Snow Joke

 

I’ve wanted to use that headline for ages. I don’t think the game was a joke as it happens and full marks to the club and the ref for getting the game on. I think too much is made these days about snow and the playing surface. If this had been Man U vs Man City, then perhaps the game wouldn’t have gone ahead, but this was the scrag end of a game, between two middling clubs, at the scrag end of a non-league season. In the olden days we played in much worse than that.  When I was a lad…

As long as the conditions are the same for both teams then bring it on I say, certainly brings out more facets of the game, such as who can hoof the ball whilst not slipping on his arse, and that sort of thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the game, I had a great afternoon, and having not seen the team play since the Hyde debacle due to work commitments abroad (I’ve got a lovely tan now – Buckle, mine’s natural) I can certainly see some improvement – mind  you – anything would have been an improvement on the Hyde game. There’s a  degree of defensive discipline that there wasn’t before. You watch where the centre half not on the ball goes, when his colleague is on the ball, it is little things like that which make a big difference over a season, and I guess there’s more to come.

Having been at the bottom, the nadir of our history, we are slowly, very slowly, climbing back up the other side. Small steps are what we are taking, mind  you yesterday small steps were the only thing you could take if you didn’t want to end up on your backside.

JohnStill said that we are building from the back and they certainly looked a more effective defensive unit. LRT actually looked like a left back (presumably he has a JohnStill boot-shaped bruise on his derriere) McLumpy looked composed and in charge, Goodman less so but still good and Simon ‘I was a right back all along’ Ainge keeping out our Ronnie. Ainge linked up well with Dave Martin on the right, and when he swapped over, with Jake Howells, who, corner taking aside, looks to be getting back to somewhere near where he would have been, but for Brabin and Buckle’s incessant tinkering.

Tyler barely touched it, and when he did he threw it out as often as he hoofed it.

I liked the look of Taiwo. Seemingly amazing to once again have a central midfielder who can put his foot on the ball and pass it along the floor to other players, bringing them into the game and getting an attack going. We have been frighteningly short of this basic requirement for a while now. Presumably JohnStill will introduce other fundamentals such as crossing the ball to a player in an orange shirt and heading the ball on target at some point too.

Joking aside, there are some signs that things are slowly coming together, and I suspect had Shaw’s excellent cross to Wall have gone in, it would have been the first of many. As ever, we still lack that final piece of the jigsaw: regular quality balls in, and someone to stick the ball in the old onion bag. Perhaps because of the conditions yesterday it is unfair to criticise too much, if at all. One thing I did notice yesterday was how Rendell was less keen to get stuck in than John Shaw had been. Though Scott is a small striker trapped in a tall man’s body I suspect JohnStill would have noticed it too.

Jonathan Smith ran around like a mad thing and had a good game. He had five midfielders up against him and did his best to win the ball from each of them.

JohnStill says he now has an idea of those he wants to bring on his journey – though he is still keen to tinker with the team to confirm his thinking, plus is looking forward to finding a strike partnership.

I’m wondering about Stuart Fleetwood. He is out of contract in the summer, and I think has indicated his willingness to stay. He has a hernia at present, but has opted out of having the op he needs until the close season. There must be a reason for this – perhaps it is to give him the opportunity to prove himself to the manager? He wasn’t on the bench yesterday- so not quite sure what is happening with him.

Looking at those not playing yesterday, and bearing in mind JohnStill says he knows who is staying and who is going can we draw any conclusions from the omissions? Is JJ for the chop? Mendy? Thomas, Richards, Spiller, Taylor, Watkins, Kovacs even? It will be interesting to see. Once again the summer will see the revolving door of one manager’s hopefuls become another managers discards. Can’t be much fun for any of them – presumably all but the youngsters have mortgages to pay and mouths to feed.  Thomas is an interesting one – signed by Buckle with the board’s blessing immediately after the FA Cup windfall, he may or may not be our highest paid player. If he doesn’t feature in JohnStill’s plans, that’ll be a hell of a pay-off and more money down the drain – though I’m just guessing of course.  It’s not for me to say, I don’t know anything of his contract. This all pure indulgent conjecture based in slim evidence, so we’ll leave it there.

