Another Dismal Showing
It cost me over £150 to watch the match last night and what did I get for my money? Well, I saw a team heading for relegation, that`s what! While we kept out an average Liverpool team in the first half, Kenny`s half-time pep-talk moved the players up a gear and we fell apart after the first goal.
I was a witness to a similar crime against us supporters when I last visited Molineux and saw the QPR debacle. In spite of occasional flashes of good play, little has changed in the intervening time ... certainly not the result. It was utterly depressing watching the team labour to no good effect last night, a feeling clearly shared by many other WW supporters in the stands. The boos probably started after the second goal and by the time the referee finally put us out of our misery, they were echoing around the rapidly emptying ground. I hardly glimpsed SEB`s volley against the post for the passage of punters.
And I had set off at 6.45 a.m. yesterday morning, full of hope and optimism, happy that Frimpong was back in the side,adding bite to our midfield. I had wisely decided against driving up to Wolverhampton, test runs to local places of interest (to my wife, at least) such as gardening centres, supermarkets and dress shops having convinced me that the consultant`s definition of sensible driving did not encompass a round trip of 310 miles.
The downside of travelling by train - and working at Warwick during the day- was the lack of information on WW dealings in the transfer market ... not that I expected the 3M to do much business. At Leamington station in mid-afternoon I heard that Cissé was going to QPR (groan) and that Zamora was set to join him there (further groans). I had to wait until 6.45 pm, when I sat down with a beer in The Varsity, to hear news of our team: at last, we have seen the back of Keogh, that is, until he returns to haunt us when we play Milwall next season.
An early exit from Warwickshire R.O. and a scamper down to the station meant that I had time to drop my overnight bag at my friend`s house in Codsall and invite him out for a pint or two of Batham`s Special Bitter at the railway pub. Then, on to Wolverhampton in company with a supporter I met at the station. He wasn`t confident of our chances either! Unwisely, as it turned out, we parted company in the middle of town as I was heading for The Varsity and a pint or two of Banks`s Best Bitter. Argh! Not only had they not been serving it there for months but they had no draught beer of any description on tap. I had to make do with a John Smith`s.
At 7.10 pm I made way to the ground, soaking up the atmosphere, heavily laden with the scent of fried onions and burgers. Although, as I have argued in previous blogs, it is possible to enjoy and to assess accurately games on TV, nothing compares to actually being there: the crowds, the old gold and black, the air of (misplaced) excitement and the casual conversations with fellow-supporters. I even chatted to an Icelandic Professor of Neurology at a pub after the match. A neutral, one wonders why he chose our match: he needs his head examining!
As for the match, we made a game of it for the first half ... that is, we did not play as well as Liverpool and never looked like scoring but, at least, we did not let in a goal. Frimpong was playing well, far outshining his temporary colleagues, and fine interplay between SW and MJ on the left flank and between KF and MK on the right provided me with some hope of success. Even so, the final delivery was often poor and Fletcher cut an ever more forlorn figure in the middle as the game progressed. His tally was one header on goal.
So what went wrong in the second half? Liverpool certainly raised their game but they were helped by the same elementary errors that we have been making all season and which have cost us so many points. Our defence went AWOL for all three goals. For the first one, Carroll was able to side-foot Adam`s cross into the net, with Jonsson a disinterested bystander. For the second, the entire defence backed off as Bellamy drove forward and smashed the ball home through WH`s fingers. Should he have stopped it? Perhaps, but, yet again, he performed heroics between the posts. For the third, Kuyt was completely unmarked beyond the far post, enabling his to judge his angle of shot without the hassle of surrounding defenders.
Who was to blame for this dismal showing? According to a Liverpool fan, whom I talked to on the train this morning, the fault lay in midfield. And he was right. We didn`t compete. Frimpong could not shore up the midfield by himself and he lacked an adequate partner. Clearly, Jonsson is not up to it at the moment and it goes to show how much we need Henry in the side, which makes his stupid action against AV all the more annoying.
At the back, the central defenders, especially Berra, had decent games. As noted above, both full backs looked good going forward but were often found out of position when Liverpool counter-attacked. Our vulnerability to the quick break-out from defence is something we have to learn to counteract. And why can`t we counter-attack at the same pace?
Is there a silver lining in the storm clouds that are looming over Molineux? Not if yesterday`s performance is the norm. Fortunately, O`Hara is on his way back and I am looking forward to the interplay between him, Frimpong and Fletcher. This afternoon, I read that Bassong has been signed on loan and that will strengthen us at the back. Johnson will be the one to give way, as Berra is completely overshadowing him at the moment. So, all is not completely lost ... yet.
I have my ticket for the QPR game this Saturday and it really is a must-win game. And, given our predicament, we are fortunate that we still have to play a number of matches against our relegation rivals. In the past, we have not done well against such teams but at least it means that our fate is in our own hands. Surely, if we cannot beat other poor teams, we don`t deserve to be in the PL. I am keenly looking forward, if with a dollop of trepidation, to the trip to Loftus Road in three days` time. It really will tell us whether we will survive or not.