How must David Bentley feel this morning? Bless him, he can’t really be faulted for effort, but nothing he tried came off, whether a 5-yard pass, whipped in cross, fancy flick or long-range effort. Presumably when he got to the dressing-room at half-time for a swig of Lucozade he squirted it into his eye. He’s a right-winger playing on the left, and apparently he’s ill at the moment (begs the question of why he was played) but all the mitigating circumstances in the world can’t hide the fact that it’s just not happening for him at the moment, no matter what hairstyle he adopts.
While few at the Lane would agree with me, I see him coming good in the long-term. Dawson, Gomes and Lennon have each had their woeful spells in lilywhite, but all seem to be back on form (although Lennon’s perennial inability to deliver the final ball continues to frustrate), suggesting that these bad runs come and go. While Bentely’s not everyone’s particular brand of cognac, he has in previous seasons shown himself to be a very good performer at Premiership level. Poor form, yes; poor player, no.
However, he may be facing a spell on the subs bench after last night. After huffing and puffing to no avail for 45 mins, who knows what he said to his reflection as he gazed lovingly into a mirror at full-time, having witnessed his replacement, Three-Touch O’Hara, mastermind a four-goal salvo within just 20 minutes.
Seasoned all-action-no-plotters will know that young Three-Touch has never been a favourite of mine, due to the fact that he’s a bit heavy on graft and short on natural flair, but my goodness he injected exactly what was needed last night. Flair players won’t do much if they don’t have the ball, and at a time when no-one had the stomach for a fight, Three-Touch rose to the challenge of getting his hands dirty against the lower-league scrappers. His set-piece delivery was also spot on, and he even bagged himself a one-touch goal. Blinking heck.
So, as if by magic the soulless rabble, outfought and outpassed in the first 45 mins, banged in goals like they were going out of fashion in the second half. I’ll have whatever was in their half-time cuppa. To be honest, a foul-mouthed tirade from ‘Arry would not scare me anything like as much as one of those death stares from his assistant Joe Jordan, a man whose terrifying demeanour has “psycho-waiting-to-be-unleashed” etched all over it. The performance won’t have Man Utd quaking in their boots, but it at least smoothes our passage to Wemberley. Job all but done.
What the blazes has happened to Gareth Bale? The human-simian hybrid was our best player for the first few months of last season, but can’t defend to save his life at the moment. His distribution was woeful too. If the suspended Assou-Ekotto were capable of anything other than a blank stare of the undead, he would probably allow himself a smug smile in light of his replacement’s abysmal performances.
Merrily, the back-four looked nice and solid in the second half. Corluka deserves credit for ditching the alice-band, but needs to find a pace beyond lumbering and lumbering-more-animatedly if he he’s to be a genuine attacking option from right-back.The midfield certainly looked better for the presence and tenacity of Three-Touch in the second half. Much though I like 4-4-2 it remains to be seen whether a central midfield combo of Modric and Zokora can cut it at Premiership level – the pair were overrun in the first half.
Also notable was a much improved use of the ball in the second period. There were counteless aimless upfield punts in the first half, but the ball was treated far more lovingly in the second. Why they couldn’t play like that from the start I don’t know.
And a word for Pav – that goal oozed class. They’re still glimpses, but every now and then he looks a £15 mil (or whatever it was) pound striker.