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An Encouraging Team Performance

For various reasons the last match I attended was the one against QPR at home. Consulting the calendar in my season-ticket pack, resplendent with its Gala Apple Union Jacks stickers (my wife`s response to seeing them stuck on various kitchen utensils when I wash an apple), that game took place on 17 September.

It`s been a frustrating 17 weeks and although I have been able to follow the team on a murky freeview channel, I would prefer to support WW in person. I am therefore pleased to be back, thereby enabling me, as A4D so eloquently put it, to share in the misery. And it has been a miserable time in my absence, the abject surrender to QPR marking the beginning of the slide down the table, and wiping out the euphoria of the first three matches. August seems so long ago.

At least, it has made the website hum with activity. Whereas discussion of potential recruits has remained somewhat low-key (most of the contributors have adopted a world-weary or cynical view according to temperament), the part that the coaching staff and the board have played in landing us in this predicament has been hotly debated. It`s all good knockabout stuff but as likely to affect club policy as I have of convincing the happy-clappers that I really am a genuine WW supporter.

At the beginning of December a friend of mine, the one who enticed me back into the fold by taking me to Craven Cottage last season, asked me if I wanted to watch the Spurs at WHL. That seemed like a good idea, given that I could not travel up to Molineux and that he would act as minder for me. If I survived the trip, I could contemplate a visit to Loftus Road on 4 February, a real six-pointer ... or perhaps not by then!

So I bought a couple of tickets and a romantic dinner for two ... not with my friend, of course, but to provide an opportune moment to tell my wife. It didn`t work. She thought that I would be jostled and that the constant twisting of my neck would slow down my recovery. I assured her that this would not be the case as I only had to focus on the WW goalmouth. She wasn`t convinced: she`s obviously a closet MM fan.

It was therefore with a mixture of excitement and anxiety that I made my way to Victoria Station yesterday lunchtime to meet my friend, his son and daughter and their partners. Clearly, a football supporters` transit stop and watering hole, I noticed Spurs, Chelsea and Leeds fans but no-one supporting our team. Preparing myself for the hike down White Hart Lane, I took in liquid refreshment and joined in the discussion: 0-3 was the consensus of opinion, based on an assessment of how well Spurs are playing at the moment.

We reached the ground at 2.45 pm and finally saw some WW supporters. Settling into our seats in the corner of the ground, I had a panoramic view of the pitch, a bonus for a bloke with a stiff neck. Then the game started and I couldn`t see. Blimey, I thought, as I stood up, I 've been transported back to the Jack Harris stand. It also made writing notes particularly difficult, as I found out when I had to decypher the scrawl this morning.

I had been waiting a long time for this moment and it didn`t disappoint: an exciting game and an unexpectedly good result, even if my nerves had been torn to shreds by the final whistle. Akela`s statistics might show that Spurs outplayed us but it was a battling performance by our lads and we fully deserved the draw. And, there was an element of luck about the Spurs goal too, Modric`s shot squeezing in under an unsighted Hennessey.

And we had our chances to win. Edwards missed a sitter in the 36th. minute (which looked even easier on MOTD) after good play down the left flank. Frimpong might have scored just after half time but his fierce shot was well saved by Friedl. He looks like an upmarket version of Guedioura but with the same puppyish lack of discipline. He's as likely to pee on your carpet as he is to s*** on the opposition. If we can channel his energy, he's going to be a great signing for us. Just what we need. MM wisely pulled him off in the 66th. minute after another red-blooded tackle threatened his continuing involvement in the game anyway.

Amazingly, as in the last two seasons, we seem to stumble across a 'winning` formula in the new year, even if, strictly speaking, it`s a 'drawing` formula at the moment. We really do have to win a few games if we are to survive. And we might. The set up, with Henry and Frimpong operating in front of the back four, makes us far harder to break down and provides protection for the defenders. When O`Hara returns, playing behind Fletcher, we will score goals, that is, if our wingers can consistently drop the ball into the box.

