Saturday 30 January 2010

Please Play Better

What might have been a hiccup on Monday night has become a bad case of indigestion, with another below-par performance and points dropped at home against a team near the foot of the table. And as against Orient there are no real complaints (except from Suzanne, who was decidedly underwhelmed by our lack of drive, pace, initiative, and ability to pass the ball). Most of the action was concentrated in the final 10 minutes, when we had three excellent chances to score what would have been an undeserved winner, hitting the post once. But the period also saw Tranmere force a fine save from Randolph (who had replaced the injured Elliot during the first half), fluff an open goal and have one come crashing back off the crossbar.

With Sodje brought back in defence to replace Llera, Parkinson opted to keep the two key partnerships – Bailey and Semedo in central midfield and Burton and Mooney up front – unchanged. The surprise was that new loan signing Reid went straight into the starting X1, taking the problematic wide left berth, with Shelvey standing down. So, two out-and-out wingers; at least that made a case for keeping what should be a tight midfield. It also made a case for the attacking threat to come down the flanks. Instead through the game we passed the ball poorly, with Bailey’s distribution well below what we expect, and largely failed to get the wide men in the game.

The first half saw us seldom get out of first gear. No real cohesion, with too often the man in possession forced back through a lack of options. There seemed no obvious threat from Tranmere, but they competed well, closed down the space, and in veteran Jamaican international Goodison had the game’s best performer (to the extent that towards the end he was encouraged enough to be bringing the ball forward). Reid and Sam both had good moments, with some decent crosses delivered. But with Sam up against a pacy full-back (Bakayogo) and Reid not surprisingly finding his feet the only notable moment before the break I can remember – apart from Elliot’s injury, which he seemed to sustain colliding with a colleague when looking to punch clear - was Bailey getting the ball in the box but putting the shot wide. Most of the time the game was competitive but unimaginative and one-paced, with us not putting them under the sort of pressure that might expose weaknesses (they’re not in the bottom three for nothing) and struggling to create.

The pattern of a re-run of Monday night intensified not long into the second half. We went to sleep at a corner, allowing them to take it short with two against one. And when the cross came in a flick on seemed to take one of our number by surprise (I think it was Sodje) and the strong header clear became one which sent the ball into the net instead. Another game and no clean sheet. At that time an own goal looked about the greatest threat that Tranmere could muster, but as the game progressed, despite extensive time-wasting, they were to show as much ambition as us going forward. Instead of dominating a side probably low on confidence we had allowed them to compete on equal terms.

We weren’t behind for too long. An excellent outswinging corner from Basey was headed back and Bailey stole in to get on the end of it for another captain’s goal. That’s 10 for the season to date, an excellent return. Unfortunately this time the strike was the redeeming factor in an otherwise disappointing performance.

Back on level terms the stage was set for us to go on and win it. Just play with a little more intensity and drive. Reid was more involved and started to run their full-back ragged with his pace, but Sam was finding it increasingly difficult to get the better of Bakayogo, while Burton and Mooney were neither combining to great effect nor threatening individually. Having had to use one substitute, only two changes were available and Parkinson opted for McKenzie to replace Reid on the left side (to howls of derision from many fans, but surely the guy was going to tire), while Sam departed for Wagstaff. Sam had been finding it tough going, but the cheers that greeted the change are hardly going to help; Sam has been one of our most effective creators through the season.

The changes did have some effect, with Wagstaff’s greater energy drawing two fouls from Bakayogo (the first was a yellow and the second, right at the death, meant a pretty irrelevant red). And if we were relying on balls into the box McKenzie gave us extra power. The problem was that as the clock ticked down and the chances came we failed to take them. Detailing each of them is not my strong point, but one phase saw a wicked cross elude both Burton and McKenzie, another saw us fail to convert two opportunities, while one shot came back off the outside of the post. That might sound like a convincing drive to win the game, but at the other end we were allowing them as many chances. One guy found himself in the box with only Randolph to beat but sliced tamely wide, Randolph had to turn one low shot around the post, and in a melee in the box it dropped to them and the shot hit the underside of the bar.

Both sides will have left the pitch wondering how they failed to score at the death and both probably felt a draw was a fair result. It was, over the 90 minutes. But for us that simply isn’t good enough. A spate of half-chances created late in the game only served to underline how little we had created before. Football can be a very simple game and when you pass the ball badly and don’t create space with movement off the ball it doesn’t matter who you are playing. You’re going to struggle.

