Broken bonds

The only two players whose names I’d have considered getting printed on the back of my replica shirt have now left the club.

Thanks Diz. Thanks Shaun. Thanks for the memories.

They each gave six years to the Mariners. In that time, they came to understand what it was like to be part of the town. They both lived locally, and did work in the community. They were both honest and committed players, with the skill and graft to get us back in the Football League.

They were (and possibly still are) fans of the club.

I just watched the play-off final video again, with JT’s commentary, and while I still get incredibly emotional when Arnold rolls the ball home, the end scene – when the team lifts the trophy – now feels tainted.

There were so many happy faces on the Wembley balcony that day.

And now, a little over one year later, the only person who remains at the club is James McKeown – a player who nearly left us in January.

We won at Wembley to finally achieve what we’d come close to achieving on three previous occasions. What got us over the line that day wasn’t just skill, but also a special bond and team spirit that had grown in the squad over a number of years.

The likes of Disley and Pearson were at the heart of that bond.

Had we been able to keep that squad together, I’m certain we’d have achieved at least a 14th place finish in League 2 this season.

To be honest, I’d have accepted finishing 15th or 16th this season, if it was that promotion squad, because I’d fallen in love with it. They were playing for us.

There’s a lot to be said for continuity in football. Winning is a habit, as they say. Leicester and Chelsea have won the last two Premier League titles having made the fewest changes to their starting XIs.

As Bristol Rovers proved, from the season before, it was possible to go up again with virtually the same squad. I was desperate for us to keep the majority of our squad together, and it’s a crying shame that it wasn’t.

Fair enough, you’re not going to keep Tait from playing in the Scottish Premier League, or Nolan from plying his trade in League 1, if that’s what they wanted.

But letting Amond go to Hartlepool after scoring 37 goals for us in one season?

Personally speaking, I thought Robertson and Clay were worth another season after they’d worked so hard to get us over the line.

What happened – or what didn’t happen – with Arnold is possibly the most upsetting, yet typifying, moment of last summer. No player is bigger than the club but, come on, the guy was good enough for League 2.

Did we dick around with contracts? Whatever the real story is, from the outside it looked like we weren’t prepared to reward those promotion winners with the contracts they were looking for.

Although it’s only recent history, I feel like it’s history that has already written itself. Of this era, our future Wikipedia page will read:

“After spending years building a team the fans could be proud of, the club then ripped it apart the very summer they returned to the Football League. Further instability followed when new manager Marcus Bignot made a host of unnecessary signings.”

On the pitch, we’ve had an acceptable first season back in the Football League. Off it, we’ve been awful.

Three managers, poor recruitment and lop-sided formations were just a few of the main issues. We’ve slipped back into our old ways. Bridges built through campaigns like Operation Promotion feel like they’ve burnt away because we have a non-chairman who doesn’t know how to communicate in the 21st century.

And now two of our most loyal and esteemed players have been released. With them goes any remaining bond between the players and fans.

Slade built a competitive squad for 2005/6, but while they came close to delivering success I don’t think I felt as close to those players as I did with the class of 2015/16.

By releasing Disley and Pearson, I hope we’re not swapping loyal grafters for disinterested journeymen who won’t be with us in six, five or even two years’ time.

“Look at the scenes behind the goal! The agony is finally over!”

We all know what happened on Sunday 15th May 2016.

Grimsby Town beat Forest Green Rovers 3-1 in the National League play-off final to win promotion back to the Football League after a six-year absence.

We’ve seen the goals a million times. We’ve replayed them again and again in our minds, and on YouTube.

I think it’s fair and accurate to say, I could never get fed up of watching Nathan Arnold slot away our third goal in injury time.

But as I was at the match – and not listening from a hotel in Seattle (as I was in 2015) – I always wondered what it would be like to watch the TV footage but with John Tondeur’s commentary.

So, ladies and gentlemen. After a few hours of trying to work out how the hell you put something like this together, here you have it.

