That was a strange old few days – I’m not sure how we’re meant to feel after a draw and defeat against two League One sides within the space of a few days. The Rochdale draw in particular had that frustrating feeling of being a huge missed opportunity to get through to the FA Cup Second Round and a potential rung away from a big draw.
The Orient defeat was partly expected with the changes that were made to the side but still felt like one of those games that had we stepped up and grabbed it by the throat we could still have won and been two steps from Wembley.
The FA Cup replay at Spotland on Tuesday night is expected to be extremely tough and it’s not exactly the most inviting of Second Round prospects to visit either Portsmouth (again) or Aldershot Town – no offence meant to either. It all makes Friday night’s visit across the cow fields to Cambridge United absolutely vital.
It’s far from season defining but we are at a crucial stage just before the Christmas rush and long enough away from each end of the season to feel less significant. What we really, really need right now is an empowering performance in a local derby which hopefully features a return for key players. There’s a big following expected and what better way to forget about the fact that we’re likely to be out of every cup competition before we open the first windows of our advent calendars once again.
Key to the reboot of the season is Marc Richards’ return to fitness. He’s been the key signing so far and not only with his goals but with hold up play and experience that help to hand us control of a game. Rico’s absence has been sorely felt and it was no coincidence that we suffered a bad run of defeats while he was recovering. Chris Hackett is another who is expected to be involved in some way on Friday and if he and fellow occasional wing wizard Kaid Mohammed can get going again at the same time then mid-table obscurity can hopefully turn into the sort of top half lingering that keeps us with an eye on the playoff race.
A few good results in a row from here and maybe we do still have that outside hope of fixing an eye on Wembley for a different reason come May. Seasons are made and broken in these dark days of winter – as we enter them, starting with a typically cold Friday at Cambridge, let’s hope that ‘concentrating on the league’ means something more serious than it normally is!