He hinted that he might try and get Goodman back for another season – Goodman didn’t sound as keen – using the phrase ‘another club’ next year if not in Millwall’s plans.  He has also hinted that there is another player in the pipeline who may be coming in shortly or in close season. We live in interesting times.  Our piss-poor position is a blessing in disguise – it gives JohnStill a series of practise matches to both inform his opinion about the squad he inherited and the players a seven week long job interview.  Unlike last year there is no race for the play offs, no instant gratification required. The long, slow process of building a team to get us out next year, or the year after has begun.

Looking back, it could all have been so different. How close have we been to going up? But for Jason Walker (remember him?) heading against the post in the dying seconds at Manchester, or chipping his penalty up the middle, or that shocking offside goal that York won with last year. I’ve said it before, if it wasn’t for bad luck we’d have no luck at all. But, if we had gone up then, under Brabin or Buckle, was the club really at peace with itself? It would have been lovely not playing park teams any more, but were Brabin and Buckle really the men to take us forwards and upwards? As I said, you never know, it may have been a blessing in disguise, hard though that is to stomach right now.

But they say good things come to those that wait. We’ve been waiting (im)patiently for four years, it will be five or six years before we go up – but go up we will. We might even pass the likes of Wimbledon, York or even Plymouth on their journey back down. Who would have the last laugh then?

 

 

By the way, I’ve been wracking my brains over these past few weeks, trying to work out who JohnStill reminds me of. I’ve got the answer below (apologies to both):

SontaranJohnStill
A Sontaran                                                                              JohnStill

Advertisements
Standard

PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Hyde Shambles Home))

In two words, unacceptable rubbish. Even in a pre pre-season friendly against a side with something to play for. Out passed, outbattled and it would be been a travesty of justice had we got anything from that hideous second half performance. Odious aimless hoof balls to Wall, who isn’t great in the air. Pitiful stuff. No Football played by us in that half. Credit where it’s due Hyde played some neat counter attacking football. Milligan, the Fleetwood midfielder, a class apart, with his movement, vision and ability to pick a pass. , but this is a side who arrived on the crest of a slump after six consecutive defeats.

We are all going to have to suffer an awful lot of mind numbing dross before it improves. It’s going to be absolutely horrific to watch. Lack of confidence is one thing and as are lots of changes whilst John Still assesses the squad (too many unmotivated players on far too long contracts), iffy performances will occur. However no heart, effort or professional/personal pride is a disgraceful. I know, another summer of wholesale changes isn’t the answer, but the current team aren’t collectively good enough. What is the answer? Very little pattern or teamwork. The FA Cup run was the worst thing that could have happened, as it gave some of the players’ delusions of adequacy. We really have sunk this low to deservedly lose to a team at home, who only had a few more fans than players. The rest must have had an appointment with Dr Shipman.

Apart from Howells, Wall and Henry, no one else really put in an acceptable shift. Half-hearted at best, professional misconduct at worst. Two changes from the Hereford game, Mendy and Rendell made way for Wall and O’Donnell. Still 4-4-2. O’Donnell joined Smith in a Bermuda triangle midfield. How many more games we will have before someone notices, in most games we are a man short in midfield and we have no forward thrust from that area of the pitch?

Hyde are a small side, their football belies their league position, but playing in this League on dreadful pitches against outweight, physical teams is a hard task. Their midfield three of Tomsett, Milligan and Brown, were more comfortable on the ball, had far more hunger and desire. Blinkhorn, another one of our former loanee Blinkhorn held the ball up well, allowing Almond and Hogan touse their pace to exploit the gaps. Nice to see a team play some football and show a positive attitude for a change. On a budget which is about a can of Coke and a packet of Crisps. They looked a decent outfit at their place in August. Shame the season, couldn’t have finished after that game. Top of the table, never to return.

