WANDERERS have played just 90 minutes of football at the re-christened Macron Stadium but Dougie Freedman already has some repair work on his hands.
Even though the Whites booked their place in the second round of the Capital One Cup on Tuesday night, few who stayed behind into extra time to witness the 3-2 win over Bury found reason to celebrate.
There may have been a fresh lick of paint put on the ground over the summer but some all-too familiar problems have reared their head already this season that require immediate attention.
The Bury game had been a golden opportunity to show a false start against Watford on the opening day was a one-off, or to put it in the manager’s words “uncharacteristic.”
If anything, Wanderers’ inability to match their local rivals from League Two for large periods of the game reinforced the doubts that lingered on from Vicarage Road.
Craig Davies’s penalty had spared the local blushes and forced the game into extra time, where two goals from Neil Danns earned an unconvincing win.
Bury fumed that the penalty award had been a soft one – and indeed that it had been given after six minutes of stoppage time.
You could argue that it had been the Shakers’ time-wasting tactics that extended the amount of stoppage time added on by referee Jeremy Simpson, but on the face of it, it appeared as if the Whites had been dealt some good luck.
Freedman had little sympathy and maintained his side had done enough to warrant their win.
“We weren’t lucky,” he said. “Luck doesn’t play a part in this game.
“If you keep sticking to your guns and trying to play in the right way, that’s spirit, and that’s what got us through. Many good teams got knocked out tonight but I’m so glad we weren’t one of them because we didn’t take it lying down.
“Was it a fantastic performance, no it wasn’t – I’m fine saying that. But we found a way.
“They started better than us, there’s no doubt, and there were a few words exchanged at half time.
“They came out and there was a better willingness to get on the ball and by the 50th minute we’d shown more quality than in the whole of the first half.
“By the time we scored, I felt we’d done enough to warrant the goal. I felt it was coming.
“It came in a fashion we wouldn’t have expected but it shows I have got a group of players who will keep going to the end now.
“In the second half we looked stronger, we were disciplined and that’s what got us through.”
While Wanderers did improve in the second half against the Shakers, most notably through Liam Trotter in midfield and David Wheater at the back, they will need more than mere spirit to overcome Nottingham Forest this weekend.
The scorn that looked set to rain down from the fans on the pitch at the full-time whistle was swallowed, one would suggest temporarily, thanks to Danns’ late salvo.
But Freedman knows the importance that the next 90 minutes could hold and will want to avoid any sort of negative result, and the inevitable comparisons with last season’s poor start that would follow.
With Joe Mason also available for selection, can the Whites boss afford to sacrifice the insurance of an extra midfielder and stick with the 4-4-2 formation he employed against Bury?
A more likely option is to revert to the narrow diamond midfield he used on several occasions last season, including the corresponding fixture against Forest in January.
Mark Davies’s creative edge is still being missed but Freedman must hope that his side at least rid themselves of the problems in possession that contributed to their downfall at Watford.
He will also be relying on a return to form from a back four that had looked so strong at the back end of last season, and through the summer, until their recent wobble.
Home form has been elusive for Wanderers in the last 12 months but with a fresh canvas offered by the new sponsors, now looks as good a time as any to lighten the mood.