Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sometimes I Just Hate Opposition Keepers

No especially happy endings tonight and the run ends at five. There should have been – and would have been had it not been for two outrageous saves by their keeper. Elliot’s been very instrumental in our post-Brighton run, so we can’t complain too much about a goalkeeper earning his side a point. But we didn’t win, so we can. After the spate of games of late both the team and the crowd were somewhat subdued, especially with the second home game running having to attack the Covered End in the first half. It never helps. We played well enough in patches to have won and if we’d scored first could have won comfortably, against a very ordinary Bristol Rovers. But tonight we weren’t clinical enough when the chances came and committed the sin of falling behind. Some tired legs, along with tired fingers from all these bloody match reports. So let’s try to keep it short (by my standards).

With Dailly starting his suspension Fortune got the nod over Llera to replace him alongside Doherty, which he deserved after Saturday’s substitute appearance (although when Doherty was injured in the second half it raised the question whether Llera might be overtaken in the pecking order by our new Dutch loan signing Siep). And with Wagstaff available again but Anyinsah not, Reid dropped back to the bench, with Martin and Benson continuing up front.

We started very brightly, with Martin featuring in most of the moves and Racon and Semedo getting the sort of grip on midfield that they never really managed against Yeovil. Some decent interplay produced a couple of shots, but the early breakthrough didn’t come and the game settled down to a more patient pattern, with Bristol not causing any real problems (a bit of pace and trickery here and there but nothing else) and us trying to carve out openings. The quality of a lot of the approach play too often wasn’t matched by the end-result, however, especially as at the first sign of a decent position created everyone seemed to run away from the man with the ball and into the box rather than continue with what had been working well.

The first half was notable for one of the daftest bookings I’ve seen for a while. The ball had gone out for a throw but rebounded back onto the pitch and when their guy went to knock it back Fry ‘fouled’ him. I wasn’t aware you could be yellow carded for a foul when the ball isn’t in play. But what do I know about the rules except when the ref gets it wrong?

The decisive moment of the first half and perhaps the game came late on when it seemed for all the world we had scored as a cross was connected with, by Wagstaff I think. But their keeper instinctively thrust out a hand and turned it wide. It didn’t seem to matter too much at the time, but as the second half continued in much the same vein as the first and we were struggling to create clear-cut chances it started to, especially as they turned the game on its head by scoring. A corner was headed out but only to their guy, who invited the challenges and instead of shooting himself slipped the ball square to another. He had the time and space to measure his shot into the bottom corner.

Still plenty of time to turn things around, but the onus now was on upping the effort and doing things quicker. McCormack had already replaced Semedo, who seemed to have picked up a knock; Reid came on for Fry, with Jackson dropping back to full-back as on Saturday, then shortly after Sodje came on for Wagstaff, with Martin moving wide right. As in the previous game, Sodje in particular made a real difference in terms of making things happen, through his running and physical presence. But his evening was to prove the complete curate’s egg as he could, perhaps should, have had a hat-trick.

By now Bristol had something to hang on to and the crowd were getting a little restless. Groans started to accompany misplaced passes, especially when the ball started to go long. I don’t think there was any intention to do that, but when defenders have no easy available outlet you can’t always blame them. It’s incumbent on those in front of them to create the space. However, before things went sour we did get the equaliser. A low cross was driven in from the left and must have come off somebody as it went in. Reid was initially given the credit but the BBC site at least has given it to Benson – which would be good as it breaks his Valley duck.

Still about 15 minutes to go and time for the winner. A good cross from the right found Sodje in space and his header was to produce their keeper’s second superb save to deny him. But thereafter Sodje was to make a pig’s ear of the opportunities that came his way. He found himself goalside of the defender and seemingly with only the keeper to beat but seemed to be waiting for a repeat of Saturday’s pull back for a penalty and the defender took the ball off him. And late on he was in a great position inside the box but instead of shooting passed it to Martin, who had a tighter angle and shot wide. McCormack also had a shot well saved, but at the other end Bristol should have scored again, with their guy clean through only to shoot wide of the goal.

The BBC stats show us having had 12 attempts on target during the game (plus three off target) against three for them. That pretty much summed it up, but tonight we didn’t get the breaks that we have had in recent games and their keeper’s saves mean that, while disappointed, there’s no feeling of having been robbed. Might need some fresh legs for Saturday, though, as the number of games may be taking its toll.

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 7/10. The standard score for a game in which he did nothing wrong but had very little to do. No chance with the goal.

Francis: 8/10. I thought both full-backs were excellent tonight. Not every pass was accurate, nor every cross, but got forward in support well enough and solid defensively.

Fry: 7/10. Decent game and as with Saturday no reflection on his performance that he was substituted.

Doherty: 7/10. Much more solid game than on Saturday, although Bristol’s limited attacking ambitions probably helped the cause.