Grimsby Town’s play-off victory as you’ve (possibly) never seen it before. Enjoy.

Take it away, JT!

 

 

Playing with purpose. Match report: Grimsby 4-2 Yeovil

“They seem to know what they’re doing more than usual,” said my dad, barely three minutes into the game.

My dad’s last game was the 2-1 home defeat to Wycombe – as was mine – and the contrast was clear from kick-off. Who knew that 4-4-2 could work? We looked organised, the players played with confidence, and we were as creative and incisive as I’ve seen us all season.

Then we won a penalty, which Sam Jones tucked away with the only kind of aplomb you know, and Chris Clements soon doubled our lead with an effort that deserved to find the net based solely on the neat bit of teeing up he did for himself immediately before the strike.

Town, being Town, let the Glovers back in it way too early in the second half. Under Bignot we’d have turned to the person sat next to us and pulled a sort of constipated face in anticipation of a nervy last 40 minutes, in which we’d have scored a last-minute own goal, gave away a silly penalty or allowed the referee to take all our playing abilities out of the equation and intervened with an uncontrollably bad decision to make the very angry bloke at the back of the main stand completely lose his shit and put his fist through the corrugated steel behind him.

But this was a team that had already showed enough to suggest that we wouldn’t crumble.

Despite Scott Vernon either being unavailable or overlooked in the game against Cambridge, I always felt there would be a place for him in Slade’s team. The goal today helped, of course – even if it came off his back, a yard out, without him even knowing.

Vernon’s the experienced front man, with the strength and intelligence to make our manager weak at the knees. He’s our new Lump, and every Slade team needs a Lump. He combined really well with Sam Jones, and they worked tirelessly as a front pair.

“Jamey’s goal was Reddy-esque,” mumbled Dale from the back of the room in the post-match press conference. It was. Osborne ran onto a clearance from a Yeovil free kick and suddenly found himself in the clear before he’d even broken out of his own half. At the crucial moment, just outside the area, he stepped across and in front of the only Glover chasing him back before taking the ball on and caressing it into the far corner as if he’d been doing it all his career.

No more sweating for us.

Well, you say that, but I wasn’t completely convinced we’d see things out comfortably after Yeovil smashed in a second because my mate Pete said before the game that with the pressure off for both sides it’d would either be a tepid affair or end 4-4. For a moment that second prediction of his was about to be played out.

But despite scoring two goals, the visitors never really looked like they’d get anything from the game. In fact the two goals flattered them, while five or six wouldn’t have flattered us.

There was just enough time left for me to praise the referee – seconds before he ignored what I felt was a pretty nailed-on penalty when Vose was brought down in the area. I’d have liked to have seen us hit five to wipe out the memory of us conceding that many at Crewe in February.

So even when we play with two central midfielders as wingers in a 4-4-2 we’re good enough to see off average teams in League 2. Osborne showed craft and skill and was understandably named man of the match for his goal, assist and general marauding down the left, while forgotten man James Berrett has played himself back into contention for next season.

I haven’t mentioned Disley because that’s exactly what he does. He glided through the game, bringing calmness in the centre and setting the stage for others to perform. It was vintage Dis.

There was some good football played in the final third, too. And while we weren’t afraid to lump it from the back, the punts forward just had a lower trajectory and more of a purpose. They seemed to find Vernon and Jones more easily, and it would often stick. I dunno, it was almost like we had a plan or something.

It was a thoroughly dominant performance – although I’m not sure how much Yeovil, wearing a strip inspired by what you’d typically find in a doorway down a deserted back alley in Manchester at 3am on Sunday morning, contributed to our success because they were pretty awful considering they technically had something to play for – as did we, of course.

Even now, the play-offs aren’t mathematically out of the question with two games to play.

Lop-sided. Match report: Grimsby 1-2 Wycombe

On both occasions yesterday when Town kicked off following Wycombe’s goals, literally none of our players were stood on the left side of the pitch.

