Saturday, 2 April 2011

Staying positive and focused

First published in Sons View, 2 April 2011, Dumbarton -v- Alloa Athletic

Whichever way you care to look at it, the next two games at Strathclyde Homes Stadium against Alloa Athletic, this afternoon, and Peterhead the following weekend, are going to be vital for Dumbarton’s 2010/11 Scottish League campaign – which remains focused on staying in the Second Division so that we can build positively for the future.

During the Sons’ six-game unbeaten run ending late last month, I warned (without exactly needing to be Nostradamus to do so!) that there could still be a number of twists and turns left in this season. That is certainly how it has turned out.

By far the nastiest ‘twist’ was the awful 6-0 drubbing away at Brechin City. No-one really saw that coming. The Hedgemen are undoubtedly a good side. Along with Livingston they are a ‘stand out’ team in an otherwise unexceptional division. But any notion that, as under-strength opponents, they might be easy pickings after their midweek Scottish Cup exertions against SPL St Johnstone were soon dispelled on a chilly afternoon at Glebe Park.

Hopefully, the visit to Ochilview on Tuesday night will have proved to be a constructive ‘turn’ by the time you read this – not least because of the opportunity to deny a relegation-zone side points, while claiming them for ourselves. Whatever the outcome of the Stenhousemuir match, however, the lesson remains the same. We have to concentrate on the task at hand and then face forward. There really is no point in looking back wistfully at what might have been.

Well, there’s one qualifier to that. Any football team committed to success naturally has to learn from mistakes. But in some cases this doesn’t take too much time and the more important thing is to put the disappointment behind you.

Last weekend, everyone knows what happened without needing to go into minute detail. Brechin were better than Sons, and more determined, all over the park. We made mistakes at the back. We didn’t create enough chances or take the ones we had. We got sorely punished as a result. End of story.

The important point is that it doesn’t have to be like that today, or next Saturday, or in any of the four games that will constitute Sons’ run-in to that end-of-term whistle at Strathclyde Homes Stadium on 7 May.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that after these two matches, against the Wasps and the Blue Toon, all our games will be against sides above us, and the final trio put the lads up against the top three in the division – each one of them fighting hard for promotion. That is why the best opportunity to reach safety is today and the following Saturday. We do not want to be left needing a big haul of points from our hardest matches when the pressure is at its greatest.

My calculation is that, if we won at Stenny, four points from Alloa and Peterhead are likely to pretty much guarantee Second Division football at the Rock in 2011/12. Six to make sure. Otherwise, looking at the matches to come and weighing the maths and probabilities, it’s eight points needed out of a possible 18. What we cannot do is rely on goal difference – not that any teams should, but if it ever came into consideration, we’d be sunk!

The task of reaching the shore is most definitely ‘do-able’. But make no mistake: when Dumbarton take to the pitch this afternoon (hopefully to a solid wall of support from the home fans), nothing is in the bag. So Sons need to play to their strengths (as gaffer Alan Adamson has clearly been seeking to achieve since he took over), to stay focussed and to think positively.

As for the Wasps: well, despite two consecutive draws, Alloa’s last away win was 2-0 against Airdrie United six weeks ago; and they weren’t in action on 29 March. So their need for points is considerable, with early season momentum having dropped away and a substantial goals-against tally having accumulated this year.

That means the men from Clackmannanshire will come to the Rock with every intention of administering a nasty sting. But in spite of setbacks, April’s Sons are not the same side as the one that, earlier in the campaign, looked unsure and anxious, unable to respond to reverses of fortune.

More skilled, purposeful and indefatigable displays are want we need to see from Dumbarton. Ensure that, and the right results should follow.

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