was, ironically, Leadbitter! He was able to keep the ball, recycle it and change the direction of play and keep Middlesboro moving. No killer pass but he was better than those in a blue shirt by a country mile. I know he is hate figure for many on here and he was booed by Town fans yesterday but, unfortunately, the truth is sometimes difficult to take.
"We knew they liked to pump it long". These were the words of Boro striker Danny Graham after his two goals had sent Town home with the "nowt" that this performance merited. His words were, unfortunately, spot on the money. Town's only tactic today was to lump it in the general direction of the strikers as the hard working Boro front players never allowed the Town backline to settle. The pumped balls were, as a result, even more hopeful than usual and often failed to find a Town shirt. Time and again, Town players gave the ball away cheaply. This was the worst performance I have witnessed all season.
The Riverside holds just short of 35,000. Today, south of 14,000 witnessed the game. Without the drummer and the 1000 or so Boro fans singing in the stand where Town fans have been for the last few seasons, this really would have been "football in a library".
Mick's 433 looked attacking on paper but in reality, the midfield was outfought and outplayed simply couldn't hang on to the ball. Green doesn't have the engine for that formation as he afforded Chambers no protection at all. Time and again the skipper was left alone to be confronted by a rampaging Carayol and Friend with Green 10-15 yards behind the play. So much was this the case that Nouble found himself on several occasions tracking back in the right back position to help his captain out. Credit to Frank but let's be honest, he was playing up front and should not really be required to this kind of work on a frequent basis.
Boro started on the front foot but it was Taylor who created the first bit of excitement, wriggling free and firing in a low cross which perhaps should have been turned goalwards that came to nought. Boro pressed and most of their best work came down the left from the aforementioned Carayol and Friend. They used the width of the pitch well but did not make the most of the openings that this brought them. Efforts off target and a great saving tackle from Berra saw the game remain goalless. Gerken did well to push a further effort around the post. For Town, Murphy appeared to make no contact with a headed opportunity but it was Taylor who really ought to have opened the scoring midway through the half. Murphy's scuffed shot ricocheted kindly into Taylor's path. Clean in on goal, he elected to shoot first time with the outside of his right foot from 16 yards. The ball flew over the bar. He really should have hit the target and scored and he knew it too.
Shortly after, Carayol again cut inside Chambers and fired a shot from 25 yards at the Town goal. Gerken spilled the shot straight out, Graham pounced from 5 yards and Boro had ended their seven game goalless streak. Gerken has his defenders and detractors on here but for me, this was an error. A top keeper would have held it or at worst parried it to the angle and away from goal. To push it straight out is an error in my book.
Thereafter, Boro were better. Most of their play coming down the left saw a succession of corner as the game entered first half stoppage time. Ah, the irony of it all - a Leadbitter corner saw Graham get between Green and Berra and glance his second of the game into the Town goal for a 2-0 scoreline.
To Mick's credit, he recognised that 433 wasn't working and moved to 442 after the break. He has rightly pointed out that it could have been any of the front three but it was Nouble who was sacrificed. Green was pushed to right midfield but he is a square peg in a round hole in that position for me. Tabb move wide left and Hyam with Skuse in the middle. Nothing changed. Without being especially threatening, the home side were better. Town's first strike on goal came from Murphy on 66 minutes. It drew ironic cheers from the Town fans. It was so weak, my old man could have bent down and picked it up. Worryingly, Berra went down after a heavy challenge with Friend. After hobbling for a while, he seemed OK. Taylor was replaced by Ebanks-Blake for the final 20. He had worked hard and showed flashes but never really got free. He is not suited to high ball pumped in his direction after all! My guess is it will be back to the bench for him on Tuesday although I would like to see him given a run of four or five starts - that would be a fair crack of the whip for me. Creswell dragged a long range free kick wide, Green spooned a effort similarly off target and Williams came on for the ineffective Tabb. In the last five minutes, Town seemed to try to up the tempo. Cries from the travelling faithful of "Shoot, shoot" showed our desperation but saw several players fail to take responsibility and oblige when the opportunity seemed to be there. Smith headed awkwardly wide from a corner and just before the whistle, Berra force a sort of save with a header, clattering into the stanchion behind the goal as a consequence.
As I said earlier, this was a s bad as I have seen us this season. Mick's honesty in that we were "second best and deserved 'nowt" will be of scant consolation to the 500 or so Town fans who made the trip. Three points at Yeovil are now essential.