The kick-off taker (possibly Calum Dyson) was stood centrally, naturally, while Danny Andrew was also central, just in front of the D, with James McKeown just behind. Every other bugger in a black and white shirt was stood on the right side of the pitch, as if the Main Stand was breathing some terrible disease on them.

Was this tactical? If so, what the hell were we hoping to achieve from it?

Our deficiency on the left is now so well known that future opposition won’t have to bother sending a scout to watch us.

It’s on Google Earth. You could probably see it from the moon.

I guess you could say we have nothing left to give. But that’s not funny. And none of us left yesterday’s match laughing.

At a time when we’re not helping ourselves, the last thing we need is a referee who’s not willing to help us either. All he needed to do was apply the rules of association football fairly and correctly, and he couldn’t even do that.

We should’ve seen it coming. It’s somewhat ironic how the OS used this picture of referee Nick Kinseley to warn us of impending doom. His expression became mine by full time.

In midweek the whole world seemed to stop immediately when Fernando Torres was knocked unconscious.

Yesterday, Gavin Gunning got knocked unconscious and the ref let play continue long enough for Wycombe’s Plaster of Paris Cowan-Hall to ping the ball into the top corner for what turned out to be the winning goal.

The ref wasn’t even sure about giving a stonewall penalty on Tom Bolarinwa, and had to look to his assistant for help.

I’ve seen us lose a lot this season (seven in nine), but the manner in which we went down to the Chairboys was particularly galling.

True, our showing for the first 30 minutes was very encouraging, and we should’ve been at least two or three up by half time – but there were still plenty of holes in our performance.

Having said that, irrespective of our left-sided issues, our confusing formation, our indiscernible style of play and chronic lack of pace, Wycombe were pretty awful and we should’ve beaten them.

They looked every bit like a side that’d been struggling and sliding down the league in recent weeks. McKeown was able to keep his luminous orange outfit in pristine condition.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that if it weren’t for an uncharacteristically panicked swipe by Danny Collins and an abysmal piece of refereeing, we could’ve played until midnight and Wycombe wouldn’t have scored a ‘conventional’ goal.

But going in the other direction, second half especially, we were pretty toothless too. And we didn’t score any conventional goals ourselves simply by being rubbish at shooting.

It was bad enough falling behind at the hands of incompetent officials, but what made it worse was that we’d not shown much after the half-hour mark to suggest we were likely to find an equaliser from somewhere.

I’ve only seen us score five goals in nine games, so you’ll understand why I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But I’ll give us some credit. We had a go. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was more than I was expecting. Bignot made attacking substitutions and threw on Dominic Vose in an attempt to make something happen. And it nearly did.

Their keeper was surely their man of the match – helped, no doubt, by Sam Jones’ staggering ability to shoot straight at him from six yards.

Despite leaving Blundell Park feeling gutted and frustrated in equal measure, there was a tinge of hope in there too.

We showed some cohesive attacking play in the first half, which forced their keeper into making good saves. The players seemed to have a better grasp of where they were meant to be, and what they were meant to do – although that ebbed away towards half time and we reverted to typical Town nothingness in the second half. But then we showed a bit of fight and spirit at the end.

Some of the best sides have been built from the back. We seem to have a solid base – now Bignot needs to work on developing our attacking play.

He says he wants to play exciting, attacking football, but he’ll need width and pace. So I guess we won’t be seeing that this season. Also, I still feel the players don’t truly know how he wants us to attack.

I remember Bignot using all-encompassing words and phrases like ‘being positive on the ball’ and ‘always playing forward’ in an interview with Radio Humberside.

Sounds good, but I hope he’s more specific than that with the players on the training pitch, because at the moment they’re carrying out his vague plan with appropriate vagueness.

Occasionally it comes off, but most of the time it just looks like every player has been told they’ll get an absolute bollocking if they ever pass sideways or backwards.

So what happens is that we get a succession of fairly aimless clips and clearances that just go forward. If we could add a little direction too, then that’d be ace.

