Friday, 14 September 2012

An opportunity missed

OVER a season, you will get results which surprise, frustrate and annoy you in equal measure.
This one was definitely in the 'frustrate' category, as even those with the intellect of an amoeba would have left Adams Park knowing we should have had the three points tucked away in our back pocket.
After four goals between them in the reserves, Darren Carter and Sam Deering were unsurprisingly brought into the starting line-up, and there was also a first start of the season for Keith Lowe.
It was Keith's 100th League and Cup appearance for us, and consigned Harry Hooman back to the bench after his difficult afternoon against Accrington.
For a few days before the game, it looked like Alan Bennett would be back against his old club, but now we are unlikely to see him until York next weekend at the earliest.
So Mark Yates, having decided to take Harry out of the firing line (rightly in my view) turned to the ever-dependable Bilston Cafu - and he took three minutes to make an impact with a great finish.
Unfortunately it was past Scott Brown, who could do nothing about it - but it could have been prevented further up the field.
From our corner, Nikki Bull caught the ball, threw it to Dennis Oli, he fed Joel Grant, and one cross later the ball was in our net. No tackles, no pressure as the ball travelled from their penalty area to our net.
Before that, we had two corners and has started well, and that own goal was as bad as it got in the first half.
As poor as we had been against Accrington, this was the total opposite.
I can barely remember the ball coming into our half during that first period, and there is no argument that we should have been in front at the break.
Our passing and movement, especially from our central midfield trio of Carter, Deering and Marlon Pack, was too much for Wycombe, and we looked a threat out wide, especially down the right.
Deering and Kaid Mohamed missed good chances, and we had a few long-range efforts, then we got a stonewall penalty after Pack was fouled and up stepped Shaun Harrad to smash it in.
Wycombe had been no threat at all, and also lost two players to injury - Oli and Matt Spring - in that half, and it looked odds-on for us to go on and win the game.
But to Wycombe's credit, they were better in the second half, led by Gareth Ainsworth, who has tormented us in the past and kept Billy Jones on his toes defensively.
It was a sweltering day, and was hardly a surprise that Mark made three substitutions - with two of the players introduced, Jeff Goulding and Chris Zebroski, having good late chances to win it.
But they weren't taken and we had to settle for a point, and I have been surprised by the somewhat negative backlash to the result.
Before the game, I would definitely have taken a point from Adams Park as I thought pre-season that Wycombe would be in the mix this season.
But as it transpires it might have been a good time to play them - they recently sold hotshot striker Stuart Beavon, had a few players missing, lost two more players during the game and it seems they had pressed Ainsworth into action (although he was their best player and won their man of the match award).
Yes, we should have won the game as it turned out and I understand people being disappointed that we didn't do so, but some of the reaction since the game has, I feel, been disproportionate and over the top.
We are not going to win every game, and it is arrogant to believe that we will. There will be disappointments along the way.
Much of the post-match ire was aimed at the subsititutions, and especially the decision to take Jermaine McGlashan off.
Once again, Jermaine had angered the home fans by (in their view) going down too easily and too often. On this occasion, I think it was 50-50 on that front, and I wonder whether this was a factor in Mark taking him off.
Shaun Harrad was limping slightly when he came off, and Sam Deering had run himself silly before he came off, and I cannot argue with the changes - put it this way, Mark has made worse substitutions in other games than these.
The fact that Goulding and Zebroski came on and then missed chances could have coloured some views on the decisions - Zeb's chance was the best in my view as he screwed his shot wide.
Jeff was denied by the goalkeeper with a good save then put a late shot over the bar, and we had to settle for a draw.
I am not going to get too deeply into the alleged incident involving Jeff towards the end of the game as I didn't see him make any gesture, and I wasn't in the away stand to hear what may or may not have been shouted towards him.
Anyway, no player should ever be gesturing towards rival players or his own fans, and if Jeff did that, he is out of order.
But equally, I also find it disturbing if some of our fans have started turning on certain players only five games into the season.
It's not only Jeff. I have  read on the Nest and Twitter this week that Billy Jones is 'not good enough', only five games into his CTFC career, and Darryl Duffy (a player desperately in need of a goal and looking very low on confidence) is also coming in for some criticism.
We need 'better back up' apparently. Darryl needs fans to help him through a rough patch, but instead it seems that some fans are only happy when they have a scapegoat or two amongst the squad.
I find that sad and wish it didn't happen, but I guess it is the case at every club and I find it one of the more distasteful sides to the modern game.
The manager said the other week that Mo was his 'favourite player' - with tongue firmly placed in cheek. Unfortunately for some of our players, they are not favourites with anyone it would seem.
The likes of Marlon, Jermaine and Sido, it seems, are impervious from any criticism at all, but practically everyone else in the squad would appear to have their share of detractors.
What happened to getting behind everyone in your team? Surely it isn't rocket science to work out that certain players perform better when there is a positive atmosphere coming from the terraces?
Why should there be ANY negativity anyway? We have eight points from five games and sit in 9th place, which is hardly a disastrous start.
I read somewhere this week that the games with Southend and Oxford this week are 'must win' games and it would be a disaster if we took less than four points from them. Really?
Well, here's a fact. If we beat Southend tomorrow, 11 points from 6 games will mean we will have made our best start to a Football League season in 12 years.
Hardly a disaster that, is it?

Player by player
Scott Brown: Hardly had a save to make all game, such was our domination. No chance with the own goal.
Sido Jombati: Got forward well to link with Jermaine down the right hand side but delivery poor. Defended well when he had to.
Billy Jones: Also an asset going forward and as usual with his set-pieces but had his hands full with Gareth Ainsworth in the second half.
Steve Elliott: Solid enough, and dealt with the long balls they were sending downfield and showed composure to start our attacks going again.
Keith Lowe: Recovered well from the own goal and was very good for the remaining 87 minutes, nearly grabbing a goal and dealing with their occasional threat.
Darren Carter: Excellent full debut. Composed on the ball, intelligent passing and calm touches to prompt our attacks and linked well with Marlon.
Marlon Pack: Poor last week, but superb this week as he and Carter ran the game. Confident on the ball and always involved. Won the penalty.
Sam Deering: Seemed to have plenty of space to play and influence the game. Missed an excellent chance in the first half.
Jermaine McGlashan: A big weapon all game as most of our attacks went down the right. Got very few decisions from the ref - hope he isn't getting a reputation as a 'diver'.
Kaid Mohamed: Not as big a threat as Jermaine. Made some decent runs and got into good positions, but then either didn't shoot or picked the wrong pass.
Shaun Harrad: Emphatically put away the penalty and worked hard, showing good touch, especially with his back to goal, but didn't have many chances.

Substitutes
Chris Zebroski (for McGlashan 68): Looked happier on the right hand side, and had a very good chance to win it for us.
Jeff Goulding (for Deering 74): Again playing in 'the hole' but had two good chances, one was saved well and one over the bar.
Darryl Duffy (for Harrad 78): Usual effort in the time he was on but looks very low on confidence. Needs a goal so badly.