Post by irishrover on Feb 12, 2020 14:23:12 GMT
Brief Summary - Brrrrgh....shiver....groan......bloody hell it was cold. We should have won a poor quality game comfortably but were wasteful in front of goal. Read on for gubbins.
Context - I hate the chant 'x place is a s***hole I want to go home' for so many reasons. It's boring, generic, needlessly meanspirited, lacks any sense of wit and is the chant equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot. Why sing about how s*** a place in when YOU are the ones who have often spent upwards of £30 each to get there? Surely the joke is on us at that point. I also quite like most of the places we play, even the ones a lot of people seem to think are terrible. Bradford is one of my favourite away days, I really like the community atmosphere in the pubs around Accrington Stanley, Rochdale is always a good visit for the Cemetry pub etc. There are few places that we play that I don't have positive vibes towards and to me that's part of it. You get to go to places that you are unlikely to visit otherwise and most places have something interesting about them. But having said all that I've decided that I really don't like the Wirral. With apologies to anyone that lives there (or who has lived there) the place gives me the creeps. It's flat, it's cold, it's windy, it's oddly old fashioned but not in an endearing way - more in a League of Gentleman behind these faded Victorian facades there are people carrying out demonic sacrifices kind of way. I always get lost trying to find the ground because all the towns around Prenton look exactly like Prenton. Getting on and off the Wirral is an arse because either you have to go through Liverpool or right round Cheshire. Been there quite often and never taken to the place - loads of people seem to really like it though. Last night took the biscuit - I've not sure I've ever been so cold at a game. I was so cold that I stopped and had a curry before heading home because I needed to warm up before driving! I will grant that Prenton Park itself is good - a proper old school football ground although it has definitely seen better days.
1st Half - The issue with their pitch is well known. I heard Gary Linekar speak the other day about pitches and how improvements in this area have radically changed the game in favour of more attacking skilled players compared with his time. One of the interesting things he raised is that everyone remembers the muddy, stodgy pitches with no grass on them and the ball get bogged down in mud patches and puddles. He said that was difficult but you could get used to that and adapt because it was the norm. But the real challenge was dealing with the rock hard pitches where the mud had become almost frozen. You just can't control it, can't hold it up, can't judge the bounce with any confidence and football became a totally different game based on instinct and physicality. That's what last night was. It was pinball. The ball just pinged around with lots of broken play, lots of people throwing themselves at it with position as likely to be gained by outmuscling someone to the ball as it was through any decent moves. It made for an odd match. It wasn't helped by a referee who seemed to be on the lenient side on a day when the game may have been better served by stricter officiating. Both teams took quite a lot of liberties with the ref's strange reluctance to use the book. Having said that I think games like that are particularly tough for officials to get right. There was very little quality in the game but it wasn't exactly dull. There were quite a lot of chances and both teams managed to get round the back of the defence more than you'd usually expect. We started much the brighter and created several decent chances at least one of which I thought JCH should have buried and another where Michell-Lawson lacked a bit of composure at a crucial moment. But we were clearly on top and they looked a struggling team. But after 20 minutes that seemed to shift around and Tranmere came more and more into it. They were getting particular joy down the left hand side. Little seemed to be playing very narrow - it must have been deliberate but it gave their left winger lots of space to get the run on him and he was the most effective attacking player on the pitch in the first half. Little seemed a bit off the pace to me. Generally I thought going in at half time level pegging was a fair reflection but it felt like both teams had a goal in them. I thought it was notable that we were playing with more width than previously. There was a clear aim to work it wide and also JCH had a lot more support around him when on the ball - he felt far less isolated than in most away games I've seen this season. To me there is evidence that Garner has quite drastically changed our playing style and attacking approach - whether is a sensible thing to do or not is a whole other matter.....
