So was last night’s postponement a bad thing? Well, yes. As I’ll point out in a moment, it adds worryingly to a congested fixture list which is in danger of a Jenga-style collapse. However, four days before our first Wembley final is no time for pessimism, so I’ll kick off by looking at the positives.
No last minute injuries. No red cards to spoil our plans. No second thoughts when lunging into a tackle in one of our biggest games of the season because either of those possibilities flash into a player’s mind. At least when we eventually face Mansfield it’ll be with clear heads. Also, if Neil Ashton was risked yesterday he might not have been okay for Wembley – as it is, he has an empty week to get himself fit for the big day.
Of course Grimsby played last night, so theoretically we’ll be more rested than them. In practice, freshness is in the mind to a great extent, so having a free midweek while our rivals don’t could cut both ways. However, a fourth consecutive defeat surely won’t do much for Grimsby’s confidence.
The result might have helped to focus their minds though: clearly the title’s gone for them now, but they will surely still get into the play-offs, so they now know they can go for it on Sunday in the knowledge that they’ll then have to peak again in a month’s time. That might release them to give it a big push on Sunday.
On the downside, we’re going to struggle to fit our fixtures in now. Next midweek doesn’t work for Mansfield and the Easter week is now starting to look like a likely alternative. Looking at the available dates sides have makes you see just what a complex situation we all have on our hands.
Newport and Grimsby look to have the easiest fixtures on paper, but they have so many of them! If Newport, already condemned to playing two games in a midweek once, with the Macclesfield game destined for the same fate, can win the title despite all their fixture turmoil then frankly they’ll have earned it!
It’s also interesting to note that we have the most games against the other sides in the top five: a disadvantage on the one hand as we have fewer of those lovely games against sides with nothing to play for which we all crave; an advantage as we can knock points off Mansfield and Kidderminster who, following my logic from the last paragraph, are our main rivals.
I’m also fascinated to see what role Macclesfield could play. On the one hand, their interest might wane as their hopes of a play-off spot are irrevocably ended; on the other, they could be king makers, with games against four of the top five to come. They’re a decent side, and I’d be surprised if they come out of those four games empty-handed.
So while there’s no doubt last night’s postponement was a shame, it’s not the end of the world. There are plenty more twists and turns to come before the season ends!