It’s been difficult to take in the events of the last few days, and how the tide has turned so quickly. I’ve been looking back over the ramble before the Peterborough game, and quite frankly, I feel a bit of a tit. How dare I be so confident.
Not only has the football side flipped over the course of one weekend, but there’s yet more financial bother involving the club and stadium, and I’m seeing negative things like ‘default’, ‘arrears’ and ‘Sisu are useless’ being talked of, all over again. You can’t help but feel obligated to try and understand it – I mean it’s the future of our club we’re talking about – but a large part of me really resents what is expected of a football fan in the modern game. I preferred it when I could watch the matches, safe in the knowledge that the people in charge knew basically what they were doing, and you could leave them to it. I’m a fan of Coventry City Football Club, with Football being the key word.
But we’re going to ignore all that for the moment and look back at our disappointing weekend.
As we entered the Easter fixtures, we had it all in our hands; supposedly favourable fixtures to play and the momentum to see us through to the finishing line. Two matches in a three days is always tricky given the travel and proximity of the games involved – but it’s like that for every team – a win in one of those was imperative in our fight for safety. Naively, I hadn’t really acknowledged how we’d find ourselves if things didn’t go to plan. I was that confident.
We couldn’t manage the win we were after though, and things are once again out of our hands. There are only four games left, and having fallen four points behind again, we’re on the brink. It’s not only a matter of us desperately trying to win games now, but a solitary win here or there for Bristol will probably kill us off.
Fair – Who cares?
Clearly the disappointment of Easter Monday is fresher in our minds and I could rage on for hours with reasons why we were so poor and how we could have fixed it, but let’s journey back to Saturday’s draw first.
Funnily enough, a point against Peterborough wasn’t as disheartening as I thought it would be. It was generally a decent game. While that’s not something we’re even remotely bothered about at this stage in the season, we still looked capable of winning it. We came back from behind to lead, and had the opportunities to further cement that advantage.
But you have to say that Peterborough were far better than many of us gave them credit for prior to the match. Paul Taylor was a class above the others on the pitch. It was frustrating not to force home the lead and take the win, but they were a deceptively good team, and the result at least seemed fair. Not what we wanted, but fair.
What followed for the rest of the Easter break showed that “fair” is not something we can rely on any more. Fair would have been Forest showing the same clinical nature they have done recently and beating Bristol City, having battered them for 90 minutes. Fair would have been our players showing up to Ashton Gate on Monday, seeing as it was one of the most defining games since Villa Park in 2001.
Neither of those things happened. In the space of 72 hours we’ve gone from favourites for survival, to favourites to fall. It’s a little hard to take, so forgive the moodiness. I was so confident we’d broken the back of the naffness and were showing signs of genuine resilience. I could see no reason why we couldn’t push on and complete the job. Of course, it’s not quite over, and all it takes is a win at Burnley on Saturday to offer plausible hope again. But timing’s so critical now. Plus we’re relying on a minimum of 3 wins out of 4 to give that hope, and for Bristol to return to their regular form. Any slip up, and to League One we go.
Tired, my foot
Bristol was a shambles. We looked sloppy, fragile and second to react and anticipate all afternoon. The rain made it hard work for both teams, but typically, we coped a whole lot worse that they did.
Thorn foolishly put the entire performance down to tiredness. I really can’t have that.
Word of advice, Andrew; saying the players are tired rarely cuts it at the best of times, but it’s a little hard to take when the players have had just 3 matches in 14 days. They had plenty of rest before this weekend – we can’t accept that the reason they were so bad is because they’re knackered. Why are they knackered? Why are they less fitter than Bristol? It was the biggest game of our season and one we could not afford to lose, but we did, and the only explanation you’re giving us is “tiredness”?
You should know how much of a kick in the teeth that is to the thousands of fans who have travelled, stood in the rain and watched this group of players fail in the very same way that we have done in every other season since we were relegated. We’re tired too. Tired of being let down. Tired of having our hopes built up. Tired of watching the team fail to make the leap when it really means something.
We turn up for you, and we don’t want to be negative for the sake of it. We need to understand what you’re thinking; give us insight – don’t give us “tired”.
Regardless of how “tired” we were, we still managed to take the lead through Stead’s extravagant own goal. We refused outright to push on from this – the change to 4-4-2 at half time did nothing but disrupt the natural creativity of Norwood and Clingan, and left a huge gap between midfield and our ineffective attack. Bristol didn’t win the game; we handed it to them on a slippy, shambolic plate.
We shouldn’t concede the goals we do. Each was shoddy in its own way, but they all came about through a lack of conviction in what we were doing. We’ve got a goalkeeper who is planted to his line for the 90 minutes – is it any wonder we’re so fragile from corners? I don’t want to get on at Murphy because he’s picked up of late, but you only have to compare our set up for attacking and defending corners to notice where the problems are coming from.
Our attacking corners are either plucked by the ‘keeper if they land in the 6 yard box or go too deep for anyone to get on to. When defending the very same style of corners that drop in the middle of our own 6 yard box, we can’t rely on Murphy to collect it, thus allowing someone from the opposition to attack it instead. Peterborough’s second goal came about through this – it bounced right in the middle of 6 yard box which we should be dealing with as a matter of routine – and there were countless corners which caused us similar grief against Bristol. It seems like a very specific point to raise when so much went wrong, but it’s a weekly occurance. Okay, we were spoilt with Keiren Westwood taking everything whether it was his right to do so or not – but we need Murphy to help us out and start asserting himself at set pieces more.
It’s been widely acknowledged that there were few decent or even acceptable performances, but it’s getting a little too easy for people to throw about the phrase “Sammy Clingan is a disgrace to the shirt”. I acknowledge that he went through a rough patch for the first couple of months of this year, but he has returned to form lately, and he certainly was not the worst player on the pitch on Monday. His options for distribution were limited, and there were mistakes. But one thing he was doing was asking for the ball at every opportunity (something that many of our players are guilty of avoiding). There was far too much hiding in the tricky conditions at Ashton Gate, but Clingan was not one of them.
All in all, Monday was horrible for all involved. The weather, the surrender of the result, the realisation that we’d blown a huge opportunity, and of course those nasty seats at Ashton Gate which you keep forgetting have no backs to them.
As is usually the case, there was also a member of the opposition fraternity doing something to render me cross. Did anyone else see the smarmy little ball boy who kept pouncing along the goal-line front of us, giving it the old number fingers, annoying swagger and general smugness? Yes, he may have been 12 years old, but it wasn’t the clever thing to do. Luckily for him, the front row was quite a docile group so didn’t take too much notice of him, but I’d suggest the Head of Ballboy behaviour at Bristol have a word with the little scamp – one of these days he’s going to wind up the wrong person and end up with a hotdog to the head.
I think I’ll stop there – there’s been plenty written by fans online about the disappointment, I don’t think I can add much more to what has been said in those. I’m off to have a little weep and wonder what the world would be like today if we’d actually signed that little El Idrissi fella.
Here’s a selection of articles about the weekend: