Nothing like a comfortable win with some good goals to make everyone feel a little better about things on a Monday morning. We're still going to be frustratingly inconsistent across the season though - even within some matches - but having players who score goals regularly will make a big difference.
The first half on Saturday was, of course, pretty rubbish from both teams although a little bit more competent than the first half at Burton last week which was truly dreadful. That little bit of composure from Bru, where he took the time to think about a pass and some nice interplay stood out a long way amidst the dross around it. That and a well placed shot deserved the fortunate response of an inept wall; the keeper had looked dodgy all half.
Contrary to some claims, I'm not sure there would have been much booing had it been 0-0 at half-time, it would have taken too much effort to pull the crowd out of it's collective apathy. For all that though, those who were there remained supportive, wanting to get behind the team but needing a little bit of encouragement from those on the pitch.
The second goal so soon after half-time allowed us to relax, I'm sure everyone was aware that had that half started like the first we would have ended up sitting back too much and inviting shots from distance. Bru again with the patience and composure, an excellent cross from Spence but that header from McGoldrick. I wasn't expecting him to win that and beat the keeper as the cross came in but he did brilliantly.
After that it was comfortable, Jonas is going to score with one of those first time shots from distance at some point, Neil Thompsonesque that one on Saturday, but his attacking play gives an extra dimension to the side. As discussed a bit yesterday, he just looks more confident in his ability this season.
Celina has probably never had a problem with confidence, he might drift out of the game at times but when he's involved the ability shines through. Mick spoke about his judgement this week which was probably fair but it's improving and he's becoming more involved in play. Add the goals to that and he's going to be great to watch this season. The confidence and composure to hit that shot so early and so hard didn't give the keeper a chance. Anyone know who the kid in red was he celebrated with? He had ran all the way down that section and I'm sure his Dad's efforts to get him to support Town got a massive boost at the weekend.
Preston were ideal opposition though, the early threat from Hugill was severely curtailed by his booking but also by Webster who might have had his best defensive game for us. He didn't try and do anything on the ball which probably reflects some poorer games since he came back from injury; it looked like MM had told him to defend first and then try and play after that. Other than two early chances we defended a lot better as a team, and kept Preston to long shots from distance or impossible angles.
The one real concern I have remains the balance of the team: playing four forwards is entertaining when we are going forwards but it does leave us very stretched in the middle of the pitch. It was a factor in both the appalling lack of cohesion in the first half as much as it was in the excellent attacking play in the second. The suspicion remains that MM hasn't worked out the best balance yet, even without including Huws and Adeyemi.
In 2014-15 we had a solid defence but, in our best spell in the Autumn, rotated in midfield: two of Skuse/Hyam/Tabb with Williams, Bru or Bishop and then Hunt or Anderson wide of Murphy and McGoldrick. That worked because the structure and shape of the team remained consistent and we didn't change the defence much (although Parr and Mings interchanged and Berra missed a match through suspension). That is what we need to manage this season if we are to push on from where we are now.
Can we do that? If we can get a bit more continuity, turn a few defeats into draws then possibly. This division looks wide open at the moment with only Wolves and Sheffield United really looking consistent over more than three or four matches (well and Sunderland of course).
Had we had a new manager last Summer and managed the same set of results then I suspect the sense of optimism would be a lot higher; that's understandable under any manager the failings and blind spots become more obvious over time. If we can be a few points off the play-offs by the end of this year though, things might look quite interesting going into January.
And here are the goals again, real shame they don't show the move that lead to the free kick.