The build up to this game was focussed on getting a win and then forgetting about looking over our shoulder and starting to hunt down the teams above us. Unfortunately after the result we are now definitely in a relegation battle. There are four teams separated by 2 points and one of those four will go down. We are one of those 4 teams.
The positives are that we have a game in hand over the other three and at the half way point in the season we have played every team once and we know we are not one of the two worst in the division. There are only two games this season where we came of the pitch and knew we were beaten by a superior side. Every other game we’ve either got something out of or could have got something out of. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and make sure we play as a team from now until the end of the season. We worked so hard last year to come up as we did but now we need to work even harder in more difficult circumstances to show we deserve to be in this division. It’ll involve doing the less glamourous stuff on the pitch, like busting a gut to get back and help out defensively even if it looks like we have enough players back. Making a run off the ball, knowing you might not receive it but that it will drag the opposition out of position and make space for others and trusting in your teammates so giving the pass and expecting to receive it back rather than trying to do too much individually when other options are available.
As for this match it was another one that got away from us. We started slowly in what turned out to be a misguided 4-4-2, in the aim of causing them problems at the back. Unfortunately the man of the match was their Pirloesque holding midfielder who because of the formation had too much time on the ball to dictate the play. We changed fairly quickly but still never really got to grips with him or the pitch which was clearly one where the ball needed to go wide quickly but we hung on to it for too long in the middle and lost the ball to easily at times as a result.
They scored after 25 minutes when a good ball was chipped over from the left and found their striker who had pulled away to the far post and hit a good strike back across the goal in to the opposite corner. Before this we had made some good chances ourselves, with Josh, Duane and Korek combining to get the ball out wide to Dodimead. He put in a cross which Murdoch couldn’t quite get enough on and headed wide. A similar chance lead to Murdoch going for an acrobatic overhead but again not directed on target. After their first they got a second fairly quickly when a cross from the right should have been cleared by Rae but a nudge from their winger meant he didn’t connect cleanly and it fell to their striker in a similar position to the first goal and finished well again. Before half time we had two good moves that resulted in through balls that left Lewis to use his pace to breeze past their defence but on both occasions the keeper came out well and did enough to force him wide and make it difficult enough for him that both efforts went wide.
In the second half there weren’t many clear chances, Joe and Alec were dealing with any long balls and Liam was linking up well with Seb, who came on the left wing and impressed. We had another good chance when Dodimead was played through and again the keeper came out well and made a smart stop. We went 3-5-2 to try and cause more issues and although the ball was in dangerous positions for longer we couldn’t find the finishing touch to get the goal would give us confidence and put them under huge pressure. There were a few near misses, with Al causing a bit of havoc when he went forward.
With us pushing on more we did leave ourselves open at the back. At one point they broke from a corner and Joe was alone against three attackers but he defended superbly and snuffed out the attack. Pirlo was spraying balls in to the channel and getting them to counter quickly and they did have a few decent chances on the break, luckily we had Sievewright in goal who pulled of some very good saves to keep it at 2-0. With time running out we seemed a bit consigned to defeat and our attacks became a bit more aimless. This was highlighted by a short corner routine when we had many in the box and resulted in Broomfield breaking and us having to chase back quickly. With a few minutes to go they did break effectively and although we forced them out wide their striker manged to round Andy and slot in from a tight angle, with Al scrambling in vain to clear it off the line. It finished 3-0 and although we didn’t play well, we did have 5 really good chances and on another day could have easily got something from this game.
We know we are capable of better and we need to show this regularly to make sure we stay in this division. We are a good team but we are playing too much as individuals at the minute. This probably isn’t helped by the fact we’re averaging a game a month since October. We need to trust in each other more and work hard for the team even if that means sacrificing our own game to some extent.