I thought after Orient it was time for some changes, to the Bailey-Semedo and Burton-Mooney partnerships. Today only strengthened that opinion. We’ve now brought someone in to fill the wide left spot, but we aren’t playing well and players that you would normally consider good enough to be in the team (Racon and Shelvey, and Spring) are not first-choice. Shelvey has been in the team and not impressed of late, and maybe Racon is not showing the necessary desire on the training ground. Just as ominous, at the end Semedo pulled off his shirt and ran off the pitch. Are there more changes to come before the end of the transfer window? Who knows. It could be time to revert to 4-5-1. At least with that formation early in the season we played excellent football. I wouldn’t mind if we regularly ground out results now, but fact is we are not looking better than some very ordinary teams that we have played of late (Hartlepool, Orient, Tranmere).

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 7/10. Well, another game when he could be given a 10 as he had nothing to do when on the pitch. Hope the injury isn’t serious.

Richardson: 6/10. A few times in the second half he seemed to be missing then they threatened, got forward to good effect a few times.

Basey: 7/10. Solid game. I still look forward to Youga’s return, not because Basey has done much wrong but just because he adds something extra. What Basey does bring, however, is that crossing ability, which worked for our goal.

Sodje: 6/10. Reasonable return, although they did create chances late on and there was at least one moment when he seemed to lose his cool. Coming back from a 4-game ban is not the time for anything rash.

Dailly: 7/10. Decent game, but again they could have scored more and the defence collectively takes some responsibility.

Reid: 7/10. Looks a more than useful acquisition, especially given our problems with the position. Became more influential as the game wore on, but was always unlikely to last 90 minutes.

Semedo: 5/10. He’s a good player who can be relied on to do a job. But my opinion remains that him and Bailey together is not the answer, leaving us with little midfield creativity, especially when Bailey’s passing is off.

Bailey: 6/10. His passing was off, but gets the extra mark for another goal.

Sam: 6/10. Didn’t really work for him today and can’t have any complaints about being withdrawn. But for crying out loud if the fans start to get on his back we gain nothing.

Mooney: 5/10. Glad he’s staying, but not much impact today. Seemed to be ready to run off when McKenzie was on the touchline ready to come on.

Burton: 5/10. Disappointing game. When the opposition’s defenders look like the best players on the pitch you have to question the forwards. Needs a goal.

Randolph (7/10 – one strange punch, no chance with the goal, and one good save low down); McKenzie (6/10 – added more firepower up front when he came on, but still waiting for that start in a central position); Wagstaff (8/10 – a good time to enter the game as players were tiring and made things happen with his enthusiasm).

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Don't Look Down

I think most of us concluded, fairly enough, that Monday night’s aberration is no cause for panic, especially with Leeds losing last night (wasn’t it good for a little while, with Leeds and Norwich behind and the Palace news?). Many twists and turns to come before the end-season clashes at The Valley. But on the same line of thinking, and at the risk of coming across as a real Johah, isn’t there a touch of complacency in the current assumption that it is us, Norwich and Leeds fighting it out for the two top spots and to avoid the play-offs?

A quick glance at the table shows the last play-off berth being held by Millwall on 43 points from 27 games, ie an 11-point cushion for us. However, in seventh you have Huddersfield (who continue to boast the best home record in the division) on 42 points from 25 games. If they were to win their games in hand on us they would move on to 48 points. Still a six-point gap – but then the team occupying sixth would be Swindon. They are on 47 from 25, so if they win their two in hand on us they go on to 53 – and up to fourth, just one point behind us. Colchester have a game in hand on us, which if won would see them on 52. And on the basis of teams winning games in hand Bristol Rovers (38 from 25) could move onto 44 points and claim the sixth spot.

Of course these games aren’t all going to be won. And even on that basis we would still have a gap of 10 points on the sixth-placed club. Neither am I even hinting at thinking about anything but a top-two place. It’s just that I don’t think anyone’s told Colchester, Swindon and Huddersfield that they’re not in the hunt for an automatic spot (just as we bemoan Norwich’s last-gasp equaliser against us at Carrow Road, so Swindon must rue our recent leveller, without which they could overtake us by winning their games in hand). That can have advantages for us for sure, as they stay competitive in games against our immediate rivals (and against each other). Just that before we get resigned to a race to the line for the top three there’s just as much chance of us getting embroiled in a chasing group if we falter.

There’s no good reason to think that just because we’ve developed a pattern over recent years of tailing off when the going gets tough the same will happen this time. There’s too much at stake this time around, for everyone concerned, and the squad has both the quality and the character to ensure it doesn’t happen. Well, it had bloody better not.

