Psychiatrists often advise people to confront their demons. Using this as a template, Tony Pulis would be well advised to take his players to Bolton’s Reebok Stadium for a day out. We discovered on Saturday that we still bear the scars of the thrashing we received a fortnight before.
The Bolton aftermath haunted the build up to the QPR game. Oddly, Tony Pulis even stated publicly that he’d been too harsh on the players. It was odd but understandable. We were preparing for a home game we expected to win. A win was crucial to wash the pain of Bolton away. Initially it seemed our players had responded to the challenge. We started at a blistering pace and immediately carried the game to the opposition. On eight minutes we took the lead with an impressive finish from Walters. Our early dominance had got it’s reward. When Crouch squandered an excellent opportunity it seemed a matter of time before we doubled the lead. On 22 minutes static defending led to Helguson equalising for QPR. That was the pivotal point of the match. From being in complete control of the contest we were at Bolton again…. visibly shaken, confidence shattered and discipline lost. The early zest disintegrated completely and yet again we were reduced to chasing the opposition. It wasn’t a huge shock to go in down at half time. For a right back Luke Young’s finish was masterful but why we stood off and failed to challenge is a mystery. Having to chase games is a depressingly familiar feeling.
The second half started as the first concluded… with QPR passing through us. When Helguson put us 1-3 down the game was all but over. It’s to the credit of our players that they did rally to try and get us back into the game. Shawcross scored to get us back to 2-3. This should have been a signal to lay siege to the QPR goal but the onslaught never arrived. Lacking the craft to open them up again we were stifled in relative comfort. There’s no doubt we should have been awarded a penalty but it’s important not to cling to that grievance too tightly. We made too many mistakes to deserve anything from the game.
We face Blackburn next in yet another winnable game. As with all bad runs of form, the current malaise is nothing a win won’t put right. But to ensure we get that win out players must remember that if we face a setback it’s vital to be mentally strong and to continue to do the things they do well. Then, and only then, will get the crucial victory we need…. and start to exorcise the Bolton demons.
The remarkable thing about Brisbane Roar’s 2-1 victory away to Newcastle Jets is that Brisbane for long spells were second best. For most of the first half Roar’s play lacked it’s usual fluidity. Newcastle had set out to play a high tempo physical game and to their credit it worked. The Jets deserved their half time lead and it seemed likely that the day had arrived when Roar’s record breaking run would come to an end. In the second half however Brisbane showed a side to their game rarely seen. Instead of bemoaning their lot they outnumbered Newcastle in midfield which helped them to match the physical prowess of the home team. It was also noticable that the incisive through ball from Brisbane was coming from deeper positions, this could prove a useful plan B to accompany the usual style. At half time a win was highly unlikely, but displaying variation and application, three precious well earned points were accompanying the team back to the river city. Overall it wasn’t the stylish total football that has underpinned this amazing run but it’s sometimes worth remembering… an ugly win is still a win.
Brisbane’s win was a milestone because it equalled the longest unbeaten streak in the history of Australian sport. The record was set 74 years ago by an Eastern Suburbs rugby League team who enjoyed a 35 game unbeaten run. The home game against Perth on Saturday could prove to be a huge piece of Australian sporting history. Hopefully the Australian sporting landscape will be bathing in a sea of orange!
Wayne Rooney will be a huge talking point during England’s preparation for Euro 2012. There is still the possibility that the 3 match ban he received be reduced to 2, but the manager could be forgiven if he’s seething. Being placed in such a situation, for no good reason, by one of his most important players, is an unwelcome obstacle. However, every problem contains it’s own solution. Italy’s habitual caution is genuine and legendary. But in 2006 Marcello Lippi, wily old fox that he is, contradicted this regular policy of football suicide by taking six forwards to Germany in 2006. SIX. More to the point, in the semi against Germany alone used five of them. This is a lesson for Fabio Capello to take on board. Instead of filling the squad out with holding midfielders, take an extra attacker. Take 5. You can’t have too many attacking options. Capello’s Milan in 1994 stunned many with the unexpected display of attacking football in the European Cup Final. An England side with a variation of attacking options may surprise people. This would address the issue of Rooney’s self imposed absence with positive sympathy.