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Great Performance: Shame about the Result

As my wife was poorly and tucked up in bed in the evening, reading a romcom novel, hankie in hand (rather, two: one for her nose and one for her eyes), I was able to view the MC match three times yesterday.


I would also have used the recording as a reference point for my report today, had I not accidentally deleted it last night, the blunder caused by my inability to understand the instructions set out in the manual that accompanied my new Sky+ box (bought to avoid marital discord over Saturday evening TV) .


Repeated viewings, however, only increased my confusion. Was it another tale of plucky but inevitable defeat, a closely fought battle amongst equals or a missed opportunity? So, to clear my head of conflicting thoughts (and Gales HSB) I set off on my bike this morning. I was well on the way to rationalising the defeat, for reasons I will set out below, but at that moment I passed Chelsea`s training ground and changed my opinion. If we could beat Chelsea, why not Manchester City?


And we could have done. We outplayed them for most of the first half, began strongly after the break and ended the game piling on the pressure. My abiding impression of the match is of a City team desperately hanging on and the home crowd biting down their collective finger-nails to the quick. Yet we lost. We lost because we switched off for twenty minutes, during which time MC scored three goals. We also lost because this time Tevez played and he made the difference. His first goal, reminiscent of Maradona`s strike against England in the 1986 World Cup, was a brilliant solo effort, but benefited from sloppy defending. We gave him a free header for his second goal too!


This match exemplified the paradox of our season. We could have - should have - won the match by half-time, having squandering several gilt-edged chances. Jarvis was particularly at fault, on 19 minutes shooting at a defender after good approach work from Hunt and Fletcher. Even so, had we gone into the break in front, we might have been facing a jittery MC team in the second half, and a crowd rapidly getting restive. Given all our pressure, was it only my pessimism that told me this was not going to happen? Clearly not!

So, a revitalised, buoyed-up City came out and turned the game round, aided by Tevez`s wonder goal on 49 minutes. In short, our opponents took their chances, whereas we didn`t. After the fourth goal went in, I thought we might lose by a cricket score. And we might have done if Lescott had not kindly gifted us a penalty. I reckon we should bid for him: he evidently wants to help us survive in the PL!


From one point of view, therefore, it was the same old story: playing well but losing because of sloppy defending (watching the replays I thought that all four goals were avoidable) and a failure to kill the game off. We did score three goals but preferably they should have gone in before the opposition had notched up four. And the penalty, which ignited our revival, was an extremely soft one.


However, it would be churlish to write off the team`s performance as merely more of the same. We outplayed one of the best teams in the land for much of the game and we stuck to the task in spite of the hopelessness of our position. Indeed, we might have earned a draw had Mujangi Bia`s shot not been deflected wide. Moreover, this was not the bickering, half-hearted MC that had semi-turned up at Molineux but a confident, classy outfit playing at the top of their game, with the bonus of Tevez and Dzeko up-front.


For once, then, I can find solace in a plucky defeat. We have definitely upped our game, especially against the top sides (so, why not against the Wigans and WHUs?). We are genuinely capable of taking points off any team in the league, but we have to operate at this intensity in every match, focus for the entire 90+ minutes and put away our chances when they come along. We may not beat them but the prospect of facing MU and Arsenal next month does not fill me with the same degree of foreboding as it used to do. As for Liverpool, Bolton and Blackpool: bring them on!


Among the positives to take out of the game was the blossoming of the partnership between Doyle and Fletcher up-front. Doyle, as ever, looked sharp, but Fletcher also produced some delightful touches. I liked the look of Mujangi Bia, too: does anyone else feel that he has been shamefully under-used? He`s quick, elusive, passes well and possesses a good shot, which he is not unafraid to unleash. His well-flighted corner (much better than Jarvis`s efforts) led to Zubar`s goal. I am confident that we will improve our scoring rate in the remaining games.