The only real point is that there’s no room for complacency – especially when by any reckoning we haven’t been playing that well of late. I’ve made a pledge not to complain about any win, given that I just want to get out of this league. And yes, a good team can win when it isn’t playing well. But let’s assume that Plan A is playing bloody well and winning comfortably. It seemed to me that the team has of late been playing the percentages, doing enough to grind out the results and conserving some energy (which has its merits, given the frequency of games). Perhaps we’ve developed a feeling that when there’s a reversal of sorts we can dig it out, which we have done recently (Swindon, even Hartlepool with their equaliser). But we thought we’d finished off Millwall and ended up dropping two points, nearly blew it against Hartlepool with a below-par performance, and finally came a cropper against Orient.

Having missed the MK Dons game (and Brighton away), there’s only been one game I’ve seen since September (Bristol Rovers) that we’ve won by more than the odd goal. In fact of the seven games so far this season that we’ve won by two or more four of them came in the first six games. Since then in 21 games only three have been in doubt until the final whistle (OK, five if you include away at Colchester and Carlisle). Perhaps that’s what’s getting to me – and it’s got to be getting to the players as it has to be mentally draining. The best way to conserve energy is to win comfortably and coast through the latter stages of a game. We just haven’t been doing that often enough. In part I think it’s due to opposition defences having improved since early in the campaign (we don’t seem to get as many gifts as we did then), but again maybe its down to a little feeling in the team that we can turn it on enough times in games to see us through.

In that case can we please send a message to the team. We find nothing wrong with blowing teams away early on. We all loved the end of the Swindon game; you can’t beat something like that for the buzz. But I’m prepared to pass on repeats for the rest of the season and to suffer the ennui of sitting through games which we have won with plenty of time to spare. In fact it would be nice.

With all this in mind, while Parkinson was surely right to avoid talking of big changes post-Orient, some freshening up for Tranmere would seem to be desirable. We do have options after all, with Sodje available and hopefully Youga too. It would be a bit tough on Llera and Basey to take a break, but there you are. Simple fact is we haven’t kept a clean sheet for seven games. And I think Saturday’s game would be an opportunity to try Bailey and Racon together in central midfield (again rough on Semedo, who does a job), while changing the Burton/Mooney partnership seems reasonable.

I don’t usually like picking teams in advance, because for all I know some aren’t fit or aren’t in the right frame of mind. But with those provisos my line-up would be: Elliot, Richardson, Youga, Sodje, Dailly, Shelvey, Bailey, Racon, Sam, McKenzie, Burton. Subs: Randolph, Basey, Llera, Semedo, Spring, Wagstaff, Mooney, Dickson (is that too many, I don’t even know these days?).

Monday 25 January 2010

No 'Get Out Of Jail' Card Tonight

I hate waste of effort, primarily if it’s mine. So I’m especially miffed to have to ditch a pre-written first paragraph which was something along the lines of: ‘as on Saturday we failed to secure the 12-goal winning margin to secure top spot, but we could rise above Norwich and Leeds depending on the extent of their defeats tomorrow night’. If that hints at a degree of complacency I’m not alone. We had the chance tonight to secure a run of three consecutive season doubles (would Tranmere on Saturday and a fourth have been a record?) and wasted it. Worst thing was there can be no real complaints. An Orient side put in its place at Brisbane Road back in August (when the sun shone) was not pressurised and did not tire in the same fashion as then. Instead they were better organised, especially with a well-worked offside trap which left Dickson in particular looking shoddy, and deserved their win.

The performance, like the team, was little different from Tuesday night against Hartlepool. An indifferent first half then saw us turn it on once and score. This time around we showed the same lack of intensity (which this time can’t be blamed on the exertions of a game the previous Saturday – perhaps rustiness now?) and the same paucity of chances created. One decent move put together, perhaps two. Just not enough. This time we didn’t score and, having gone behind, we didn’t pull it out of the bag. A good second half chance created by Sam – who was the main threat throughout the game – fell to Mooney, but he shot over. And when Wagstaff tried his luck from well outside the box the effort didn’t make it to the goal line, let alone (as on Tuesday) find its way unerringly to the corner of the net for the winner. It pretty much summed up the night.

