Let the Battles Commence !

“Every one of our remaining games will see our opponents raising their intensity by at least 10% across the board and if we are not ready for that then there is trouble ahead !”

Tonight’s thumping defeat at Bracknell has announced not one but two important messages for Phantoms and their supporters.

Firstly, the run-in to the league title has started and, secondly, teams are queuing to take a piece out of us as title favourites !

Phantoms have just fifteen games remaining and they hold a lead of one point over second placed Swindon and Bracknell with Basingstoke just one further point behind. Of course we still have games in hand but even if we were to presume that we will win those games, the lead is a maximum of four points over Basingstoke and that is mighty close given that games are going to come thick and fast in the weeks ahead.

Last weekend saw Phantoms leap from the leading pack to strike out clear at the top of the table and, in doing so, they have made a statement that the title is theirs to lose and if anybody wants to stop them then they’d better move fast …… a statement that Bracknell clearly wasted no time in responding to tonight !

Many an experienced sporting coach has pointed out that reaching the top is one thing, staying there is another thing altogether. Whoever Phantoms now play are going to be ready for battle. Every player, every coach, every rival fan is going to want a piece of the league leaders …… beating the top team now becomes a small trophy in its own right, regardless of whether you are challenging for the title or not.

Phantoms have put themselves on a pedestal and no amount of down talking, level headedness or modesty is going stop rival teams hearing us scream “we are #1” and they WILL respond to that. Every one of our remaining games will see our opponents raising their intensity by at least 10% across the board and if we are not ready for that then there is trouble ahead !

This weeks introduction of the “into battle”, “barmy army”, quest for silverware concept is great but it needs to kick in with immediate effect because, as tonight proved, the battles have already started and we are already bruised and battered after the first clash. Forget waiting for the Cup, the battle for the league title has already begun !

Composure and tactical disciplines will be well embedded in this team but they may need more in the weeks ahead. There may need to be a Plan B and even a Plan C and D to cope with some fired up and very motivated opponents and we may also need to roll the sleeves up and grind out results when the purer form of the game isn’t delivering …… we may even have to serve up the whole lot in some games !

There WILL be some results that don’t go our way, just as tonight didn’t go our way but we must stay calm because it won’t be those results that cost us ….. it will be how we respond to those results that matters most.

Back in 2009 after Phantoms last won the league title, coach Colin Patterson was asked by a slightly embittered journalist how come Phantoms won the title when the club who were supposed to win it, Guildford, had beaten them five times in the six league fixtures between them. Colin paused, looked him straight in the eyes and said “…… because we won the games we were supposed to win”. This was a mantra I heard many times from Colin during that campaign. He didn’t want to lose games against the top sides but he was convinced that making no slip ups against teams lower down the table would get us over the line and he was right. While his side won the games they were supposed to win, their rivals repeatedly coughed up poor results against lower table teams who they undoubtedly lowered their guards against.

Phantoms only have one remaining road game against each of their three rivals and that’s fewer than each of them have against each other. Whilst we don’t want to lose games like tonight’s, the important thing is to make Bretton a fortress and win all of our home games as well as road games against teams outside of the top four ….. if we do that then we win the title and by some margin too.

So tonight’s defeat is no reason for panic and it may even prove a “welcome to the run-in” wake up call. It will only prove damaging if we go into Sunday’s game against Streatham feeling down on ourselves and questioning our ability. This is a very good Phantoms team, it deserves to be top and it deserves to be title favourites too.

As for us lot, the fans, I guess we are the rank and file squaddies in this battle. We have to be there and we have to believe that we can and will succeed so brace yourselves, do not miss a single home game from tomorrow onwards, make your support count and enjoy the experience ….. the coming weeks are going to be dramatic and spectacular !

#GoPhantoms #LetBattleCommence #BarmyArmy