Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
I didn’t write up last night’s game last night, because I wanted the clarity of a night’s sleep before being scathing. I’m not reactionary, I don’t come out with ‘we’re in a relegation battle’ when three weeks ago I saw us destroy Cambridge United. I try to be balanced, measured and reflective. Therefore I had a night’s sleep, I haven’t watched Michael’s comments and I’ve got up this morning intending to put distance between myself and the final whistle.
We were really poor, weren’t we?
I’m not going to dwell on this too long, for my own mood this morning I can’t, be we were beyond poor for 70 minutes of that game. I actually thought we started well; Bridcutt coming back in looked a boost on paper, and in the first exchanges, Adelakun seemed to be a real threat. We didn’t get a shot on goal, but I felt it might be our night. One moment changed that, Adelakun weaved into the area, then came back out and we went back a bit. It looked like a lack of ideas, maybe a lack of movement, and I just got worried for a second. The home commentator said ‘we’ll have to watch Adelakun’, and that was that from the former Bristol City man.
I’m not going to single him out though. We looked bad even in a first half that featured two poor teams (no shots on target). This was a game we should have won; I’m showing no disrespect to Morecambe here, but they have a much lower budget than we do; it’s alright us banging on about money bags Ipswich when we lose to them, but the boot is on the other foot in some games, and this was it. Maybe their squad costs 75% of ours, maybe less. I know we have injuries, but one or two big signings and big names didn’t turn up.
We lacked the pass before the final ball, which wasn’t a good look for us. I thought Bridcutt turned in a decent performance, I thought Regan Poole looked comfortable, but I’d be hard pushed to find another player I thought wasn’t bad in the first half. Nothing stuck to N’Lundulu; the little passing exchanges on the flanks almost always broke down before they were dangerous and some of our football out from the back was awful. Lewis Montsma used to ping 50-yard passes to feet like he was Messi, now he’s moving ten yards closer and putting them onto the head of a bloke in row G. He wasn’t the only one to misplace a pass, far from it, but he is perhaps one of the most noticeable.
I’m genuinely finding it tough to write much more about the first half, and that’s perhaps a good thing seeing as I still have the second to think about. I’ll make you a promise right now; I won’t put you through two pages of this.
We made the change at half time, Ted Bishop for Adelakun, and I thought it seemed harsh. I know Haks had been poor; some passes went astray and he ran up blind alleys, but we hadn’t been any better on the other side of the field. There had been one move where we came down the left, moved the ball to N’Lundulu and then could have moved it quickly to Haks, but didn’t. I’m not sure if the run was at fault or the pass, but the move broke down and once again, Adelakun looked bad. He came off, yes. People will slate him, yes. He was by no means the only player who deserved to come off at half time.
Sadly, we don’t have the current squad depth to make big changes. It is easy to lament our luck with transfers, but it pains me to see a talented footballer like Theo Archibald out on loan whilst we struggle to find a decent front three. I couldn’t work out what we’d shifted to after the break; was Bishop a winger? Had we gone from 4-3-3 to something more conventional? I’ve no idea, but quickly the home side picked up where they left off.
I’ll have a word for them too; they impressed me with their work rate, but I think they’ll be bottom eight at the end of the season. Anthony O’Connor at the back did better with N’Lundulu than Bozzy did at the weekend, and Stockton is a ‘proper’ number nine. I liked their lad on the flank too, Gnahoua. They do lack a bit of quality, but then as I’ve mentioned, their budget probably doesn’t help. We shouldn’t lack quality. Even with the depth we’re currently don’t have, we should have the skills to pay the bills. Last night, we went into arrears.
The second was, for want of a better word, a shitshow. Morecambe never looked like scoring for me, but they did, from nowhere by their commentators own admission. It was a great goal, there’s no legislating for it, but I won’t sit here and say ‘that’s the way it goes’, or anything like that. No excuses, we should already have done enough to put the ball in the net, and we didn’t.
Dan N’Lundulu should have done better with his one-on-one with Kyle Letheren in the second half. It was a good break, fair play, but he was marshalled well and couldn’t work a decent opening. He made the angle too tight for himself, and what looked like a great save was routine for a keeper used to making himself big. I’m told Ted Bishop had a chance. I wouldn’t know because iFollow is just as poor this season as it was last. The replays were unreal; they’d replay a corner whilst another corner was being taken. If I’d wanted to just watch the highlights back (and it wouldn’t take long), I’d be doing that now. I didn’t pay £10 just to watch replays (actually, I literally did).
We did draw a great save from Letheren a bit later on, Lewi Fiorini curling a good effort towards the top corner, which was clawed away. It was a shot on goal, which was a positive, but it’s like saying it’s a positive finding a quid on the floor when your rent is £400. The rent doubled not long after, with a fairly weak goal from a free-kick. For me, that was that.
I do leave games early, but only if they’re done and dusted and I want to beat the traffic. Last night, there was no traffic, not from my office to my bedroom, but I beat it anyway. We could still be playing now and we wouldn’t score, our front three was poor, our midfield was weak and lacked invention and our defence has two tasks, stop goals and distribute the ball, and both were done badly. The only player I can’t criticise is Josh Griffiths, because he saw less of the ball than everyone else.
On the plus side, we did have more attack momentum than our hosts, as the graphic below shows, but we just lack depth. When, with ten minutes to go, we’re chasing the game and bring off the big striker for Remy Howarth, a player I see as an attacking midfielder, it says it all. We know we’re short in key areas, courtesy of injuries and the deadline day disaster, but I till maintain the XI that went out last night should have had enough to beat Morecambe. We didn’t, and it just reflects our level. Yes, this squad is weaker than last season, but you cannot possibly replace two players valued around £10m by their clubs with ease.
That’s all I’m going to write, and with respect, I’m staying away from social media for the day too. I don’t want to read knee-jerk reactions about the manager, or individuals who played poorly. One game doesn’t make a season, and those with short memories won’t recall the Burton win a couple of days ago. I’d say this; a win and a loss are better than two draws, but it might not always feel like it, and a win this weekend would make last night seem less painful.
However, right now, nothing makes it seem less painful. I’ll leave you with this; over the last 18 months or so, whenever I dream about football, life, anything, I usually wake up and realise I’m in my actual life, supporting my actual team, and feel happy; my dreams have never been better than my life. This morning, after dreaming about the Imps, I woke up and remembered last night’s game, and for the first time in a long while, I wanted to go back to sleep.