And, of course, it’d be really good if we had an option to use the left side of the pitch. Without it, through sympathy alone, Danny Andrew will continue to be everyone’s man of the match as soon as he steps out onto the pitch.

Wilted spinach. Match report: Crewe 5-0 Grimsby

Every time I go to watch Grimsby Town play a match of association football, we’re shit. Totally shit. Absolutely hopeless.

Now, I know this isn’t a very fair reflection of where we are right now. We’re not shit, totally shit or absolutely hopeless, generally. We’re actually just six points outside the League 2 play-offs.

We’re only shit, totally shit and absolutely hopeless, it seems, when I’m in the stands.

The trip to Gresty Road was my eighth match of the season – I’ve seen us win one (at home to Morecambe on the opening day), draw one (at home to Barnet in Marcus Bignot’s first game in charge) and lose the other six.

And all those six have been to nil. And totally shit, of course.

The home defeat to Cheltenham was bleak. The home defeat to Portsmouth was painful. Let’s not forget I paid over £80 to go to Stevenage a fortnight ago, where I was treated to a load of shit on a concrete canvas.

Oh, and I saw the home defeat to Crewe, too.

Last season – a season in which we were quite good and won promotion – I only made four away games, and we lost three of those. And I thought that defeat at Halifax was shit.

All this makes following the Mariners more difficult than it needs to be.

The thing about Gresty Road is that it’s one of the least intimidating grounds to play at. It has one huge and sparsely populated stand with no one making any noise, and Town’s contingent tucked away in a concrete replica of Blundell Park’s wooden Main Stand, making all the noise.

More than half our squad live just a few miles down the M6. I mean, for Christ’s sake, an away game at Crewe couldn’t have felt any more like a home game for our lot.

Added to this, Crewe couldn’t win for shit. And their manager, David Artell – who’s one Sainsbury’s carrier bag short of being Angelos Epithemou – even did our team talk for us, saying that Alex have got better players than us.

That comment clearly didn’t ignite the fire in any of our players’ bellies because we went there and flopped over pathetically like a slop of wilted spinach on a dieter’s dinner plate .

I’m not one for being unnecessarily critical to the point where you ruin someone’s self-confidence or career, but I should also point out that I’m very fond of the cruel-to-be-kind scenario. Which works out well for match reports like these.

The first half, other than telling me that Crewe were better at scoring than we were – to the tune of four – it also taught me that:

Yussuf couldn’t hold up a post office queue of old grannies with a sawed off shotgun, let alone our mixture of panicked clearances and aimless punts.

I’m not sure I can even call it ‘long ball’ tactics because long ball, by its very nature, implies some sort of method – usually hoofing the ball in the general direction of a player, ideally big enough and strong enough to hold it up.

Dyson looks like he might be a bit taller and stronger than Yussuf. Unfortunately he also looks a clumsier and less mobile version of Andy Cook. I didn’t see us win one aerial dual all half.

We were carved open down the wings. Davies and Andrew weren’t full backs, or wingers, or wing backs. They can’t have been – because if they were, Crewe wouldn’t have put 214 crosses into our box in 45 minutes.

Pearson seemed to play more like a right back, Collins a left back, and Gunning completely exposed in the middle.

And if someone could’ve told me which one of Clements, Comley and Osborne was meant to be in this very modern ‘holding position’, then they’d have been lying because no one occupied that space at all.

We just let Crewe’s roaming forward line run at us, and run at us, and drive into huge, sweeping spaces between the centre circle and the edge of our box.

As for conceding from direct free kicks, it’s getting silly now. Portsmouth, Donny, Stevenage and now Crewe. It’s happening too frequently for it to just be ‘bad luck’. Clearly we’re doing something fundamentally wrong.

The fourth goal was probably offside, but we’d just wasted a load of money and a load of breath supporting a team that couldn’t defend against the fourth worst side in the entire Football League, so we weren’t about to waste more valuable oxygen on the officials too.

