In some ways it’s been an unsatisfactory start to the season. Instead of a return of unbridled glory, we snuck back in a Staffordshire backwater. Then we had a big entrance on Tuesday, but in the wrong competition. It’s all a bit staccato. The big return was only going to be a big return when we played at home in the league.
As such there was expectation at the arrival of Bury. But in so many ways it played out like the first game we had at the Kassam against Rochdale in 2001. The crowd swelled to a level the fixture didn’t merit, the sun was supposed to mark the moment, but instead it was wet, muggy and changeable. We looked all new and bronzed and destined for recovery and future glories. Instead, we got turned over.
The Rage Online report of the Rochdale game was prophetically downbeat. The new stadium, manager, players and the great white hope of Jamie Brooks masked more invidious and dark spirits operating in the background at the club.
Which is exactly where the similarities with now end. We toiled against Rochdale, but some (me included) thought it was nothing a teambuilding golf day wouldn’t fix. We didn’t toil on Saturday; we were ferocious going forward and Bury were lucky not to take a pasting. That will have to be saved for another day.
Criticism? We’re a little fluid at the back and might need to dominate the opposition front line a little more. More generally, we might need to learn when to chase a victory and when to hold firm. Last year, we could confidently pile forward looking for goals without too much fear of being punished at the back. This year, we’ll need to be a little smarter.
But that’s being picky. Looking at the fixtures in August it’s easy to conclude that we might not get a pile of points. Burton, Bury and Wycombe have all been mentioned in despatches for the play-offs or better. A shortfall in August shouldn’t do us a lot of harm in the long term. Some might have us down for the play-offs, I think for the first time in years, this season is about accumulating points and seeing where it takes us. As long as that’s not down (and it won’t be), then I’ll be pretty satisfied.