Date:Wednesday February 13 2008
An utterly groundbreaking piece of journalism now as I give my thoughts on last night's fixture with Wolverhampton Wanderers. So, without further ado...
'And now for my final thought...'
Watching the warm-up upon arrival into the ground filled me with confidence for the game ahead. Keith Southern was back in the first team!
As we saw last season when good old 'Gnashers' was injured, the results, performances and results in general suffered (Brentford at home, anyone?). Thankfully this season, that hasn't been the case, but in the games I've seen - at home - the midfield has lacked that guile and the mean-streak that we need to break down opposition attacks through the middle of the park.
Last night, Southern's re-introduction into proceedings - at the hands of the unfortunate Michael Flynn who was dropped from the entire 16! - shored up the midfield and gave Claus Jorgensen the licence to get forward into advanced positions and put some added pressure onto the back-line of the opposition - again, as we saw towards the back-end of last season during the 'Perfect Ten'. Swansea away in particular.
Not only that, but within the first 5 minutes, I saw something that had been missing since the QPR game at the start of December (doesn't it seem an age ago now!) - a determination to get a-hold of every single ball.
As he was challenging for headers in the middle of the park, getting a foot in anywhere and everywhere and generally hounding their midfield playmakers in the early going, it reminded me of what an important part of the team the lovable Geordie is - Southern detractors, take note!
Unfortunately, towards the end of the warm-up I saw something that filled me with the smallest sense of worry.
Paul Rachubka, normally such a rock between the sticks, let 2 'shots' from goalkeeping coach Peter Fox past him. Nit-picking, I know, but the 2nd one in particular (low and to his left) he was visibly disappointed with not being able to keep it out - and had that been during the game, could have been very important indeed!
Unfortunately it didn't get much better when the game started. One one or two occasions in the first half, he dropped an easy ball into the area at chest-height - at one point I thought he'd borrowed his pair of gloves from Rhys Evans!
Still, enough of the doom and gloom...he kept a clean sheet, that's good enough for me!
Dickov was once again full of running and looks a real quality signing - especially when you consider his age...but with age comes experience and he's had that for many a year at the highest level. Shrewd bit of business by Larry - especially moreso if he signs him come the end of the season (I believe his contract is up in summer?).
Burgess won the majority of the flick-ons that he needed to and Dickov did a great job at anticipating them - take note Keigan Parker - however he was hesitant when it came to pulling back and taking a shot - which to be fair the majority of the players seemed to be!!
I'm not quite sure how Taylor-Fletcher was booked for his part in the 'confrontation' with Wolves defender, Ward, yet Ward himself wasn't - despite being the master antagonist. Lee Mason working his magic once more after missing numerous niggling challenges and shirt-tugs all game - but more of that in the Men In Black article to come later this week!
However, Fletch's shot that was expertly parried onto the bar by Hennessey was deserving of breaking the deadlock in itself! If only he - and the rest of the players - could do that more often, as opposed to trying to effectively walk the ball into the net, as has happened too often lately.
Less than 2 minutes later, hearts were in mouths all 'round Bloomers as 'Jacko' misjudged a header back to 'Rabs' and let in Ebanks-Blake. Luckily for us, he crashed his shot against the post after rounding Rachubka, but again, that could have won it for Wolves, much like GTF could have won it for us 2 minutes prior. Funny old game is football.
Having said that, I think Jacko's a good defender, but unfortunately he's not a great defender in the Championship. His leadership qualities are second to none at the club at the moment, it would seem, but he doesn't have the composure on the ball, the anticipation or the distribution skills that Kaspars Gorkss possesses which is why I'd have to say that Gorkss must regain his place in the back-line following his 2-game suspension.
The game was very much a case of a point gained and could be seen as a very good result against a Wolves side that have been splashing the cash on pretty much every striker in the country (well, not exactly, but you get the idea!). However, given the amount of chances that could have been had - had someone decided to shoot instead of lay the ball off (Jorgensen in particular at one point in the 2nd half) - we very well could have nicked all 3 points.
Lets not be too greedy though, hey? Scotty Vernon netting against those from down't road gave us all something to cheer about in the 2nd half, good on the lad. More importantly, we're now 7 points clear of 'them lot' and subsequently the relegation places. As long as we pick up at least 1 win in our next 3 games - and we don't lose! - we should be safe before long...even if our beloved neighbours are going the other direction *snigger*
Date:Wednesday February 13 2008
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