It was a great team effort yesterday and all of the players raised their game. We harried the Spurs man on the ball, tracked back quickly and double marked danger men like Bale. Our central defenders were solid- Johnson is returning to form and Berra is doing a 'Ward` - and, as a result, most of the Spurs shots were long range efforts which usually cleared the bar. Of course, it was not all that easy: we are still not helping our cause by sloppy passing (often due to the failure of other players to run into space), poor control and our inability to move the ball effectively out of defence. All too often, we merely hand the ball back to the opposition, who run it straight back at us. And can we adopt an alternative tactic to the hoof upfield?

It was great to see Foley in the starting line-up. He is our most dependable defender and, if I miss the sight of Zubar charging up the pitch, I can put up with that if I don`t have to worry about our right flank being turned. Ward had a harder time on the left but coped. He moved into midfield when MM brought on Elokobi in the 84th. minute, the manager`s reasoning being that George was the closest thing to a Don Everall`s bus that he had at his disposal.

Kightly, while not yet back to top form, is certainly improving and deserves his place. Both he and Jarvis have the ability to beat their man, but on yesterday`s showing they still lack a certain amount of self-belief. I would like to see them 'pin back their ears` and just go for the corner a few more times. To be fair to Jarvis, he was up against Walker, one of the nippiest FBs in the PL. Fletcher, therefore, had few crosses to head home, though he poached a typical goal after a glorious corner kick from Jarvis. For once, Johnson`s header was on target and Fletcher netted Modric`s clearance off the line.

At the back, Hennessey is still performing heroics, keeping us in the game and restricting our goals against total. I was disappointed to see him let in a shot, which on other occasions during the match he gathered with ease. Rerunning the goal on MOTD, I noticed that Modric`s shot luckily avoided several defenders` legs, while the same players obscured WH`s view of the ball. If only ... no, it`s churlish to say anything bad about WH!

It`s a good job that we are picking up unexpected points in the capital because the teams around us are making a fight of it. I note that yesterday a ten man Samba-less Blackburn beat Fulham and moved out of the bottom three. They`re only a point behind us now and with a better goal difference. We have to hope that Newcastle and MC do us a favour. At least, we pulled back a point on WBA!

We certainly returned to the Seven Sisters Station yesterday with a lighter step, though my friend`s son, a Spurs supporter, was noticeably more subdued than his father and me. At Victoria Station the beer slipped down very easily, encouraging us to believe that we can survive but without it hiding from us the enormity of the task ahead. I repeated this assertion to my wife when she met me at the station but all she was interested in was picking up the curry.




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The Journalist

Writer: southbank60 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday January 15 2012

