Sunday 29 April 2007

What Next?

There's not much useful to say about yesterday quite frankly. We all know the result and the implications, we all know it's not over yet, and we all know that we have to win at least one of our remaining two matches to stand any chance of staying up. A win and a draw could be enough if two of Fulham/Wigan/West Ham blow it. One probably will, but two is asking a lot.

It is too soon for the obituaries, apportioning of blame, and assessments of who stays/who goes. There's time enough for that if we lose to Spurs. But we do have to accept that, having got ourselves into a position, prior to the Man City away game or the Reading home game, where staying up was a better than even chance, we have if not blown it proven to be not up to the task. When the heat really came on we have been found wanting. There have been suggestions that the decision to encourage so many supporters to go to Blackburn might prove counter-productive by increasing the pressure on the players. Fact is players with character make pressure an advantage, not something to be scared of. For us it did help to expose our shortcomings.

Are there any lessons for the Spurs game? I was surprised that Pardew went with Hreidarsson and Thatcher from the start. I'm not aware of an injury to Diawara, but things could hardly have turned out worse if he played. We didn't get to grips with Roberts all afternoon and, while we can have complaints that many fouls on Thomas in particular went unpunished, Thatcher's loss of discipline cost us dearly. For Spurs presumably HH will have to move to left back. There must be a doubt about El Karkouri being fit after yesterday's injury, so we could be looking at a Diawara/Bougherra combination, unless Young or Faye are moved to central defence.

Song looked tired yesterday. Holland deserves all the plaudits for his performance and attitude, although as a friend pointed out there was a Pythonesque Holy Grail quality about his efforts in the final few minutes as all around him had crumbled. Marcus Bent had another ineffective game, the only surprise being he wasn't clutching his hamstring when substituted, while Ambrose was largely absent. Against Spurs we can't expect to control central midfield, so my inclination would be to start with Thomas and Rommadahl and try to shore up the centre with Holland and another ball-winner (this was my feeling for the Blackburn game too). Maybe Kishishev can come back after Leeds' relegation (I'm only half-joking).

We have to sit and watch the results over the weekend. But that is clearly an advantage as the current mood of resignation would probably see us throw in the towel if we played at the same time as the other relegation-battlers. If the results go our way - and that means defeats for Fulham today and on Saturday, plus home defeats for West Ham and/or Wigan - and we go into the Spurs game with a shout. At least nobody is going to be saying 'it's in our own hands'.

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