October 5, 2015 by notjustpumpkinbread
Well, it wasn’t for the lack of trying was it? I haven’t seen a team in Garibaldi play that well for 45 minutes in quite a while. All it lacked was a goal. The encouraging thing is the marked improvement match on match in how we are playing. Let’s not be under the illusion that we are playing our way towards a form of total football that will sweep all aside. But what we are seeing – and what I’ve been writing about for the past few games – is a level of confidence and organisation on the pitch that can only produce the kind of results we should be seeing right now. But they will come.
Playing a plethora of Championship front-runners for the last five games seems to have honed our sharpness and brought into focus the kind of togetherness and team spirit we like to see on the hallowed turf. The City Ground is a wonderful place to watch football. She deserves to be witness to a style of play befitting the surroundings. Some may point to a somewhat negative approach from Mr Dougie – and with one win at home so far this season it’s hardly Fortress City Ground – with perhaps, currently, a style that is more effective away from home. But, there was only one team in it for the first 35 minutes of Saturday’s clash with Hull.
Had Chris O’Grady squared the ball to a rampaging Ryan Mendes it could have been oh so different. Then a quick break down towards the Trent End exposed our lack of pace at the heart of the defence and one bundled over Hull player later we’re staring at a penalty courtesy of the agricultural Matt Mills. As far as I’m concerned, he had been our best centre half until Kelvin decided to show up for the Huddersfield game. Unfortunately, a training ground injury (niggle in his back I think) robbed us of a chance to see if it was a one match wonder. Fortunately for us, Dorus was at his imperious best and duly saved it. Cue thunderous reaction from the home support and a thought flashed through my Garibaldi Tinted Mind that perhaps this was our day.
Then the fickle finger of footballing fate decided to point its crooked digit at the Trent End goal. On 40-ish minutes a quick corner from Hull resulted in a goal for the opposition that could not be witnessed by yours truly, as at that precise moment a couple of chaps two rows down decided it was time to get the half time nibbles in. All I could see through the unseated throng making way for the early exiters was a dispirited Forest team amongst the celebrating Hull players. Oh, and Dorus racing to the half way line to remonstrate with the Lino about the – I assume – validity of the goal. You have to say, you don’t normally see a goalkeeper make that much effort to get out of his box – unless he’s German and his name’s Neuer – so there must have been something to it.
What followed in the second half was a lacklustre start from us and a prime example of Premiership nous from Hull to see out the game. What we also witnessed was an exemplary defensive display from Forest old-boy Michael Dawson. It seems a little surprising that he hasn’t played at the City Ground in the nine – yes nine – years since we sold him to Spurs. As a fellow season ticket holder pointed out during the second half, he was head-and-shoulders (sometimes literally) above anyone else on the pitch. You couldn’t argue with that. All that midfield space we commanded in the first half disappeared in the second. Henri was a little off colour and it was quite surprising to see our best attacking player – Ryan Mendes – be substituted for Tyler Walker.
Talking of substitutions, our hand was forced by two injuries, leaving Mr Dougie little opportunity to change things as he saw fit. The first was another injury to Michael Mancienne, who twanged something (I initially thought groin but it appeared to be a knee issue) while stretching for the ball. Ironically, his replacement, Kyle Ebecilio, also twanged something (first he was holding his hamstring, then when he came off it was his groin) 20 minutes later. What we witnessed in those 20 minutes though was interesting to say the least.
Clearly struggling to comprehend the pace of the English game, Ebecilio looked like a dog chasing the ball for the first 10 minutes. That’s not to say he appeared to be giving his all. For a supposed box-to-box player he did walk a lot. At times frustrated not to be on the ball, while on other occasions simply lost as to where he should be positioning himself for a corner or just on the pitch generally, here was a professional footballer who appeared to be fooling us into thinking he deserved to be on the pitch – wearing the Garibaldi. Even to the point where, when in possession, his team mates looked like they didn’t want to give him the ball; as if they’d already seen through the con.
Then the strangest thing happened. He was in the right place at the right time – the edge of the Hull area – and as the ball came across he did this jumpy, shooty thing that had it not hit a Hull player would have at least made their goalkeeper work a bit. This one moment seemed to re-inflate his confidence and made him feel part of the match. I’m sure, had he not over-stretched and twanged something, he probably could have made a better contribution to the game. As it was, off he went on 76 minutes to be replaced by Jamie Ward. Lots of endeavour for the last 14 minutes couldn’t undo the stoic nature of a savvy, former Premiership team.
The stats tell us that we’re at the top of the table when it comes to the number of shots during a game. The averages tell us that for every 19 of those shots, we score one – nine goals so far this season, so you do the math. Let’s be clear; there’s no goal scoring crisis as far as I’m concerned. We’re not shipping goals like it’s going out of fashion either. Tight at the back; a bit sparse up top. The way we’re playing, the goals will come. With the goalkeeper and defenders we’ve got, I can’t really see any defensive aberrations causing us to lose by 4 or 5. Could Matt Mills show a bit more discipline? Of course. He could have been sent off for the foul that led to the penalty and was sent off for leading with the arm when tackling Chuba Akpom pretty much on the half way line 3 minutes from time. Not exactly his best day in the Garibaldi.
Still, we once again put on a good display against one of the favourites to be promoted this season and once again came away with zero points. The minuses – few and far between as they were – speak for themselves. The pluses include a herculean 90 minutes from my new favourite player David Vaughan. From those dreary couple of games in August, he is now one of our most consistent performers and my Man of the Match against Hull. He even slotted into central defence for the last 3 minutes and didn’t look out of place. It seemed like he won every challenge he made and covered almost all of the pitch. Add to that another grand display from Dorus, some cracking work from Oliveira and a simply scintillating turn from Mendes to name but three and we’re not in too shabby a shape.
It’s the bright lights of Bristol (?!?) next and another turn on the box. Of course there’s the flipping International Break first, but at least that will give us time to sort out those injuries and perhaps look at why we’re picking up so many. If we carry on in the same vein away from home, there should be 3 points coming our way on that Friday night.
COME ON YOU REDS!!!