Sven’s England. They’re the ones to whom we owe royalties for breach of copyright after that second half, now down on record as officially The Worst Ever Attempt To Spend A Second Half Defending A Lead. Sven’s England regularly tried this approach, after scoring first in a crucial game. It actually worked vs Argentina, but then failed abysmally against Brazil, France and Portugal. It’s an unattractive way to win a game and, more trenchantly, typically it just doesn’t work.I’m not sure if it was an official order from the top, or an automatic instinct from the players, but they trotted out in the second half showing absolutely no desire to get over the halfway line. After a bright and breezy first half, with Lennon and Modders respectively bettering their full-backs, we cleansed ourselves of any semblance of attacking intent, and duly set about trying to win in heroic, backs-to-the-wall Alamo style.
That presumably was the theory, but in practice half our team seemed to disappear for 30 mins, only occasionally resurfacing to stumble and tumble around in their own area as Man Utd’s forwards went beserk.
Palacios normally wears underneath his lilywhite a t-shirt emblazoned with a giant “S”. As the designated enforcer in our team, he ought to have been in his element in the second half. Instead, I wondered if the ref had at half-time retrospectively sent him off for that appalling early two-footer, because I’m not sure he was even on the pitch in the latter stages. Rather than enforcing anything the team crumbled like a pack of cards. No plot.
Naturally, there was no shortage of good old-fashioned apoplexy when the penalty was awarded (my instinct on first glance and full speed was that, as the ball ended up in front of Gomes and behind Carrick, it must have been won by the former). However, to attribute the defeat to a dodgy refereeing decision would be to miss the point. Our mentality had been to defend deep and for our lives throughout the second half. To survive, rather than compete. Once that strategy had been adopted, one way or another United goals were a-coming, whether or not the ref helped them out.
In recent weeks we’ve won a clutch of one-nils – but not by camping in our area and desperately trying to repel kitchen sinks being hurled in our direction. We’ve at least tried to attack, and work an opportunity for a game-clinching second, even if we’ve been rather shot-shy and pass-happy.
I’m not suggesting that a reckless, all-guns-blazing, kamikaze attacking mentality would have won the day (although we wouldn’t have fared much worse with such an approach). However, by demonstrating that we were still keen to score more we might have defended further up the field, and caused United some problems of their own – as we did in the first half.
Rare Praise For Bent, Slapped Wrist For Keane – And Normal Service Resumed By JenasBravo Darren Bent. Gosh it feels strange to say it, but after scolding him last week for not showing sufficient aggression in attack, I was rather impressed by the way he took his goal. He showed a willingness to muscle in and compete, against the two best centre-backs in the country. Fortune duly favoured the brave, and he banged home his chance. Given that there wasn’t a man in lilywhite within about five miles of him for most of the game, he did what he could.And yes, that last sentence was indeed an ill-disguised snipe aimed at you, Mr Keane. I caught him red-handed in the midfield yesterday, right next to Jenas, and occasionally deeper than Corluka. I presume the idea was for Keane to drop deep, in order to allow Palacios to pick up Berbatov, or some such tactical gubbins. Whatever. Keane’s a striker, so boot him out of the midfield and let him strike.
I’ve been back on medication this week, after my insane ramblings
last Sunday bemoaning the absence of Jermaine Jenas. Well, you’ll pleased to know that normal service has resumed. With all the fickleness of Danielle Lloyd in a players’ lounge, I now ditch that argument, and instead pick up one of my many “Get Rid of The Boy Jenas” placards.I had complained last week that no other midfielder shows any inclination to attack the penalty area, and that JJ should therefore be sprinkled in gold and given his own halo. However, as was pointed out to me in the interim, for all his willingness to push forward, no other player is quite as capable of slowing down a Tottenham move when in possession. How could I have forgotten? For yesterday, there he was, at it again, gleefully resuming the habit of a lifetime as if he’d never been away. Passes went sideways, backwards, to Man Utd players, out of play – anywhere but forwards. Maybe his sense of direction was thrown by the presence of Keane standing alongside him, some fifty yards from goal.
Another observation from last week was that
our midfielders rarely helped out poor old Bent by getting into the area. When Modric eventually dared to enter the precious eighteen-yard sanctum yesterday, he scored. Hmm. There’s a link there, somewhere, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.Sigh.( And I can assure you, these sighs are better than the foul-mouthed screams I was spitting out yesterday.) If we wanted
a gauge of how far we’ve come, we got it: we have goals in us, against the best, but we still lack experience and a killer instinct. Still a couple of positions that need improving.However, in the final analysis it was just one defeat. Four games left, and seventh is still manageable.