23/08/11 10:03 Category: Championship
Another woeful performance in keeping with the season so far and whilst the late goals earned a very unlikely point, this doesn’t hide the mounting concerns about this squad. We look ill-prepared for the season and it’s clear that McClaren still doesn’t know his best starting XI.
They had taken advantage of two appalling mistakes in our own half. Greening’s poor pass left Chambers exposed and allowed them to stroll through our defence. Whilst Chambers mis-placed another pass shortly after and their quick passing saw them in on goal to double the lead, despite Gunter’s excellent goal-line clearance.
The only time we created anything arrived from Gunter’s left wing cross to Derbyshire who missed from six yards with a free header. A really poor miss when it looked easier to score.
Leicester thought that they had done enough, stopped attacking and this cost them the game. We were there for the taking and with a little more intent they would have been out of sight. We showed a disturbing lack of fight in the first half with no-one willing to make a challenge or at least show Leicester we were up for the fight. A static midfield, devoid of movement, combined with the lack of threat from McGoldrick and an isolated Derbyshire, left us unable to compete in an attacking sense.
We had no choice but to make changes at half-time with Miller and Findley added badly need pace and power in place of the anonymous McGoldrick and Derbyshire. This might have been a little harsh on the latter but the woeful display forced McClaren to change things around. Ideally, we would have changes things around in central midfield but he persisted with his preferred duo despite them being the weak link of the side.
The new front pairing combined to at least force a save from Schmeichel and then Miller’s smart turn and shot continued the improvement. Things started to improve further when Majewski joined the midfield and we got better balance with Gunter back at right back and Cohen on the left. Despite this it was still a surprise when we did actually score. A very fortunate handball decision, well converted by McGugan and then Schmeichel’s arrogance and stupidity resulting in a red card.
Leicester had an immediate chance to kill the game when Gallacher’s half volley flew narrowly wide with Camp struggling.
Fortunately we found enough quality in injury time to rescue a point from nowhere. With Leicester retreating and packing the penalty area, Cohen’s pinpoint left wing cross evaded the keeper and a combination of Boateng and Konchesky bundled the ball home.
Yet again, it was the same old midfield failings that we’ve seen this season. We continue to persist with Boateng and Greening in midfield when it’s clear that they simply aren’t working. This central pairing offer nothing in an attacking sense and encourages the side to play safe sideways passing around the half-way line. Our defence isn’t good enough to hold onto possession for long spells and the midfield certainly aren’t helping by continually passing the ball back in their direction and inviting pressure from the opposition. Until someone takes responsibility to get the side moving forward with quick incisive passing then things are unlikely to improve. For that reason, the return of an in-form Moussi can’t come soon enough.
We’re currently a predictable, boring side lacking sufficient tempo and movement to cause opposition any real problems. There was no genuine width from Cohen or McGugan so we were left relying on MOTM Gunter and Moloney to get forward and provide support. Whilst it might have worked away at Doncaster it was a complete failure here.
Miller looks like he could be a real threat for us this season and hopefully he now becomes an automatic choice for us over the likes of McGoldrick. The spine of the team would look much better with Camp, Morgan, Moussi and Miller.
13/08/11 15:00 Category: Championship
Defeats on our travels have been a regular occurrence for as long as I can remember but it was the manner of the loss that causes concerns for the season ahead. Against a well-organised and resolute Millwall side, we barely managed a meaningful attempt on goal and found ourselves thoroughly beaten. We generally start seasons slowly but there’s still no excuse for this type of performance.
It’s frustrating having been a regular top six side and now regressed to having no real efforts on goal in two league games whilst the new manager works out his best team. McGoldrick starts the season as number one striker up front on his own and then doesn’t even make the bench for the next two games.
In their opening league home game, Millwall started very well and caused us a number of problems. It was no surprise when they took the lead from a neat near-post flick from a corner and then generally looked in control under they caught us on the break in the closing stages to wrap up the three points. In between, Forest had decent spells of possession but failed to present any real problems. The closest we came to scoring was a good overlap from Cohen and his pullback was met by Findley but his effort hit the post and bounced to safety.
In contrast to some of the more memorable performances in the past couple of years, our problems lie in the midfield. Previously we’ve been at our most dangerous winning possession on the half-way line and then charging forward in numbers on the counter attack. In contrast, on Saturday, we were so slow to build an attack, Millwall had plenty of time to get players behind the ball and prevent us from causing any real problems. Apart from the full backs, we looked static and played at walking pace with the home side happy for us to have the ball in midfield and simply crowd out our forwards.
There just isn’t enough movement from the likes of Reid, Greening, Boateng and McGugan. We lack the drive that the likes of Cohen and Moussi have provided in recent years, someone to either make runs past the front two or make quick incisive passing to feet whilst running off the ball. Instead we had Boateng and Greening playing a stream of safe sideways passes at walking pace and McGugan wandering about without any recognisable position and failing to get into the game in any shape.
