While we work towards bringing the Nii Lamptey Show back online, Knowler provides his thoughts on what has caused our disappointing recent decline, and what steps can be taken to resurrect the season.
Due to participation in the Nii Lamptey Show podcast, my need to actually write anything down has dissipated. I have that avenue as a way to “vent” and I enjoy it. However, due to technical issues we haven’t been able to pod for a couple of weeks, since before the Walsall game.
Now, since the Walsall game the wheels have come off the Automatics bus and the back-up coach of Play-offs is also in the need of a push start. Things aren’t going well at the moment, and yet, to complain about it is to be seen as a moaner. Do I moan? Well yes I do. Do I enjoy it? Not as much as I enjoyed being top of the bloody table – now that was something to enjoy. Two wins in thirteen games isn’t, and has never been, enjoyable. In fact, its crap.
The reasons why we have stopped winning are numerous. Since we went top, Big Ben Turner has been injured; Ryan Kent has returned to Liverpool; and we have brought in lots of new players making it a ‘debut’ for someone nearly every sodding game at the moment. That added to Tinkerbray changing the starting line up like the average person changes underwear. This can’t help the side and it feels like every starting XI is on a one game mission to win that game. If they don’t then it’s all change for the next match.
I’m not denying that some players probably deserve to face a stint on the sidelines, but others must be questioning what they are doing at the club. Ruben Lameiras was Man of the Match on TV against Sheff Utd; the following game he was dropped and within a month he’d been replaced in the starting line-up by a guy who watched the Sheff Utd game on repeat on the Monday afternoon in his pants eating Cheerios as the majority of other clubs thought he had retired. I’m also not going to defend Phillips for his role in the Burton defeat, but he isn’t the only one who has cost us goals this season and yet he was the most publicly punished and I doubt he will be here again next season. On the other hand, Ricketts’ performances have been dropping away like a balloon with the worst slowest puncture. It’s there but it’s not until you see it months apart you realise how stark the shrinkage is.
Other players seem to have lost Mowbray’s confidence and none more than Jim O’Brien who people tell me isn’t defensively disciplined enough. Fair comment- he can be a little rogue – but we play in a system where four players attack and six defend, surely you can have someone on the pitch who is trying to create chances at the cost of defensively rigidity?
That is not to take anything away from the other clubs in League One, who have now realised that giving Murphy and Armstrong masses of space isn’t a bright idea. In fact it’s stupid. Armstrong has only scored five in his last eleven games; two of those were pens and two of the remaining three were against a shit Crewe side. That would be fine if others were picking up the slack but the third highest scorer is Romain Vincelot who got the last of his three goals on the last day of October. Since we beat Gillingham to go top we have only scored two or more in two games and one of those was against Crewe (who are shit). In fact Murphy’s goal against Port Vale was our first in open play since we beat Port Vale at home on Boxing Day (excluding Crewe… who were shit).
The way forward from here is a little more difficult. The gap between us and the chasing pack has slowly been nibbled away to the point now that if Millwall and Southend win their games in hand we will drop out of the play-offs, and they aren’t the only teams smelling blood. Barnsley, who were bottom and 21 points beneath us when we sat top of the table on 28 November are now 10th and only seven points behind, with a game in hand.
What about returning to the side which destroyed Gillingham to go top? Ben Turner, Aaron Martin and Ryan Kent may be missing from the starting line up, but the other eight remain. We could play two of the new centre backs and swap Maddison for Kent and see if that works. Or we could persist with the new 4141 we played at Vale Park. But at home will teams like Bury and Fleetwood really try to attack us and leave themselves exposed at the back? I’m not so sure that counter-attacking play will work against teams who will sit for a point.
Maybe we should try Henderson and Arma up top and go “old skool”. Okay, maybe not. A couple of clean sheets wouldn’t go amiss and sneaking some one-nil victories may keep the chasing pack at bay. But one thing is for sure, this dip has lasted 13 games now and it’s going to wreck a season which looked at one point as being the best in living memory.
Mowbray has impressed me less than he has impressed others. That doesn’t mean I want him fired, but a run like the one we are suffering isn’t good enough when you have shit players in the side (as Pressley found out), let alone a team which includes Joe fucking Cole.
This is it now – it would appear that most of the Sky Blue Army agree that we have a side good enough to get in to the play offs. Some might claim that we should be top two and hopefully out of this depressing League.
Either way, let’s get back to basics and make the next 16 games count, because next season we will have a whole new squad again and it might not be as good as this one.