I’m starting to get so frustrated with this football club. After every game I go home feeling dejected, and I’m really worrying now in terms of whether we’ll pull ourselves out of this mess. Tony Mowbray certainly has a real task on his hands, and time is running out… We can’t keep relying on teams below us slipping up, especially as we play many of the lower teams in the next month or so.
The Mowbray era got off to the perfect start in the 6th minute of the tie, and the positivity that had been broadcast over Twitter all week seemed to heighten as we went 1-0 up. A decent move allowed Jim O’Brien to pick up the ball on the edge of the area before firing a great finish past Chris Neal. It looked all bright from there too as we kept possession well and looked the better side. Some good moves allowed Samuel to go close and Tudgay to blaze over from 20 yards, but on 41 minutes the game changed for the worse.
Prior to scoring, Vale had a few half chances but didn’t look too threatening, but we allowed them to score two goals in four minutes and go in 2-1 up. The first goal came after a hopeful forward ball that the Sky Blues back line failed to deal with, it then bobbled in to Tom Pope’s path and he finished it. Just 4 minutes later and another sloppy goal was conceded, a simple passing move opened up the defence way to easily and Mark Marshall made no mistake with the finish after finding himself in space. 2-1 down at half time.
The second half started fairly poorly too as we lucked a little lacklustre and lethargic, but again the away side didn’t look too threatening. Apart from an early cross by Jim O’Brien which was inches away from Fleck’s boot, we didn’t look that dangerous ourselves. Port Vale were knocking the ball around with ease and at times it seemed as if they had an extra man on the pitch. This is where we need that little bit of bite, a Micky Doyle who’s going to get in there no holds barred and come away with the ball. It was just too simple.
We did have little glimpses, and Fleck was unlucky on 56 minutes as he muscled his way in to the area before seeing his shot blocked. Vale were having a few chances of their own though as Byron Moore fired narrowly over after some brilliant control off his shoulder. The away side did look the better of the teams though as they looked relatively comfortable, but on 70 minutes it was 2-2 against the run of play. A ball to the half way line bounced nicely and Frank Nouble used superb strength to roll his marker, something he needs to do more of considering his size, before playing in Sanmi Odelusi who finished neatly from just inside the area. But again… Instead of pushing on and pressurising the opponents, we threw it away as what is now expected.
On 72 minutes the first warning was there as Michael O’Connor went close with a free kick from about 25 yards. And just three minutes later, well, take a guess what happened… Another free kick was won after Chris Stokes gave the ball away deep in our own half and O’Connor stood over it from 20 yards. Burge’s positioning of the wall was questionable but the free kick was wrapped in to the bottom corner to put the visitors 3-2 up.
The game petered out from this moment as the Sky Blues looked limp and lifeless, with thousands of City fans sitting there thinking ‘we’ve done it again’. That’s the seventh time this season we have scored two goals in the games and not won, yes, SEVENTH! And that’s what sums us up, our game management is poor, and what does this come down too? Lack of experience is my answer. We have a 21 year old Goalkeeper, 21 year old right back, two centre backs aged 25 and 20 respectively and a left back who is 23. It really doesn’t help. This, coupled with having nobody in the middle of the park who can ‘protect’ them sufficiently, doesn’t stand us in good stead. We’re too naive and concede too many goals which I would say are easily preventable. It’s happened all season, it’s just frustrating. When we have the ball up top for example, we need to keep hold of it, we just give things away too easily.
I’ve said for the last month or so, I’m just unsure if we have the bottle, the guts, the mentality to stay up. We haven’t lost that game today because we have a poor set of players, we’ve lost that game because we don’t do the ugly parts of the game as good as other sides in this league. Michael Brown is an example, he kicked the hell out of us today and won everything, which then allowed his team to win the ball and relax. I still believe that individually we have a good squad in terms of technical ability, but we need to ‘man up’ if you like! We need to do the dirty things and go back to basics, instead of trying to play like the perceived Barcelona of League One. We are in a real fight now, a boxing match if you like. There are 12 rounds left to go, we need to finish the fight standing. We’ve got to find something from somewhere and pull off some results, come on lads!!
At least we have a game Tuesday to attempt to put things right. Us supporters need a lift, but I’m slowly losing my optimism. It’s up to you players to give it me back…
Lee Burge – 6
Chris Stokes – 5
Aaron Martin – 6
Matthew Pennington – 6
Aaron Phillips – 6
Adam Barton – 5
John Fleck – 6.5
Jim O’Brien – 6.5
Dominic Samuel – 6.5
Marcus Tudgay – 5
Frank Nouble – 5.5
Luke Williams – 5
Sanmi Odelusi – 6.5
Simeon Jackon – 5