It’s annoying to lose, yes. But we didn’t really lose the match. And it wasn’t in the league. So I think we can probably all accept a defeat in the opening round of the League Cup this time around.
As nice as a run always is for confidence, ultimately this cup doesn’t matter as much as everything else this season so you can soothe yourself with the idea that this may well have very little bearing on our quest for league success. And once again, the fact that we only lost on pens should be enough to keep everyone calm.
It’s also worth noting that this simply wasn’t the same team that played so well the other day; they were always going to perform in a different manner. After what was a fairly shaky opening 20 minutes that had a few fans wondering if they’d jumped the gun a little with such excitement following the Wigan match, the team started to settle themselves and ended up putting in a decent showing against what everyone can agree is a well-drilled Rochdale team.
The determination to see the game through till the finish was also another pleasing factor, as the lads grabbed their equaliser just six minutes from the end.
Maddison once again proved the value he can offer when coming off the bench, and it’s great to know that we have that option available to us. We all realise that he’s a smashing little player, but that doesn’t mean we will always get the best out of him by throwing him into the starting line-up every single week. The concern he can present tired defenders is invaluable too, and tactically that could actually offer even more benefits during some games.
It’s also a shame that young Lameiras had to be the one to miss the penalty. He has to know that nobody really gives a toss about this because of how we went out. It’s penalties, it’s not an absolute test of your abilities. It happens, and we’ll ignore it because there’s nothing useful to be gained from dwelling on something that’s so unrelated to what’s actually going to matter this season – the application the team shows during the standard 90 minutes.
Grabbing all the positives we can from this – and I’m fairly sure that’s what we have to do in this situation – Millwall also had a hefty 120 minute workout and ballsed it up too. So they’ll be feeling just as miffed about the wasted energy as we are, albeit with slightly less travel to worry about between now and the weekend. It does at least nullify that excuse from our minds and should keep us focused on the task at hand.
It’s not worth delving too heavily into how we lost a game on penalties. It was a typical early season game that proved very hard to predict the overall outcome, but one thing we could anticipate (with all the changes Mowbray made to the side that blazed Wigan on Saturday) – it was never going to have the same feel or dynamic as the weekend.
So it was a different type of performance, but what we did manage to do however is turn a bad display around. That’s always a strong experience to call upon when you’re a player.
Marcus Tudgay has also got off the mark very early, which given how things went for him last season is a crucial step for him to start establishing himself as a meaningful striking option for us.
There’s also a note for young Reice Charles-Cook who made his debut in goal. It would have been pretty sweet if he’d managed to pull a save out of the bag in the shootout, not only for us, but also to help inflate that ego even more. Ego is absolutely fine in a young kid. He needs to believe he’s good, and you get the feeling he’s perfectly comfortable in his abilty. But from a practical perspective he really just needed some game time because realistically there’s a good chance he’ll be launched back into action at some point this season, and I’d much prefer him getting his first taste of things in a low-key game like this than a high-pressure situation at the Ricoh. This game will have been a great experience for him, and with a few nifty saves in the bag too, he’ll be all-kinds-of hyped for days to come.
So, in conclusion. Wins are still preferred outcome, but coming from behind with a young and developing team, then only losing on a technicality – I think we can all cope with that this time around.
We can continue to gauge things in better detail on Saturday as our first choice line-up and strategy is reintroduced.