Okay you two. The pressure’s really on now.
As a team that’s so royally incapable of avoiding away defeat, three points in every home game is fast becoming a minimum requirement to keep us in touch.
So when you have two home games in quick succession, and you draw the first one in infuriating fashion (even if a lot of that was down to a dipstick ref), you’re obliged to make sure you win the second one.
The theory’s clear. It’s just a shame that we’re playing Birmingham City, fully equipped with their own super git in Marlene King. Yes, he may well get himself sent off as he’s that sort of fella, but truth is – he’s probably more likely to score some goals.
So what can we do to make sure we don’t let this happen? This week’s ramble will be just that – a mish-mash of my thoughts on the line-up from the other night; what went good and what went Nathan Cameron.
Firstly, we have the small matter of an increasingly disjointed defence to deal with.
One thing I am clear about is that Richard Keogh, whilst a bona fide Superman nowadays, is most useful in the middle of our defence, so I’d resist any of these calls to throw him to right back. He’ll go on those momentum building runs and have us swooning, but he’s at his relentless best when he’s focused on one thing; defending. Any move to the right will send his brain into a bit of frenzy, and the conflict of interests tends to result in daft mistakes and positioning as we saw from him last year. We can’t afford to break him.
The left-back situation is causing us nothing but grief, but I don’t think moving Cranie there and moving Clarke to his preferred right-hand side is a great solution. It didn’t seem to be particularly fluent on Tuesday. Cranie is more than capable in most defensive positions, but he hasn’t played it in a long time, and it showed (going forward, especially). Similarly, we’d just started to see Jordan Clarke gain some relative consistency at left-back, but moved him over to the right. I agree he handled the deceptively normal Wilfred Zaha well, but the chopping and changing can’t be good for getting him to settle down.
But my main concern lies with the re-introduction of Nathan Cameron. He started his City career in a marvellous fashion, but he’s becoming a worry. I’ve learned to live with the poor distribution, but the misdirected headers are a frequent feature of his game, and if he’s not falling the wrong side of his player, he’s causing chaos by bashing into his own teammates. No player should be a nuisance more than an asset, so he could do with having a jolly good look at himself. A lot of the attributes are there, so he, like Clarke, just needs to settle down.
Thorn (or Harrison, if my suspicions are correct) has some tricky decisions further forward too. Oliver Norwood is shaping up to be an astute loan, and is having increased influence on the team, so he keeps his place. Gary Deegan on the other hand, has us playing the guessing game with his topsy-turvy performances. He’s useful around the box, as he’s more than capable of finishing a chance, providing he doesn’t have too much time to think about it. But my concerns are that we have a Michael Doyle: mark II, scampering all over the pitch, flicking at people’s ankles, but having minimal impact on the ebb and flow of the midfield battle. Sammy may well be in line for a recall.
Gary McSheffrey should (if proper football logic is applied) be mighty pumped up for this game. If his performance against Leeds is anything to go by, you’d hope he’ll be just as keen to make his mark on the game.
This is McSheffrey, mind, so don’t put your house on it. Against Palace, he showed signs of annoyance towards the bench, the delayed approach in our game and Wilfried Zaha. I’ll be watching to see if he can direct that frustration in a positive fashion.
Finally, with Clive playing so many games, and Cody grabbing a goal from the bench the other night, don’t be surprised there’s a switch up front. If Platt’s up for it, I’d personally stick with the Clive/Alex duo from the start. Yes, it’s been a little off in the away games, but there’s no doubt they’ve forged a useful understand at the Ricoh, and in a game as high-tempo such as a local derby, it’s vital we start well. Cody’s still finding his feet in the team, and throwing him straight back in could be seen as a bit of a gamble.
Having said that – he looked sharp, so I won’t be moaning if we start off with a nippy twosome.
A tight affair if you ask me. 1 – 1.