test. We have had two unspectacular performances and have failed to win either of them, tomorrow gives us a chance to get back on track. Anything for MK Dons at home to Leeds and we could find ourselves nearer first than third, Maybe we will even go top again?
Up the Addicks!