Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Wednesday January 23 2008
I couldn`t sleep last night, my mind was racing!
All day long I`d geed myself up, I`d convinced myself that we`d beat Bristol Rovers, that the pitch wouldn`t be a great leveller and that our class would prevail, well, once again, I was wrong!
On a night where those who travelled to the West Country probably didn`t get much sleep at all before having to get up to go to work again, we slumped to another embarrassing defeat.
Forget the fact that it was only on penalties; the harsh reality is that over 210 minutes we couldn`t once get our noses in front against a team from League One. What does that say about our chances of surviving our Premier League relegation battle?
Prior to the game the Rovers manager, Paul Trollope, had mentioned that the pitch would become a quagmire and that it would favour the home side. Well it did but let`s not take anything away from Rovers, their players matched our aggression, they matched our determination and they created far more chances than we did and I`ll not begrudge them those wonderful scenes at the end of the tie when they crept through on penalties.
Perhaps the one sad thing about the crazy ending was that it was Jimmy Bullard who missed the crucial penalty. Missing the first penalty in the shoot-out inevitably puts pressure on those following on. Rovers had a head-start and never looked back. The fact that Jimmy put in the sort of performance, in only his first full game back, that showed he was head and shoulders above everybody else on the pitch, only serves to show just how much we have missed him during those crucial sixteen months he`s been out.
Would we be in the same predicament we are now if he`d stayed fit?
Would Lawrie Sanchez be our manager still?
Questions, questions and more questions!
Indeed, you could ask a question of Roy Hodgson? Ws he right to tamper with his team leaving out Niemi, Smertin and Murphy or should we be capable of beating a League One side with a few fringe players in the side? Perhaps, after scraping a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage, we should have known better, you decide.
Another black mark on the evening was the late dismissal of Dejan Stefanovic. The defender picked up a second yellow card and will now miss a fixture in the near future, Bolton I believe.
In all honesty I have to admit it`s not much of a match report, more of an inquest of what went wrong, what mistakes were made and where we should go now. I make no apologies for that. In my opinion last night was the lowest we`ve sunk. I don`t want to look back, it`s time to look forward and see just which direction our once great club needs to go.
Hopefully, the new signings, aided by the wonderful Bullard, can get us out of this mire we find ourselves in. If not, I doubt whether I`m alone in believing that Mr Al Fayed, after sinking so much money into the club in the past nine months might just say enough is enough and then we really will be on the slippery slope!
Team - Warner, Baird, Bocanegra, Stefanovic, Konchesky, Volz, Bullard, Hughes, Brown (Ki-Hyeon 91) Healy, Dempsey
Unused Subs - Ricardo Batista, Davis, Milsom, Leijer
Scorers - Nil in 120 minutes!
Yellow Cards - Stefanovic
Red Cards - Stefanovic 119 mins
Attendance - 11,882
Date:Wednesday January 23 2008
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