January Review - Happy New Year?
Written by SuddickTheKing
What better way to blow away the New Years Day cobwebs than a game of football, and not just any old game either. Burnley at Bloomers. Yes, the Clampets came to town with all their relatives and banjo's, presumably expecting to see a win for their new manager. The Tangerine Wizards had other ideas however and it was the Dingles who ended up with a hangover on the wrong end of a 3-0 drubbing. What a great start to 2008!
Another iconic occasion - the 3rd round of the FA Cup - was next with the 'Mighty' having to cross the Pennines to take on Championship rivals Barnsley. I get really angry with Premiership managers devaluing and disrespecting the best club competition in the world (as the Liverpool v Havant and Waterlooville game was to illustrate in the next round) by fielding weakened sides so it was to my horror that I heard that Larry was doing the same. Surprise, surprise, we lost 2-1 with old failings surfacing again conceding 2 goals in 2 minutes after leading 1-0 for 70 minutes. Not only did that mean we were out of the competition and missed out on a potentially lucrative tie in the 4th round, it also disrupted a run of good performances and results.
Whether the setback at Barnsley had an adverse effect on the team is open to debate; what wasn't was the dire performance that followed a week later at Charlton. 'Pool have played several Premiership contenders this season and come out with heads held high even if not with the points. At the Valley we got stuffed, plain and simple, the only highlight in an otherwise awful 4-1 defeat being BBB's tremendous volley which rocketed into the net.
We needed to bounce back and a home game against Ipswich Town gave hope of three points - the Tractor Boys had not won on the road all season. In an entertaining game largely dominated by 'Pool we looked set to gain a precious win at 1-0 up and with an extra man. However, our set piece weakness proved our undoing yet again and the visitors gained a point with an unchallenged header from a corner. It felt like a defeat to us and brave comments like 'it's another point towards safety' did nothing to cheer the spirit.
The final game of the month could not have been much tougher, away to top of the league Bristol City. Gary Johnson has shown what a good manager can do with a significant bit of investment and the Robins have proved to be a genuine contender for promotion. It was with considerable amazement therefore that I heard Larry's line up to face the potential league leaders - despite losing GTF with an injury he left Wes Hoolahan on the bench playing AM and Claus in unfamiliar wide roles with Flynn and Fox in the middle of midfield. My instant reaction was 'who is going to retain possession and create stuff?' At half time this thought seemed justified as not only the change in personnel but a change in formation led to us being fortunate to only be 1-0 down with the side looking shambolic. Substitutions had to be made and we bossed the last half hour but could not find an equaliser. Suddenly we look very vulnerable.
So, January came in with a bang but went out with the shuffling of feet and hunching of shoulders. The transfer window has slammed shut and whilst the loan signing of Paul Dickov on the surface seems like a good bit of business, I just hope he isn't past his 'sell by'. That said, he does have quality. As for Green, well here's a lad with a lot to prove so let's hope he can start doing it for us. With a surname like that he has a lot to live up to! I have to confess to bewilderment at signing another 'keeper though. I'm pleased that we've got some bodies in but can't lose this feeling of being slightly underwhelmed. Lots of teams around us seem to be realising that the cost of going down far outweighs the price of a few signings and they have strengthened their squads - look at PKE. It pains me to say this but at this moment in time they look more likely to escape than us. The new signings have helped to boost confidence and it has sparked their existing squad into life. Despite our players saying how close we are to being a good side we remain exactly that, close to being a good side but without extra real quality, we are hovering dangerously above the trap door. Don`t forget, we haven`t suffered from too many injuries or suspensions either - yet. I hope these signings in addition to McPhee are enough.
Next month brings us Valentines Day and Pancake Tuesday; let's hope our 'love' of 'Pool is rekindled and we don't end up watching a bunch of tossers! (Sorry for that!)