We were so poor today, first half especially, not really much to defend there. Yet another slow start and lucky not to be a goal down inside a minute, we would have been but for an excellent second save from Bart. That wasn't even his best of the half - I still have no idea how Hoillet didn't score wth that much space.
The second half was at least better and it looked like whichever side did just enough right (or didn't fall asleep) would nick it, not sure either side deserved it on the second half performance but QPR deserved to be two or three up at the break. Just annoying to concede from a miss-hit shot like that. For anyone with a better view was there any hint of offside with that?
And yet, we had four good chances to equalise, just couldn't get hold of the ball or were blocked by Smithies who decided to rival Bart for impressive goalkeeping.
We really can't play 4-4-2 as we have even less possession than in a 4-2-3-1; without Hyam's energy in midfield (and with Skuse off the pace after his injury) we were struggling to do anything positive. Sears really is wasted that far wide whereas in a narrower formation the win play is in more dangerous areas.
All of which pales into insignificance compared to another injury to Fraser. We'll miss him, although he hasn't been the sole cause of our good run (it started six weeks before he came back into the side) he's been a big part of our better performances. We certainly need another winger in.
Just a word for the much maligned Giles Coke. He played well, won a couple of important tackles and passed it well. He may be fourth choice in central midfield but he did ok today.
Norwich 1-2 Town5th Feb 2006 15:12 An 88th minute goal forced in by a combination of Danny Haynes's hand and Norwich defender Gary Doherty gave the Blues a deserved derby win at Carrow Road. The home side had gone ahead in the first half through Jonatan Johansson but the ex-Addick deflected in a Jimmy Juan freekick soon afterwards.0
So, having made a late decision at four yesterday to endure Greater Anglia I'm very glad I did. We frustrate at times but, after some of the shocking rubbish we've had to endure over the years, we really shouldn't downplay the benefits of a hard-working team that keeps going right to the end more often than not.
If only we could start matches with the same intent though, all too often at home we're slow and sloppy from the start, struggling to keep hold of the ball and conceding space to the opposition. We did, at least defend fairly well - the recovery from poor errors from Berra and then Murphy very impressive - and Bart only had one comfortable shot to save.
We struggle to control the tempo of play at home, it was the biggest problem against Preston as I complained at the time and at times last night it looked similar. Opposing teams can sit back and look to break quickly exploiting our lack of pace at the back and propensity for errors.
The switch, half-way through the first half, to 4-2-3-1 with AMN inside and Sears and Fraser wide made a big difference. Those three all threatened a lot more from there, running with the ball and looked to increase the tempo of our play.
Hyam's endeavours shouldn't pass without comment. We know his limitations, but he was looking to pick the ball up and drive play forward which helped put the game more where we wanted to play it. Two good chances at the end of the half and I felt reasonably positive at half-time that we could step up and win it.
A good early goal soon after half-time and the football improved as we relaxed and knocked the ball around quite nicely at times. We had chances for a second which would have killed the match off but Reading broke well and presented some threat even if they never looked like scoring.
Quite why Skuse made that challenge, I doubt he knows. It looked to be another costly error that would wipe out any of the good stuff we had done in the previous twenty minutes but having a player like Pitman to bring on against tiring defences is as close as we're going to get to strength in depth at the moment.
The overall home record and our ability to perform well at home remains far below the high standards of last season, but three wins in four however they've come about starts to change that slightly. The way we started to play at 1-0 up suggests our problem at home is as much about confidence and belief as ability and tactics. If we can build some momentum then we'll get over than and increase our chances of the play-offs but we really have to start home games more quickly.
That post-Preston post for comparison:
Controlling the tempo of the game by Steve_M17 Jan 12:43 Aside from everything else which has been done to death after each poor performance, our biggest failing yesterday is that we could not control the tempo of the game and we generally struggle to do so at home.
Gerken's early flap set the tone for much of the first half: slow, hesitant, generally second best and calamitous at the back. How many chances did we have to clear that ball before the goal? We were lucky it wasn't 2-0 as Gallagher's free kick look destined to go the other side of the post from my angle.
Preston were quite happy to sit back and defend and then hit us with quick breaks, something our sluggishness never seriously threatened to change in the first 20 minutes. The referee's ambivalence to Fraser being repeatedly hacked down just added to the frustration. A bit of Murphy excellence, after some nice passing, got us back into the game though and 1-1 at half time might have allowed us to push on for the win.
Instead we were unable to build any real momentum, a brief spell just after half time aside, before the last few minutes. Preston defended well, but we couldn't keep them any sustained pressure. Although every time we threatened to, they slowed the game down with time-wasting, falling over and other tediousness.
A referee who didn't think multiple fouls from behind on Fraser worthy of yellow cards was never going to clamp down on that although, to my mind, the award of a free kick after the defender threw himself to the ground in the area is a far bigger indictment of the referee than the penalty incident. When we did make chances we fluffed them, both Sears and Chambers should have done better with theirs (as should Berra in the first half) but, again, we didn't create enough pressure to create more.
Just a frustrating day but context is important both in terms of our home form and performances this season (not good enough in general) and the season as a whole ( we remain nicely placed). Too many seem to want to ignore which ever one of those factors doesn't suit their position. We can, and do, play better football than yesterday but ultimately it will be being able to play near our best more consistently that decides our season.