To his credit, Reid did at least try to get us moving forwards, always made himself available and looked to make things happen whenever possible. On too many occasions there were no options for him and an impossible pass failed to reach it’s target or he was crowded out. Overall, it just looks like the wrong mixture of players for us to be effective. We could have changed things around, bringing Lynch on for Boateng and moving Cohen to left back but instead we stuck to a formula that clearly wasn’t working.
We did change things around for a while in the second half and we did improve slightly with Greening providing more width down the right hand side. However, the old failings of a static midfield and reliance on the full backs to provide width were still evident.
In contrast, Millwall’s players knew exactly what their roles were and didn’t mess around unnecessarily with the ball – every pass was played with a purpose. They broke forward effectively with movement and pace and caused us problems throughout.
With so little service, it’s not surprising that the likes of Garner, Findley and then Tudgay are left to fight for hopeful balls instead of thriving on genuine service. Despite the additions of Derbyshire and hopefully Miller, the doubts over quality service will remain a concern.
Things wouldn’t be so bad if the defence looked solid, however, we gave the ball away badly in dangerous areas and were looking to escape a number of nervy moments, generally of our own making. Camp seemed to play within himself and lacked any of the usual passion and leadership that have been a trademark since he arrived at the club. There didn’t even seem to be an acknowledgement of the fans which seemed weird for one of the “fans favourites”. Cohen looked reasonable going forward, showing plenty of energy but doubts remain over his defensive qualities. MOTM Gunter was probably the best of a bad bunch on the basis of making fewer errors than anyone else.
06/08/11 15:00 Category: Championship
It was a performance very typical of the start of last season, very ponderous and lacking in any drive or creativity. Despite having plenty of possession, we missed any real drive in midfield and movement from the front line. The fears about a lack of pace and goal threat in the current squad look justified, especially with Findley omitted from the squad.
At the other end, Barnsley created a number of promising chances but failed to make the most of a number of free headers. Only in the closing stages did they play for a draw and they generally looked more threatening and played with more purpose than ourselves.
Unfortunately we stuck to the 4231 formation throughout and despite having only made 2 substitutions; we stuck to this plan and struggled to cause enough problems. It would have been nice to withdrawn a midfielder and given Tudgay a chance to make an impression in the closing stages. This would have been the sort of the game that Adebola would have joined to change things around but we didn’t seem to have anything different to offer this time.
The decision to play McGoldrick up front on his own was a mistake and it was no surprise when Garner replaced him early into the second half. One mis-guided back-heel on the half-way line didn’t go down too well and he was soon taken off. He looked isolated, was easily dispossessed and grew increasingly frustrated.
It wasn’t all McGoldrick’s fault as McGugan rarely looked like getting close enough to provide the necessary support. It was only in the closing stages when McGugan really got into the game, down the left hand side, as we know he’s capable of. McGugan’s one real chance to shine came after a right wing cross cut out the keeper and left him with a clear sight of goal. Unfortunately, he seemed off balance when shooting and failed to hit the target with a couple of defenders back on the line.
Andy Reid certainly didn’t have the best of starts on his return to the club. A couple of poor free kicks drifting aimlessly over the bar and it just wasn’t happening for him. He looked at his best when picking the ball on the half-way line and running at their defence, unfortunately he lacked any real options and we failed to capitalise.
On the other wide, we were relying on Anderson and Gunter to provide pace into a static front line. Anderson looked pretty much the same as last season, promising lots but too often failing to convert a decent run into creating a chance for a team-mate. Plenty of running with and without the ball but very little end product. Playing with a single striker puts a lot of pressure on the wingers to contribute more than simply staying wide and providing crosses and we’d need a massive improvement if he’s going to achieve this.
There were some positives to be taken from the game though. We looked fairly solid in defence with no obvious weakness from the selection of Cohen at left back. He certainly possesses enough energy to contribute at both ends of the pitch, looks assured on the ball and apart from one short back-pass didn’t cause any problems. There will be tougher opponents in the weeks to come though.
MOTM Boateng was the one to display the level of desire that you’d expect. He contributed at both ends with an energetic performance and certainly doesn’t appear to be here for one last pay day. Despite being the one you’d expect to sit in front of the back four, he seemed to be everywhere, winning the ball back and using it intelligently.
Greening was steady alongside him, showed his quality on the ball but lacked enough creativity going forwards to cause them too many problems. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the final third as the season progress as he’s obviously got enough talent wherever he plays. Both of these additions are a massive improvement on last season’s McKenna and with Moussi on stand-by we are well stocked in this position.
Majewski certainly looked lively in the last fifteen minutes with a willingness to show for the ball, move the ball quickly and then look for the return pass. With this sort of enthusiasm and quality on the ball, he stood out a mile from the rest of the midfield in the short time he was on the pitch.
Garner also made a difference from the bench, running the channels, earning free kicks but without really looking like scoring - the story of the game really.