As for the defence, an assessment of their overall performance has to take into account the number of goals we leaked. Both Berra and Stearman performed competently but self-evidently made errors. Apart from the four scored, one mistake by Berra almost cost us another goal. At least, it showed that Hennessey was up to the job. Ward made several crucial tackles but still backed off too much, a weakness that continues to prove costly (but he is not alone in this shortcoming). In Zubar, we might have found the answer to our left back problem. He was immense in attack and defence, and his goals are going to come in handy too.


In midfield we need Henry there to strengthen our defence. Had he been on the pitch earlier, we would have conceded fewer goals. Milijas impressed once again (and why doesn`t he take all the corners and free kicks?), though he crucially misjudged the weight of a cross in the dying minutes that could have produced a goal. Jones, on the other hand, remained largely anonymous ... sell him soon for what we can get.


When I straightened up after cleaning my bike at the end of the ride, my second thought (my first thought was, 'Ow, My poor back!`) was one of disappointment. It was not the equaliser that annoyed me (I expected it, even if, when it came, it was preventable) but rather the manner in which we fell apart in a twenty minute period in the second half. Our fight-back was gutsy and commendable but we should not have put ourselves in that position. How soon will Craddock be back?




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The Journalist

Writer: southbank60 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday January 16 2011

Time: 3:44PM

Your Comments

Sorry for the delayed response Banksy to a cracking article. Despite defeat I was rubbing my hands ready to write a match report but having read this it proved a redundant thought considering you practically hit every nail squarely on the head. Nice work. There are a few stand out reasons that we lost the game. I think City were surprised when they saw us line up 4 4 2. Judging by the way they started the game, as (almost) the entirety of the first half shall we say, they did not appear to have prepared to come up against that and looked clueless with as how to deal with us. From very early on we were making them look ridiculous at times, especially down the left, and yes, the work sometimes from Fletcher, Doyle and Jarvis was excellent stuff. Despite bounced around the living room and ending up by the front door following the Milijias goal, I was actually expecting it. We continued to press with equal (I won't use the word urgency) ..... application; our passing was measured and accurate, our build up play not slow but certainly not quick as in rushed, we simply continued to press them in all the right areas and pegged them back. Following further brilliant work on the left, a sublime back heel feeding Fletcher, I wondered where he had sent it until the camera caught up and we saw Jarvis rushing in- I was already hovering in mid air, half way towards the door when his shot flew with some pace towards goal only to hold my head in disbelief when Barry got across to deflect it. It was tremendous defending, I have to look at it as if it was one of our defenders and we would have been immensely proud, but ultimately he should have buried it, and 9 times out of 10 he has and will. There had already been not just grumbling but boos from the home crowd at this early stage, and if that had proven a goal I truly believe with City in disarray we might have been allowed to wonder exactly how many we could put past them. How games turn of course, and as you said, when they scored their 4th I text my cousin back home and said it was now a matter of 'how many' and already squirming at the thought of neutrals picking up the paper and nodding away seeing 6, 7, maybe more City goals against those relegation bound Wolves. Thankfully, the game proved a highlight on Match of The Day and the reports after the game proved in the most part spot on. Whilst many inevitably questioned City's title aspirations, as they should, their words for us and our performance were matched equally I would say. For the most part, I thought Stearman and Berra were fantastic and as our central two they didn't deserve mentioning alongside our 4 against column. Berra did drop an almighty clanger in the second half but number one, for some reason he has come in for unfair criticism this season when he has been especially consistent since joining us, was a key figure in both our promotion and survival and has been in the main very good this season. We can allow him his error- Stearman has made a lot more but I stand by my assertion that he has the potential to become an excellent player. He has represented England at every level up to an including the under 21's, has a lot of games under his belt, at Premiership level, as well as a Championship winner and those who for some reason call for his departure from the club might also want to have a think about his versatility, especially when it looks like we may end up using Zubar at left back and we have Kevin Foley injured. There are gaps to be filled and I am happy he is a Wolves player. After his exile following the sending off against Liverpool, I wrote an article 'Tears For Fears' thinking he had made one mistake too many for Mick's liking and that we wouldn't see him playing again, but he has stuck to it and reaped the reward because he's pushing week in week out for a place. His attitude has proven that of the squad which is something that was mentioned in a debate on a small, local newspaper site. Continued due to word restriction......
