If you have a numerical advantage then you want to press that home early in the second half. What we needed was to come out of the blocks fighting, punching wildly and swarming all over the home side. We saw Oldham collapse in the FA Cup two years ago and if we’d been first to score in the second half I firmly believe we would have gone on to win the game handsomely. I had every confidence we’d do just that and even hearing ‘Saturn 5’ at half time didn’t upset me too much.
Saturn Five is my alarm tone and when I heard the first few bars I thought in my head it was morning and I had to get up. Disorientating to say the least.
Instead, we got hit with a super effort and apparently had the wind taken out of our sails. We needed to do anything but concede and yet once again, the clean sheet eluded us. We’ve now kept just two clean sheets in 17 matches, but yeah, the problem must be Akinde.
In fact, we’ve kept just five clean sheets all season, one of those coming in the EFL Cup, so if we’re truly looking for a scapegoat perhaps we have to look at the defence. That said, we only kept six clean sheets in the first 25 games of last season, but good sides don’t leak goals as we do. MK Dons for instance, have kept 11. John Akinde still the problem here?
It was the first punch of a frenetic and entertaining second half, levelled quickly by Michael O’Connor with another of his trademark strikes. He’s been a top player for us since joining and he highlighted one of the positives in our play; we rarely draw a blank. In fact, we’ve only failed to score in a game on three occasions this season, the same as MK Dons.
From there we should have gone on to win the game, but we were always susceptible to an attack as well. We had chances, I admit Akinde missed a couple he should have scored and Bruno had a great effort that on another day, he too would have bagged. We didn’t lay siege as such, but as in the Mansfield game I thought we were comfortably better in the second period. We should be though, they only had ten men.
Our main route to goal in the last two seasons, set pieces, have been woeful recently. Our corners offer little threat, our free kicks are wasted far too often and for some reason we’ve lost that little bit of magic from the dead ball situations. Maybe the Port Vale game was a millstone around our neck rather than a bonus because it’s certainly ensured teams defend far better from our set pieces. Mind you, with delivery like we had this evening, there’s not a lot to defend. Short corners; just no. Why do it? We’ve got big lads, why not get it into the box? We score from corners when they’re right and when they’re cleared, we usually pick up the pieces outside the area. Tonight, as on Saturday, we tried short corners and ended up completely wasting the opportunity.
I understand there’s method behind what we do and I understand as a fan, I don’t see the work on the training ground, but against Port Vale both Harry Toffolo and Bruno Andrade got assists from corners. Why is Michael O’Connor on them now?
it always felt like we might get a goal, when we did get something away their keeper made a save, but then again on the break they looked dangerous. I thought Surridge coming on was a brave move by them, but he turned out to be one of their best players. For every half chance we missed, they conjured up a quarter chance and drew a round of ‘oohs’ from the home support, which by the way was significantly lower than a ‘big’ club like them should be getting. Their performance and desire certainly deserves more fans watching, especially in a ground like Boundary Park.
As injury time approach I expected us to really go for it, but we didn’t. The subs didn’t make a big impact, having seen Kellan Gordon bag twice form the bench recently I was surprised to see Rhead come on for Harry Anderson. Given that we desperately needed to stretch ten men in the second half I was very surprised to see Matt Green with less than ten minutes of normal time left in the match. I’m not the manager, he sees the players every day and has a method, but I know I’d liked to have seen Gordon for Harry in a straight swap and perhaps McCartan off for Matt Green with at least 25 minutes left to go. We’re all armchair pundits though, are we not?
Still, I didn’t expect them to look most likely to get the goal in stoppage time, but they did. Credit to them, they played very well, but I stand by my assertion that if you’re top and playing a team in 13th place with ten men, you should be winning the game. Sadly, and you know I struggle saying something like this, that result is simply not good enough, whatever Oldham used to be.
Where do we go from here? What I’d like to think is after the constructive criticism, which is entirely justified, and once the anti-Akinde lot have put their keyboards to sleep as well, we can all pull together and turn this blip around. By the way, one defeat in eleven isn’t a bad blip to be having, nor is still being second in the league when you’ve only won once in six league matches. However, if we’re to void this turning into 2006/07 all over again then we have to stick together as a fan base, keep supporting the lads and remain behind our own players.
We’re still in a promotion challenge, we’re still in a great position and whether others are catching up or not will be irrelevant if we can reach the same heights as the start of the season. I wonder if we’ve become predictable again and maybe Danny needs to look at some of the formations from earlier in the season and try dusting them off for the element of surprise.
I do feel we need some fresh faces against Carlisle. I’ve always said the FA Cup is a priority and we shouldn’t experiment but if we would have dropped players for the league, then the same should happen in the cup. There’s one or two changes I’d make but leaving out Akinde isn’t one of them. I’d like to see a much flatter 4-4-2, akin to last season, when Rhead and Green fed excellently off each other. I’ll be doing a piece on the side I’d like to see before the weekend but in the meantime let us not start falling out, blasting players with harsh words or tearing into the team and tactics when we’re at the highest point we’ve been at in over a decade, we’ve sustained a place in the top three for perhaps the longest time since the early 1980s and we’re only a month away from being able to shake things up with a few new faces.
This is still a good season, even if we’re going to be waiting for that elusive win at Boundary Park.