2nd Half - I actually felt we controlled the game for the most part. They seemed to really struggle to get anything going and win the ball in the midfield. Nearly all their chances (and there weren't really that many) came from counter attacks. It felt like we were on the front foot for most of the half. We really should have won it. There was some decidedly average finishing and some poor decisions in the final third with players choosing the wrong option with the goal gaping. I thought we looked thoroughly comfortable and that it was a very good away performance in difficult conditions. But you have to win these games and we just couldn't find the goal. JCH really should have scored at the end. The bottom line is, that just like with Bolton a couple of weeks, we did more than enough to earn a win against a pretty poor side, but lacked a crucial clinical factor to claim it. So no win in 14 is clearly dire but we're on the Garner train now for good or ill and it would be crazy to get off when he's been given this much leeway to bring in his own people. Again, I don't know if it was just because Tranmere and Bolton are particularly bad (and it has to be part of it) but if we keep playing like we did in those 2 games I've seen then surely we must start winning games. GC vs BG - would you rather be lucky or good? It's been one of the strangest seasons I can ever remember.
Blackman - 7. Didn't have a lot to do. But I really like him. He's just so assured and has this calm about him. He came to claim the ball very well throughout the evening. At one stage he landed horribly on his shoulder and I was sure that would be the end of his night but he recovered very quickly and wasn't any less positive afterwards.
Little - 5. I think it's the first time I've seen him play and I really wasn't very impressed. I'm not sure he looked 100% fit yet. It just felt like he was off the pace all evening. He battled well enough but you just had a sense that he was fighting himself all evening. Their most consistently dangerous threat came down the left hand side and he constantly beaten, particularly in the first hald. In the second half I felt he did a better job but he seemed a bit deeper so perhaps that was the issue.
Craig - 7. Another good performance. He is Mr Consistancy. On a night like that you need your experienced players to lead from the front and provide and calming prescence and he did.
KIlgour - 6. I'm not sure Alfie adapted to the conditions as well as some others. He seemed to have some issues with the ball pinging around. But he was fine and solid enough in the air which was the majority of their threat.
Leahy - 7. That's the best I've seen Leahy play. I haven't rated him much in the games I've seen before but last night he was solid at both ends of the pitch and showed a fair amount of intelligence on the ball. There was also a certain bite about his game which I thought was lacking previously.
Upson - 7. I thought he was the pick of our midfielders. It felt like he was a released a bit from the holding midfield role and that suited him. He covered more ground and had more impact further pitch. Another one who seemed to relish the conditions and he was a key influence in keeping us on the front foot. Was unlucky not to score.
Clarke - 6. I didn't think this was one of Ollie's better games. He did fine in the midfield battle but didn't seem to contribute as much as you'd want going forward. It was a night that was crying out for a driving force running through the midfield - Clarke was the most likely to provide that for us but he didn't really do it enough.
Ogogo - 6.5. I'm a fan of Abu. I think we're a far better team with him in it than not. But he was a bit inconsistant at times. Much better in the first half than in the second - I felt perhaps he faded a bit, which is maybe understandable as he's only relatively recently comeback from injury.
Mitchell-Lawson - 7. Best performance I've seen from him. Definitely represented a threat throughout. The end product wasn't quite there at crucial times though.
Rodman - 6. Going forward he was pretty good and there was a threat. I felt we lacked vision at times because he was finding himself as an overlap quite a lot and we weren't looking for him enough. Defensively though I thought he had a poor night. He just didn't seem to do much tracking back to support Little. Maybe that was deliberate we could have done with that because we looked overmatched down that side throughout. It is nice to see him playing wide midfield again though as he is a threat.
JCH - 6. While they struggled to handle him all night and he was a proper threat to score all evening he had to take one of those chances. We did enough to win this game - we created 3 gilt edged chances for our star centre forward and he missed them all. Ultimately you have to expect him to put one of those away and earn the win. So he loses a fair bit for that despite being comfortably our best attacking player.
People who are worrying about relegation are way off the mark in my view. Having seen us against Bolton and Tranmere in the last fortnight we are clearly a much better team than both. I think we may already have enough points to be honest - Tranmere look pretty shot to me. So I'm not worried. I also see an evolution in our play that may produce a very good team eventually. But on the other hand I can't defend a manager who took over when we were in the top 6 and hasn't won a game! The criticism is fair, you can't keep failing to win.