Time: 9:45AM

Your Comments

Not having declared us safe, thanks to a well earned draw at WHL,you've still some way to go before you're a bona fide 'fan',SB. Speaking as a fellow mere supporter (I didn't even go!)it's nice to see you back...well, in print anyway.I copped for a faultless stream-it only stalled once and that was at half-time.I agree totally with your assessment of Kightly,I was willing him to 'pin his ears back' more. When he was on the run, it was a marked improvement on the displays he'd had earlier in the season.The loan spell has certainly served to improve his control and, obviously, the match time he's had at Watford will have improved his fitness, enabling him to put his share of the 'shift in'.Even that traditional trait of ours had disappeared of late; which was confirmed by just how noticeably we were closing Spurs down when they had the ball.It was noticeable by its previous abscence, if you like.Its not enough to stop a team like Spurs from getting the ball forward but it can certainly help restrict them, in large part, to rushed attempts from long(er) range.It was also noticeable how deep a defensive line we were holding and i'm all for that, as a prefered tactic away from home. It's with that positioning of the back four that our CH's can do what they do best- defend play that's in front of them.Further up the pitch and the constant threat of them being turned is just too risky.Of course you draw a team onto you, to a certain extent, but that can be a game plan, as well as any other. As long as Jarvis and Kightly are in the mood, we've options for breaking quickly and, ahead of them, a genuine assassin waiting to strike.Frimpong looks like a 3 match ban waiting to happen but whilst he's available he's acting as a good deterent to players coming onto us as well as an option going forward. I'm sure i'm not the only one wondering how JOH would fit into the role played by DE yesterday and, personally speaking, i'd love him to. For all DE's industry and 'shift', he hasn't a 10yd pass in him and attempted to do something far beyond his capabilities when that chance fell to him.As we were yesterday with JOH in for DE could prove our most effective away formation. We'll see.At home, though, it's a different matter. When the onus is on us to create and break down teams set up in 'away formation' as we were yesterday,we've been found wanting nearly all season- save in parts of matches and usually when we're already losing.So, a solid backs to the wall away performance to add to the one at The Emirates, what we need to do now is put in a few equally good home performances.When good defensive displays and picking points up in singles just won't be enough, the 'creators' have got to stand up and do their share.One last thing, or two actually; we scored from a corner that wasn't and had a conceded goal ruled out, incorrectly, for off-side.They really do even themselves out, pretty much. Our league position is the fault of those at the club whose responsibility it is. We are not where we are because of fans nor refs 'draggin us down'.It's the crapness that's done it.Hats off to MM for setting them up in a way, that seemed to suggest, that not only were the team happy in what they'd been asked to do but understood it, too.We're still well and truly in the dogfight but at least yesterday gave some hope of better to come. Bring on the Villa... and 3 points.
all4divisions
Agree with both assessments. Defensively, I think we are starting to see the RJ that we paid for. There is the makings of quite a decent partnership between Berra and RJ and having Foley back completes my preferred back 4. Frimpong and Henry have certainly taken the pressure off the defence and having Kights and Jarvo gives us the outlets. JOH will slot into the hole very nicely when he returns but until then I'd maybe like to see Doyle in that position. He holds the ball up well and can spread it around. I think that taking the striking pressure off him and allowing him to become a provider may suit him better. On the whole I thought it was a good battling performance against what I still believe are the prettiest team to watch in the Prem this season. You could argue that they didn't play well yesterday..........I would argue that we stiffed them and didn't allow them too. Up the Wolves.
Rustmonkey
I've just watched Newcastle dominate QPR even though they only won 1-0. On this showing I reckon we could get a result at Loftus Road in three weeks time, that is, if Hughes doesn't spend obscene amounts of cash on new players. Even then, he would need time to integrate the recruits into the side. How did they beat us back in September? Oh, Joey Barton I suppose and he will have served his time by then. As Wigan are unlikely to beat MC by ten clear goals tomorrow, we will still remain out of the relegation zone whatever happens. Indeed, we have improved the gap by one goal.
Southbank60
H'way the lads! Well done NU,cheers!I put our defeat to QPR down to sheer complacency,SB.We started at a canter as oppose to the sprint that QPR did, falling into the 'we only have to turn up' trap,following 7/9pts in the first three games and a decent enough showing at home to Spurs.We abandoned the very attributes that had contributed to the good start to the season and paid the price;we got exactly what we deserved.It sure as hell rocked them as a team, replacing the cockiness they'd shown going into the match, with a complete lack of belief thereafter;bipolar, if ever a team was.Villa are doable and 3 pts would put pressure on Albion,Fulham,Swansea and the like, making our games with them definite 6 pointers,along with the QPR match.C'mon Arsenal and Man City,help us out a bit, you over privileged ****s!...i'd never make a diplomat!
all4divisions