Recounting the course of the game seems a little pointless. Orient created nothing significant in the first half but scored in the second as a mazy run forward – which may have included a hand-off on Bailey – saw the ball played wide right and the cross met at the far post by McGleish. They also hit the post. Most important, it was only when we went behind that the intensity level was raised and for a period of time we started forcing them into mistakes. That didn’t last, not least as the substitutions made by Parkinson, which at the time seemed reasonable, didn’t really work.

Semedo – who I thought had a much better game than against Hartlepool – was sacrificed when we went behind, with Wagstaff coming on to play wide left and Shelvey – who again looked out of sorts with that berth (or a free role, depending on your interpretation) – moving inside, where he was more instrumental. I think Parkinson was right to conclude that it was the midfield primarily that wasn’t functioning properly, but it was tough on Semedo. Wagstaff saw very little of the ball and had no impact. Then Mooney and Burton were replaced by Mckenzie and Dickson, offering both the chance they have been waiting for. Neither took it tonight. In particular Dickson – who looks as if he may have gained a few pounds in recent months and is suffering for it, as pace is the main weapon – looked out of sorts.

Basically tonight nothing worked and we didn’t get away with it. Some individuals played well. Richardson I thought was much sharper than with his immediate return, defended well and got forward to good effect. Sam was behind just about every threatening moment. Llera and Dailly were usually untroubled and Basey was exposed more often because of the lack of cover than anything he did wrong (bar one moment in the first half when he was beaten). Elsewhere we came up short. Burton seemed to be waiting for them to gift him the sort of chance they did earlier in the season, Mooney missed the best chance of the night, and together they really didn’t cause them problems. And the midfield collectively was guilty of not providing much service for them – or the two that replaced them – to feed off.

I really don’t know what to conclude tonight. Did the game underline deficiencies that have been apparent for a while – you have to go back to the first day of December (away at Brighton) to find a game we have won by more than one goal – or should we instead focus on what was after all our first league defeat in 12 games? In other words do we carry on as before or does Parkinson have to make changes? I don’t know, but he’s paid to make the decisions, but at the moment the lack of pace in the side (Sam excepted) is hurting. There isn’t cause to panic, or to start talking in terms of having to settle for the play-offs. It’s far too soon for that. At the same time in Bailey, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Sam, Wagstaff and Spring we should be able to select four (or five?) capable of dominating games in that area and creating much more than we did tonight. With McLeod, Fleetwood, Sodje(A) and Tuna now not featuring, can we get the right mix out of Burton, Mooney, McKenzie and Dickson?

Those are decisions for Saturday. For now it’s over to Leeds and Norwich to screw it up (please).

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 8/10. Another game where you could give him 10 (on the grounds he did nothing wrong).

Richardson: 8/10. I thought he had an excellent game, although their goal was nodded in from his area and he may be a little culpable.

Basey: 7/10. He was exposed, especially in the first half, but that was usually due to having no cover in front of him and finding himself outnumbered.

Llera: 7/10. Some wild distribution/clearances, but nothing fundamentally wrong in the defensive area. Just didn’t chip their defence and score an equaliser in the final minute when up front.

Dailly: 7/10. Here too, nothing really wrong. Our problems weren’t in defence.

Shelvey: 5/10. A poor performance when out wide was partially redeemed when moved inside. Didn’t seem sure before whether he was covering the wide position or floating and ended up doing neither.

Bailey: 6/10. May have been fouled in the build-up to their goal. Otherwise with Semedo failed to provide the platform going forward.

Semedo: 6/10. Better for me than against Hartlepool by being more involved. Doesn’t add going forward, but the greater question is not his ability to do a job but whether he and Bailey together are the best combination we have.

Sam: 8/10. Not everything worked, but was involved in just about all our best moments.

Mooney: 5/10. Disappointing game. Orient denied the space for him to drop deeper to any real effect and showed no sign of linking up with Burton.

Burton: 5/10. Equally poor game. The service to both forwards wasn’t great (apart from second-half crosses from Sam) but they just didn’t cause problems.

Subs: Wagstaff (5/10 – hero on Tuesday but just shut out of the game tonight); McKenzie (5/10 – wants to make a central spot his own, but no impact when he came on); Dickson (4/10 – very poor, notable only for being repeatedly caught offside).

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Waggy Wins It

‘Welcome to a new decade at The Valley’. God help us, if this is what it’s going to be like it will be a little like remembering the 60s for Rolf Harris’ Two Little Boys. As an advert for five-year season tickets this one didn’t exactly pass muster. That said, if you weren’t looking for great football it was a classic of a kind. It had humour, irony, bucketloads of frustration, moments of madness, and two goals from us quite out of keeping with the overall quality. Plus a streaker and a Hartlepool players with split personalities - a goalkeeper who at 1-1 moved slower than most people’s granddads to take goal kicks but at 1-2 was a whippet, while one player being substituted at 1-1 found time to shake hands (and presumably discuss holiday plans) with the rest of the team during a curved preamble towards the touchline, whereas the next change (at 1-2) brought a sprint off the park.

