League Two: Dreams, triumph and disappointment to come…
Neil Evans offers his thoughts on the season so far, with his predictions of what’s to come in League Two…
As we round the halfway point in this, so far, incredible season, it’s good to reflect on how much difference Senore Di Canio has made thus far. He has proven in such a short space of time that he is already a fine manager…steering the good ship Swindon from the uncertainty (pre-season) of a brand new team to the sunlit uplands of a potential Wembley appearance and the far bigger prize of promotion.
That’s no mean achievement for a rookie manager, constantly scrutinised because of who he is, and hearty tributes should be paid to Paolo’s backroom staff, the board – for taking the gamble – and the fans for sticking with the team – especially after such a sticky start. Just look at our friends down the M4. Bristol Rovers were in a similar position pre-season to ourselves and things have not worked out for them. Though, with canny McGhee at the helm they could make up a ten point gap to the playoffs.
It feels so good to have a team and a manager that we can all be proud of again and the FA Cup defeat of Wigan was the icing on the cake; a vindication of all PDC is trying to do.
But the job is only half done, and the purpose of this blog is to look at what lies ahead and to try and peer into my crystal ball to see how things will turn out.
At the time of writing, we are now very well placed in second after a superlative effort against Southend United. I’m sure all Town fans now believe that we can not only remain in the top three automatic places, but we can win this League outright. We score goals and rarely concede – especially in open play – which gives us more than a chance.
Our remaining fixtures include two more home games than away at “fortress CG” and we are playing with unshakable self-belief, workrate and passion..reasons to be optimistic indeed. At this point we should thank those that are no longer at the cub for their contribution; players such as Jake Jervis, Michael Timlin, Liam Ridehalgh & Alberto Commazi to name but a few…
The threats to our chances look likely to remain pretty much the teams that are currently up there at present. Cheltenham have been THE surprise package of the season, and it seems their challenge is most definitely for real. Mark Yeates deserves huge credit for his achievements, as does Luggy down at Southend. I like the way Sturrock’s teams play their football and would have no complaints if Paul’s Shrimpers join us in League One next season. Crawley, it is fair to say, would not win any popularity contests but, like them or not, Steve Evans continues to inspire his charges – they will not be far away.
Of the current play-off pack Shrewsbury look very likely to be involved due to their unbeaten home record, though they don’t win enough away to finish top three. Our neighbours at the Kassam are drawing too many for automatic promotion, but I do expect they will make the play-offs. Another team that is heavily reliant on their home form is Gillingham and that might be enough to get them involved post-season. Of the other teams that might emerge to make a challenge, Martin Ling’s Torquay have every chance.
A team I would never write off is Crewe as they are starting to hit form. If they can improve a dismal home record they could yet mount a challenge. Rotherham too can be potent on their day but may have left themselves too much to do. Burton seem to be losing ground at the moment and may just miss out as a result. For romantics Accy Stanley would be a wonderful story…a pity John Coleman left, it may cost them dear.
The other end of the table promises to be a frantic battle for survival. One solitary home win for Northampton are leaving Cobblers fans fearing the drop into non-league. Aidy Boothroyd will be up for the fight, but can he bring his team with him?
You could almost throw a blanket over Plymouth, Hereford, Barnet and Dagenham with regards to who beats the drop. Plymouth have performed a minor miracle just to get back into contention while Barnet are no push overs and are beginning to pull clear; a warning that the 2nd leg of the JPT will be no cakewalk! Whatever happens between now and May, there will be heartbreak in store for someone. And, as Stockport have demonstrated, the Blue Sq Premier is an unforgiving league. Look how long it took Oxford to escape!!
For STFC we have every chance now that we have kept our better players and added some more sensible additions like Rooney. As our support at Leicester showed, Paolo’s Red & White army will provide the 12th man needed to push us over the line. If we can have some Wembley glory on top of that we won’t say no!
Football is all about dreams, triumph and disappointment. We’ve had some lean times but with Paolo’s passion we have a team we can believe in and can be proud, as we amply demonstrated at Leicester that we have a team to be proud of.
Grazie mile Paolo.