Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Fixture Delight!

There might not be a game on Saturday, but does this weekend marks a watershed in our season already? I'm not being daft; I know nothing is decided at this point of the season, and the drive back to Rushden reminded me to be cautious. You can't listen to a procession of twits on radio phone-ins handing the title to Chelsea and writing Manchester United off after one game without being reminded that nothing is won in August. However, I do think we're already reached a key juncture in our season.

I heard something bizarre the other week; the Conference fixtures are not compiled by computer, but by one person! Apart from the terrific waste of time and effort, the thing that struck me was how open to accusations of favouritism the Conference is. When I read our opening four fixtures, I wondered if we'd done anything to offend the fixtures man! Four genuine promotion contenders were lined up to test our credentials just as Brian Little was looking to bed down a brand new line-up; it looked like just the sort of test a club which, as Little admitted last season, was used to defeat, didn't need.

However, we're through them now and, on paper at least, have a few games which look rather more winnable. If we're to kick on and establish ourselves at the top end of the table this is where we'll do it, I feel. We've got to learn to bully the small teams, frankly. Getting into a winning habit is something we haven't experienced for a few years, but we'll get a chance to do exactly that now.

The most lop-sided element of our fixtures is our home programme, though. We have a tough run at home until mid-October; our first seven home games are all against sides who start the season looking to be part of the promotion race. After that things change dramatically. In fact, the visit of Cambridge in January is the only visit by one of the sides considered to be contenders at the start of the season.

Dai Davies said in The Leader's season preview that he felt home form would be the key to our success this season, and he's right. The geographic isolation which will make following the side something of an expedition also offers us an opportunity to establish The Racecourse as a fortress. Already a trip to North Wales seems to be a big deal for most of the other Conference sides. We're viewed as a big club, and a trip to an international venue, the second biggest in the history of the Conference after Carlilse's Brunton Park, is a big deal for them. It's our job to make coming here feel like an ordeal rather than a big day out! I enjoyed reading the Tony Adams' version of Arsenal's defeat to us in his autobiography, as it made Wrexham sound like some grim, isolated outpost in the back of beyond whose inhabitants strike fear into careless travellers who accidentally wander into their territory.

I don't know if he watches “The League of Gentlemen”, but his description of Wrexham made Royston Vesey, the macabre, grotesque outpost which proclaims “You'll Never Leave” on the signpost welcoming you into the town, sound pretty tame. And that's fine by me! If teams are scared of coming to North Wales, if they see us as unwelcoming types who'll send them home with their tails between their legs, if that helps us to ruthlessly take full points off a succession of opponents, then that's fine by me!

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