A typically calm and composed Mark Bonner, when facing the media after his side’s 2-2 draw at home to Fleetwood, said: “we can’t turn our noses up at a point at the moment.” As usual, in this one minute Twitter clip, it’s hard to argue with his assessment of the match. He has an unerring ability to pick apart a complex game and analyse it in perfect soundbites just minutes after the referee has brought proceedings to a close. But even he spoke about the frustrations that will have been circling amongst U’s fans in the past few days: was it really a point gained, or is it hard to escape the feeling that it’s two dropped?
It’s not that Fleetwood aren’t a decent team – their recent results clearly show they are by scoring four at Rotherham and two against both Sunderland and ourselves, taking five points in the process. In Simon Grayson they have an experienced old head in charge who has quite literally been there and done it at the top end of this division. Their squad, too, is full of players you could file under ‘Very Decent At This Level’.
And it’s not that we played the most scintillating football we’ve seen under Bonner. It took a brilliant strike from the resurgent Adam May and an inspired moment of attacking full back play from Jack Iredale to get our noses in front, with the former having the best opening to secure all three points for the U’s later on in the match too. But our relative dominance was bookended by two Fleetwood goals, one scrambled home from a corner early on and one that gave instant flashbacks to Anthony Scully in a Lincoln City shirt a few weeks previously. And from that moment, it felt like you could only see one team scoring a winner; by the time the final whistle came, it did feel more like relief was the overwhelming emotion.
So no, clearly a point is not a bad result. In truth, having gone one down so easily, it was hard not to drum up memories, or nightmares, of that Lincoln game. United did very well to bounce back, keep their heads and stick to their game plan.
But it’s hard to not feel like that was a brilliant opportunity to secure a vital three points. And that’s clearly evident in the team’s reaction too – the goalscorer May, whose recent performances deserve a long read essay of their own, himself said afterwards “it felt like two points lost”. And Bonner, just moments before uttering the quote that opened this review, also mentioned his feeling of frustration.
Having secured that shock win down at Pompey the week before, it’s hard to escape the feeling that that was a brilliant chance to make a bit of a statement ahead of a run of fixtures that we have to look at positively and hope to take home a productive points return from. And we were so close to doing so, but in the end Fleetwood’s quality told.
But this is not a sob story. This team is still learning, still growing, and very crucially, still finding ways to play without a certain Wesley Hoolahan. Four points as a return from our last two fixtures? You’d have snapped my hand off for them a few weeks ago – granted, you’d have probably predicted them coming the other way around.
It’s a long season, and we may well look back on this as an extremely valuable point. It’s one of those games to take the positives from and move on swiftly. Because the games don’t stop, and if we thought that Saturday was an opportunity to get three points, then Tuesday against Gillingham is just as much so.