Sunday, February 12, 2006

Quality finishes paper over the defensive cracks

First of all, I’m gutted that I didn’t put a tenner on the 3-2 prediction that I posted last night, it would have definitely have seen me writing this report with a smile on my face.

We might as well forget about the first half. Dull, turgid, and at times downright boring, the only real action was the goal. The defence dealt with the initial corner adequately, but the ball fell to Smertin who inexplicably passed it back to Barton inviting him to cross the ball again. Which he did. 1-0.

Those fans who did decide to watch the second half were rewarded by what turned out to be a great 45 minutes of football punctuated by three moments of real quality, our equaliser being the first of them.

Whatever Curbs said to galvanise the team at half time must have still been ringing in their ears. El Karkouri’s ball through the defence was sublime, (as soon as he played it I said goal); and with a trademark flick of Darren Bent’s boot, the ball was buried. Pundits would still be bleating about that next week had it been Bergkamp and Henry.
Frustrating to say the least then, when City restored their lead almost immediately. The professional thing to do would have been to shut up shop for 5 minutes, settle back into the rhythm that got us the goal, and then begin to go at them again. As it happened, we were just slack in our marking and the good work was undone.

The second moment of quality was delivered by Joey Barton. No real criticism of the defence this time around, you just can’t legislate for strikes like that.

Our second goal was another terrific move. Forget about the fact that it was a City throw, decisions go both for you and against you, you just have to get on with it rather than berate the officials. We worked the ball out to Kishishev who delivered the kind of cross that strikers thrive on, and Marcus Bent dispatched it with aplomb.

At this point I really thought we could go on to get something from the game, and although both sides had their chances (most notably Karkouri’s effort in the last minute) we just didn’t have enough about us to make it happen.

None of the attacking players were to blame for that really. The issue today wasn’t to do with the scoring of goals, it was to do with the fact that two of the goals we conceded were totally preventable.
Forget about Barton’s strike, nobody was saving that one. It was the other two goals that cost us points this afternoon. Myhre had no chance with either of them, but in both cases the defence could have been tighter.
Dunne’s snapshot went past three red shirts before finding the net, and could have been blocked if any one of the three was closer to him when the ball arrived, and as for the Samaras goal, that cross should never have made it into our box in the first place.

Curbishley was quick to pick up on this in the post match interviews. Amid all of his talk about the England speculation, he said that we don’t even look like keeping a clean sheet away from home at the moment, yet we were so solid back at the start of the campaign.
I think the return of El Karkouri will help us out in the defensive stakes. Although he does give away the occasional crazy free kick around the edge of our box, I think he is a better defender than John Fortune, plus he offers us a little bit more going forwards as well.

Overall today I’m disappointed with the result and our non-performance in the first half, but the fight and spirit we showed (plus two outstanding goals) in the second half have calmed me down a little, and just go to prove that we can be much better than the table suggests we are at the moment. If only we can tighten our defensive unit in the coming weeks, we may have a little more to shout about results-wise away from home.


Post a Comment

<< Home