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at 14:01 15 Sep 2018
[Post edited 15 Sep 14:03]
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 23:34:15|
Ipswich Town v Norwich City prediction logged
|Bring on Derby - some thoughts on yesterday|
at 10:49 19 Aug 2018
This was my second sighting of Paul Hurst's New Era FC this season after the opening day but it already felt like more than a fortnight had passed. It seemed unfortunate that we were playing one of the strongest teams in the league after Hurst's outburst on Tuesday, as the inevitable reaction to it could prove worthless if Villa were too much for us to handle.
The starting line-up was one which might become quite familiar: Bart behind Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers and Knudsen, Chalobah sat in front of them and behind Skuse and Nolan, whilst Harrison stood strong on his own up front with Edwards and Edun either side. While we still have players injured, it's hard to see how that XI can really be changed to any great degree.
Straight from kickoff we exposed ourselves to why we need Nolan and the wide players to support Harrison: Chalobah's knock into the left channel was well won and flicked inside by Harrison, but no-one was there to challenge the ball and Villa were gifted possession.
Despite any pre-match concerns, the opening exchanges did not indicate which team was packed full of 40k+-a-week players. In fact it was Town who had the first real chance of the game when a superb run by Edwards where he beat Hutton, Grealish, Adomah and somehow Hutton again saw the ball worked to the lively Edun on the left who fired a fast low ball back across the box to Gwion who could only lift a firm effort onto the face of the bar.
Villa, for all their quality, struggled to create a chance beyond some crosses into the box which were well marshaled by the Town defence. Town came close again when Chalobah saw a shot blocked in a scrambled penalty area and Chambers poked the follow-up just wide. The Town support didn't sit on their hands like they did against Blackburn, and were becoming ever united against a sure shoe-in for 'worst referee of the season'. Tim Robinson seemed to enjoy being in charge of a game involving a big team like Villa so much that he gave them anything and everything they called for, Grealish in particular was a big fan of leaning against a player then letting himself fall over. He probably did enough to earn seven bookings for simulation but ho hum.
A throw in that looked ours but was given to our opponents led to the first goal of the match. The linesman in front of the Cobbold was useless and had clearly, not for the first time, guessed who touched the ball last as Skuse challenged McGinn in the centre of the pitch. The Town players were so convinced it was theirs that they didn't concentrate when Villa got on with it and McGinn swung a lovely ball into Kodja who got in between Chambers and Nsiala to flick home. The pair may have done better but if we'd have scored it we'd be praising the superb assist.
It was harsh on Town who had had the better of the attacking play and had reduced Villa to hopeful balls into the box which caused little trouble. They nearly earned a very harsh second when Grealish remembered he was allowed to stay on his feet and sent in a cross that Kodja thumped onto the bar. Just prior, Edun was cautioned when Bart threw the ball too far in front of him and despite winning it cleanly on the stretch, the ref judged him to have used too much force, a decision made easier by El Mohamady clutching his leg like it had been split into pieces by a large projectile before recovering miraculously to be able to sprint around the pitch again.
Hurst clearly feels we should make the most of Knudsen being able to throw the ball somewhat far and, well, we did. The Dane's hurl was feebly flapped at by visiting 'keeper Nyland and Chalobah used his body well to shield the bouncing ball before hitting a half volley on the turn into the bottom corner. A goal that meant a lot to him personally and showed that we were not going to let Villa see us off.
This task just became much harder when a fairly innocuous tackle by Edun on Manchester United loanee Tuanzebe saw the full back stumble then, remembering what his teammates had been doing all game, drop like an exhausted mule and cling onto whichever part of his leg would look more painful to the referee. The referee, I should add, who didn't seem to see the incident, or if he did, didn't see it worthy of a foul. Then, thinking about the signed and framed Jack Grealish poster in his bedroom, decided to stop play. Initially it looked like this was to make sure Tuanzebe was not in serious pain, so it was bizarre to see him call Edun over. Bizarre turned to ludicrous as both colour cards came out of his pocket and he showed them in sequence to the young Fulham loanee. A standing ovation by the Town fans as he jogged down the tunnel turned to hostile boos and whistles in one clear direction. The initial cheers by Villa's large support quickly turned into sheepish shuffling as they realised they were now 12v10.
Half time allowed for hurried discussion in the stands as to what we were going to do. Would we try and contain them? Would Hurst bring on a defender? No. The line-up stayed the same with Nolan drifting out left and Skuse and Chalobah becoming a partnership in the centre as we went 4-4-1.