Comments on the players: Gerken - there will be those who don't agree but that was a poor error. Neither he nor Loach are good enough if we are to be genuine challengers. Chambers - exposed over and over. Eventually booked. I love Chambo but this was poor as I have seen him. His distribution was simply terrible. Smith - Distinctly average today. Never comfortable and never allowed to settle Berra - He was OK but I think he let Graham get infront of him for the second Creswell - not on the top of his game. OK defensively but it's not happened going forward since Tunners left. Green - either play him in the centre in a 442 or just don't bother - he doesn't have the engine for 433. Skuse - pretty anonymous to be honest Tabb - no denying the industry but to what end? Taylor - flashes of skill and working the space for himself but then failed to capitalise. Really should of scored. Murphy - oh dear Daryl. Nothing worked for him. He was dominated aerially, gave the ball away countless times and looked very lumbering and lethargic Nouble - not great but he worked hard, especially trying to help Chambo out. One such occasion was classic Frank. Worked his nuts off, tracked back, won the ball, moved clear with a lovely little shimmy and then looked for a pass to a teammate. He put the ball straight into touch whilst under no pressure. Hyam - booked six minutes after coming on. Tightened things up but that's all. Ebanks-Blake - never had a sniff of goal. Tried to link up play but the gap between the front line and the midfield makes this a thankless task. At 2-0 down at half time, Mick should have brought him on earlier. Williams - energy but in this game he had little chance of impact
Truly terrible today - let's hope a kick up the backside brings three points on Tuesday!
Should have stayed at Town for at least two more seasons in 2001. Career stalled at Arsenal and never really got going again. I know he had injuries but he seemed destined for much more than he ultimately achieved.
That's 22 points from the final 13 games - just over 1.5 per game. We simply have to beat some of those sides around us as that not only accumulates the points for us but simultaneously reduces their totals. Even if we got to 70 without getting some positive results against Wigan, Brighton, Blackburn and Forest, I reckon we might still fall agonisingly short.
It's bl00dy football folks! By all means share views, air different opinions on players and formations etc but the personal comments and points scoring isn't necessary. Maybe I'm misinformed but I thought we were all supporters of the same team ffs! Healthy debate - yes. Opinions - yes. The personal crap - no thanks.
would you have been going nuts about it being offside? When the ball was played through, Phillips was clearly offside just one or two yards from where Wood picked up the ball. I know you'll tell me but he didn't touch it and wasn't, therefore, interfering but that's b0ll0ck$! His run will take the defenders attention and help open up the space for Wood to run into. I might be only arguing against the rules but as an ex-defender myself, I know how stupid it is. As it is, the goal was immaterial and no-one seems to have mentioned it anyway.
On first inspection, these would suggest a fairly even game in which Town played their part in terms of possession and shots. Only failure being to actually test the keeper more than once. Indeed, the fact that Gerken was only tested 5 times in total would not suggest any sort of continual bombardment from the league leaders. Then again, stats are often a load of b0110ck$
Had the Leicester fans forgotten they were beaten at Portman Road last season and McGoldrick's opener there this season? Mind you, a tremendous blizzard sometime between 3 and 4.45 pm yesterday might have proven quite useful!
Patience is a virtue. I like what Mick is building and no-one more than he knows that it is not the finished product. He has tried to address the midfield, bringing in Hunt, Anderson, Graham, Green, Tunnicliffe and Skuse this season alone. Combine this with the fact he has also played Edwards, Hyam, Tabb and Taylor in midfield shows he knows it's not right. Compare this with his settled goalkeeper and defence and the fact that when fit, McGoldrick and Murphy would be his preferred front two emphasises he is fully aware just where the team has its deficiencies. Be patient people. Whilst 16 months is about the average life span of the Championship manager, any rational and sane fan would argue that more significant time is required to take a club from the brink of the abyss to genuine challengers. The kind of players that Mick targets (and brings in) this summer will be of crucial significance in ensuring the solid foundations are genuinely built upon. Pace and midfield creativity will be at a premium - then again, they always are.
Mick has rightly said that we were beaten by a better team and the league does not lie - they are streets ahead of us (and almost everybody else too!) What's of more interest though is why this is the case. Movement and forward intent from their midfield and pace in several positions to boot. We are a decent side but those two ingredients are what we are missing most and it will be Mick's job to try to rectify these deficiencies in time for next season.
