Archive for January, 2009

Another Double

31 January, 2009

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After the way we started the season you could be forgiven for thinking this headline represented another attempt to drown my sorrows after yet another defeat has been clinched from the jaws of victory.  But no,  this is the second time in a week that we have completed a double win over one of our League One rivals.  Northampton was the first, on Tuesday night, but this 2-0 win away at Carlisle means we have scored seven past them without reply in our two games this season.  I don’t always believe the commentary on the radio but it did sound like we had  most of the play and for the first time this season I felt quite confident all afternoon that we would end up as victors.

img_1149_webIt’s quite comforting to note that we have gone the whole of January unbeaten and are now nicely placed within striking distance of the play-off positions.  The last time we had a month like that was in September 2007 when we took the Championship by storm and frightened the shorts off most teams for some time.  ‘Time’ gets called on most good things eventually, but for now bartender I’d like to order another double, and Stockport will do for now.

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Game 14 – Northampton

27 January, 2009

img_1485_webIt’s difficult to keep track of our own squad this season.  Another new boy in the mix tonight – Simon Hackney, newly acquired from Carlisle, and it was interesting to see that he came on at the hour mark – the same point at which he was substituted by Carlisle when we played them here back in October.    This was one of the lowest attendances of the season (below 4,000 for only the second time) and rather surprising given the recent run of results.  Mind you it was cold, so that probably kept a few home loving people away and it takes a certain type of hardened supporter (of which I’m not one) to travel to a League One away match on a midweek evening in the winter months.

img_1492_webThe most notable  feature of the first half of the game was the negative play by the Cobblers.  A goal up after 18 minutes and they decided they could keep this up for the rest of the game.  Blatant time-wasting in the first quarter of a match is not a pretty sight, but at least the Us were up for the challenge and they kept plodding away – demonstrating how the team spirit has changed in recent weeks.   The  away tactic backfired just before half tme when they had a player sent off  and they had to re-think their strategy.  Returning after the break Northampton nailed their colours to the mast when they replaced their two front men and settled for a packed midfield and defence.  Loads more time wasting followed and it was severely punished by two goals in 89 seconds.

img_1499_webI’m not sure I can keep on taking the early disappointments of going a goal down before the team wakes up and comes back into the game.  I’d much prefer it if we took the lead and stayed there.  Anyway the mood of the sparse support was greatly improved by the double strike and the atmosphere on the trek away from the stadium after the game was far more bearable than it might have been.  Despite the constant comings and goings, of loans in and out, and above average numbers of injuries I am sensing some stability in the squad and that is showing in parts of the team performance.

Radio Ga-Ga

24 January, 2009

img_0861_webNot much to say about today’s game, except that I heard one of the most remarkable pieces of contrived broadcasting for ages.  It’s pretty much taken for granted that the media will try to find something that represents a ‘first’, ‘best’, ‘record’, ‘last’, ‘worst’ or something akin to that when describing any event.  For example, even I was keen to report our ‘first home win at Cuckoo Farm’ in this blog and hailed it with the words ‘at last’.  I may even have described our ‘worst performance so far’ at some stage and certainly in our first Championship season we held onto a great ‘home record’ for most of the season.

img_0872_web1Now a 0-0 draw is nothing to write home about, and as far as radio commentaries go it isn’t usually much to talk about either.  Today was no exception to that rule, but what did surprise me is the announcement by the commentator towards the end of the game that before today Colchester had only lost one of their last 9 league games, and seemed to be on course to ‘extend that record’.  Since when did a ‘record’ include losing a game?  I’ll refrain from trying to quote some obscure fact that beats that record, but ‘for the record’ the 10 game run including today’s result is W W L W D W W D W D.  I’m not sure what heading this will be found under in the record books at some time in the future, but it also needs to be pointed out that this is a qualified ‘record’ since somewhere amongst all those results is another ‘L’ when we dropped out of the Paint Pot Trophy.

That’s got to be the daftest ‘record’ I’ve heard from a radio reporter this year!