At last ! - if it lasts. MM himself has said it: we were tough and determined as we always are and WE WERE WELL ORGANIZED. That is, this last not as we always are. In fact, the first time we really were. It would appear tactics and game plan have been given some attention: going in for the ball, pressing opponents, giving them no space to maneuver, moreover....no hoofball. The point is not the point. A performance equal to that of our lauded opponents. That is the point.
lovesW
Hmm, lovesW, the point is always the point. The term 'plucky loser' was invented for the MM managed WW team. Of course, I agree in general with your argument that if we play as well as this against other teams, especially against our relegation rivals, we will win points. Unfortunately, on the other side of the medal that says 'plucky losers' there's an incription which reads 'didn't turn up'.
Southbank60
A4D: don't lament your never being able to make a diplomat. It means you are sincere.
lovesW
SB: hence, 'if it lasts' , allowing for that incubus 'didn't turn up' or 'bad day at the office', whatever. QPR...grrrrhh! Welcome back to full-time, Southbank, and thanks for the report.
lovesW
Yes a good result but as Banksy said we do need to string 2 or 3 wins together,I was happy with the shape of the team,as we have been saying for the last month we needed another midfielder in the holding roll and that has offered our back four more protection. Kightly is nearing his best,his pace is back and he's looking sharp which can only be a plus for us,I would start with him everytime now over Hunt who looks to be a little off the pace,Hammil looks to be the better bet on the bench to me.Villa and Blues in the same week,happy days!!!UTW.
Crete Wolf
lovesW- I must admit your posts came to mind yesterday(regarding your emphasis on planning), while I was witnessing, what appeared to be, a well drilled formation and tactic being executed over a full 90mins.Even if Spurs had have won, it would still have been pleasing to be able to have a shape to the team...whatever it was.We continued on our 'binary' run;it's now seven games running of either 0 or 1pt. We have 7 of the 8 required digits to encrypt our first text character.If we take 3 pts from the Villa game, though, we have to start again.In that case,**** to binary!
all4divisions
I have to admit it is the first time this season we looked if we could compete with anybody in the PL. We actually made some tackles and presured futher up field than normal why have we not done that all season because if we had we would not be in the mess were in right now.RJ now looks like a PL defender SF is geting better by the match CH has stoped trying pull people over in the eighteen yard box. Frimpong seems to have totally taken over midfield with his all action style now we just need JOH back and as MM has said another 1-2 signings we could get out of this mess UTW.
kiawolves
Steady on lads, we've been here before. As lovesW points out, the operative words in his last post are 'if it lasts'. Clearly, we can do it but, so far, we have lacked consistency. Will it be any different now? Posssibly Frimpong is the missing piece. As we have as much chance of retaining his services after the end of the season as I have of being on MM's Christmas card list, we have to find someone forged in the same mould. Of course, in a month's time it could all have turned sour but in the meantime let's enjoy the moment.
Southbank60
We've all been stained by hope again,SB,that's the problem.I'm absolutely convinced that, before the season's out, we're going to find out what difference Frimpong not playing will make- and I don't just mean for the Arsenal (useless losers!) match.There's as much chance of him seeing the season through, without suspension, as there is of MM sending you roses on Valentine's.
all4divisions
A4D: that is precisely the point, 'even if Spurs had won..' That is why I said the point (gained) is not the point. On this showing at least, we have made the grade into PL standard, and, as I hinted, and Southbank spells out, more of this and the wins will be coming alright. Only we will have to abolish those 'off' days. As to my 'binary sequence', seven you say,I hope the Villa game puts an end to that and to any further mention of the very term. I discount the Birmingham fixture as superfluous, indeed detrimental (to the main, no, the sole objective.. survival). Hope at least that it does not go into extra time. Southbank, again I assert my conviction that it is not so much a matter of the impact of any individual player on the scheme of play, but a matter of the scheme of play itself. Naturally, a player's ability or otherwise will bear on this, you mention Frimpong, but only in a restricted sense, the 'missing piece' having to fit into a well-knit and organised whole. Who can tell whether it will last? Merlin himself is sure to shy away from the question, understandably. He can promise hard work, determination, 'putting in a shift'..all valid qualities, no doubt. If only he would add 'tactical sense'.
lovesW
The problem is a 1-0 win at Bolton would have still been better than 3 draws,you would have deprived one of our nearest opponents of a point and adding to your goal difference. We are not performing against the teams around us and this could come back and haunt us at the end of the season. We have to visit Norwich,QPR,and Swansea who did something we have'nt managed for a long time and defeated Arsenal yesterday,we not only have to go there but its looking like we will have to win there as they are so far ahead that a point will be of no use whatsoever. Three pointers are now essential,all these heroic backs to the wall performances will soon be forgotten at the end of the season if it goes badly for us,Villa and Liverpool at home is where it must begin before we travel to Loftus Rd on the 4th Feb for the first of the 'six pointers',lets hope we can build on the last few performances and get the wins we badly need.UTW.