As for us, McNulty and Goodman look shaky at the back, after a promising start against Nuneaton, although that maybe because Nuneaton don’t have anything going forward (which they don’t). Taylor currently is a disaster. In midfield, once Lawless retired hurt, only Howells showed anything like eth necessary determination. Wall tried hard, but his limitations in a bad tea are exposed and apart from a lovely reverse pass for Howells’ leveller, Gray did little.

Hyde started well. In Melchester Rovers’ shirts. We played more like Roy Cropper than Roy Race. Tomsett’s change of feet beat Henry but a lousy forward pass defeated Blinkhorn. But too often, we relied upon Tyler’s increasing inaccurate kicking to start our attacks. Please someone tell him to throw it out! To a colleague not out of play.

Hogan and Blinkhorn combined, which Goodman helped out for a throw in. From which, Brizell struck a powerful drive on the rise, which Tyler stopped. The game was very scrappy with no flow.

A good piece of chest control put in a lovely slide rule pass for Gray to get down the right channel beating Dennis, who diverted it behind. We looked to hit channels, not looking for forward running players but aimless knocks down that area of the field.

Wall was knocked to the deck by Ashworth, who was a bit of a donkey. McNulty took the free kick, Gray found space, but his first touch, saw the ball through to goalkeeper Carnell.

Too often we gave them too many time on the ball, which Hyde used that well, too slow to cut the supply to Griffin raiding forward from left back and Brown, Milligan, who moved the ball around intelligently on the floor.

Howells’s elephant charge down the right, made good ground before cutting inside, on his swinger, which meant as a shot, worked out as a decent delivery, Wall heading into Carnell’s arms. Wall, who at least made a good fist of the first half, robbed Dennis, made ground down the right, all it needed was a simple square pass to Gray but found Ashworth instead.

Milligan’s pass stroked to the right, Hogan’s burst of speed left Taylor and Howells for dead, pass into Blinkhorn, slipped but had enough on the ball to find Almond who helped the ball into the top corner.

Our response was for Taylor to locate the Noble Solicitors advertising sign behind the Oak Road goal. A hump up field by Tyler, wasn’t dealt with by Ashworth, the loose ball fell to Gray, who lashed the ball wide with Carnell rooted to the spot.

Gray outmuscled Ashworth down the left, with options better placed in the middle (Howells the obvious one); he smacked the wide across goal, from a more difficult angle. Taylor’s prod forward aimed for Henry was deflected by Griffin for Wall to smash a drive against Dennis, the defender’s touch taking all the pace of the strike. Goodman was adjudged to have fouled Blinkhorn Brown’s touched free kick for Mulligan to send a stinging shot at Tyler.

Our best move from Lawless turning and beating two Hyde players with ease, opened the play out to Taylor, Howells on the overlap, centred and Wall could only nudge the ball wide, with plenty of the goal to aim, scuffed it wide.

Lawless injured himself in the move and was replaced by Walker, who started on the right. We equalised soon after, excellent reverse pass by Gray, good vision by Howells, seeing Carnell position himself for a cross, from the left, spotting the keeper in no man’s land, and cheekily drove the ball inside him to net in the far post.

A dreadful kick by Tyler found Milligan, forward pass to Almond drifting infield, off balance before shooting wide.

Walker’s centre towards Howells, no direction on the header with Brizell pressing him, then as Gray, played wall down the right, looked for the return pass but could only locate Carnell.

Another fairly undignified first half performance, seen us play far worse recently, so hopeful of pushing on to get a win. What followed in the second half was terrible. Never tried to pass it, just hit and hope(less). Never at the races, apart from a few catches from crosses Carnell and his centre halves were unduly troubled. When Hyde got on the ball, they passed it well enough and looked a danger on the break.

Fine passing move, between Brown, Almond, Milligan and Hogan, wasting the cross, hung up easy for Tyler. The referee was picky and didn’t allow the game to flow, would have been better advised sorting out Carnell’s blatant time wasting antics. The winners of the second half were boredom and losing the will to live. How many balls ended up in the John Dreyer net, I lost count at five.