If it wasn’t for McKeown, it could’ve been six or seven by half time. I’m sure he made an incredible save low down at some point, but what with all those goals flying in it’s difficult to remember at what stage he made it.

He also made an outstanding save in the second half, but almost got caught out from a spectacular lob from way out (which he managed to push over the bar), before having a rush goalie moment and getting away with it.

Ah yes, the second half. After making all three subs at the break, Bignot shuffled his pack into a more familiar 4-4-2 formation and we immediately looked more comfortable.

Or Crewe took their foot off the gas quite considerably. It was one or the other – but most probably a classic mix of both.

Davies and Collins were full backs, with Pearson and Gunning as centre backs. Bolarinwa was on the right wing, Osborne was definitely central, while Comley and Clements appeared to take it in shifts on the left. Sam Jones and Asante were our new strike pair.

It’s difficult to know how to feel about that second half because the game had gone and the whole thing felt like a training match. We weren’t as much as a shambles – in fact we controlled large periods – but we still managed to lose the half 1-0 and blaze the only genuine clear-cut chance we created all game high and wide from six yards.

Their fifth. Yeah. Converted by a totally unmarked and unseen Crewe player running in on the edge of our box.

There was just enough time for Gunning to absolutely poleaxe one of Crewe’s tricky midfielders, who was weaving and sliding his way through the spine of our team like an Olympic bobsleigher until Gunning decided to give up on any thought of playing football and shoulder-barge the flash bastard to the ground.

He was kind of lucky not to be sent off for that, given that we know this ref sends players off for less.

At the full time whistle, only Pearson truly applauded the fans (before Bignot instructed the rest of the team to do the same after their huddled de-brief on the pitch).

It was a strange post-match situation, and not one I’ve experienced before. The majority of the fans wanted to let the players know that the performance was not acceptable, so they booed – but they weren’t really into the booing because, after all, this is a relatively new squad, with young players, and most of us are still on speaking terms with Bignot.

So it was ‘boo Town, you’re rubbish, boooo’ but then also clap, clap, clap, fair enough, you’ve not gone running down the tunnel. But still. ‘Boo, rubbish, sort it Bignots’. Then more clapping.

Then Bignot came over and spoke with the fans. There was some sort of apology. There was also something said that he took personally, but I didn’t find out what that was.

Bignot has built his side now. The January transfer window closed, and the squad is locked in. We’ve made our bed, and now we’ve got to lie in it.

But yesterday we defecated all over the sheets.

Being economical with the truth

For the first time ever, I think, Grimsby Town’s transfer activity on deadline day stopped me from going to bed at a sensible hour. I actually went to sleep believing that Omar Bogle was still our player, but woke up this morning to find he is not.

No one knows how much Wigan paid for him, or what kind of deal we negotiated, or how well Solihull did out of the whole thing. I’m sure this will all become clear once the Fishy has speculated to such a degree that it either drives one of the shareholders to put the issue to bed with a badly written club statement, or Wigan relax and let us know from their end.

Anyway, good luck Omar – you did us proud. That winner you got at Braintree in the play-off semi final second leg was a moment I’ll never forget, and those two goals in the play-off final at Wembley still give me goosebumps, as well as a glimpse into what football heaven is really like.

I can live with his departure. We always knew he would go for a fee, and him going now means we probably got more money than we’d have got if we held onto him until the summer.

The cash will surely be used to cover the transfer fees and wages of our eight new additions – Adi Yussuf, Gavin Gunning, Jamey Osborne, Chris Clements, Akwasi Asante, Luke Maxwell, Sam Jones and Calum Dyson.

So, eight in, one out – although I expect more than just Bogle will be heading out of ‘the BP’ in the next week or two as the shunned squad players contemplate the prospect of not even warming the bench but sitting on a standard plastic seat in the stands like the rest of us. Or staying at home.

I fully supported the appointment of Marcus Bignot and I still believe things will come good. He hasn’t made that bad a start as Mariners boss, on a points-per-game basis, although it is worrying to see the standard of our performances dropping when really they should’ve started badly and gradually improved as the players got to grips with his new style and system.

