I was really gutted yesterday’s game with Wycombe Wanderers was called off.
After we had got such a good result down at Torquay United on Sunday the lads were really looking forward to the game and hoping to build on that result, get three points in the bag and a play-off place firmly back within our sights.
However, with the Mansfield Town match just around the corner we used the time we had spare to put in an extra training session on Wednesday afternoon to make sure we are fully prepared and raring to go to get those three points on Saturday.
As you might imagine, New Year’s Eve isn’t quite as big an event for footballers as it is for the majority of the population and I spent the evening at home with my feet up and the telly on. I told Amy she should go out and have fun with her friends, but was mightily pleased when she elected to stay at home and see 2014 in with yours truly.
While it was a real thrill for me to notch up my 200th appearance for the club in Sunday’s game against Torquay United, our 3-1 victory made it an even more special occasion and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who’ve helped me reach this landmark, as well as everyone who has congratulated me on it.
The match didn’t start brilliantly for me when I conceded a penalty in the seventh minute but fortunately Artur spared my blushes, making a great save from Karl Hawley’s spot-kick. I don’t think I’ve ever given away a penalty before and fingers crossed it’ll be at least another 200 games before I do so again.
In all honesty, Torquay battered us in the first half-hour, but we stuck at it before Tom Nichols put us ahead with a goal out of nothing.
That’s four goals for Tom in our last five games and he’s only going to get better now he’s getting a run in the first team. And he brings plenty to the side besides his goalscoring – his all-round game is quality, especially his ability to hold the ball up. I see a lot of Jamie Cureton in Tommo, who plays on the shoulder and is always going to get goals.
Of course, Tom’s still on a learning curve and won’t always make as big an impact as he has over recent weeks. However, he’s already shown more than enough to suggest he has what it takes to make it as a pro.
Like Tom, David Wheeler made a huge impression when he came into the team earlier this season before his form took a bit of a dip. But he’s been back to something like his best over the past few weeks and his goal on Sunday was a peach. I thought his first touch was too heavy and the keeper was going to beat him to the ball but Dave’s just so quick and having got there first he finished with aplomb.
As ever, our supporters were outstanding and, take it from me, that can make a real difference – all the more so when you’re under the cosh as we were in the first 30 minutes.
Our victory over the Gulls was much needed because it came after back-to-back defeats at home to Chesterfield and away to Cheltenham.
In all honesty, we didn’t do too much wrong against the Spireites on the Friday before Christmas but conditions were desperate and a couple of defensive lapses ended up costing us dear. It was a pretty similar story against Cheltenham on Boxing Day.
They were much the better side in the first half when Curo put them ahead, but we were well on top after the interval and on another day could easily have returned home with at least a point if not all three.
While it’s hard to overlook those two defeats, football aside I had a near-perfect Christmas.
As regular readers of this column will know, myself and Amy moved into a new house in Exminster earlier this year and our first Christmas together was every bit as perfect as I had hoped it might be, though we did get a bit carried away on Christmas Eve when we decided to open a couple of presents but, like little kids, ended up opening a lot more! I trained on Christmas morning and then, after dinner at my mum’s, Amy’s family came around to ours in the afternoon and we all had a great time.
Don’t forget our youngsters take on Blackburn Rovers in the Under-21 Premier League Cup at the Park on Tuesday, at 7pm.
I’m sure it will be a great occasion and I’m looking forward to going along and cheering them on, as are a lot of the other lads, I’m sure.
We’re at home again on Saturday when Mansfield Town are the visitors to the Park. The Stags had been on an even worse run than us and were without a win in 13 games until they beat Cheltenham on Sunday but, rest assured, we’ll be taking nothing for granted.
If we could take six points from the games against Torquay United and Mansfield then we’d be pushing hard for a play-off place and the setbacks of the last couple of months would be all but forgotten.
Certainly, I’d like to think we’ve turned a corner. A month ago nothing was really working for us and we were finding goalscoring opportunities hard to come by, but now we seem to be creating chances, and plenty of ‘em, in every game.
With a trip to Brazil coming up in the summer, 2014 is certain to be a momentous year for the club and it goes without saying that it would be even more memorable if we could make a real push for promotion in the second half of the season. Here’s hoping!