The Great Escape
Well, how on earth did we manage to salvage a point from this game? Outplayed for most of the match, we scored twice in a couple of minutes and might have won had Milijas headed across the goal-mouth to JOH rather than trying to loop the goalie.
At least we have stopped the run of defeats and that is something to be grateful for. Unfortunately, I only watched the match on the box. If I failed to attend the NU match because my wife was poorly in a Wolverhampton hotel the night before, I could not travel to the Swansea game because I was suffering from a heavy cold.
It wouldn`t have mattered but, as I have a major operation in two weeks` time, I have to be fit. The hospital advised me not to go and, more to the point, my wife insisted ... and hid the car keys. At least, I don`t have to accompany her to look for those bloody climbing hydrangeas this weekend.
At first, I thought the infection was a reaction to all the beer I had drunk watching the rugby world cup. I am allergic to alcohol: if I drink too much, I get a headache, feel sick and fall over. In truth, I either caught it from the flu jab or from the barking fellow rugby-viewer with the projectile sneeze.
I go into hospital, the day after the Wigan match, which I will not be able to attend either since my older daughter is coming down from Glasgow to visit us. She clearly has less faith in the surgeon than I have! By then, we will have gained a clear idea of the shape of our season.
We luckily won a point today but it might be the boost we need to 'kick-start` our season again ... but only if we learn from the mistakes of the first 80 minutes. A good showing against MC in the Carling Cup on Wednesday, in which we have an opportunity to assess the form of our fringe players and youngsters, would help, as would, more importantly, a competitive performance against the Sky Blues the following Saturday.
In the build-up to today`s match, an archetypical six-pointer, the tension was clearly getting to MM and the team. All week, Mick had been insisting that he enjoyed the full support of the players and management. Normally an indication of the opposite, incredibly it might just be the case at Molineux ... at least, for now. Predictably, Stephen Ward, the only decent outfield player at the moment, was wheeled in to give his backing.
I was certainly feeling the 'heat`. Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to the village wearing my WW logoed woolly hat. Walking up the High Street, I met Spurs and QPR fans, who held up six fingers to me. In retaliation, I breathed on them, peppering them with as many bugs as there are pounds in the MC coffers. If only viruses flew about in numbers akin to the notes in the WW transfer-chest, we would eradicate world sickness! And, as today proved, we certainly need to spend some money.
I contemplated the match with a great deal of trepidation. The past few games have exposed the fragility of our defence, especially against sides attacking at pace. WBA simply ran through our midfield and defence last week and Swansea operate in the same fashion. And that`s exactly what happened.
After allowing myself a moment of euphoria, having witnessed our team wrest a highly unlikely point from a rampant Swansea side, I regained my critical faculties. We were hopeless in all parts of the field for most of the game. Arguably, Swansea allowed us back into the match, firstly by not pressing home their advantage in the second half and then relaxing at the back. They should have been out of sight by the time we made our substitutions at 66 minutes, which materially helped to redress the balance.
Why isn`t Guedioura being selected in the starting eleven? He transforms our fortunes whenever he comes on, adding a sense of urgency and a cutting edge, hitherto lacking. He actually takes the opposition on. Milijas adds a threat of a more refined nature. If these two players were given more match-time, they would blossom. Afterwards, MM admitted that they did shake the team up but will he see the connection?
It`s ironic that a team supposedly awash with quality wingers only seems to improve when we withdraw them. Perhaps, we have become too predictable: that, and the failure of our wide men fully to engage in the game and to deliver accurate crosses. At least until Fletcher comes back, we might be better served by a different approach, that is, unless our wingers learn from players like Dyer and Sinclair, who showed them how to do it.
But, the real problem lies with the back four. Even Ward did not play that well today. Swansea scored two simple goals because their players were allowed to run up the pitch virtually unopposed and to pass to the man standing in acres of space. Johnson, who is looking worse by the week, was out of position for both of the goals. Berra possesses little positional sense either. Both are too slow and are easily turned. Sinclair, moreover, made a chump out of Stearman, passing him at will. Doherty must start next time. We`re repeatedly making basic mistakes, a sign of poor play rather than the odd excusable human error. Cheque book out in January, Mr. Morgan!
In midfield, Henry had a reasonable game but he still fails to impose his authority: good shot in the first minute though. JOH was as busy as ever and scored a great goal (though he missed a glorious chance on 19 minutes). He played more positively than last week but is still prone to dither, and needs to improve the accuracy of his passing. In comparison, Allen and Gower were far more effective in their movement and passing.
Upfront, Doyle had a better game than hitherto and managed to get on the score sheet, converting a rebound after a neat turn and shot from Vokes. He looked far more lively than SEB, who seems to be carrying an injury. He was largely anonymous and even Vokes was an improvement. How long is Fletcher out for? We need him badly.
In the last ten minutes WW played as they should have done throughout the match, pressing up the field , causing panic in the Swansea defence and scoring a couple of good goals. However, they have to cut out the mistakes at the back if they are going to progress up the league (or even stay in it). They also have to convert a higher percentage of their chances: how different would today's result- and those of some of the previous matches- have been, had they scored the opening goal? But that`s a cop-out, beloved of MM!
We have stopped the rot and given the players a measure of (somewhat misplaced) confidence. However, the evidence of this match reinforces the need for a change in the starting eleven and set-up, selecting the players who are in form, and adopting tactics and formations which play to our strengths. If MM were to act without prejudice, we can start winning again Then, we would all be happy.
Ironically, the matches against MC would be a good place to start. Even so, we still need to sign several quality players in January. If not, we might as well leave the upper tier of the SC Stand as it is, a couple of staircases leading to nowhere.