Karl Fuller: 2,500 fans heading to Colchester for an EFL Trophy clash... That's phenomenal
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Town fan KARL FULLER knows promotion is the bigger picture, but surely not the only picture as Town draw with Lincoln
I attended Saturday's FA Cup tie with Lincoln and like most FA Cup games I've attended in recent years it was with a sense of sadness and frustration - and that was even before a ball was kicked.
I'm from an era where the FA Cup was an exciting competition, one that I looked forward to every January and one that made a nice break from league action. In a nutshell, I grew up loving it whereas nowadays, I simply don't.
I know all clubs treat it with contempt, but I don't really care how others want to treat the competition, I do care though how my club continues to treat it year after year.
Pre-match talk from the club was how they would treat Saturday's game centred around how it was still a fantastic competition and how we wanted to win the game. I don't doubt that on the face of it, but the line-up we went with suggested otherwise. I could criticise personnel quite easily but if you're going to make as many as 10 changes, then you're hardly going with a side with familiarity with one another and there'll be rustiness as a collective group and so it proved.
I know the bigger picture is promotion but why should it be the only picture?
If we had an important league game on the horizon this midweek, then I'd be for fielding a weakened side. But when the next league game is two weeks away and some 15 days after the last league game, would it really have been too much to ask for a slightly stronger side?
I know it was a different era but my second-ever Town game was against Bristol Rovers in a rearranged FA Cup tie played on a Monday evening in February 1979.
Town won 6-1 and this game came two days after not only playing but also winning at Goodison Park, Everton and we made just the one change. For the record, the line-up at Everton was: Cooper, Burley, Tibbott, Mills, Butcher, Beattie, Wark, Muhren, Mariner. Brazil and Woods. The one change was Butcher replaced by Osman. And when we played again on the Saturday, against Nottingham Forest, there were just the two changes. Eight players played three games in eight days.
Now, it's too much to expect a player to play three games in 19 days.
There is the argument of a player picking up an injury and then missing a few league games, but that can happen in training. Other than losing and bowing out of the competition yet again at the first hurdle, the worst-case scenario is now upon us and that's a replay. Four midweek games in a row now must be played and we really could have given ourselves a better chance to avoid that. Mind you, a stronger side does not guarantee a victory, granted. But it may have at least increased our chances.
What is interesting now is to see what line-up Paul Lambert goes with at Colchester tomorrow night. If Saturday's side saw only Will Norris survive as a starter from the Rochdale game, then to play a weaker side still further to Saturday would mean playing just about the entirety of our Under-23 side.
Back to Saturday and I thought a draw was probably a fair result but when Lincoln were awarded a penalty, I really thought it was game over. We certainly got away with one there and it remains to be seen what sort of side we put out in the replay.
I don't fancy our chances either way and that's not being negative, that's being realistic based on our FA Cup history over the last decade and accepting the club's stance on the matter.
And so, the wait goes on to see an FA Cup win. For me personally, that's approaching 12 years since I saw us beat Swansea 1-0 in January 2007 thanks to an Alan Lee penalty.
I'm heading to Colchester where there will be over 2,500 Town fans backing the boys for an EFL trophy fixture. Even taking the short distance into account, that's still phenomenal support for a competition no-one appears to like!