Wall, fair to say, knows how to win a free kick in the style of Suarez and Bale. Won a decision against Tomsett, Howells wastefully floated the ball into the night’s sky and into the gloves of Carnell. From a quick punt out Almond was away on the break, neither Goodman nor McNulty pressed him and allowed him to get a strike at goal, which wasn’t far wide.

Gray was subbed, since he has signed the new contract, his game has suffered. Still would have kept him on. In his place came Martin. So walker went upfront, Howells on the right. So we had little coming from the right, neither of the front players could hold the play up, actually walker just run around in every direction bar the correct one.

Blinkhorn’s control, turn and pass down the left to Almond was very good, luckily henry got back and forced Almond into a poor touch, so Hyde wasted a good position. Griffin’s pass into midfield Tomsett picked out Almond, electing to go on his right side, curled the ball wide of Tyler’s upright.

A decent hard centre by Taylor was neatly gathered by Carnell, then a poor tackle by Taylor cost us the game. Hogan’s low centre, poor touch by Taylor, trying to make amends tripped Blinkhorn. Dead cert penalty. Milligan was never going to miss dispatching the ball to Tyler’s right, as he elected to dive the other side. LRT replaced Taylor, but the damage was done.

Little response from the team. Just went through the motions, thinking about the Beach. It says an awful lot about the current crop, that they don’t want to time to impress the manager. Trouble is most of them are under contract, so it’s going to be expensive to shift some of them, who don’t fancy it.

Wall fell over under minimal contract from Brizell. Reasonable free kick by Martin, Wall did his best to dive full length but ended up falling on top of the ball. O’Donnell, who although did well on Saturday, isn’t a central midfielder as a pairing, stroked a fierce drive, which cannoned off Dennis and behind. Martin’s poorly taken corner, allowed to go through to McNulty, stabbing over. Henry’s free kick down the right flank, Howells swept the cross in, Wall (who is far better with his chest than his head), nudged the ball down, but Ashworth denied him the angle at the expense of a corner.

Four minutes of injury time were signalled, four minutes too many. Apart from Martin doing well to scoop a cross in from an unlikely angle which Howells couldn’t get a touch of any note to. That was that.

John Still had a point of keeping the team in that awful huddle for a long time after the final whistle, which is done for show and nothing else. Hyde trooped off, to a well-deserved round of applause. Hopefully some of the reserve players will take their opportunity to shine at Peterborough on Wednesday. Hope he has a look at some of the younger players, I can’t stomach much more of certain players doing little to earn their pay.

Mark Tyler 5 , Ronnie Henry 6.25 , Steve McNulty 5.75 , Jake Goodman 6 , Greg Taylor 3( Lathenial Rowe-Turner), Alex Lawless 6.75 ( Dan Walker 5.5) , Jonathan Smith 4.25 , J.J. O’Donnell 4.75, Jake Howells 7.25 , Andre Gray 6.25 ( Dave Martin 6) , Alex Wall 7
Subs not used – Matt Robinson and Dean Brill.
Hyde – Carnell, Brizell, Ashworth, Dennis, Griffin, Tomsett, Milligan(Sedgewick), Brown,Hogan,(MCartan) Blinkhorn, Almond.

*THE DISCLAIMER* The above ratings were picked on a whim and very rarely are an accurate reflection on the player’s performances simply to annoy the reader. Today’s fatuous comments are about the Australian cricketers being placed on the naughty step for failing to go their homework. Askling a bit much for any Australian to think, write or read. Even for a simple question, how to get a better International Cricket team? Duh…the answer is obvious import lots of Serf Erficans. Simples.

Standard

A game of two halves!

Well that one certainly was a game of two halves. JohnStill would have been delighted with the work rate and character seen in the second half. It contrasted sharply with a disjointed and forlorn first half.

