|[Blog] Derby Dissection and Beyond|
Written by SouperJim on Saturday, 23rd Apr 2011 12:05
Where did it all go wrong? Yes, the scoreline was awful. But was the performance really that bad? I've read and heard so much bitter kneejerk reaction stuff from my fellow fans in the last 24 hours that I need to have my say.
Were we poor? Overall, yes. Were we disappointing? Most definitely. Where we terrible, useless, heartless, a complete waste of space? No, I think that's much too strong and such comments are born out of anger at the scoreline. We have played far worse at times this season and I even think this wasn't our worst performance under Jewell. Just our most disappointing.
First lets put things into context. Jewell inherited a side whose chin was on its chest. Roy Keane had identified our weaknesses and then failed utterly to correct them. 4-5-1 suited the personnel and at times we were organised and resilient, but with so little creativity and with so much fear on the ball.
The new manager has put some confidence into the side, added one or two players who can use the ball and given the side licence to play passing, attacking football when in possession. The difference in the side since January is there for all to see and to take our side from the verge of relegation to a mathematical chance of the play-offs, in such a short space of time, is nothing short of incredible. In the grand scheme of things we couldn't have asked for any more from Jewell's time in charge so far.
But just maybe we had started to think we were better than we were. Maybe we had began to think that we don't have the serious problems at striker, winger and full-back that we knew we had under Keane. If anything good is going to come from the derby defeat, it'll be the realisation that we are still desperately short in several departments.
So, the game itself then. Norwich started brightly, no major disaster, but it was soon clear Lee-Barrett simply wasn't up to the task. I have got nothing against ALB, but I have thought for some time that he has been punching well above his weight with us and was a disaster waiting to happen.
In previous games he has had headless chicken moments, rushing around the area flapping at everything and making contact with nothing. This time we were made to pay for it. Edwards was caught out of position, something which is going to happen from time to time when you play a converted winger at full-back, and ALB hopelessly palmed Hoolahan's low cross back into the danger area.
Ten minutes later and it was a similar story, this time from a corner and this time ALB bottled it altogether and left a ball he could have easily cut out. McAuley had little choice but to try and put it away for another corner, but these things always seem to happen in derby games. Two goalkeeping errors, two goals. In hindsight Lee-Barrett looked nervous before kick-off and was blowing heavily. The occasion got the better of him.
From there it was always going to be an uphill struggle. Our performance second half was much improved, but Norwich worked hard, closed us down, doubled up on the danger men and limited us to very few chances.
To our credit we were patient and probing, but with the exception of a couple of overlapping runs by Drury we utterly failed to break their defensive line and find any space to hurt them in. O'Dea did his best on the left, but he is no winger and was given the space he had because Norwich knew he couldn't hurt them.
On the other side Carlos 'Cut Inside' Edwards failed to plant the seed out of doubt in Norwich minds even once by attempting to get to the byline and was constantly crowded out trying to find half a yard to go for the top corner. If you had told me a few months ago that we would miss Lee Martin in game like this I would have raised my eyebrows. But without him we had no balance and as a result no way to stretch their defence.
We piled forward, often leaving just two men back and were caught on the break three times. The third goal couldn't really be helped, but for the fourth and fifth again ALB didn't shower himself in glory, yes he was badly exposed but the sight of him racing off his line and being easily beaten at his near post while Norwich had men over anyway did little to improve my opinion of what was as terrible a goalkeeping performance as I've seen in a derby game.
I'm not sure ALB should have even come out for the second half, it would have been a big slap in the face for the lad but nothing a good man manager like Jewell couldn't handle and we didn't use all our subs come the final whistle.
A terrible all round performance? No. We paid the price for 'keeping the faith' in our third choice keeper, a keeper previously released by Weymouth and Hartlepool, and for failing to come up with any real ideas to break down their defence.
But they did try, the effort and desire was there but the experienced frontmen were not. Not for the first time I say that if we offload Fülöp to be rid of his wages in the summer, we simply must replace him or we will regret it. Murphy is too short to ever be a top class keeper and Lee Barrett offers very little once he comes off his line.
Loaning Priskin to Swansea in the hope of being able to sell him in the summer was a calculated gamble, but going into this game at least with the ageing immobile Scotland and a couple of boys to look to for goals was one gamble that simply did not pay off.
Priskin only should have gone once Simon Cox had signed on loan from West Brom, or if we were prepared to recall Pablo on the lie that he had a chance of a new deal. Whatever you say about Pablo, I know this is one game he would have got amongst it and tried his heart out for the North Stand.
We must sign two or more experienced strikers to be competitive next season, not to mention a permanent replacement for Kennedy and a more defensively experienced alternative to Edwards. I still feel that, presuming McAuley signs, we have one of the best central defensive parings in the division. But if we continue to expose them badly by failing to sign a holding midfield player, a left-back and a right-back, we could have Superman in goal and it wouldn't save us.
Come on Paul, wheel and deal like the experienced manager we know you to be. And maybe, just maybe, this time next season we will be celebrating a little revenge.
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