As expected, Nouble started up top alongside Murphy. Tabb in the middle with Skuse and Green and Hunt occupying the wide midfield berths, the ususal back line and Gerken returning in goal. A healthy away following contributing to a 28K crowd spurred on by the beat of drummer to our left.
The Foxes started quickly and throughout the first half the front two of Vardy and our nemesis Nugent worked incredibly hard, chasing down every ball with real intent and not giving the Town back line any time whatsoever. Town were troubled by the sun and on countless occasions this lead to defenders allowing the ball to bounce and find themselves pressurised by the aforementioned Foxes' strikers, ably assisted by Dyer and Knockaert down the flanks. The wind also seemed to be affecting Town and Gerken's poor handling and suspect kicking gave the table toppers every encouragement to chase every long ball in. Runners from midfield were hard to track but we seemed to have weathered the opening storm. Gerken deserves credit for a good save from Morgan's header. Skuse should have done much better when the ball fell nicely to him on the edge of the box but he scuffed the chance well wide. He should be disappointed not to have hit the target. Town had a couple of free kicks which came to nought but on 20 we were the architects of our own downfall. Tabb sought to play the ball back to Gerken but he did not see Vardy. The Fox entered the box, intercepted Tabb's pass and slotted home past a stranded Gerken. I might be being harsh but I was left with the feeling Gerken was a little indecisive but that might be me being unfair to be honest. Home pressure continued with width, pace, movement and confidence all very evident. Surprisingly, however, Gerken had little to actually do. Town forays were sporadic, Murphy and Nouble struggling to make an impact and we simply do not have the forward thinking midfield players to offer them that extra support to really make an impact against this kind of quality.
Another ball over the top saw Vardy reach the ball before Berra. The young Fox managed to find De Laet who got in a cross which Chambers ably blocked but the ball fortuitously returned straight to him and he crossed pinball style straight to the waiting Nugent who simply cushioned the ball in for his customary goal against Town and 2-0. The home side had a free kick go narrowly wide and continued to press before the ref blew for half-time. Some re-grouping was needed and for the first time since our last visit to The King Power stadium, I genuinely feared another cricket score might be in the offing.
Thankfully, Town were a little better after the break although the Foxes went very close in the opening exchanges to extending their lead. Again, the pace of Dyer had us all at sea. Alongside a better performance from Town, Leicester seemed to take their foot off the gas and gradually we came more into the game. On the hour, Tabb was replaced by Anderson, Green moving to his more natural position in the centre. Murphy and Nouble both failed to make decent contact with the same half chance and Nouble almost charged down one back pass to Schmeichel before exiting for Ebanks-Blake. Town put some crosses into the box, Smith unable to get onto the end of Berra's flick. Murphy had an attempt from the edge of the area blocked but the home side still looked threatening and far more composed in possession. For the final 15 Taylor replaced Hunt and had an effort go a yard or so wide as the forgotten man cut in from the right. Cresswell dragged a free kick tamely well wide as the game petered out. Smith's New Zealand colleague Chris Wood replaced Nugent and with a couple of minutes to go brushed aside Town defenders and slotted past the advancing Gerken to put the result beyond doubt (though frankly it had been for the last 20 minutes to be honest). Taylor put a Town free kick into the side netting but Town were still distinctly second best. Some banter between the younger singing Town fans and the home crowd served as a little light relief before the final whistle. We were outplayed and to return to my original theme, put to the sword by pace and movement. They are the best side in the league and maybe we can learn one or two lessons from the style of play that has got them there.