He’s made radical changes after initially saying everyone at the club would get a chance to prove themselves with a run in the team. I don’t think he’s delivered on that promise.

He also said Bogle wasn’t for sale, and sold him, and said he wants to keep Disley when he clearly doesn’t intend on using him. Bignot says Disley can leave on his terms, like he’s doing him a favour, and being respectful. Maybe Disley just doesn’t want to go?

And then there’s been that disagreement between him and our loyal first choice keeper. McKeown said the boss made it very clear he wouldn’t play again this season, and Bignot says otherwise. I don’t know who to believe – the person who has been at the club for six years and been as honest as the day is long, or someone who’s been at the club two minutes and already lied about a number of things.

I say ‘lied’. I’m not sure it’s quite that bad. Let’s just say Bignot is economical with the truth, and knows what the fans want to hear. It’s strange, because our last manager had no idea what the fans wanted to hear, and he was often hammered for it.

The manager claims we don’t have any width in midfield. He didn’t include the only two players capable of offering width, Bolarinwa or Chambers, in his latest squad of 18, then tells Chambers he’s free to leave.

Then he signs four central midfielders when we already have six on our books, three strikers and a centre back – and no wingers.

It’s just odd. I don’t know what to make of it all.

This was meant to be a season of celebration and stability. We’d have all been happy to see the team that got us promoted stay together and continue battling for each other to finish 12th in League 2. I know I would’ve.

But Hurst broke it up more severely than I could’ve expected, and the team he left us with has been broken up severely again just a couple of months on. Those few players who survived the Hurst cull, and the ones we connected with the most – McKeown, Disley, Gowling – are no longer in the side. It seems a shame.

In fact, I just looked at the XI who beat Forest Green on that marvellous day in May and not one of them will start our next match at home to Luton:

McKeown – out of the side and looking to leave
Tait – left for Motherwell
Robertson – released and retired
Gowling – out of the side and told he can leave
Nsiala – left for Hartlepool
Arnold – released and joined Lincoln
Nolan – left for Chesterfield
Clay – released and joined Motherwell
Disley – out of the side and told he can leave
Bogle – sold to Wigan
Amond – left for Hartlepool

Today’s sole survivor is Shaun Pearson, who was only on the bench for the play-off final and came on as an injury time sub:

Pearson – in the side
East – released and joined Guiseley
Marshall – released and joined Boston United
Pittman – released and joined Harrogate Town
Hoban – released and joined Mansfield

I’m not one for living in the past, as the last 15 years haven’t been particularly kind to us. Football moves on, and so should we, but the success of last season was the result of a manager who was given time to build a squad and create a style of play that gave us the best chance possible of winning promotion.

The same has to apply here. Things are messy now, but I’m sure that once everything settles down – and that still might not happen just yet, what with about eight players looking for new clubs – we’ll perhaps begin to see what Bignot is trying to build.

I’m sure he’s a good manager, but it’s difficult to believe anything we’re told right now. If he builds an exciting and attacking squad that gets us scoring plenty of goals and pushing for the play-offs, then there won’t be many complaints.

Match report: Tactics from the Steven Age

Stevenage 2-0 Grimsby
League 2, Broadhall Way
Saturday 28 January 2017

Skies over Broadhall Way, Stevenage v Grimsby

I’m embarrassed to think I spent more than one minute of last week looking forward to that utter shambles of a performance at Stevenage.

It was a performance completely fitting of our dreary and uninspiring third kit, which is as grey and as bland as what I saw of Stevenage between its train station and the football ground.

If concrete and cycle lanes are your thing, then get yourself to Stevenage. I’ve never seen so many cycle lanes in my life – and so few cyclists using them.

Sadly I have more positive things to say about cycle lanes than I do about the match. It was that bad.

Yes, there’s always an overreaction to defeats. You always get some fans saying it was the worst game they’ve seen, and they’ve been supporting the Mariners since 1878.