Coming off the back of a thumping in the previous game, you can’t really blame Hartlepool for that – and the handful of fans they brought deserve everyone’s plaudits. In reality it was a game which we should have won at a canter but contrived, through a mix of lacklustre effort and commitment, to nearly blow. It was one that showed up a number of our shortcomings: the defence conspired to gift them a goal which never looked likely, the midfield looked again a less than perfect mix (with Semedo and Bailey together in the centre lacking sufficient creativity, Shelvey still a curate’s egg out left, and Sam sometimes brilliant and sometimes just out of the game), and the front two (Burton and Mooney) together looking short of pace. At the same time the team has something about it, with enough nous it seems to know what needs to be done. It wasn’t a performance to send shock waves through to Leeds and Norwich (and we did fall a little short of the 12-goal win to reclaim second), but it was another win. So no serious carping from me, despite what at best could be described as an indifferent display - except for the mad challenge that gave away the penalty, letting Hartlepool back into a game they shouldn’t have had a sniff at having gone behind.

The game started at the pedestrian pace which was to prevail. The crowd was subdued and so were the players. In the first 20 minutes it seemed that every cross we put in saw us win the header, without anything on target, but otherwise it was scrappy. You realise something's amiss when not long into the game you're discussing with mates travel plans for the next few months. The game was crying out for some decent passing and movement and when we decided to try that we scored a truly splendid goal. Good work in midfield on the left side, good run by Basey who was well found, excellent whipped cross, and Mooney making a well-timed run buried the header. So good and effective, and such a contrast with all else that had gone on.

Hartlepool had to be a little more adventurous after that and they did create one decent chance, a ball squared from the right but blazed over the bar from the edge of the box, while Elliot also pulled off one good save from a shot. But the assumption – seemingly among the crowd and the players – was that sooner or later we would try doing the things that led to the first goal and the match would be put to rest. After all, a second and we could start thinking about goal difference.

That mood seemed to continue in the second half, with flashes of what might (perhaps should) have been. Shelvey hit the outside of the post with a decent strike and with Sam much more involved and getting in good positions to deliver telling crosses we were all if not contented at least confident (sorry, complacent). But then another innocuous Hartlepool venture forward saw their guy moving across the box, not especially threateningly, only to draw a dire, ill-timed challenge. It was one of the silliest, but also least controversial, penalties given against us. My only problem is I can’t be sure who made the tackle: I thought it was Llera, a colleague said Dailly, and another said he thought it was Richardson. Whoever the culprit was deserves a word in his ear. I honestly thought that it was the sort of night where Elliot would save it, but despite his best efforts he only managed to divert the strike into the roof of the net.

Hartlepool immediately reverted to Plan A (not that Plan B had been much different). And not surprisingly frustration crept in as it dawned on all concerned that we might not win. The first change saw Shelvey replaced by McKenzie on the left and after an indifferent spell Parkinson took the gamble of a double change, with Wagstaff and Dickson coming on for Sam and Mooney. Sam’s departure seemed strange to me at the time as he seemed by a distance our biggest threat, but what do I know? Wagstaff picks up the ball and from some way out hits a low drive into the corner of the net. The second moment of quality in the game.

After that, given that a rout was some way from our thoughts, it only remained to see out the game. Dickson seemed to have added a third but was pulled up for a foul but otherwise it was pretty uneventful. Just that really if a ref is going to add on five minutes of stoppage time, at least half of which was down to time-wasting by the opposition, surely you should have the right to waive the option. Hardly a nail-biting finish, but that just wouldn’t have been in keeping with the game (and after the late dramas against Millwall and Swindon would not have been welcome).

Onwards and upwards. I hope the players are aware that the display fell well short of what will be required, but I said before I wasn’t going to whinge if we won games in this league. So keep doing it against Orient and Tranmere and we’ll still be on course.

Player Ratings (the proviso here is I’m not sure who gave away the penalty; take two points from the culprit):

Elliot: 8/10. Again had very little to do but did what was required splendidly; and nearly saved the penalty.

Richardson: 6/10. Low-key return. Poor distribution going forward, perhaps a little rusty, but defensively looked sound.