Some player comments:
Gerken - some good stops but he looks shaky when the ball goes back to him an Leicester seemed to sense it. Chambers - not his best performance but not the worst. Exposed a few times and like all the back four, rushed into hoofing it by the energetic Foxes over and over again Berra - not his usual composed self. Like Smith, allowed the ball to bounce too much with the sun in his eyes and was a bit exposed by the ball over the top and the pace of Vardy. Smith - very similar to Berra. Never allowed to settle. Cresswell - one lovely nutmeg in the first half and a couple of decent crosses. Average at best Green - not a right sided midfielder and I saw him a couple of times in the first half not doing enough to get back as the Foxes broke with pace. Better in the centre. Skuse - neat, tidy and probably our best midfielder today. Should have hit the target. Needs someone alongside him somewhere in the midfield to compliment his game and not replicate it. Tabb - at fault for the first for sure. Not imposing himself in the centre of the park. Mick says "Tabby's great" but still took him off after 60 minutes. Actions speak louder than words Mick. Hunt - busy and perhaps our most creative outlet at times. Hasn't yet formed a proper working partnership with Cresswell down the left side. They don't seem to be on the same wavelength at the moment in terms of overlapping one another. Nouble - lots of work from Frank. Won more high balls than I have ever seen him. Had one chance to show his pace and power in the first half but it petered out and he was brushed aside. Murphy - an enigma for me. Murph seems to have everything needed for a Championship number 9 and he might well argue that the service just isn't good enough at times. He'd be right but I can't get past the fact that far too many times (especially against the better teams) Murph just doesn't present enough of a physical threat. I've said it before, against players like Morgan, Daryl declines to challenge -a token jump is what you get. Morgan will have removed him from his pocket at the final whistle today. Anderson - had one or two chances to go at his man but elected to turn back inside and go backwards or sidewards. Compare this to Dyer and Knockaert today and their forward drive. Ebanks-Blake - give him a run and we'll see. I thought he did OK today although I was unimpressed that he went straight down the tunnel on the final whistle without acknowledging the away support Taylor - in the short time he was on, one nice crossfield ball to Anderson, two strikes at goal and some forward drive. Did lose the ball a couple of times as well.
I know these are very long reports and I apologise if they are too much to get through!
So it looks like Murphy and Nouble up top although I can see Nouble dropping into a 5 man midfield at times. I don't really want to see Tabb start in the centre right now. What I have seen of him lately he is as industrious as ever but I reckon Green and Skuse could be a stronger central pair and Green might have more forward drive in him than Tabb. Anderson has been unlucky not to start the last few games but by his own admission he was poor when coming on against Blackpool. I'd play Ando on the right though. Hunt was star man at Barnsley so I'd have him on the left. Tabb and Edwards on the bench for me. Taylor to get 30 mins from the bench when Noobs is knackered after chasing crisp packets in Leicester Blue shirts.
According to Danny Higginbotham this is how Mick broke the news to him that he was not going to be in the team. You have got to love Mick for his straight talking. Higginbotham certainly seemed to appreciate his honesty. Wonder what he said to Reo-Coker when he couldn't be ar$ed trying as Leicester steamrollered us 6-0 last year. Perhaps more to the point, I wonder what some of his conversations with Paul Taylor have been like if, as TC intimated, he hasn't been putting the work in in training!
Wholeheartedly agree with what the trust says regarding match-day ticket pricing and accessibility. Portman Road is an expensive ground especially when you consider the significantly lower match day prices for away fans at most of the 15 or so grounds that I attend every season. There is one caveat however; ITFC runs at a significant loss and one of it's major revenue streams (as well as the pockets of MEG) is gate receipts. The club have to be careful. What if it cuts its prices but gates don't increase to balance the income? That would mean more debt, even less transfer money and reduced contract offers and (probably) lesser quality recruits. When the club has had ticket promotions so far this season, they have hardly been a rip-roaring success have they? We have got nowhere near the 20,000 barrier at all. If the club is to make any kind of move in the direction of lower prices, I think they would need to see significantly higher levels of support for these promotions to give them the necessary encouragement.
On a different but related note, I took my 9 year old boy and his friend to Barnsley on Saturday and as I hadn't bought the tickets in advance from ITFC, I had to pay the full £16 each "concession price" rather than the £5 it would have cost in advance. That's more than 200% difference! - that's a sure way to put off the match day ticket purchaser and a ludicrous situation.
Google "Tunnel cam Barnsley v Ipswich You Tube" - think that's the link above. What is the Assistant ref checking under the shorts for? Secret weapons? Crabs? That they've got some undies on? Probably the colour of their cycling shorts but it just looks so odd! Take a peek if you'll excuse the pun!
Leaving the pitch at the final whistle, Big Mick puffed out his cheeks as the fans saluted him with another rendition of "Super Mick". Did he think it was a point gained or two lost? Under the circumstances - two down with ten to go - you might think it's a point gained. Looking at the game as a whole, it's more likely to feel like two dropped.
