It’s official (it’s not), we are the most inconsistent team in the history of kicktheball. I’d argue this also makes us the most impossible-to-support team as well, although I best note, this is purely an observation – I’m not moaning about winning, or naffink.
Driving up to the Ricoh, I realised that I literally had no idea how things were going to go during the match. We have so many frames of reference this season already, it really does make predicting a result (or anticipating a performance) more difficult than, well, anything.
This is not including, I might add, Michel Salgado’s unenviable task of trying to understand a single bleeding word Gordon Strachan said in the Sky Sports studio the other night. (Sky Sports Champions League coverage, if you missed it.) But that’s just a side point.
So, to the match. Once again Coleman’s selection surprised me initially. Given how shocking most of the players finished the match on Saturday, he defied all logic and stuck with them again. This is why he is the manager, he is paid to make these decisions, and get them right. And by all accounts he got it right on Wednesday. Right much.
Nobody’s saying it was a fantastic performance. We haven’t really seen a fantastic performance since one of the Blackburn games last season. But what Coleman did was deliver a solid execution of “horses for courses” management. He identified the threat of Sheffield Utd’s strength, and instead of playing into their hands by trying to avoid it, he met it head on with a lot of success.
Changing the formation to a 4-5-1 not only allowed us to compete in the middle of the park (which has been our downfall for many a year), it also allowed McIndoe to stay wide for once, and Leon Best to battle it out with Chris Morgan.
Unbelievably, all three elements paid off. I don’t think the changes alone were the key to the success however. As obvious as it sounds, the players were actually up for the game on Wednesday and it made a real difference. They put in genuine effort. It wasn’t quite that blood, sweat and tears kind we hear so much about, but it wasn’t far off.
The 3 midfielders worked tirelessly. Not always producing moments of quality, but every time they did fanny it up, they worked hard and won the ball back. Clingan again had a mixed game in terms of his passing, but his positional sense was right on the money. He was where we wanted him to be, pretty much every time we needed him.
Ozzy was very similar, some of his passing was atrocious, and his attacking mentality currently stands at about 2% (and that’s usually when he stumbles that way). But he ran and ran.
And let’s face it, the man’s a beast. So if he puts himself about, it’s going to be beneficial.
Jack Cork gave another enigmatic display too. I still don’t know what to make of him. He is a very leggy player, and won so many balls purely on the being-a-git factor alone. But he had the scared look about him a lot of the time too. Once he got a feel of the ball however, he grew into the game. He reminds me in many ways of Henderson – he gives us those legs to go from box-to-box in no time at all.
McIndoe was quiet again, sure. But the 5 in midfield gave us some shape, and allowed us to cause them problems when we did break. His assist for Morrison was lucky, but it showed the importance of making sure you actually get the ball into the area. Too often we see crosses ballooned over the bar or hit too strong. He got the ball in, and we got a goal from it.
The resounding success of the night was playing Leon Best up front by himself though. I don’t think this is something we can do every game, (my reference to horses for courses earlier) but he gave Morgan a torrid time.
The important thing was that he didn’t make it easy for him. You see it all too often with Chris Morgan, players backing out of tackles, not prepared to get physical. Those are his strengths admittedly, but Leon Best is a strong chap too, and he forced him into mistakes and made him work for everything. It reminded me of the Chelsea game last year actually, with Best giving John Terry what-for quite a few times. He’s starting to believe in himself now, and if he puts in the same level of effort consistently, he’s going to be a vital player for us.
His goal was a lot niftier than it was made out to be too. I’d advise you to have a look.
All in all, everything went to plan, and 4 points from the last 2 home games is something I would have taken a week ago. But what confuses me more than anything is how Sheffield Utd are described as high-flying by everyone, while we have been flaming awful for half the games so far…
and yet we’re now only 1 point behind them.
The Championship is a very strange league.