I’ve seen some heavy defeats on the road, and they’ve all been pathetic in their own way. This was just a different sort of pathetic.

Paul Hurst was accused of having no Plan B. After Saturday’s display, I’m not sure Marcus Bignot has a Plan A. If he has, then I certainly can’t see the bugger.

After adding a 13th player capable of playing in central midfield to ‘the group’ on Friday – and that’s no exaggeration, by the way – we then appeared to deploy a tactic that completely bypassed that exact area of the pitch.

‘The group’ lacks left footers and natural wingers, so we’ve used January to recruit central midfielders and strikers. The only two players in our frankly huge squad capable of providing any genuine width in midfield – Tom Bolarinwa and Ashley Chambers – didn’t even make the bench.

Omar Bogle is supposed to be Mayfair with a hotel on it. Against Stevenage he played like Old Kent Road.

When you compare the buzz and energy he showed in that home game against Barnet – when he completely owned the Bees’ back line – to the sulky little brat that sauntered around the pitch on Saturday, you can knock a zero off his price tag (whatever Town have decided that is).

He played like a billy big bollocks who, in the week, was possibly told he’d be playing League 2 football for another six months.

We’re a club in transition, and it seems Bignot has made up his mind about ‘the group’ he inherited. He’s decided it’s shit, and certainly not good enough to maintain the position it was in when he took the reins.

He’s had more than a dozen games to impart his style on the squad, and right now I’m still none the wiser as to what that style is. Listen, we’re not technically good enough to go to ‘the next level’, but we’re technically good enough to beat Plymouth and Carlisle on their own patches.

If his style is for our centre backs to clip balls into the channels a good 20 yards ahead of Scott Vernon – who, for all his best efforts, runs so slow that he leaves a slimy trail behind him and has a turning circle of a train – then he’s got the players purring.

But I’m guessing that’s not the plan.

The first half was an absolute write-off. Don’t bother reading any other reports. Like the bloke who picks a fight with a wind-up merchant outside Wetherspoons after a night of Jagerbombs, it’s not worth it.

Clip, bounce, shin, Stevenage throw-in. Repeat. I didn’t see us string two passes together. At the first opportunity the ball was launched 60 yards to absolutely no one.

Vernon seemed to spend a lot of the match slipping and sliding on what was admittedly a crumbly pitch, and Bogle… well, we’ve already covered him.

I’m still of the opinion that most of our players actually forgot that we conceded a goal after four minutes, such was the lack of urgency in their play.

The fans, to their credit, kept the atmosphere going – but once the catastrophe of that second goal went in, the stand fell silent. And who could blame us.

I think what worries us most is that we don’t look comfortable in possession. The ball is played around (and I use that term lightly) like it’s a ticking time bomb. No one wants it.

Stevenage, while looking the archetypal lower mid-table League 2 team that they are, could easily hold possession in our half and worked openings down the wings.

They had a busy midfield that did simple things, and that’s all they needed to do to be better than us. Comley saw a bit of the ball but didn’t always use it well; Osbourne showed glimpses of why we signed him but was, for the most part, anonymous; and Clements must have been having a snooze on the team bus. Did he even touch the ball?

Bignot was praised for using subs earlier than Hurst ever would. But even with four strikers on the pitch we continued to somehow clip balls forward into spaces where there weren’t any.

You’re not guaranteed anything in sport – that’s what makes it so exciting – but my train ticket and match ticket combined came to £87. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have bothered.

I can deal with defeats – after all, we’ve seen plenty – and I can just about accept a clueless performance when the manager has only had a few days or weeks to put across his philosophy to the players.

I think we were all hoping that we’d be able to identify the Bignot way by now, though. The absence of any game plan for a match against one of the league’s out-of-form teams was most worrying.

Bignot will get it right, but the squad is really messed up at the moment. For once we’re in a position where we can accept a disappointing result if we just saw a commanding performance from a bunch of undoubtedly talented players that look like they know what they’re meant to do.