“Alright Dave, I’ll see you next time” said the bloke in front just as Chris Maguire was tee-ing up a freekick on the edge of the box.
There were six empty seats in front of me when Maguire foxed the Bradford keeper to win the game on Saturday. I get both sides of the ‘leaving early’ debate. On one hand, if you’re young with too much time on your hands, then football is life and you support the boys to the bitter end regardless of the consequences or futility. On the other, there’s traffic and convenience to consider, football is good, but so is Strictly and a curry.
Neither view is particularly wrong, but football is made of moments and you miss them at your peril. Saturday’s was a tight high quality game punctuated by three moments; the penalty, the free-kick and the non-penalty (which was one).
As we progress through the divisions these moments will become more fleeting, but also more intense. Games will become tighter, the reliance on technical quality – and the ability to execute it at a moments’ notice – over raw physical ability will grow. When Nathan Cooper suggested to Chris Maguire that he had some kind of magical ability to produce on demand his response was ‘Well, I do practice them’ echoing his manager who’d spoke moments earlier.
The big signings of the summer, Marvin Johnson and Kane Hemmings will do well to recognise these points. Both came with reputations for rampaging through defences, but have found space and opportunity much more limited down south. Hemmings seems to be coming to terms with this although Johnson seems more frustrated. He has the physical attributes and if he maintains what is sometimes referred to as a growth mindset, then he should come good. He’s at the right club to do that.
You get the feeling that we’re becoming sharper and more competitive as the weeks pass. John Lundstram spent good chunks of last year spraying 60 yards passes over the heads of League 2 lunks, this season’s lack of space came as a bit of a shock, but he’s starting games quicker now and becoming more physical. As a result he’s started earning the space and right to get his passing going.
Ryan Taylor had his best game in a yellow shirt in the most unfamiliar of positions. In a sense, he’s also benefitting from his ability to adapt to his surroundings. He’s been OK holding the ball up playing as a striker, but playing on the left where he was able to use his physical attributes alongside his short passing ability was a masterstroke.
Two points off the play-offs and our growing confidence makes ours a very happy place to be. As we climb the division, we should expect games to become tighter and the moments of magic to become more special. Just make sure you don’t miss them.