Danny Coles: Important to put Burton defeat into perspective
AFTER losing at Burton Albion on Saturday, it was great to get back to winning ways against Port Vale little more than 72 hours later.
Disappointed as we all were by the result at the Pirelli Stadium, it's important to maintain a sense of perspective – at the end of the day you're not going to win every game – and three points from two tricky away fixtures in the space of just four days ain't a bad return.
Certainly, there are times when our home form could easily have got us down but if you're averaging somewhere near a point-and-a-half a game, as we have done this season, then you can be reasonably confident you're going to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
There wasn't an awful lot wrong with our second-half performance against Burton but we let the game get away from us in the opening 45 minutes. Their third and fourth goals were wonderful finishes but there's no denying the first two goals were disappointing.
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Then again, as I said before, it's important to keep these things in perspective and, Saturday aside, we've been really strong defensively since the turn of the year. You just have to put it down as a bad day at the office and, rather than dwell on it, concentrate on getting back to where you were before.
One of not too many positives to take out of Saturday's game was the return from injury of John O'Flynn and Matt Oakley. The latter was restored to the starting line-up for the Port Vale game and was, I thought, our stand-out performer in what was a great team effort.
Matt had a big role in both Jamie Cureton's opener and our second goal, which saw the ball arrive at my feet in the kind of position where even an old-school centre-half, such as myself, finds it hard to miss the target.
The home side had the better of the play after that but we worked extremely hard to keep them at bay and, exhibiting none of the defensive frailties which had afflicted our performance three days earlier, never really looked like allowing them to get a foothold back into the game.
It was unfortunate that Mark Molesley got shown a red card 20 minutes before time but even then we saw the game out fairly comfortably.
There's been lots of speculation over the last few days linking Tis to the vacant manager's job at Swindon but I haven't seen or heard anything to make me think he might be off. I for one would be gutted if he were to go – Paul is right up there with Danny Wilson as the best manager I have played under and as a coach he really is in a league of his own.
On top of that, he puts more trust in his players than any other manager I've encountered and, take it from me, that induces a camaraderie and readiness to go the extra mile that money can't buy.
I've no doubt whatsoever that Tis will go on to manage at the highest level at some point in his career but I think he sees himself as having unfinished business at St James's Park first and, without wishing to tempt fate, I can't see him leaving just yet.
We entertain Northampton at the Park on Saturday when we'll be looking for payback for the 3-0 defeat they inflicted on us at their place earlier in the season. And if any extra incentive were needed, a win will move us to within a point of the Cobblers, with a game in hand.
Admittedly, Aidy Boothroyd's side are in a rich vein of form right now – they've won four out of their last five games and are up to third with Gillingham and Port Vale in their sights – but we've nothing to be frightened of and, as long as we get the basics right and give 100 per cent, there's no reason why we shouldn't get a result.
Looking beyond that, next Wednesday, March 6, we travel to Bristol Rovers.
It will be another vital game for us and, as you might imagine, it's one former Gasheads such as myself and Jamie Cureton, who still live in the city, will relish.
That said, we've only just got the Port Vale game out of the way and with Northampton up on Saturday I haven't given it too much thought just yet – it's an old cliché but, at this stage of the season with games coming thick and fast, you really do have to take it one game at a time.
Fingers crossed there will be a good turn-out for both games and when the referee blows the final whistle on Wednesday we'll have cemented our play-off place a little more and, at the same time, moved closer to an automatic promotion spot!