We certainly weren't going to sit back either, which judging by the shaky individual performances by Villa's players, is what they were expecting to happen. We looked to break quickly at them at every opportunity, Edwards the most influential as he hooked onto several mistakes by Alan 'Scottish Cafu' Hutton. Donacien then got booked in the only acceptable way to do so: absolutely fooking clattering into dirty little scrote Grealish, who tried his best to get the ref to send the St Lucian off by writhing around and flailing his arms around like he was in the process of being torn apart by a machine gun.
The 2nd half saw little in the way of goalmouth action with Villa sending a few frustrated efforts wayward of the goalposts. It was Town that arguably came closest to finding a winner as Harrison was unable to direct a header from a corner on target as he stretched to make contact with the ball, whilst Edwards put in a couple of delicious balls which neither Nolan nor substitute Jackson gambled on.
The crowd was really fired up and played a big part in making the game difficult for Villa, celebrating every decision the ref gave in our favour like we'd scored a goal. Credit must also go to Steve Bruce - not many managers would pretend they were the Texans at the Siege of the Alamo when they actually had a man advantage. Bemusing why he didn't/couldn't get more out of his players when they looked far more dangerous when McGinn and Grealish got their feet on the ball in our half of the pitch.
Villa pushed harder for a winner in the four added minutes but could not break through and a hearty roar met the final whistle.
Bart was once again a little uncertain for me - should have claimed a few overhit balls aimed at Adomah but instead left them to Donacien to dribble his way out of trouble. Spooned an easy save behind for a corner as well but did make a good save from Hourihane at the death.
A shoutout for Big Boy Janoi is in order - the most improved player from the start of the season already. Villa clearly saw him as a weak link as they continually pumped balls to Adomah but the big man kept his composure and looked like the experienced Championship player against the newbie throughout the game. More performances like that and people will apologise for even thinking of the word 'Diallo'.
Nsiala's a player. A real player. Good judgement by Hurst in seeing he could step up - a real strong, powerful defender who loves doing what he does. Chambers had a few iffy moments including one dreadful pass after a good interception which nearly gifted Villa an opening, but he said midweek no-one should criticise the team's attitude and he led by example yesterday. Battled imperiously with Kodja all game and despite the Villa man getting a goal, won the battle overall.
Knudsen was another one who looked better, and Hurst has clearly instilled some confidence in him that his long throws are a genuine weapon. Helped by a flappy 'keeper yesterday but if it works, it works.
Chalobah looks better with each game, still the odd loose ball but is at the heart of most things we do and is always there to stick out a leg to slow down or completely stop an opposition attack. I think we'll find out that we're lucky to have him. On another day his goal may have bounced into a defender but it was great skill to get the shot away so he deserved it.
Skuse really came into his own once we were down to 10 - a real calming influence who used all his experience to help his younger colleagues keep the midfield shape to stifle Villa whilst being a solid rock to allow the likes of Edwards and Nolan to push the Villains back. Nolan ended up having to do a job to help the team but his quality on the ball is evident. Totally selfless in the second half and the most promising thing is that there's clearly more to come.
We'll do well to hold onto Edwards beyond this season at this rate. Special player. Fast, skillful, incredibly hard working, everything you'd want from a winger. Great buy from Hurst. Edun looked a very bright spark and it's unfortunate the ref ruined a good performance from him. He's answering some questions as to why he's starting ahead of some of our own, even if the general topic is still up for debate.
I felt a bit for Harrison, especially with 10 men he was having to do almost everything himself but it's a real asset to have someone in the team like him. I counted several defensive headers as well which is vital. His 2nd half replacement Jackson clearly has ability but has things to learn to become a Championship striker - one good run saw his shot hit wide when a more composed player might have played it differently whilst if he'd been braver and gambled in the box a couple of times he may well have scored the winner. He'll 100% score a Nouble-esque goal from chasing down a hesitant defender/'keeper at some point this season.
Yesterday's result and performance reminded me of last season's away loss to Leeds. A terrific performance which ultimately yielded much less than what we felt we deserved. We responded by thumping Sunderland off the park. I don't think we'll quite do that to Derby but if yesterday didn't inspire confidence and belief in the players, the fans, the whole club that we can go off to 'Frank Lampard's Derby' and seal our annual win there then absolutely nothing will.
We could well look back on yesterday as the first big step on our journey to whatever destination this new era takes us to.
|Prediction||Prediction Logged by at 11:11:22|
Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers prediction logged
|I'll have seconds please - thoughts on today's match|
at 22:57 28 Jul 2018
This was my first taste of Paul Hurst's town and I'd very much like to try it again. Pocket-sized Paul was greeted enthusiastically as he walked down to his dugout by the home crowd who were keenly hoping to enjoy the day. The first half, after a slow start, was very enjoyable, the high press style certainly looking to become clearer and bought into by the players. West Ham had the bigger, stronger and more experienced team but our boys (and the middle three were essentially just that) showed no fear in taking them on. Worked hard to get the ball and were able to calm themselves with quick 1 and 2 touch passing to get the ball away from the spammers in order to look up and play our game.