The game overall was an improvement on the boredom of Nuneaton. But for some good saves towards the end by Bittner it would have been a home win. Oh, and those penalty shouts. Not sure how the handballs were missed by the ref, but there you go. Oh and that one from Smith that was over the line but missed by the officials. Something JohnStill will have to budget for and practice against is twelve men, not eleven. It was quite amusing hearing the pint-sized Italian whinger Zola complaining about the ref the team down the M1 had this afternoon in a similar way eg ” were playing against twelve men”. I’d swap Watford’s luck for ours any time of the day. The deluded dwarf doesn’t know he’s born. Watford and Luton: the luckiest club in existence and the unluckiest. Pick the bones out of that one Ed Smith.

JohnStill has said he wants players who are hungry, who want to learn and improve. And he has a track record of improving players. Sounds perfect for our organisation. Let’s hope that he finds some gems in our youth set up, and brings them into the first team, and brings them on, rather than recruiting willy nilly from the old pro’s home. His journey at Luton will be a fascinating one. He clearly knows the outcome he is seeking and has set out the steps he wants to take to get there. He has only ever been at little clubs with a tiny budget, it will be interesting to see what he does with a few more funds available.

Now that 2020 have finally bitten the bullet and shunned the ‘instant success’ route after 4 seasons, presumably incentivising JohnStill for long term success rather than instant one season return, perhaps JohnStill will recruit and grow accordingly. It puts Money’s, Brabin’s and Buckle’s quick fix purchases into context now. Clearly their incentive was the one season return, and accordingly their dodgy purchases were along those lines, pro’s who could in theory step into a role and give instant reward, rather than growing a player and building a team. Of course, the quick fixes didn’t work and we are now still where we were four years ago. I suspect the board will always regret the decision to do it that way rather than the 2-3 year approach they have now adopted. But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Some of us thought naively, it was going to be oh so easy.

The first half was listless and once again the players played as if they’d only just met. We did carve out half chances, and perhaps on another day one of them would have gone in and the pressure would have been off. Hereford were atypical opponents, ie they didn’t turn up and put 11 men behind the ball. They played some good football, though had a tendency to go down as if shot, to rant at the ref over every decision and one or two of them clearly thought they had more goalie in the team such was their propensity to handle the ball in the box. Hereford played some good football and in the first half we played some terrible football.

As an aside, I wonder, now that we are no longer in danger of getting promoted this year if sides will come and approach us differently. Will more teams fancy it and come and have a go now? Or will our reputation and size, rather than our league position still determine how sides line up against us? If it is the former then it will be a welcome change; if it is the latter then it will be interesting to see JohnStill’s methodology for prising open stubborn defences.

Hereford could have had two or three goals in the first half and it was a delight and a relief to see a side squander as many chances as we do. Their goal was a lesson in how not to defend, Jackson received the ball on half way and then proceeded to accelerate towards the Hatters defence. Not one tackle was put in, he was not closed down – he was escorted to the goal like a steward at the Kenny End showing a Sunderland fan to his seat. It was a great run and a good goal, but awful defending and the new lad Goodman was at fault as much as anyone. But, he’s young and learning his trade and we all make mistakes. Better that we benefit from all his good defending whilst he’s here.

So onto the team.

Mark Tyler – still shop stopper extraordinaire, but his kicking has lost a little direction and borders on the Emberson at times (but not to the degree of the hapless Bittner whose kicking was worse than piss-poor). There was a huge ironic cheer when he chose to roll one out rather than hoof it aimlessly. Shame he doesn’t do it a bit more. The goal seemed to go past him in slow motion too.

Ronnie Henry was sound enough at right back and got forward well in the second half.

McLumpy fortunately wasn’t closed down enough to make the stumble-blunders he managed against Mansfield. Some of his passing went astray – but he put his head where he needed to when it mattered.

Goodman – mentioned his part in the Hereford goal – but otherwise he was okay. His shot at the end where he blasted it over was a tad greedy when a pass would have been better – but little things. Tidy home debut – but needs to adjust his sights so that his clearances don’t make the people in the Main Stand Enclosure dive for cover.

