|Thoughts on yesterday and Murphy|
at 13:52 28 Aug 2016
Three weeks ago, back on the opening day, a goal from Mcgoldrick and the seeming return to form of Daryl Murphy were two of the biggest highlights for me, even if they were slightly overshadowed by an outrageously good debut from Grant Ward.
And now, another injury for our most talented player and the sale of the player most important to our style of play over the last few seasons. Before anyone starts on hoofing, do remember that our best play under McCarthy has come when we've had the ability to mix play up, we did so a week ago pretty successfully for the most part. It's just that when we can neither hold the ball up front or keep it to play through midfield it's rather awful.
Like most of yesterday was. Now, in the context of the season then another home win was the most important thing, something to suggest Portman Road will not be a place we struggle to win for a second successive season. In the context of the sale of Murphy then it became even more important - to go into the international break with a solid points total and then start again in a fortnight.
We did play well for the first twenty minutes yesterday, some good link up play between midfield, Sears and Pitman and Ward's goal was an excellent reward for it. A second soon after - and Sears was fairly close - and we might have seen the match out comfortably.
The tendency to sit back and let the opposition have the ball is our most frustrating trait, there are times it is necessary but it wasn't yesterday. We let Preston dominate midfield a bit too much and allow them to try and overlap past our full backs - something that seemed to be their only tactic for the most part. We were solid enough though even if they created a couple of chances.
The second half actually started brightly, and had Pitman put his ball to Sears a little further away from the keeper it would have been 2-0 early on and comfortable. Instead we allowed a limited Preston side to stay in the match. Fortunately they were rubbish, giving the ball away with even greater frequency than we did. All of which made for a half that was somewhat less than memorable.
Yesterday though, the win was the important thing. I think the crowd realised that and stayed broadly positive and supportive throughout. The incident with the fourth official in some ways helped that and seemed to wake the team up a bit.
Where we go from here is the interesting question. Yes, Murphy does (damn it, did) cause us to be be more direct but it was never the only reason, our poor ball retention in the middle of the pitch is as much a reason, especially with yesterday's back four. Pitman just can not do the same job in leading the line, he's much better closer to midfielders or another striker and linking play. He worked hard yesterday, but too often in the wrong place to be effective.
I can still only think of three matches last season where we played well without Murphy in the side - the second half at home to Burnley and the last two matches of the season. There may be a couple of others but the point still stands we are a lesser side without him and especially so without McGoldrick as well.
That said, yesterday's first half showed some positive signs of what we can do. Bishop and Conor Grant can certainly add to that but we clearly need to add a winger, preferably one with pace and energy, and a striker who can hold the ball up to the squad. Even then we still look quite short in many areas.
Mick will clearly have targets in mind but getting the right players in the door this week is going to be very important to the success of this season. I didn't see our chances of reaching the play-offs as being particularly high before this week but to be able to stay competitive and still have an outside chance of them in the late Spring would be a good season. What that does for our hopes of playing better football this season is harder to tell, get the ability to mix play up right and - added to the signings we've made this Summer - then maybe we can at least keep Portman Road fun to visit again.