Fortune: 7/10. Slotted in for Dailly to good effect, may be benefiting from getting the match practise he needed.

Jackson: 6/10. Not among the goals tonight; no complaints over a reasonable display, but of course he doesn’t provide a genuine winger’s contribution when the opposition are sitting back.

Semedo: 7/10. Another consistent and effective contribution. Hope the knock isn’t serious.

Racon: 7/10. Excellent first half in particular, in defence and attack; didn’t come up with a decisive contribution but threatened to do so, especially when linking up with Martin.

Wagstaff: 6/10. Thought he should have been capable of more in exposing a rather pedestrian full-back, but nearly added to his goal tally.

Benson: 7/10. Without Anyinsah he’s having to bear the brunt of the target man’s job and he did it OK, but as on Saturday we needed a more physical presence up front in the latter stages as he and Martin were getting outmuscled. Hope he did score the goal to break the home duck.

Martin: 8/10. I’d give him man of the match for us tonight (reluctantly their keeper would get it overall); he was excellent in the first half especially, took the knocks that came his way, and almost nicked it at the death.

Subs: McCormack (7/10 – he looked better for me tonight than against Barnet in the cup; worked hard enough and one decent shot); Reid (6/10 – probably his cross for the goal, livened things up initially when he came on); Sodje (6/10 – I don’t know whether to give him an 8 for the impact he had or a 4 for his finishing; he started the first game of the season, scored, and hasn’t started one since; is he suffering from lack of match practise?)


Anonymous said...

Re the Fry booking... Fry got booked for kicking the ball away, just as their player was getting it. With Elliot still getting back in position having come all the way out of his area to put the ball out, it was a blatant attempt at stopping them taking a quick throw and I had it down as a yellow card even before Fry had touched the ball when it was clear what he was about to do and why he was doing it. The fact that he also "fouled" their player didn't nothing to help his cause.

Just saying...

Anonymous said...

First time I have read one of your reports and must say it was spot on. You might just have tempted me away from Wyn's blog!!

sm said...

Cannot agree with you on Martin - sure the guy makes a tremendous effort and gets around and clearly has a high level of skill, but where is the end product? Count the number of times when he gives the ball away trying to do too much when a simple pass/cross goes begging. He should be leading the league in assists - and perhaps he should reflect that most of the goals he scores come from tap ins. Hasn't he heard that 60/70% of goals are scored with the first touch. Talented, but infuriating in the extreme I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

what sm said

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Anon(1), you're spot on with the Fry booking, I just hadn't seen it that way at the time. Anon(2), very kind, but I'm happy to crib off Wyn and continue to read his posts any day.

Sam, I don't necessarily disagree with you on Martin and there may be an element of wanting him to do well. But if we're going to play decent football it's down to Racon, Martin, Wagstaff and Reid: them getting on the same wavelength consistently and Parkinson making the right combinations. I think we've missed Anyinsah and Martin's been filling in; whether his best position is up front, out wide, or central midfield we still have to find out. At least as and when all are fit we should have the options to if not rotate at least to change from the bench.

My main worry is central midfield, if one or more of Racon, Semedo and McCormack are out. Maybe Jackson and Martin will need to be ready to fill in there.

Anonymous said...

Fits and starts vs. the Rovers.
We started very well esp Martin and then we drifted into oblivion. Lost the midfield and tried to play 'hoofball'. We became very stagnant. Again out muscled around the pitch. The Doc really worries me, I just don't rate his ball skills. Thought their goal was very clever (seems to be happening a lot at corners)
Whilst chasing the game the tempo was upped and the substitutions helped. Their keeper made three wonderful saves but how badly did Martin slice that shot in the 93rd minute. Our crossing was poor, albeit the Francis ball on Sodjes head. Martin has the skill but not the end product. He's too busy taking teh p*** out of the opposition.

Uttlesford Addick said...

Sodje's finishing was like my half-time pie buying. Having waited a long time for the chance, I couldn't make up my mind which one to have and someone nipped in front of me and took the last one.

Sciurus Carolinensis Nemesis said...

Anyone who witnessed the coin throwing incident in the north stand on Tuesday is honour bound to disclose all the details to the club immediately. The individual responsible must be brought to book and banned from all football forever. We cannot tolerate mindless thuggery for one second. If anyone knows anything and keeps it to themself they are as bad as the perpetrator. No excuses.

Anonymous said...

Benson scored at home v MK Dons

Blackheath Addicted said...

Latest Anon, you'd think someone doing this sort of thing (ie me) might get his facts straight. Don't know why I got it in my head he hadn't scored before at The Valley; guess it's just because there's plenty of room.

As for the coin-throwing, full endorsement of the sentiments. I hope that the club is able to unearth something on the CCTV, both to identify the person and perhaps to see if it was a deliberate attempt to throw a coin or a stupid prank. Either way I'd hope the person concerned has the guts to come forward and try to make reparations to the lady injured.