WE’RE over a third of the way through our season now and it appears we are preparing ourselves for a long winter of up and down performances as we settle for mid-table mediocrity.

Fortunately, no set of fans are more versed in mid-table mediocrity than us Darlo fans. We’re conditioned for it. Even if we’re used to it, there’s no reason why we have to be satisfied with it. Sixteen games played, we are only six points off the playoffs (11 points from top for the wildly optimistic) but also just five points above the drop zone. With 26 games left to play, it feels like anything is still possible.

To say this league is erratic would be a bit of an understatement. There is no outstanding side. Having seen us look the better side for the majority of our trip to Bradford (Park Avenue) it amazes me they are now joint top of the league. They looked a solid, well organised side but not sensational. Certainly not title challengers. Similar could be said for several of the sides that are out performing us in the league.

It would appear this season is about being steady and consistent rather than obviously outstanding like the last couple of years. Sadly for us, steady and consistent is more of a hope than reality. One defeat in eight league games is an obvious headline, but a bit of context below the big letters paints a more complex story. Three wins in eight really should have been five. On the flip side, 0-0 draws with Southport and Guiseley could have easily been defeats. Like the game at Southport, the point accrued on Saturday had more to do with wasteful opposition strikers, good goalkeeping and a bit luck than it did our ability to stem the tide.

I find the direction this season is taking to be frustrating. A third of the way in to it, we are still playing around with tactics to try and get the best out of an anaemic squad of senior players. It feels like every approach we take is a trade off where we lose the better element of some players as they have to put in a shift in unfamiliar positions. Saturday’s game was a case in point. With Stephen Thompson having to operate as a wing back, we lost him as an out ball further up the pitch when under pressure. He might have only been 20 or 30 yards deeper than normal, but it made a difference when trying to relieve pressure.

Meanwhile Luke Trotman, who is excellent going forward, was arguably our best player when attacking which doesn’t sound problematic until you remember he was playing centre half. Fortunately when Trotman was providing the overlapping runs supporting Thompson we didn’t get caught out at the back but the danger was always there.

If we discount Dom Collins and James Caton from our squad, we have 14 outfield players when you include Mitchell Glover. We only have one out injured, Ben O’Hanlon, but it feels like we’re down to the bare bones. All too often our bench appears to be an academy field trip.

On Saturday we were crying out for some fresh legs in midfield. I don’t think it is unreasonable to think the other 21 clubs in our division would have had them to come on but for some reason when the going is tough, Tommy doesn’t seem to want to bring on any of the kids. I can understand why that might be the case, but if they’ll only come on when a game is as good as won, they’re going to get really good at sitting. Seemingly with no slack in the budget to change things, it’s starting to look like we’re going to have to dine out on isolated purple patches and grit our teeth through the rest.