This Saturday 7th January at home to Lincoln City it's a case of remembering the past and welcoming the future as we ring in the New Year with a chance to maintain our 100% record in 2023.
As we prepare for our travels to Old Trafford, we pause for reflection on thoughts about football and life. The game, beautiful as it is, is never as important as the loved ones in our lives. That's why in the first home game at the start of every new year, we remember those fans who have passed away in the year before.
Saturday then will start with a short period of applause and we hope that will continue through the match if we can replicate the fine form that we showed at Fratton Park on New Year's Day. There, in our most convincing away performance of the season, we established a bit of breathing space between ourselves and the relegation zone.
Suddenly, the threat of Hartlepool and Harrogate on the horizon seems to have receded slightly but there's still work to be done now before we reach a safe distance from which we can establish a platform for next season, now. At this stage, twelve points off the play-offs, it looks a tall order to stretch the 2023 season beyond Cheltenham on the 6th of May.
But ... a month of performances as solid as the one at Portsmouth and we might be back at the races for the play-offs. Already, rumours are heating up about potential signatures as we await any kind of confirmation about ownership eventualities. Presently, we're as much in the dark about that state of affairs as NASA are about the final destination of Brighton's spot kicks towards the moon a fortnight ago.
Against Oxford just a single week later, that Brighton game seemed a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. But whatever lessons Dean Holden learnt in the university city, he put them into practice by making seven changes to the team sheet for the match against Portsmouth. This reassembled side went on to show both a cohesion and a passion that has been lacking in recent times. We've shown it in flashes but not in full games. More of the same consistent effort is going to be needed then against Lincoln where hopefully the players can put the anticipation of Old Trafford to the back of their minds.
Though a beautiful chance to make great memories, we don't want it to be the only highlight of an unforgettable season. Hopefully we've started 2023 as we mean to go on and even if a play-off push looks a tough prospect at this stage, it'd be great to think that we could put players and systems in place now to bear fruit in the second half of this calendar year.
These past few seasons we've been scrambling around, scrabbling about even to put names on the team sheet right up to midnight on deadline day. Too often, late-night snacks have ended up as the only thing in our club's shopping basket. Hopefully (a word that we use a lot at the start of every new year), whatever's happening behind the scenes, there's a resolution to get business done early this time around.
After several seasons of going around in circles, we just need some sense of the road ahead, hoping to keep up our 100% record against The Imps of Lincoln and overtake them in the League One table with three points setting us up nicely for Manchester. Happy New Year everyone.