You can always find something to complain about. To nobody’s surprise my appeal against a ridiculous parking fine (I don't even have a car) has been rejected by some jobsworth in the council (who probably doesn’t have the authority to actually make a decision), the gents in the East Stand hummed rather worse than usual at half-time, and just before the break we had a goalkeeper utterly unable to deal with any cross but in quick succession a corner failed to clear the first man and then Green sent a free kick sailing into the South Stand. But that’s about it. And in the greater scheme of things, after our blip, four straight wins, 15 goals scored, two homes games in the bag before half-time, we’re entitled to be happy bunnies. I’m trying anyway, but the hangover just won’t let me.
No surprises with the team, or the subs. All as before. The first 10 minutes proved to be decidedly cagey, with Preston having the greater possession but doing nothing with it, then getting back behind the ball. It looked like being a tough encounter during which we would have to be patient to break down strong opposition. However, we hadn’t counted on the absence of Preston’s regular keeper, with a certain Arestidou filling in. Apparently he played against us in the Carling Cup game, but that night we didn’t test him at all. This time around he did a passable impression of Rabchuka, who it seems was responsible for four scored by Blackpool at Leeds before half-time and was then substituted for an apprentice. I don’t think Preston had another keeper on the bench; it would have been an act of mercy had the ref correctly sent him off for the penalty. I can only assume he didn’t because he consulted the Charlton players and the unanimous verdict was that it was to our advantage to leave him on the pitch.
During the first 10 minutes I worried that we would be sucked into playing their sort of game as the absence of movement saw us hit too many long balls and give up possession too easily. The only moment of note was a nasty challenge on Solly which got the deserved yellow. But the game changed with something out of the blue, all the work of Green. He picked up the ball and sped past their defenders before sending in a decent enough shot which the unfortunate Arestidou managed to palm not to safety but just within reach of Jackson, who planted it into the net. That settled us down, ruffled them, and we quickly found their Achilles Heel. The second was soft as from a corner Arestidou’s uncertainty saw a bit of head tennis before it fell to Morrison, who slotted home well.
Preston did manage a shot and a tricky run down the wing, but as against Carlisle the game was put to bed before the break. First, Kermorgant managed to get his foot to a ball played through before Arestidou arrived and was duly clattered. The ref had no doubts about awarding the penalty, but seemed to take a decidedly lenient (or sadistic) approach to brandishing a card. I can’t say what the logic was of not sending him off, but it really didn’t matter. Jackson was never going to miss from the spot. And while last time around we had to wait until a few minutes into the second half before adding the fourth, this time another corner was headed back to Wright-Phillips who duly nodded it into the net.
Just what was said in both dressing rooms at half-time I can only guess. I would imagine that our bunch were discussing whether to go to the Blackheath fireworks and where to eat afterwards; Phil Brown may have had some more contentious matters on his mind. Not surprisingly we found it a little difficult to get truly motivated when play resumed and Preston, having made two substitutions, at least stuck to their task to prevent total humiliation. We had to wait until around 70 minutes for the next goal, but it was the best of the bunch. Wiggins won a ball down the left that he had no right to and delivered a delightful cross met perfectly by the inrushing Hollands whose header flew into the top corner. Arestidou can’t be blamed for that one.
His plight was summed up by Green deciding to cross from the right to the near post, where there was just their keeper and a defender. They nearly managed between them to bundle it into the net. The substitutions saw Hayes and Wagstaff on for BWP and Green, before Euell came on to allow Jackson to get his merited applause. Another player on two goals denied a hat-trick. Oh, and Carlisle scored two late goals, one a centre-back header from a corner and the other a quite delightful strike on the turn by someone. It gave their fans something to cheer about, but by that time we were more concerned with the other results, which went very nicely thank you very much.
So, on to Halifax for the FA Cup (presumably a few changes for that one, although we could do without a repeat of last season) and then Brentford away, which I shall miss by going to Lyon. I’m going to have to wait for the visit of Huddersfield for my next match. I didn’t make it to Wycombe either as the logistics fell apart when nobody took up the mantel and decided to drive (I listened live on the BBC site and the commentator was remarking about people leaving at 21.30 when there were still five or more minutes left and the game still in the balance; fact is that was the only way to get back in time for a train to return to London with a chance of getting back home – which is exactly why I didn’t go). That five-point gap at the top is reinstated and we’ve 40 points in the bag after 17 games (which puts us on course for 108 for the season). I’m going to struggle to find something to complain about tomorrow, or for a few days.
Player Ratings (looking at them again they seem perhaps a bit mean, but when the opposition's blown away by four goals in 20 minutes a mark covering 90 isn't easy):
Hamer – 7/10. Can’t be blamed for either of their goals, but did have a few iffy moments clearing the lines.
Solly – 7/10. Undemostrative but decent enough game.
Wiggins – 8/10. He did misplace a pass in the first half and once or twice was tested in defence, but the way he works down the left with Jackson – usually overlapping to actually provide the crosses – is a delight.
Morrison – 8/10. Got the overdue first of the season from a centre-back and not even with his head. Until late on Preston offered little threat.
Taylor – 7/10. Only gets a lower mark because it wasn’t him that scored. No mistakes I saw, and that’s plenty good enough for me.
Jackson – 8/10. I think he’s really grown into the captain’s role and provides calm, assured leadership. His goals don’t go amiss either, while he and Wiggins have it seems worked out how to compensate for the fact that he’s not a flying winger.
Hollands – 8/10. Won the midfield battles and notched an excellent goal. The change of partners for him hasn’t affected his form and if anything gives him greater license to go forward.
Hughes – 8/10. I’ve got to phone my Norwich mates and tell them that they were wrong. He’s taken his opportunity very well, plays the game simply but effectively.
Green – 8/10. His break set up the first goal and looked lively throughout, with some decent crosses (except for the couple just before the break). Might easily have scored.
Wright-Phillips – 7/10. Not the greatest of games, but who cares? Notched another, which is what he’s there for, and with six in four games he’s flying.
Kermorgant – 7/10. Perhaps lucky not to be booked in the first half (and the second) but won his share of headers and won the penalty. The debate about him and Green v Hayes and Wagstaff is settled for now (although I’d give the latter two the start next weekend).
Subs – Can’t really mark them as the game was more than won before any of them set foot on the pitch; Euell did work a lovely position near the by-line but didn’t have the legs to make it count.