Crete Wolf
Over recent times priority has been to shore up the defence. We have seen the start of a half decent partnership between RJ & CB. It would appear that RJ is at least getting back to his best. With this in mind I believe that our priority has changed over the next couple of weeks. I believe that we need a new striker to either work with or at least be in a position to replace SF if he gets injured. I actually think that we could do worse than Kenwye Jones from Stoke. He's tall, powerful, can hold a ball up and has pace.........would be a good foil to play behind Fletch. We could even have a look ay Hooper from Celtic. I love SF but the fact is that we can't continue to rely solely on him and let's face it......our other strikers are not good enough.
Rustmonkey
Rustmonkey i hope your right and maybe the defence has clicked but for all the talk about a striker the names now being banded about are a 33 year old from West Ham called PIQUIONNE who cant score or K Davies from bolton whose 34 and he cant get in to there team please tell me this is just paper talk.We need some one who can tribute goals a longside SF i do agree SEB is not good enough as for Doyle if we played him as a striker and told him to get in the box in stead of playing on the wing he might get his touch back.
kiawolves
Kia: SEB was once the hero and the darling of the fans, then was sidelined to make way for Doyle, now Doyle has suffered the same fate to SF's advantage. Remember when we complained that a 7 million striker (SF)had been bought to sit it out on the bench while Doyle played all alone up front to edge the team, point-by-point, towards safety? I do not think we need another striker, yes , another striker out there on the field of play, but not a new one. All these players need is rehabilitation, the kind that Vokes has been going through. He was our super sub in the Championship, then later lost favour after his glaring miss against MU. But I still think he is, potentially, the best central striker after Fletch.
lovesW
I have been moving towards that view of Vokes as well, lovesW.
Southbank60
Lovesw i dont know if it should be Vokes or someone else but the reason we only play one up front is because when we play two we leave the MIDFIELD AND DEFENCE wide open and concede to many goals. But if we stick with one we are not going to win enough games to stay up so the question is do we play with two and concede or play with one up on his own and keep a tighter defence.
kiawolves
Kiawolves: this is the diemma we find ourselves in. With Frimpong now playing alongside Henry we have tightened up our midfield and that has helped our defence. So, with them in the middle, do we dare to play two true wingers and two strikers or do we add another inner midfielder. Or do we play O'Hara in the hole behind Fletcher, expecting him to support the attack or defence as required. On another defensive point I was pleased to see at WHL that we did not send all our defenders up to contest corner kicks as that has been our undoing in the past against quick counter-attacking opposition. Regarding Vokes, he is by no means the finished article but I think that he will mature into a decent striker. Perhaps he should go out on loan for another spell, while we 'make do' with Kenwyne Jones in the meantime.
Southbank60
Kia, Southbank: your dilemma is mine too, as, most certainly, MM's as well. I find myself in still another dilemma. He is playing both SEB and Doyle tonight, on paper two strikers, though chances are Doyle will be assigned a wide role - if he is not, playing with two central strikers is my ideal in a formation, yet I will be eager that it fails, this time at least, for as early an exit from the Cup as possible. I know I will be making no friends, particularly with the Club treasurer, but these Cup matches I consider to be distractions and in the way of the main objective of survival, besides the fact that they take a lot out of the key players that still feature in them. What with players having received knocks on Saturday and one or two others being rested in view of the Villa game, things may go my way, and the plus fact will remain that MM will be able to 'draw the positives' from giving a run out to players itching for it.
lovesW
It seems as though we put out a kindergarten side out in the reserve match against AV the other day in order to rest fringe players for tonight's cup match in order to rest first team players for Saturday. Indeed, some of the injuries picked up at WHL may not be injuries at all. I hope that no-one in the frame for Saturday plays tonight, as a sort of rerun of MM's selection against MU last year.I want a 'Burnley' result in three days' time. It'll make poor view this evening, of course, but who cares? Long gone are the days when I excitedly followed WW with my dad at all our cup-ties. But, at that time, we had something to be excited about. Oh, I should also point out that a diemma is not a more easily solved dilemma because, as Kiawolves argues, how we resolve it (or not) will be crucial to our survival in the PL.
Southbank60
SB personally speaking i would JOH just behind SF and have to wingers because at the moment Doyles confidence is shot to ***** and would give more support to the middle and the defence. Plus JOH was starting to look like the player we thought he was untill the suspension and then the op hopefully he will get a run out tonight and the play AS on sat.
kiawolves
Hear Hear Rustmonkey ! I cant agree with you more... Though, I dont think we should give up on the search for a capable CB or LB even
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