Kids come in for criticism from Thorn, but core issues still unresolved. 

Saturday saw a disappointing conclusion to what was shaping up to be a positive result for the Sky Blues. You all know how things went by now; we took the lead, began to fall dangerously deep, Bigginho then got sent off, and we pretty much invited Burnley (ugly off the ball; slick on it) to have a right go until they got their winner. We relied heavily on Burnley to miss chances, rather than preventing the opportunities and retaining possession. Just a little bit of composure when we had the ball in the final ten minutes, and I’m sure things could have been different.

I wasn’t entirely pleased with Thorn’s post-match comments either, as all accuracy went out the window, and he took it upon himself to focus on the young guys in the team. Don’t get me wrong, I love a manager who’s not scared to give the players a good bashing. Tossing away another three points in the manner we did certainly warranted some strong words about the team. But the individual criticism of the three youngest members of our group didn’t sit comfortably with me, for a few reasons.

Okay, he was cross (good), but singling out the youngsters for mistakes they didn’t even make? That’s a bit cheap, Andy. It’s easy to hide behind the kids. If things go wrong, you can be sure the “we’ve got a team full of kids” catchphrase will find its way into the match analysis somewhere.

Demand high standards by all means. But when you have a go, it’s got to be for the right reasons. I assume this is either an attempt at psychology, or him just boiling over, but either way, I think he picked on the wrong things, and the wrong people. Especially as we’ve also a bunch of senior pros with chunky new contracts, many of whom are failing to contribute – and on a far grander scale than the kids.  

Thomas and Christie found themselves criticised for not stepping out quick enough, which led to Austin being onside for the Burnley winner. I’ve had a look, and Bell was the main culprit, still stood as the ball hit the net. Thomas especially didn’t seem to be anywhere near fault, yet found himself accused.

As well as the sending off, Thorn was quick to note that Biggy was also at fault for the equaliser, although I’d be far more concerned with the gaping hole in our defence, and Wallace drifting past Sammy Clingan straight into the middle of it. If he wants to give them a lesson, maybe he should start with one on how to see out games by keeping the ball. That’d be good. 

He was right about one thing – Biggy was daft for tackling in the manner that he did, and whether you agree or not – them’s the rules and a sending off was inevitable. The shape of the tackle was clearly enough to warrant red, but there was zero malice in it. You could see that from the soppy expression on his face after it’d happened. Either way, I agree he deserved some jip for that. 

But our style of play was starting to alter before the sending off, and even with ten men, there’s little excuse for the frequency with which we surrender possession as we try to hold onto points. It was Forest all over again, but this time we weren’t playing a team insanely low on confidence; we were playing a fast-paced side who appeared to thrive on the challenge. They didn’t have to press us too hard – they knew they’d get the ball back immediately if ever they gave it away.

On a side note, it should be noted that they were also a bunch of sneaky so-n-so’s who prospered from a referee not stamping down on their naughty tricks earlier. Jay Rodriguez in particular was a right swine with late tackles.

I understand why Thorn was annoyed afterwards, but we have to learn how to soak up pressure and hold possession in tight areas better than we do currently. That was the main issue for me, and that should come from training, tactics and their general influence from the sidelines. Clearly going down to ten doesn’t help, but in the closing moments of games when we’re holding on, we play the same way with eleven on the pitch as we do with ten.

There’s enough experience in the team and they too should be influencing the way these young players play, not blaming them when their smash-it-anywhere approach goes tits up. Which it will do most of the time. It’s seen as a low risk strategy, but (in the mind of this fan, anyway) there’s far more risk involved in simply returning the ball to the opposition each time you get it, than attempting to frustrate them with some periods of possession. It’s not asking too much – we see plenty of teams do the same to us. Even keeping the ball for 5 passes could be enough to plant the seed of doubt in the opposition’s mind. Teams get tetchy when they’re chasing the game – you’ve got to do all you can to make it hard for them and make them feel rushed. Tamely returning possession to them every time they mess up is only going to offer encouragement. I wonder when we’ll start to realise that.

 

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