Game 13 – Cheltenham

17 January, 2009

img_1467_webIt’s all about targets now. Setting ourselves small, but realistic, targets for every couple of weeks. Next one is to overhaul Leeds, which also demonstrates the fact that it’s useful to make each target doubly satisfying.  For instance, moving up the table combined with watching Southend drop Way Down below us was almost heaven.   Speaking of which, there was collective gasp of surprise around the ground when the name of one of the Cheltenham players was announced today.  Elvis was in the stadium.   Sadly for the opposition, today was Heartbreak Hotel and All Shook Up after going a goal up and then conceding three.

img_1475_webSomething was wrong with the scoreboard today.  I have a Suspicion the operator was playing one of those sliding puzzle games and it wasn’t until half time that he found the missing piece and we had something to broadcast what was happening on the pitch – which wasn’t much in the first half.   My son wondered if the U’s practice scoring goals – he missed the Carlisle game and has lost the knack of celebrating a good crop of goals in a home game.  Not any more.

img_1470_webCheltenham’s keeper had a nightmare today, especially in the second half.  Clearly he’d lost his Good Luck Charm and after a few misplaced hooks and slices from set pieces as well as back passes he felt the full attention of the home crowd for the last half hour.  He was taunted every time the ball came near him and he didn’t disappoint us.  Nothing went right for him.  The crowd was Always on his Mind.  I hope he has a great season from now on.

img_1469_webIn the second half Cheltenham brought on their Devil in Disguise.  Finnegan came on just after the hour mark and lasted just 11 minutes, picking up two yellow cards for rash tackles and was sent on his way – meaning the ref had A Little Less Conversation for the remainder of the match.   I have to say now it feels like home at last.  Even Dean Hammond remarked on this when interviewed on BBC Essex later on.  It was especially enjoyable walking down United Way after the game where the atmosphere was brighter than usual.   That’s The Wonder of the U’s!

Seat of Learning

12 January, 2009

img_0195_webMilton Keynes is the home of the Open University.  Well, tonight we taught the Dons a lesson.  We didn’t win it, but you have to admire the grit and determination shown by the whole team.  At the end it was MK Dons who were pleased with a draw – at home!  I watched game live on TV as it was Sky’s featured Monday night match.  A great advert for League One.  MK Dons have been in their new stadium for about 18 months now and they seem to be having similar problems to those we experienced at the start of this season.  Their home record is worse than their away record ever since they moved, yet they won the League Two title last year in their first season in the new ground.  Maybe we can learn something from them?

img_0850_webTime-wasting has been one of my main gripes at home this season.  So many teams come to Cuckoo Farm hoping for a draw from the outset.  Tonight we saw the home team, near the top of the table, desperate for a draw.  They have a long throw specialist in the team and he takes 20 – 30 seconds to wipe the ball and get into his groove before he even delivers the ball back into play.  Of course the referee doesn’t spot the obvious time-wasting and I reckon the viewers (many more than were actually in attendance) were deprived of a good 10 minutes of playing time as a result.  I think the match officials need to go back to school, get round a table and learn their trade a bit a better.  It’s all very well getting stroppy with the keepers when they take their time with a bit of gardening, but a throw-in is supposed to be a quick return to play.  … I’ve taken too much time over this little rant so I’ll move on as well.

Surprisingly this was our first match of the new year (following a few degrees of frost a week or so ago) and it bodes well for the future.

Hard Times

3 January, 2009

img_0418_frostWhat the Dickens is going on?  Last week we had a Tale of Two Penalties and this week, a little bit of cold weather and a football match is called off.  Tranmere and their fans have traveled some distance for nothing, although to be fair when I got up this morning and saw that the temperature had dropped to -8 degrees centigrade it was a fair bet that there would be casualties in the fixture list.   It’s unfair to blame anyone in particular though.  Decisions have to be made through consultation between ground staff, match officials and the two clubs involved, not to mention the rules set in place by the authorities.

Actually today has served to illustrate just how little control anyone has over the success of a football club.  What do I mean by success?  It used to be demonstrated by league and table position.  Nowadays it seems to be measured in terms of financial standing and in these days of the so-called credit crunch I should imagine several clubs are skating on thin ice.  It feels like we could be heading into an era of Dickensian depression.

Certainly most of us had Great Expectations at the start of the season, but at times the stadium has seemed nothing more than a Bleak House.  There have been some notable performances such as the 5-0 drubbing of Carlisle, but in the main we are all guilty of holding out our arms and asking for more.  We really need the magic of David Copperfield to get us back into the Championship at the first attempt.

We might have the Artful Dodger in the number 11 shirt, but any combination up front might be regarded as Dombey and Son, and what we really need is for the man between the sticks to act like Scrooge and keep a lot more clean sheets.  We’ve got Tiny Tim and Little Dizzet  plugging away in midfield but we need more Phiz.  Last season we had The Mystery of Edward Sheringham, and this year it feels more like The Old Curiosity Shop with a different line-up each week, players coming and going on loan, getting injured, and the occasional stretches with Oz.

Oh well, I’m off to Dingley Dell for a spot of cricket.

Hard Times indeed!