New York City Wolf
This must be saved for another article because it contains too much to detail here, but there were two opposing sides responding to West Hams 1/ history of spending over inflated wages, 2/ their plan to eradicate this, 3/ Gold & Sullivan playing that game where things pop up and you try to hit them with a mallet (we shall refer to this as the panic button) 4/ their embarrassing attempt to replace their manage (the leak has upset the replacement who probably wont join them for said reason/the continuing saga, thankfully for us, continues to unhinge their season 5/ they have subsequently resorted directly to Plan A- throwing money at it they can't afford. The other side of the argument was that Wolves are continuing to plan for the future, which they will not risk by throwing silly fees or wages around for the sake of survival. Now, many season ticket holders are up in arms already threatening to give up their season tickets in the event of relegation- and I sympathize. If I was there I would have a season ticket. These people are invested large sums of money in the club, and I think they are within their rights to feel aggrieved when the likes of West Ham, Birmingham and Villa are throwing around all sorts of money (could really end in disaster for them- what if Bent breaks his leg in his first match?). They generally argue that a signings of true proven quality, as in Bridge and Lescott, would have cost us for both, maybe 3-4 million, perhaps a bit more, but if survival is worth another 30 million in television rights alone is this not a small price to pay. Does this not enact the philosophy, spend to accumulate. If we have god knows how much in reserves to practically rebuild the stadium then 4 million is a drop in the ocean. Relegation, the disbandment of the squad that has been built over more than 4 years, the loss in revenue, attendances, marketing, its a frightening thought. Would I be happy if I picked up the paper tomorrow and saw we had spent 10 million on one player? Not necessarily- as mentioned above, one tackle could effectively ruin the rest of your season and kiss a good chunk of that money goodbye. Would Fulham be in this position now if Zamora had not have broken his leg? I don't think they would, but in a relegation battle they are. Well, I have clearly veered completely off topic, but I think this was spurned but points ultimately lost on Saturday. You are right in that a 20 minute spell decided this game- if we had some proven quality at the back, that tackle that was missing, the positioning, and so on.... one of more of those goals could have been easily avoided. I think we have some tremendous talent at the club in the likes of, but to name a few Doyle, Jarvis, Milijias, Fletcher, Hunt- and there are five right there that don't deserve to be playing in the Championship and won't be if we are relegated. Doyle was loyal to Reading and gave it another season to see if they could get back up- he kept to his word, they couldn't and they thanked him, and wished him well when he left. He is not going to spend another year of his career in outside the Premiership. He wants to be part of the club, he has spoken about the whole building process and of a potentially very exciting future for the club but there have been times when the frustration is evident which is understandable. I am glad we finally have our strike force of choice playing together, they have already shown great promise and know we finally look like we can play 4 4 2 after all I really can't wait for Liverpool to roll into town on Saturday because after the Doncaster game, namely these players, amongst the others getting on the sheet, confidence must be soaring. 8 goals in 2 games, who'd have thought it. I see more on Saturday and I think with the momentum we are carrying which has slowly but surely been built on the big wins against the City, Chelsea, Liverpool, the performance at City on Saturday- we are showing consistency in performance, we look great going forward and finally we are finding the back of the net. Roll on Saturday. The kettle will be whistling at 6.30 am.
New York City Wolf
Thanks for the comments, rather mega-articles. You should have used them as such, because you provide so much more perceptive detail than my broad brush approach.
Southbank60
Not at all sir. Ill post it up if you reckon its worth it (unless I detect sarcasm in the ranks!) As I said at the start of my comment your report hit all the nails, I just went off on a tangent again.
New York City Wolf
The trouble is that once the tide of reports flows on, old ones are forgotten. It's sad really, given how much effort one puts into writing them ... and you actually do research and communicate with people for opinions and information.
Southbank60
 

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