Archive for October, 2008

Snow Joke

28 October, 2008

There’s not a lot you can say when a game is called off because they couldn’t find a ball that would show up against the snow.    Well, that’s how it was broadcast at first on local radio.  Surely there’s a sports shop in Northampton that sells different coloured balls.  What happened to the days when the local community mucked in and helped to clear the pitch?  It wouldn’t have taken long and I’m sure the travelling Us support would also have helped out.  The ground underneath can’t have been that hard.

Back home in Essex we had hailstones the size of, well … sherbert pips actually, but after a lengthy shower it looked like snow had landed.

In the end it appears that both clubs were happy to call the game off.  I guess it’s better than having to stop mid-game because you find the conditions are not to the players’ liking.  It is their bones that are liable to break after all.  Not much fun for those who journeyed up there and had to turn around and come straight back.  Hopefully they had some soccer on the radio to keep them company on the way home.

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Game 07 – Carlisle

25 October, 2008

I’m going to say it here even though thousands of others have already muttered that immortal phrase since various stages of the match elapsed – depending on their levels of confidence of the scoreline at that time.   AT LAST!  At last we have won a game at home.  Not just a home win, but a convincing home win.  Not just convincing, but a clean sheet into the bargain too.  Above all some attractive passing and tackling that has been missing for the best part of a year and a half.  Well, it was there at the Millwall game but the confidence wasn’t fully developed at that point.

All of these things combined to create what I would called a sustained positive atmosphere in the ground, that we haven’t previously known at Cuckoo Farm.  Optimism has been floating in and out of the stadium all the time we’ve been here, but a positive attitude has been missing. Things started with the first goal and those around me pointed out that we always win when Perkins scores first.  That must have affected the players too because a couple more from Yeates, who I regularly criticise here, put us 3-0 up by the half hour mark.  The next hour was quite tense, but it was amazing how the occasional bad passes and mix-ups and risky defensive manoevres were met with collective sighs of ‘unlucky’.  A couple of weeks ago that would have been ‘oh no, not again!’.

Yeates was clearly the man of the match, having created the first goal and I found myself applauding simple back passes from him.  What a transformation. Virtually every pass he made found its target, a team-mate.  I can’t be certain that he’s had something put into his diet or taken out of it – but it has worked.  The same is true of several of the team.  It was good to see Coyne back in the centre of defence leading Baldwin as I requested in my last posting. Coyne was getting inside the shirt and the head of Carlisle’s main threat and was so effective the guy had to back off and play a different game to what he intended.  The agro between them was plain for us to see and the 4th official also noted it, when the Carlisle manager whinged to him about it.  But it was all about Yeates today and the decision to pull him off before the end made sure he got his own deserved standing ovation from the crowd.

Some fascinating things happened in the crowd today as well.  The North Stand schoolchildren started to harass the away goalie in the second half when he took goal kicks.  I haven’t seen that happen for ages.  The most impressive was how the new standard of play infected the crowd and we started to sing with one voice.  Some old chants were resurrected and used to good effect and you could sense things starting in E8, being picked up in E3 and reflected back from the West Stand.  By the end of the game East, North and West were in unison. It was great to see, hear and take part in.

A quick mention of the away team.  They played like we have been playing for the last 18 months.  Actually they were worse, they were anonymous.  There was one moment when I saw a flash of a camera amongst their support, but it was a picture of the setting up of a free-kick which led to their best chance of the game.  I guess winning the free-kick was the highlight for them. A sad day for their goalie Ben Alnwick who is on loan from Spurs to seal a hole in a leaky defence.  Oops!

After the game and all the way home there was just one thing on my mind.  AT LAST!  That’s what it feels like.  Now let’s have more of the same please lads.

Game 06 – Millwall

21 October, 2008

First home game under new management and a promising start from the team – shades of what we used to see at Layer Road. The players were acting like a single unit. Far more effort through the whole team especially Yeates who has discovered he is part of a team. Baldwin played like he wanted to be there although I still feel he needs to be the junior part of a partnership as he’s not a natural leader. When not under pressure he doesn’t really know what to do.

The half-time entertainment started early, before the first half had finished. With the announcement that there were two minutes of added time the video screen announced just one minute (and this I guess was a prepared view from earlier in the game when I saw the same ‘1 minute added’ message flash briefly on the screen in smaller letters). For the real thing there was a welcome return of some competitive half-time entertainment in the penalty competition.

Another good crowd (5,506) but obviously bolstered significantly by the travelling support from Millwall (‘nobody loves us – we don’t care’ was the familiar cry). Despite going 0-2 down following some typical defensive lapses the performance of the team continued throughout the match. Passing was a feature to behold. White seemed content to boot the ball upfield every time he got it instead of linking through the midfield.

Then came a goal that wasn’t! Even a solitary firework exploded above the ground to hail the effort, but a United player had actually dragged the ball out instead of putting it in the net. I believe even the celebratory music was a bit premature too. A damp squib after all.

I said in my last blog I wanted to see a repeat of the 2-1 scoreline. Well I got it, but the wrong way round. Still, a repeat of the effort shown tonight will bring its rewards. That was the best team performance at home for a year and a half.

Under new management

18 October, 2008

I happened to be away across the pond during the first game of the new era under Lambert and Culverhouse, but the wonders of modern technology made sure I was able to follow progress via the updates every two minutes on the BBC sport web pages. Another goal from Perky and another relinquished lead suggested not much was changing – perhaps only one player was trying as usual. Then the evidence started to appear – bookings! The players were getting stuck in and we won this aspect of the game 4-0. Stockport were content to maintain their pace as the nice guys of League One.

