That had to be worth £10 of anyone's money. Still don't know whether to laugh or cry. At 2-0 we looked totally comfortable, with fluent, attractive, attacking play down the flanks and through the middle, only for Stockport to realise that our defence is at the moment an accident waiting to happen. Made for great entertainment, even if the feeling at the end was similar to that on Saturday - we nearly blew it against limited opposition. Maybe for a while at least we just have to sit back and enjoy the ride (can't say years of following Charlton encourage this).
First the positives. Just about everyone had a good game going forward - which to be unduly negative might say something about the opposition. Todorov scored a beauty and very nearly one in the second half to better it; McLeod came through a quiet first half-hour to win the penalty for 2-0 (although I would have liked to see him have the drive to have stepped up again for the retake after his first effort was saved); Iwelumo was impossible for them to contain; Sam and Samedo - who I made my man of the match - combined well down the right; and Zheng did a good job on the left side.
Just what is going on with the defence? I don't think there is any easy answer, but tonight's combination of McCarthy and Fortune looked unconvincing. Maybe McCarthy just needs more games; maybe they all do, to get used to each other's strengths/weaknesses. Tonight once the centre had parted to invite the first goal there was panic again with any decent ball into the area, with Randolph conceding three but pulling off at least one blinding save. Pardew has made it clear that he wants to bring in another central defender; I just hope it's one who can combine well with one of McCarthy, Bougherra or Fortune as at the moment I have no idea what is our best pairing. Oh Diawara, why did you foresake us?
Racon impressed, aside from a few poorly timed tackles. Looked like another intelligent and skilful player. And with Racon, Samedo (when the full backs return), Zheng, Holland and possibly Sinclair all capable of taking one of the two central spots alongside Reid or Ambrose we don't look short if Faye does go. Samedo has so far played central midfield, left-back and right-back and has looked accomplished in each. Zheng played on the left tonight and made a telling contribution. And with Todorov making himself available there was fluidity throughout the team.
Eleven goals in the first five games, with nine of our players already on the scoresheet (albeit one curtesy of Fortune's backside). Scoring goals doesn't look like a problem. Seven goals conceded tells its own story. And with the exception of Stoke we haven't played a strong team yet; all judgements have to be reserved until we come up against the sort of teams we need to beat or not lose to: Wolves, Leicester, Southampton etc.
My player ratings for tonight:
Randolph (7), Samedo (9), Powell (7), McCarthy (5), Fortune (5), Zheng (7), Faye (6), Racon (8), Sam (8), Todorov (8), McLeod (6). Subs: Iwelumo (8), Ambrose (7).