Hereford 0 Oxford United 1

I have a confession to make. I quite like Gary Neville. I know that he’s has a bit of a rat face, and he had the irritating myopia of his former manager, but he’s loyal, unrelenting and intelligent, consistent and talented. The best right-back of his generation. You would love to have a Gary Neville at your club.
As a TV pundit he offers insight that the old lags Lawrenson and Hansen can’t hope to make. He’s almost unique in being a player of the modern era who has played at the very top (and I don’t mean Jamie Redknapp ‘top’, I mean the proper top) plus he is articulate enough to provide insight about that.
In the closing minutes of Manchester United’s Champions’ League game against Basel, Neville offered more insight than Alan Hansen has provided in the last five years. 2-3 down, Manchester United scored at the death and the commentator speculated as to why they have a habit of scoring goals at the death.
Neville’s explanation wasn’t a Hansen list of meaningless nouns (power, pace, passion…). Neville put it simply; when entering the last minute the Manchester United philosophy is; create one good chance and we will score.
It seems so obvious really; but how often do see teams launch balls into the box in hope of snatching an unlikely equaliser or winner? One in every ten aimless punts might succeed. Manchester United create a single good chance with a 80-90% chance of conversion.
At the heart of United’s success is patience not panic, quality not quantity. This isn’t typical of English football, but then Manchester United, with their sustained dominance of domestic football, isn’t a typical English club.
For all the complaints about our home form, we are slowly carving out a season in which we look capable of sustaining a charge at promotion. The 1-0 win over Hereford putting us into the play-off positions, this is not an explosion of success, but gradual finding of our mojo. The home form will come, of that I’m sure.

Yellows 0 Hereford 2

There are 7 billion godforsaken motherfuckers on this earth (you’re not a motherfucker, obviously, but everyone else is). They occupy a space that, had we not mastered farming, can sustain about 1 million of us foraging for berries and being eaten by lions.

We are naturally greedy. For all our rhetoric about ecology and sustainability we strive to master and dominate nature. We want to live. In fact, we consider life to be sacrosanct, even if it means that most of our lives do little more than destroy everything else.

We call our ability to sustain life ‘progress’ and ‘development’. Our greediness forces us to continually strive for more than we have or can achieve. It is known as the conspiracy of optimism. It is in us all.

After our Play-Off win last season, talk was of how we’d march straight to League 1. League 2 was mere bagatelle for the third best team in the Conference.

Prior to our defeat at Hereford, sitting outside the play-offs, talk was of automatic promotion. The play-offs, a previously stated stretch target, weren’t even mentioned. Rather than focussing on the play-off objective we were off into the fantasy of being world-beaters who would cruise to promotion automatically. The conspiracy to stretch beyond what was reasonable and achievable gripped hard.

And we got a mugging. We dominated and controlled the game, but we got caught out. The way we play leaves us susceptible to conceding goals. This puts huge pressure on our ability to respond. From time to time we simply won’t break back. On Saturday we had two clear-cut chances – for defender Harry Worley and newly introduced sub Simon Hackney – had they fallen to Constable or Craddock, things might have been different. But they can’t always guarantee they will and they didn’t.

Ours is definitely not an automatic promotion way of playing. We are one of four or five who might sneak a place in the play-offs. And yet, ability to over expect and under achieve could scupper us from achieving that.

Hereford United 0 Yellows 2

I didn’t see it, but understand that Helen Chamberlain commented on Hereford v Oxford’s supposed non-leaguey-ness on Soccer AM on Saturday morning.

I realise that this is Sky patented ‘banter’, (how we football fans apparently talk but never do) but I would expect better from Chamberlain who has a genuine understanding of lower league football.

Our last non-league encounter with Hereford was two years short of half a century ago. However, even I was surprised to hear that Saturday’s victory was our first league meeting in over 30 years. So, not so much a non-league fixture more a never a league fixture.

We’ve existed in different orbits for years and judging by Saturday, it may be some time before we meet again after this season.

Now is no time to count our chickens after two wins against the two bottom teams in the league. There were always points to be had in September. Next up are perennial basket cases Stockport County and we’d be hopeful for another win there.

Our performances in August alongside these two win augurs well for the rest of the season. Whilst the results didn’t show it, we’ve been showing that we’re amongst 10-12 clubs who might be hoping for a play-off spot or better.

Whilst Chamberlain might be surprised at our football league credentials, others would do well not to be.