Basey: 8/10. Couple of excellent defensive challenges and a superb cross for the first goal. Otherwise benefited from the paucity of their attacking intent.

Llera: 7/10. Couple of iffy moments with the ball, but competent enough.

Dailly: 7/10. Like the others, deserves some credit for ensuring that they seldom looked capable of scoring.

Shelvey: 6/10. Showed flashes, nearly scored, but also caught in possession a few times and distribution sometimes wayward. Wide left remains a problem for us as Shelvey has looked his best in the hole in a 4-5-1.

Semedo: 5/10. I thought he had another indifferent game. He is at his best with a central partner with more flair who he can give the ball to and let them get forward (ie Racon), but that would mean the currently crazy decision to shift Bailey out of the centre.

Bailey: 6/10. Not a great game as we struggled to be coherent going forward, but did his work as ever.

Sam: 6/10. Would have been a 5 (or 4) at half-time as I thought he wasn’t involved and should be destroying them, but much better in the second half and a surprise (at the time) that he was subbed.

Mooney: 6/10. Took up some intelligent positions and made the run at the right time to score the goal, but often peripheral and didn’t make the most of a few openings.

Burton: 5/10. Not one of his better games. Excellent at the crafty block and challenge, but nothing ran for him in front of goal and didn’t create anything for himself in terms of chances.

Subs: McKenzie (5/10 – no real impact out left); Dickson (5/10 – no obvious impact on the game); Wagstaff (8/10 – has to be man of the match, came on, scored a beauty).

Another One Bits The Dust

So there we have it. Another sugar daddy bits the dust. As Richard Murray acknowledged, Gold and Sullivan would never have been ideal candidates to take over our fair club, but it seemed as though any bid if they failed to take over West Ham would have been welcomed. As it is now, let them take their ill-gotten gains and waste them on a club that were there any justice would be plying its trade in The Championship. Never wanted them, good riddance (please delete above if there should be some last-minute collapse of the deal).

I find it hard to believe that it is a coincidence that the West Ham news comes just after the announcement of the ‘big freeze’ season ticket offer (and denials by Parkinson that Bailey is going to be sold during the window). And I’m sorry but the statement by Murray just sounds, well odd. “We are still seeking external investment” (no surprise there) but “the club now needs to plan its finances for next year and we may not know what division we will be playing in until May, so getting season ticket revenue in early is important to us”. I can’t honestly see the connection. After all, we have some 14 players out of contract at the end of the season. Is the club saying to them right now ‘we need to plan our finances for next year and we may not know ...’? I assume rather that Murray and the board have a good idea of who will be allowed/encouraged to walk and who will be offered new contracts, depending on which division we are in next season.

In other words, the major component of expenditure next season is highly contingent, based on two possible outcomes (let’s happily leave out the risk of relegation for once). Which players stay and go is not going to be down to season ticket sales and the planning of next year’s finances has to be based on two scenarios. So we are left with the rather simpler statement of “getting season ticket revenue in early is important to us”, ie in the absence of fresh investment we need the money.

I may be wide of the mark, but what is wrong with making a more open appeal – and offer – to supporters? The board made the courageous decision in the summer not to sell players and instead put their hands in their pockets. If it’s now a case of needing additional cash in order not to have to sell players this month then so be it. If that is the motivation why not say so? Of course times are very hard all round and many who would like to take up the offers (a season ticket for the next campaign at frozen prices or a five-year ticket) will be unable to do so. But I (and consequently I would believe others) am more likely to respond to a more direct appeal based on a simple proposal of ‘buy now, help fund promotion’ than something presented as a cut-price offer, one which if anything increases further concern about our financial state. Parkinson is of course spot on in saying that the sale of Bailey at this point would have a devastating impact on our promotion campaign. Having in the past coughed up a little cash (I think it was the princely sum of £5) to help the club buy Ronnie Moore, perhaps it’s time to reluctantly open months of bank statements to see if a repeat performance is possible.

Enough carping. I’m slipping this one in before tonight’s game in the hope that any negativity will be buried under the delight of the 12-0 victory we want to reclaim second spot. Funny how both The Championship and League One have morphed into three teams at the top chasing two automatic places, although of course there’s bound to be many more fluctuations through to early May (hopefully). Given recent results and that three of our final five fixtures are at home to Colchester, Norwich and Leeds, it’s hard to see anything other than it all going at least close to the wire (all of which leaves me mystified why one fellow Addick has not changed his birthday by deed poll to avoid being away for the final home game).