I like Oakwell as a ground but today it was increasingly cold and the swirling wind had a real impact on the game. Town started sluggishly with a number of long balls being misjudged by Chambers and Berra in particular in the wind. After a lucky escape for Town when Hunt miscontrolled on the edge of his own area, the home side struck the opening goal on about 12 minutes, O'Grady allowed to turn too easily when moving away from goal as his shot beat a flat footed Gerken at his far post. Barnsley had some threatening moments, Gerken punching one dangerous cross away but Town went closest to a goal when Cresswell's excellent free kick struck the post midway through the half. A number of corners and half chances for Town resulted in nothing as several players, including McGoldrick, snatched at shots and Smith headed one great chance wide just before half time. Barnsley had been the better side despite the fact that Gerken hadn't really had that much to do. Quite simply, we hadn't made Steele in the Barnsley goal do enough either.
Town came out with more fire in their bellies in the second half and the misjudgements of the Town players in the first half now seemed to plague the home players making the impact of the wind more obvious. Five minutes in, Nouble was withdrawn and replaced by Anderson. To be frank, Nouble had been very poor, his control just not good enough, his touch clumsy and his contribution negligible. Hunt came more into the game and Town started to dominate. Hunt drove at the Barnsley area from the half way line, running out of steam at the final moment and Tabb was unable to hit the target from 18 yards as Town turned the screw. Anderson fired wide from six yards after a terrific move in which Town passed the ball as well as I have seen them this season. Skuse fired wide from the edge of the area and really should have opened his Town account as he blazed over from 10 yards shortly after. Other chances fell to Murphy and Anderson but two good saves from Steele denied Town a deserved equaliser. More scuffed attempts from Town and several corners saw us increasingly frustrated as Hunt pulled the strings impressively and McGoldrick continued to look class with his hold up and link play. Anderson had made a positive impact on the game but all seemed lost when a rare foray from the Tykes resulted in deflected free kick from the right side of the box finding its way past Gerken and into the Town net just seconds after Green had come on to replace Tabb on with 15 to go. Cruel on Town who really should have been ahead but credit to the team, they did not give up. After a couple of corners, Smith nodded Anderson's looping ball goalward, O'Brien blocked and Berra pounced to volley home from five yards with just nine minutes left on the clock. A minute later, Hunt missed a golden chance to draw Town level as he met a cross from the left about six yards out but somehow managed to put the ball agonisingly wide. A minute or so later, with Town piling forward, McGoldrick was fouled about 22 yards out on the right side of the box. Cresswell tapped the ball to his left and McGoldrick's well struck flew into the Barnsley goal via a wicked deflection for 2-2. Fully deserved but Town went hunting for the winner. Hunt, the star man for me, pulled a cross back and debutant Green really should have scored from 10 yards but his shot was a little scuffed and blocked. One decent effort from Barnsley was saved by Gerken and in the final two minute of the five added on, Town looked as though they had settled for the draw. Mick has always maintained a point away from home is a good point. Maybe today, he might feel it should have been three. Gerken - no real chance with with either goal although he looked flat footed for the first Chambers - an average performance by the skipper Cresswell - good today. Defensively solid, and pushing forward and combining with Hunt in particular Smith - very solid. Probably should have hit the target in first half with headed chance Berra - also solid and another goal! That's three so far. Tabb - industrious and a reasonable performance Skuse - should have scored but he is integral to the team Hunt - second half he ran the game. Should have scored and also lucky not to have been booked in the first half Nouble - poor game for Frank and Mick knows it, taking him off after 50 minutes McGoldrick - he is a good player, great touch, great feet and we need to extend his contract soon! Murphy - solid work from Daryl and he made an effective contribution in the second half Anderson - much better from Ando. He looked a threat and a vast improvement on Big Frank Green - could have a been a dream debut but he looked comfortable
A long read I know but maybe you got something out of it.
Green is a West Yorkshire lad (I met him at his nephew's christening about 4 years ago but I have no definite info!!) and I am not sure with the impending Leeds takeover and the highly likely change of management that will follow that if I were him I wouldn't sit tight at Elland Road and take my chances to impress when they come along in a couple of weeks time - clean slate and all that guff. He is, however, a Mick type of player as he is a grafter!!
I think I'm right in saying that McGoldrick signed a 2 year contract which means come the summer, he will be entering the final year of his deal. I understand why two year deals are in vogue at Portman Road with the financial constraints but I hope that Mick is allowed to extend the contract of one of the club's biggest playing assets. This was achieved for Cresswell and I think Smith extended his deal too sometime earlier. I know it can't ultimately prevent a sale if the right offer comes in but it does guarantee a better price. McGoldrick has proven himself at Championship level over the last 13 months with 20 odd goals in a Town shirt. Time to protect our assets and extend his contract.