Just a few short weeks ago, I'd resigned myself to us losing at Harrogate. I hadn't tried to get tickets for the game, even though it was a new ground and potentially a good day out. I'd resigned myself to the cast-iron certainty that we were going to be relegated out of the Football League. I was making plans to travel to Mossley on Tuesday 8th February to watch my hometown team, Prescot Cables, a trip that would involve walking past Boundary Park, where Latics were due to play Bristol Rovers. I'm glad those plans changed. Not because Cables unfortunately lost 4-1 and had their keeper sent off, but because Latics put in what might be their best performance that I've seen since Fulham.
It would be unfair to the players to say this turnaround is solely down to one man. The back four (yes! back four! None of this 3-5-2 wing backs nonsense! Praise the Lord!) are looking like a solid defensive unit. Piergianni is unrecognisable from the player who looked so out of his depth playing out from the back. After the shift McGahey put in on Tuesday - especially when he sprinted down the wing to chase down one of their players and harried him until it went out for a throw in to us well inside their half - I never want to hear him compared to Anthony Gerrard ever again. The work rate from the whole team was phenomenal. But all those players have put in plenty of awful performances, under two different coaches, this season. So it's pretty obvious what the difference is. Also, the ball was a MILE over the line. Fair play to him, even Joey Barton said so.
I wasn't at Scunthorpe. Even the return of Shez couldn't tempt me to get up earlier than necessary on a Saturday morning to go to Scunthorpe. It sounded, on GMR, as nervy and ugly as you'd expect a clash between the two worst teams in the league to be. Not that any of us cared when Luamba's goal went in. Mikey Brown's delirious commentary was a thing of joy, but I can't have been the only one listening at home whose reaction was to whimper "thank fuck for that" with relief.
Sometimes one goal, one win, can make a world of difference. On Tuesday, the players looked confident, they looked organised, they looked fully up for it. How often has that been the case this season? And we've responded and done our bit as fans. I've loved being back at Boundary Park, and it's palpable that lots of other people have too. The Athleticos have been brilliant, and you can help them buy some new flags and banners here. The little scamps promise not to spend it on tennis balls and pyro. This upturn in the mood in the stands might prove to be as important as the improvement on the pitch. Hopefully the atmosphere is making the club a more attractive prospect to potential, and I sincerely hope the ownership are keeping to their word and listening to reasonable offers. We're all loving the transformation under Shez, but that doesn't change the bigger picture and our long term hopes for our club.
A few weeks ago, we were dead and buried. We're now 2 points off 22nd with a game in hand and a six pointer against Carlisle to come. It's going to be a long bumpy road, but it's in our hands. It's in the Lord's hands. If you're going to Newport, have a Clwb Tropica and cheer the lads on for me. In Shez we trust.
Written by Arlene Finnigan