Port Vale 1 Yellows 2

I feel a bit bad. A few months ago Harry Worley had a Twitter account that I followed, and he followed me. Then after the Torquay game I described our defence as positively retarded. Within days not only had he un-friended me, he deleted his account.

He did reappear some times later as @hjworley88 and I re-followed him. He didn’t follow me back. Then last week, upon being asked by another user why he didn’t follow fans back, he said he didn’t like to hear the criticism directed at the players. I couldn’t help thinking that I’m one of those people. This made me feel a bit guilty, and that was before he lashed in the winner on Saturday.

I’m not so arrogant to think that my blog with it’s tens of readers forced Harry Worley to shut down his Twitter account. But it did make me think about how we comment on players and their abilities.

There are those who believe their season ticket (or, quite frankly, the fact they pay the cost of a call to Radio Oxford) is a licence to wantonly criticise anyone or anything to do with the club. I don’t buy that; for one thing its counter productive but also I don’t fundamentally believe, in the main, that people deliberately fail or under perform.

My comments are offered in the abstract. “Retarded defending” is a comment on the players (all of them), management, infrastructure and everything else that contributes to the overall impact of a defensive breach. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that the complacency of the fans is a constant theme – so I don’t think those in the stands are beyond reproach. So it’s the overall impact of our collective efforts not a detailed factual account of any one player or group of players I’m commenting on.

The only reason I can see for creating us and them between players and fans is that it gives fans the opportunity to let off steam about their own sorry lives to people who can’t get them back. What’s the point of that?

Worley – through the filter of Twitter – seems like a decent bloke, quite the opposite of the boorishness stereotype of a professional footballer. He’s had a pretty decent season, but nobody could argue that defensively we’ve still got work to do. But then the same can be said for any department. However, the table would suggest that the net effect this seasons efforts is a good one.

I said a few weeks ago that if we could get through the period from Southend at the beginning of February to Port Vale on Saturday vaguely in touch with the play-offs then we were in with a chance. 7 away games and 2 at home saw us accumulate 11 points. We now go into the final ten games – with just four away – 5 points off the pace. Now is clearly not the time to start squabbling.

Yellows 2 Port Vale 1

In our last League season, games seemed to follow a pattern. We’d be comfortable and controlled, and then suddenly the stupor would be punctured by a goal. A world-class aberration in a grey fog of lower league drudgery.

I’d leave games thinking ‘if it wasn’t for that moment, we’d have got something out of that’ as if that it was a fluke. I was deluded, because being rubbish at this level isn’t like watching the crap kids at school who can’t co-ordinate their feet to kick a ball. Its not that obvious. Even the worst teams look like they’re competing. The difference is that the bad team shut off at key times, the product of a much broader complacency.

When Port Vale equalised on Saturday, I had a momentary glimpse back to those days. I could feel all the old excuses welling up; we didn’t deserve it, if only there was less injury time, it wasn’t fair to not be rewarded for such effort. Then I thought about our undeserved defeats against Bury and Stockport, and I became consumed with the thought that perhaps we were all just too complacent.

But then, of course, we headed down the other end and snatched a sweet, glorious victory.

The win itself wasn’t the mark of where we are. We would have competed with the league leaders in 2006 and needing to win a game in 2 minutes of injury time requires quite a bit of luck regardless of how good you are.

Why this is different is in the nature of the goals we scored. In the past, faced with having to chase a game, we just didn’t have anything in our locker to carve out opportunities and capitalise when luck presented itself.

Now we have Craddock as the Owen-esque instinctive finisher, Constable the classic centre forward in the Shearer mould. Complementing them is Green’s strength and speed or Midson’s height, or Potter’s trickery.

Last year we overwhelmed opponents with a force of personality that became irresistible. This season it’s all about different dimensions and angles. If we need an option to dig us out of a hole, chances are we have it. And that’s the big difference this season.