In his programme notes Pardew wrote that, while he could not dictate the outcome of this afternoon’s game, he “can dictate the mood in the dressing room”. Well, unless he’s a bloody good comedian he can’t even do that. There is little point in writing a detailed match report. After this latest shambles there is only one question and that is whether the manager stays or goes. On today’s evidence, plus what went on against Bristol City and Burnley – Ipswich too by all accounts, although I wasn’t there – he has some explaining to do to justify why he should keep his job, apart from the cost of sacking him. He’s pretty much lost the fans and the players are giving no indication that they want to play for him. There’s something obviously rotten in the state of SE7 and it has to change because at the moment we’re on a downward spiral.
I think everyone was surprised by the starting line-up. We had been led to believe that Gray would be absent for a while for family reasons, reasons which presumably affected his training of late. He lasted 90 minutes but I can’t remember a meaningful contribution from him. Ambrose we are led to believe is lined up for a swap for Ipswich’s Campo. Bailey is out of form and struggling and Wright is still finding his feet at this level. And Varney looks like he needs a rest. Yet they all played. Bailey and Wright in central midfield, Ambrose and Sam out wide, and Gray and Varney up front. Todorov and Dickson on the bench.
The lack of cohesion in midfield meant very little service to two front men short of confidence. Any team that plays Darren Moore looks set up to be comfortable against a side that hoofs the ball forward to two not especially big strikers. But that’s what we did, including too often from Weaver. More from the programme notes on the Burnley game: “I made a couple of changes at half-time and the response was instant”. Kind of begs the question what were you doing with the formation in the first half.
The cause was not exactly helped by conceding after a minute or so, with a set-piece half-cleared but Macken having all the time he needed from around the edge of the area to pick his spot. Another set piece, another shot, Weaver saved but Macken buried the rebound. And from a corner a headed third. After that it was game over. We scored in the second half but there was no real suggestion of a comeback.
For what it’s worth the half-time change in this game was Bouazza for Sam, with Bouazza going on to provide a second-half performance that epitomised why he should not be considered: a few runs with the intent of producing a Bouazza shot and then total indifference when switched to the left when Dickson came on for Wright, with Varney moving out wide right (where he did look more comfortable and made a few things happen, including getting the free kick for our goal) and Ambrose moving into the centre. We looked more cohesive after that but by then the game was lost and Barnsley were not exactly exerting themselves. Oh, and Dickson looked like a pale imitation of the enthusiastic and exciting player of a year ago.
We have had a lot of games in a short space of time and have been looking to players who might not yet be up to playing two a week. But everything that Pardew has tried in terms of starting X1s has not worked. Making changes at half-time is a poor substitute for getting it right from the start. And when we did that, against Bristol, we fell apart once we went behind. The team quite frankly doesn’t know what it is doing collectively and the responsibility for that has to fall on the manager’s shoulders.
Poxy, wet and cold day. Barnsley weren’t very good, but like all the teams we have played recently they didn’t have to be. There are no positives to take from the game. And I can’t for the life of me think why I’m writing this – or why anyone should bother to read it.