After the pure exhilaration of our trip to Scunthorpe, some realism was on show at the County Ground in the first two home games of the new season.
Despite playing well for the majority of the 90 minutes last Saturday it was a couple of lapses in concentration at the back that was Ben Garner’s side undoing, but last Saturday was so much more than just a match, it felt like an important moment with a big crowd at the County Ground and a fresh start for the football club.
The club also marked the renaming of the Town End to The Alan McLoughlin Town End last weekend after the former Town player and coach passed away in May.
This is a fitting tribute to such a wonderful player and human being, sadly, I never got to meet Alan but from all the amazing stories told about him and how all the youth players who spent time under his management talk about him he was a special coach and person.
On Tuesday evening, Town’s steady start to the new season continued as despite both sides having clear-cut chances to take all the points, neither team possessed the finishing touch as the game finished goalless and Town remain 9th in League Two.
The biggest talking point to come out of both games is the lack of options up top to help or replace Tyreece Simpson when things aren’t going his way.
From his four appearances so far for the club you can see he is a talented striker in the making as he can bring the ball down well and can easily bully defenders with his size, but I’m not sure if he’s quite ready to lead the attack on his own.
He did have support on both sides from McKirdy and Payne, but I think he’d benefit from someone playing alongside him. What comes to mind straight away is a partnership like Emile Heskey and Michael Owen for Liverpool and England back in the earlier ’00s, or like Billy Paynter and Charlie Austin in 2009/10 season for Town, then I think we’d see him at his best.
Anthony Grant was awarded Man of the Match on Tuesday for another dominant display in midfield, as he never let the visitor’s midfield any time on the ball and was there to win it back at every opportunity, but despite his impressive performance, I would’ve gone for Jack Payne.
Last week it seemed all Town fans were taken aback when the club announced the signing of Welsh international Jonny Williams on a free transfer, as the former Cardiff midfielder could still be plying his trade in the Championship. This truly is a marquee signing for the club, and if he can stay injury-free, he’ll become invaluable.
But despite all the fanfare around Williams’ arrival, I would still rate Jack Payne’s decision to stay at the club during the summer a bigger moment during this transfer window.
When we were relegated, one player I thought would be first out the door in a transfer move would be Jack Payne, as he’s far too good for League Two and clubs would be interested in his signature.
And it was made public that he has a clause in his contract saying he could leave on a free if Town were relegated, and in my mind, he was out the door already, as we’ve seen so many players walk away in the past.
But as time went on during the summer, he was still a Town player, even when the club was in turmoil, he stayed, pre-season starts and he’s back training, it was surreal that such a talented, hardworking player stick around.
Then he explained to the local press that he wanted to make roots in a certain area of the country and didn’t want to move his family, which was music to my ears with the midfielder staying in the West Country he’ll remain a key player at Town.
And unsurprisingly he’s been our best player so far this season, this was evident to see on Tuesday evening as nearly all of Town’s attacking play came through him picking up the ball in midfield or working well down both flanks to provide some great crosses into the box.
After witnessing Town’s opening matches, I can safely say the team being built by Ben Chorley and coached by Ben Garner won’t be just looking to finish in 22nd place, with a little more work in this transfer window this squad has real potential to leave its mark in League Two, as real progression under the new regime may happen sooner than anyone dared think just one month ago.