A winner and some six agonising minutes of added time meant the final result was late in being confirmed on the BBC web site and the sight of a lonely figure huddled in the corner of the lobby of a conference hall in Canada punching the air in glee must have attracted some curious glances. Of course this happened under the temporary arrangements as well, an away win in the first game. We need to see this result repeated at home a few times as well.

New Era

11 October, 2008

Despite some of the comments I’ve been reading on the CUFC message board I’m pleased with the appointment of the new manager.  I think that Paul Lambert will fit the role really well.  He has a great footballing pedigree and I can see him going a lot further in the game.  I’d be more than happy for Colchester United to be the jewel in his crown when he applies for a top job one day.  Hopefully we will see an immediate change in the way the squad is made up, organised and sent out onto the field.

Strip the squad down to its bare essentials and then build it up again as it should be.  In fact I think it may already have started, judging by this view of the front window of the club shop.  That must be three of the players allocated to ‘other duties’.  Who could blame the management after another up and down performance at Cheltenham.  I hesitate to refer to any other team as ‘lowly’ since each time they beat us we end up below them, and this week was no different.  Yet again we get ourselves a handsome lead and blow it.

The radio commentary took us through the full range of emotions.  3-1 up and it was all Colchester.  There’s ony one team in it today.  Colchester are walking it through.  There’ll be more goals for sure.  Oh, yes there were more.  Perhaps the players were listening to the commentary too, and forgot they had a match to finish off.  At 3-3 there was the tiniest hope of snatching a victory amidst all the disappointment, but I would have settled for another draw snatched from the jaws of victory.  But no, after 5 minutes of added time we let them snatch the winner and the whole damn thing has been a wasted effort.

New day Monday, new manager, new era.

Cup Run Continues

7 October, 2008

Like many others I’d rather trade this cup run for some league results, although I have to confess that the Cup runs in 2006 were inspired by a team performing in the league as well, resulting in promotion. Perhaps we can take heart from that, but a 1-0 away win at League Two Gillingham for the second time this season doesn’t really do anything for my thoughts on the general state of the club. An occasional set piece goal from an individual who does little else for the team isn’t going to translate into points when we need them, unless of course the defence plays a blinder week after week.

A couple of away games coming up during a period when we will finally get to see who has been chosen as the replacement for GW. PP is not my first choice, even though it seems he might be available and there is an increasing voice in favour. Although AC might be good for us I can’t see him dropping this low so soon after leaving the Premiership. There are loads of other contenders out there who I’d also not want to see at the club, like IH who talks too much, or TS who didn’t make enough of an impression here as a player. What the players need is someone to give them a good roasting. Now, there’s an idea – Gary Rhodes. He’s free now that he’s been ‘released’ from Strictly Come Dancing! We could do worse, couldn’t we?

Game 05 – Bristol Rovers

3 October, 2008

The official opening of the new stadium.  I didn’t get there in time but I’ll bet Lord Mawhinney didn’t mention the real name of Cuckoo Farm at any stage.  I think he stayed for the game but the former Secretary of State for Transport must have wondered quite early on when the bus was going to come and get him.  A game without a whole lot of spark and imagination, from either team. The U’s failed to put Rovers under any sort of pressure.  No desire to win the ball, no thought behind forward passes, no direction.  Noticeably no direction from the bench. There were a few moments when the passing linked up but nothing that threatened a goal.  The away fans were the most docile I’ve seen all season.

It’s rapidly becoming the case that the substitutes warming up at half time produces the best action of the game.  Then there’s the abysmal timing of the home fans in E8.  For the second time this season (see Oldham match as well) they started a pathetic chant at a totally inappropriate moment.  There we were, defending a corner not long after the break and E8 broke into a short chorus of ‘Can you hear Bristol sing?’.  You could hear the groans everywhere else in the stadium as we realised that this was a bad omen.  It was pretty damn obvious we couldn’t hear them sing because their team was so bad, but to choose the moment when their team were having their best chance of the game!  Priceless – for Bristol Rovers of course.  It only took about 5 seconds and the ball was in the back of our net. The game just about died after that.

There was a moment just after the hour mark when two substitutions were made by Kit Symons and the whole home support joined together, as one, in a massive gasp of  “What!?”.   He took off Perkins, our best player of the last few weeks.  What on earth was going on?  Symons clearly doesn’t want the job for good.  He didn’t perform much himself anyway.  He did collect a stray ball that dragged him out of the safety of the technical area and that may have been the only time his hands left his pockets.  The team’s performance was a mirror of the manager’s body language – ineffectual, static, nothing.

It’s about time someone with no history at the club was brought in to sort out the wasters.  Personally I wouldn’t mind if the starting line up changed dramatically.  Gerken makes me nervous and the only times he makes great saves are the occasions he has dithered long enough to give the opposition a chance.  The defence needs re-shaping, starting with the return of the club captain.  We need some steel in there to stop the backing off that happens when we are put under the slightest pressure.  Most of the midfield need the rough end of a pineapple up their backsides to wake them up.  They don’t think where they are passing the ball, and occasionally try something fancy which no-one else is expecting.  They don’t like getting their kit dirty, and seem to hang back before making a last moment desperate lunge at thin air rather than get involved in a tackle.  Jackson doesn’t like to get his hair messed up and only jumps into the general vicinity of an airborne pass.

Worst of all they don’t pass properly to their own forwards, which is not entirely their fault as the forwards don’t know what they are supposed to be doing anyway.  Platt may be a target man but what on earth does he achieve by flicking the ball on with his head to an opposing defender? None of our players have any sense that tells them to look for a team-mate or to run into space to receive the ball.  As I said last time we continue to look like the away team in our home stadium.  The last word goes to the police horses who were brought in for a crowd of 4,811 – work that one out.  I think they know more than they are letting on.