Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good

Winning is usually a minimum requirement when you’re playing Barnet. Even with a world class midfielder in their ranks. We laboured to the win on Tuesday, which seems about par for the current course. Perhaps we need to accept that?

I remember seasons where we were good; ’83, ’84. I remember seasons when we were good, then bad; under Ian Atkins. I remember seasons when we were bad and then good; such as the 1996 promotion season. I even remember the odd season when we were just all bad. I cannot remember a season where we were bad whilst being good.

Looking at our points total, we fell behind last year’s run rate during the six game losing streak back in September. After that we’ve pretty much kept pace with last year. Given our current form, and the poor form we showed towards the end of last season, we could easily end up with a better points total. By that purely objective measure; progress will have been made.

It doesn’t really feel like that, of course. Some of that is down to mindset. Take Tuesday, for example, you could say we missed a hatful of chances, or you could say that we battered them. Michael Raynes’ goal was either a lucky break, or a deserved, if very late, breakthrough.

Barnet aren’t a great side, but I was quite impressed with Edgar Davids. Admittedly, him joining Barnet is, for him, the equivalent of playing for my works’ six-a-side team; something to do to keep himself fit, but comes from a particularly diva-ish era of Dutch football and doesn’t have to do it. I’m sure there are clubs across Europe and the middle east willing to offer him managerial and coaching positions simply on the fact he’s one of the most recognisable faces in world football. Instead he’s taken on this ramshackle project; rather like my ambition to set up a fully Subbuteo stadium in my shed one day. It’s not as if he’s come in a Di Canio-esque way and demanded that the club bankrupt itself to satisfy his own personal ambitions.

The bloke next to me, whose considered assessment of Davids was that he was particularly small, claimed that he didn’t do much in the first half, but it was his crisp, simple and particularly efficient passing that gave Barnet their shape. While we did manage to crack the code to their game on several occasions, I suspect without Davids the chances would have been easier and more frequent and the goals would have come earlier. His quality was demonstrated through the odd sight of the attacking Alfie Potter struggling to take the ball off the the defensive Davids.

It was the agricultural intervention of Andy Whing that indirectly gave us the win. You can have all the quality in the world, but the last thing you need when you’re running on a pair of 40 year old legs is to have them clattered into.

Thereafter Barnet’s shape began to fall apart. Davids demonstrated admirable fitness throughout, both tracking back and supporting the odd Barnet attack. But the Whing challenge seemed to knock a lot of Davids’ vigour out of him. The Barnet manager readily admitted that his side switched off in injury time; which was illustrated by the sight of 8 of his team clustering around the front post when Liam Davis’ cross was clearly gong long.

The reaction wasn’t euphoric. With the goal breaking twice and over six minutes of injury time, many had decided to call it a night. Those of us left, perhaps, were the hardened few who have become largely anaesthetised to the vagaries of our form. We’ll be there whether we’re rubbish or brilliant.

For now, our form has the oddest quality; it is both poor, or perhaps that should be dour, whilst winning. Something that Chris Wilder alluded to being a necessity given the state of the pitch. Chris Wilder and Ian Lenagan are paid to win games, which was the general message in the programme criticising the boo-boys. In all likelihood this isn’t going to change any time soon due to our current circumstances. Perhaps, for now, we need to be happy being bad.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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