Darlo Diary: ‘A passive performance and flat atmosphere’

The Darlo Diary by Trevor Oakley

It’s really frustrating when expectations don’t align with outcomes. Having put in a string of decent performance in recent weeks, I’d guess I wasn’t the only person heading in to Blackwell Meadows with expectations of another three point to aid our climb up the table. As it was, trudging back out at full time, neither performance or result was really what we were looking for.

Saturday’s opponents Leamington are a fascinating outfit. Since getting promoted to the National League North, you can’t help but admire what they have achieved in both staying in the league but also being reasonably competitive given their lack of resources (relative to many in the league).

They might not threaten the top of the league, but through good management on and off the pitch they never seem to threaten the bottom either. They are, however, often pretty limited in what they can do and we saw that on Saturday. They were reasonably organised but they will clearly not pull up any trees this season. They were the perfect opposition to maintain our level of performance seen in recent games.

Despite there being plenty to be positive about at the moment, from the kick off everything at Blackwell Meadows felt flat. Even when Kevin Dos Santos fired home the opening goal, there was very little to spark either the players or fans into life. Even if the atmosphere wasn’t bubbling over the top while in the lead, Leamington’s equaliser pretty much finished it off.

With the prospect that not a single Brakes fan had made the journey, the Leamington equaliser was one of those awful moments where the only audible sounds is the visiting players celebrating. It’s the footballing equivalent of someone dragging their nails across a blackboard. It cuts right through me. The lack of any real noise almost has you wondering whether they really scored.

There will be all sorts of debate as to whether Leamington’s Dan Turner was onside. I certainly didn’t get a good enough look to see who might have played him onside. Until we see the highlights, there will be an open verdict into the cause of the equaliser. Given the amount of time the goalscorer had, it was either a terrible decision from the linesman or a terrible piece of defending.

Goal conceded, my initial thought was we go again. Yep, they’d equalised but surely we would have enough to regain the lead and win the game. As the second half wore on, the visitors seemed more and more satisfied with the point they had. That’s usually spells danger as it seems to be when we are at our defensive weakest. Despite a scare on the counter late on, we didn’t implode. Small mercies.

Going forward, we barely seemed to land a point scoring blow. The long ball to Jake Cassidy was easily nullified by the Leamington defence. Luke Charman didn’t really get an opportunity to extend his fine goalscoring form and the midfield worked hard but didn’t really make any headway. It was all very passive. As the clock wound down, there was little to suggest a rousing finale was on the cards.

In terms of individual performances, there was nothing to really to write home about. Dos Santos took his goal well and showed in patches that he might be the man to open up the Leamington defence. On the other side of the pitch, Jarrett Rivers was having a bit of an off day. Nothing really worked out for him and, if I’m being candid, I was a bit surprised to see him stay on the pitch when Jack Lambert came on. Lambert did look bright in his brief cameo and showed enough to suggest a start can’t be too far away.

Defensively, bar the goal, we looked reasonably solid although Leamington did little to really stretch us. Ben Hedley once again did well in his jack-of-all-trades role, filling in at left-back in George Smith’s absence.

This is going to be a big week if we’re going to push further up the table. Pre-game, Alun Armstrong spoke of looking to take seven points from the three games and that felt about right. Leamington, Southport and Guiseley are games we should be making the most of to progress up the league.

With two points dropped on Saturday, three points against bottom of the table Southport would be very welcome. Even if being a solid mid-table side is the most that we can hope for this season, there will be games where we should expect three points from. Leamington was one of those games and we fell a good way short of the required level. Let’s not end this week after the Guiseley game looking back ruefully at more missed opportunities.

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