It will be interesting to see what happens when Kovacs returns and Thomas is back from suspension. Who would you choose? We’ve got a choice of four now. I’m not sure how impressed JohnStill would have been with Thomas getting sent off like that. I know who I’d go for.

Taylor – went missing in the first half and was defensively woeful. Had a hand in the Hereford goal – but improved in the second half before being subbed.

Lawless – kept trying and was instrumental in the improvement in the second half. Was certainly trying to impress the new manager. If you had to pick a player of the season at this point, would it be Lawless? Not much choice this year I know.

Mendy – Dr Clutz in the first half, and was focus for much of the angst, picked up slightly better in the second, but was subbed.

Smith – tried to get the ball wide and played it forward and again improved markedly in the second period.

Howells – best game in a long time in the first half, was a perennial pain down the left hand side. Moved to his favourite position of left back when Martin came on in the second half. I’m using irony there by the way…

Gray – seems to be splitting opinion amongst the fans. Some grumble and groan at his poor control and first touch whilst others remember that just over a year ago he was carrying a hod and playing at Hinckley. If he hangs around in the summer, it will be fascinating to see if JohnStill can add him to his long list of improvers. He definitely has something (eg pace, and an eye for goal) let’s hope he can just get better and better.

Rendell – half chances in the first half and another who splits opinion. Some see him as a slightly lazy player who should be better in the air for someone with his height and role, others remark upon his positional sense and point to his movement for the Norwich goal, and all the goals he has got this season. I suspect a decent manager would liberate him from the shackles of the target man and give him a different role.

Anyway – he was replaced by Alex Wall who made his home debut and was a breath of fresh air. His presence on the pitch allowed us to up a gear and for the last 20 mins we more or less camped in their half. How lovely to have a target man who regularly won the ball. I’m glad we’ve got him. The last decent target man we had got 100 goals – how lovely if he can even get a third of that in his time with us. He got his noggin on the balls played up to him and nodded down and held up as necessary. He looked a little raw, but looked very, very up for it and keen. I’d like to see him start alongside an experienced quick striker who can anticipate where the ball is going to drop. Lovely to create a partnership between a front two again. What a concept. Dare we dream? Welcome Alex. Let’s not get too carried away. Promising start, long way to go. Let’s hope he can grow, improve and we get the benefit of that whilst he is with us.

O’Donnell – added to the improved momentum and added some intelligent passing.
In the 17 minutes David Martin on the pitch he was nearly the villain, but as it turned out the hero. A spectacular interception in front of his own goal had Tyler at full stretch to keep out what would have been a classic own goal and on Danny Baker’s next video (do they still do videos? Am I showing my age?) It might have been goal of the season. Perhaps he was just warming up, because trebles all round with three minutes of time to go when the ball fell to Martin on the edge of the box and he drove in the equaliser. Relief. Such was our dominance at that point that we could have gone on to win it. And had we played another ten minutes I suspect we would have done.

We made it harder than it needed to be really – but the game was open enough for Hereford to have been 3-1 up at half time, but for us to have won 4-3. Despite the officials’ best efforts we came away with a draw. The performance in the second half would have brought a little new found optimism that we can at least play just a little bit.

But it takes a long time to turn a tanker around. We were dropping like a stone when JohnStill inherited the team and it takes while for the negative momentum he inherited to drain away, to stop, regroup and to start in the opposite direction. It is fire fighting initially. It is time for the manager to see what the players can do. The steepest of steep learning curves for players and staff alike. But JohnStill is a wise old bird. I wonder what he made of Kenilworth Road on match day? It’d be lovely if he can eventually get it rocking again. One day…one day…

Looking forward to Hyde on Tuesday. What a topsy-turvy season they have had. Bottom when we played them earlier this year, but had a spurt of form in the autumn which saw them climb to mid table including a 7-0 win against Woking, and beating Newport away, But their current run of form, six straight defeats and one win in twelve, has seen them fall back to the relegation zone again. Surely a good team to be playing…or am I tempting fate?

Standard