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Really nice ground, the Keepmoat. Quite possibly the least intimidating place in the league, mind. But still that away win eludes us.

I’ve read quite a few match reports since, and they all make out that Sammy’s first goal was against the run of play. Not sure I concur, and I especially don’t agree that Rovers were unfortunate to be trailing at half-time. Let’s be fair, we were far from great, with each pass a huge effort and many going astray. But as far as away performances go, Donny were there for the taking I thought, and we should have taken advantage. Especially having gone ahead through a Clingan blockbuster. He’d clearly taken the advice of the chap shouting at him as he got of the bus. If you are this fan – well done…

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We couldn’t take advantage though. A few too many players once again either anonymous or just down-right ruddy useless. McSheffrey returned to the starting line-up (allegedly), and treated us to yet another one of his silent days. Young Cyrus was moved over to left-back in the first half as Hussey went off injured, and looked really quite uncomfortable there. He’s still a strapping athlete, but his basic technique is lacking at the minute, which was further exaggerated on quite a few occasions when he was unable to function on his left side. I won’t crucify the lad for it, he’ll come again, I’m sure. Carl Baker also returned to the teamsheet and proved once more why he really shouldn’t be there.

A shining light in the second half was Cody McDonald. He rarely contributed in the opening forty-five, and his lack of input wasn’t going unnoticed. He really picked up in the second period however and gave us a genuine threat on the break, which was needed as Lukas was having an uncharacteristically quiet game. He’s been the most influential player so far this term, so I think we can afford him that.

What we’re beginning to see more of from Cody is his ability when running with the ball, and how he’s happy to carry the ball, under control, over long distances. Juke often tries, but he’s rarely fully in control; Baker has the sticky-feet but lacks the strength to do this under-pressure, and fullbacks Hussey and Christie are more about the knocking it and running, which is always a hit and miss tactic, unless you’re Laurent Delorge. McDonald’s adeptness at running with the ball at speed was well demonstrated on Saturday and he was unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet as he glided speedily past the Doncaster defence on one particularly noticeable occasion in the second half.

Long short game

Another noteworthy way in which I felt we made things difficult for ourselves was the length of pass we found ourselves regularly playing.

Now, the passing game is entirely honourable, and I fully support the preference to keep the ball by passing the ball backwards, than hoof it forwards and lose it. There was a period of possession against Donny which lasted around a minute; this has been completely unheard of over the past couple of seasons. The issue I’m starting to notice is how hard we seem to find even that uneventful possession along the backline. In its purest form, the passing style of teams like Man Utd, Barcelona, and especially that great Liverpool Spice Boys team of 1995/96, employs the ‘pass and move’ philosophy. There’s very little of that from our players, and the Doncaster team didn’t have to work particurlarly hard in pressing us, as our passes were all 20-plus yards long and side to side, meaning they could watch from afar as we dilly-dallied across the back line.

There was no short interplay, and this appears to have its roots in a general unwillingness of our players to move into space once they release the ball, or to offer themselves in positions if their control may come under scrutiny. There’s a lot of hiding, and even more panic in tight situations. This usually results in a pass backwards, even when a pass forward is available. There’s still plenty of work to be done on the training ground to make Thorn’s supposedly preferred style feel a bit more natural for the players. Doesn’t come across particularly controlled from the stand I’m afraid, which is why the style changes whenever we’re trying to hold on to games. The confidence just isn’t there to control and see out victories right now, and that was seen on Saturday as we failed to enforce any sort of dominance and kick on once we’d taken the lead.

We’re left with an absolute git of a game Tuesday night now, with a win against Millwall away seeming far less likely than a win against Doncaster should have been. Annoyingly, we’ve fallen back into the relegation places, so we could really do with the three points. The injuries keep coming, with left-back being the latest concern, meaning we’ve got to work mighty hard to get something from that. 

Nevermind. At least my blurry self got on tele again. Mother will be proud.

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4 comments

  1. I didn’t see this game (just listened to Clive and Geoff on the radio) but I totally agree about City’s passing style.Sometimes it’s as if the players are too scared to move from their set positions to come and get the ball or try and find space. That’s why Bigirimana is such a breath of fresh air. He actually wants the ball. So is he the only person in our squad with good enough technique to play this passing game? I don’t think so. Bell, Clingan, and even Baker should all be capable. But they can all go for long spells in games (it’s rarer for Clingan) where they don’t appear to want the ball, and that’s when our defenders come under pressure.

  2. Ben, Ian – thanks for the comments. Not entirely sure why they’re not showing up at the minute. Will poke around and see what’s wrong.

  3. ..and there they are. Marvellous. Ian – agree with what you say about Biggy. I was saying on Saturday about how the difference with him and most of our players is that the first touch and general ball control comes naturally for him, so he can worry more about having a look around and playing the right pass. Hard to believe that’s a rarity in our Championship team, but it’s true. A lot of the other guys don’t have that luxury and often have to put in a real effort just to bring the ball under their spell, meaning the opportunity for a quick pass evades them. At which point, they’ll scramble it backwards and we’ll be forced to start again. Anxiety or lack of confidence, or a more fundamental issue with the quality of our players?

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