Following on from our win at Sheffield United we had 27 points from eleven games. We were five points in front of MK Dons who we'd drawn away to and eight points ahead of Hartlepool who were in seventh. With eleven and a half games a quarter of the season this was looking good.
Interestingly, after eleven games in 2009 we has 24 points and Leeds who were top had 27. After 13 games in 2009 we had 28 points, exactly what we have now with the same number of games played. Last season we had 16 points after eleven games and 19 after thirteen games.
So, on the whole it was a good start to the season. It was significantly better than I had dared hope for back in June. The board have given Powell plenty of resources and on the whole the team have repaid him with good results. We haven't always been totally convincing, Huddersfield are the only team that seem to have done that, but I'd take second place right now, and would have done at any point if it'd been offered to me.
However, after the Sheff Utd win, and the celebrations on the pitch and the pats on the back all round that Powell gave out we seem to have lost our way a little. The odd result going against you is perfectly understandable, and to some degree acceptable. The defeat in the JPT was ok. I would have liked to have gone to Wembley, but in the grand scheme of things it didn't really mater that much. Losing 3-0 at home to a team from the same division was a little bit harder to swallow, but again, it was only the JPT, and despite Brentford doing the same we did only play half of our first team.
Tranmere at home was a little less impressive. Tranmere came to us with three defeats, one win and a draw in five, so we should really have been able to pick up a win at home. There were changes, bringing in Green and Kermorgant which seemed like a reasonable move based on their contributions from the bench at both MK Dons and Sheff Utd, but it just didn't work. Tranmere defended to highly and we failed to get a passing game going and immediately seemed to lump it up the park to the tall Frenchman. This failed miserably. Sure, we managed to steal a draw, and could have even snatched it at the end, but to be truthful, without the Penalty we could well have lost that game.
Then we went to Stevenage, who were on a run of four defeats. What we needed was to to keep it tight and score first and then they would have been forced to come out and attack, leaving us chances to increase our lead. We managed to concede an early goal and then they did exactly what you'd expect from a team playing in a game they expected to lose. No disrespect to them, but I'd be amazed if we finish less than ten points above them, and they would probably have been happy with a draw.
So one draw and two defeats in three. having said that we are still forth in the form tables (last six games) and we are still top of the form table for the last six away games. Six games that include trips to the teams that are 4th and 8th. I'm still happy with our current progress, and the initial bedding in period for the team to 'gel' doesn't seem to have cost us many points.
I think it might be time to reinstate Wagstaff and Hayes. I think it was a little unfair on them to be dropped, despite the replacements having great impacts from the bench. Maybe that is where they need to utilised. Green has demonstrated great crossing ability, and I have been willing him to succeed as I do love a 'proper' winger that gets to the line and crosses the ball, but he has, frankly, failed to deliver. I'm not saying that he won't have a big part to play this season, but for now I think Wagstaff should be given the nod. I also think BWP looks a better player with Hayes, and we seem to play a more passing game with him in the side.
Of course, it could just be that other teams have worked out how to play us now. I always find it worrying when we can't seem to break down the rough, tough huff and puff sides. If you fail to beat them then it encourages more sided to employ those tactics, and they spoil the game in my opinion.
Tomorrow we entertain Carlisle who inflicted our forth straight defeat back in March that was, for me, the signal that we were playing for the playoffs not automatic promotion. In the end the seven games that followed with just two points took that away too.
This is a real test of Powell and his new side. We need to send out a message tomorrow both to our fans and to the rest of the teams in this division. We need to demonstrate that when we are knocked down we get straight back up. Basically we need win and never look like doing anything else. We need to pass the ball around the pitch. We need to be first to the loose balls and we need to be firm in the tackle. We need to make it clear that we cannot and we will not be bullied into submission.
The fans need to play their part too. We need to make The Valley less of a fun day out for the opposition. our away form has been fantastic this season, but we have only won half of the games we've played at home. We need to make The Valley a fortress, starting tomorrow.
I am confident of a win. I don't, actually, think I'll see all those things I listed above, and at the end of the day I'll take a win - any win. I'm going for a 1-0 win. Keep it tight at the back and nick a goal. IT won't exactly send out the shock waves I'd like but it will confirm that we have got back up again. And it will, of course, keep us at the top of the table.
Up the Addicks!