Sometimes football makes little sense.  Most of the time the best team wins, or at least doesn’t lose. But some of the time the best team misses too many chances, doesn’t do enough with the ball or football is more interesting when the same team doesn’t win every single week.  Then there’s teams like Liverpool, winning every week. Then there’s teams like us, winning in the 94th minute with our only real shot on target of the game.

We are redefining the term ‘didn’t have a kick’. Traditionally it means a battering or humiliation.  Now most weeks we don’t have a kick. 35% possession is good for us.  We don’t the ball. We don’t really use it well enough to warrant it’s possession most of the time. What we can do is head the ball, clear the ball and block the ball.  The back three with two full backs do anything they can to stop the ball heading towards goal.  Then occasionally we attack, and we often score. It doesn’t make sense, but I don’t care.  Give me yesterday’s winner 100 times in a row.  One for the those who don’t get away early (or are lucky enough not to have to).

The team looked strong: ASM straight back in. Shevley back. Most important of all, the captain back. Some players you don’t miss until they’re gone. Jamaal Lascelles is one of those.  Joelinton, scourge of Rochdale, was in up front and in a tight first half where neither keeper had much to do, he hit the bar from a brilliant header that deserved more.  For the best crossers of the ball at this club read Carroll, Fernandez, Schar, Ritchie.  That was before 94′ yesterday mind, as ASM can stick his name on that list.

Chelsea had all of the ball and did everything you’re supposed to against teams that ‘don’t come out to play’ (weird phrase, Frank).  They moved us from left to right, were patient and weren’t afraid to start again when repelled over and over.  They just couldn’t get through. The keeper was great, he always is, but he was great as he held on to the shots from distance and claimed what he needed to claim. There were none of the heroics we’ve seen so many times this season.

I was recorded our ‘matchday’ podcast for our Patreons from the Corner and I was apologising on 93 for the lack updates as well, nothing of note really happened.  Until Joelinton does great to win a corner and then Ritchie, expertly of course as he surely knew what was to come, hit the first man with a disappointing corner. The ball was recycled to ASM who had two men rush out to him. World class cross, decent glancing header but the keeper should do better. Pandemonium.  Three points.  We’re only 12th but four points from Wolves and Chelsea after what happened against Leicester, you can’t keep these lads down.

They’re wholly imperfect. They aren’t really that good. They graft though. They’re mentally resolute and they know that if you stay in a game you can steal it. Long way back to London for them, after that.

The season once again has me looking up the league rather than down it. Norwich and Burnley up at SJP next and we can secure safety by the end of February if they get things right.  We need more than that, of course we do.  For now though I’m thinking of a lad played out of position, signed for £2m in the second division who has nicked us three points in the most satisfying manner.

They’ll infuriate us again like the did at Villa and Norwich and Leicester but we are guaranteed effort and resilience, and for now, for this season, there are plenty of us happy with that.

Alex Hurst