The game in question involved some crisp passing over short and long distances, each ball considered and measured with no hopeful/hopeless punts unless in a defensive necessity. We recovered well from a fairly cheap goal from the visitors where Fredericks found it too easy to put a ball into the unmarked Felipe Anderson who just about managed to guide it past Bart's outstretched arm. We settled back into the game with some good passing moves which were met by louder rounds of applause each time. The best of all came from great tenacity in the midfield to win the ball before Dozzell found Harrison and a cure for impotency with a superb defence-decimating pass and our new striker calmly prodded home beyond the other Polish 'keeper on the pitch.
The encouraging first half was brought to a close and a standing ovation was given by the 11k Town fans who were clearly more than pleased with what they had been served.
The second started with us forcing West Ham to hurry the ball behind for a corner but soon settled into a tighter game with the visitors beginning to express themselves without testing our number 33.
One noticeable issue with our set-up is that we leave ourselves vulnerable to the counter-attack and that is exactly how Arnautovic scored what proved to be the winner when he pounced on a lost ball and exploded beyond our back line to finish with class below Bart.
Several subs took the sting out of the game and the spammers held out fairly comfortably, not that that made any difference to how the Town fans felt about the overall performance.
Bart had little to do all game but looks sharper off his line than he has done before, gathering long balls and making one great dash to head the ball away from the edge of his box. Good decision making with distribution as well (though strong winds encouraged floor-level play).
The defense is the most obvious area for improvement before next week - you can tell Hurst isn't totally sold on his fullbacks, both doing a decent enough job though Spence needed Edwards to give him a lot of help whilst Knudsen looks very uncomfortable on the ball at times. Chambers was barking orders throughout the match and is clearly very important to us whilst I don't quite see in Woolfenden what others have been saying - certainly a player in there but was nowhere to be seen for their first goal and was a bit sloppy at times. Fine cover but feel he's not up to week in week out Championship football yet, hopefully Tilt (or whoever) gets done soon.
The middle 3 have plenty of experience playing together and that showed today with all 3 comfortable on the ball, Dozzell showing his class when on the ball, Downes showing zero respect for the opposition with a number of tough challenges, and Nydam showing great enthusiasm in closing down whilst looking to drive us up the pitch. They showed signs of tiring and are not ready for constant involvement but the quality and potential of the lads is clear as day and no-one should have any qualms about them starting if needed.
You can see why Edwards was brought in - like a more productive Paul Anderson he kept Felipe very quiet with great running up and down the line whilst got himself into good positions and delivered a few dangerous balls. Sears isn't back to where he was but he seemed to have a bit of a boost today - selfless running as always but appeared to take Hurst's comments on board as he ran at the defence and put one great cross in which Harrison hammered against the post.
Speaking of Harrison, we've got a fan-favourite-in-waiting on our hands. Superb aerial ability with enough pace and strength to be a real pest to defenders as well as being clever enough to know when to show the ref when a defender is 'over defending'. Cool finish and looked equally adept at playing on the shoulder and coming deeper to challenge for the ball. Early days but full of promise and could well be money very well spent.
We're not there yet, but we're getting closer to what Hurst ultimately wants - we've got the players to make the high press work but just need to fine tune it. We were more 4-1-4-1 today than 4-2-3-1 but Hurst clearly wants fluidity in that midfield with one sitting while the others press etc. whilst the full backs are clearly instructed to make attacking runs and push the opposition back to stop them from being able to clear their lines comfortably.
The players on the whole look comfortable with the ball at their feet but the one gripe would be a lack of real testing of Fabianski - far better movement than we've seen for a while but need to make that final pass a bit quicker to get a shot away. Better teams in this division may well have fun on the counter against us but one thing's for sure if today's any evidence - we won't make any game easy for anyone.
For me, and I assume many others, next Saturday can't come quickly enough.
|We must've done at some point|
at 21:38 13 Mar 2018
But every time we put ourselves in a 'must win' situation or have a 'big' opportunity, be it a chance to get a run of wins/positive results, derby matches, games on TV etc., we seem to contrive to screw it up.
Some good talkers off the pitch but let's be honest, we've got a generally spineless bunch out there on the pitch - no real leaders out there to really pull us through games/spells like this.
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