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An Encouraging Team Performance

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.



Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:southbank60
Date:Sunday January 15 2012
Time: 9:45AM

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Comments

0
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
15/01/2012 12:41:00
0
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
15/01/2012 14:18:00
0
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
15/01/2012 15:36:00
0
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
15/01/2012 16:09:00
0
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
15/01/2012 16:16:00
0
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
15/01/2012 16:25:00
0
A4D: don't lament your never being able to make a diplomat. It means you are sincere.
lovesW
15/01/2012 16:32:00
0
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
15/01/2012 16:43:00
0
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
15/01/2012 17:18:00
0
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
15/01/2012 18:07:00
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