"I aimed at Row Z as usual...."
One of the main moans about last season was the performances in the cups and the teams selected. In both cups we ended up playing Sunderland away and playing half a team and getting beaten without much of a fight as Pochettino prioritised an 8th placed finish. Todays’ team selection would tell us a lot about how Ronald Koeman and and maybe the new board, think of things regarding cup competitions. As it turns out, we only made 3 changes from the weekend whereas Millwall (managed by our old mate Ian Holloway) made 8. Out to Bertrand, Morgan and Tadic and in come Matty Targett, Lloyd Isgrove and Shane Long. I was a bit surprised not to see Gardos in the starting XI but I’m sure his time will come. He’s on the bench along with Gaston Ramirez who once again is on his way beck from injury.
As we recover from our summer of players with questionable characters, for the sake of balance it’s worth noting that the Millwall side includes one of those shown the door as we moved up the leagues and I think it’s safe to say that Richard Chaplow would not have walked out of the club unless he was pushed.
The start of the game is reasonable and we are getting down the wings and Targett and Clyne are fizzing crosses over and Big Vic is passing behind our own players so normal service. It then all goes to pot and turns into a midfield scuffling match which is going nowhere and it horrible to watch with neither team creating anything. On the half hour Isgrove goes down injured and has to go off to be replaced by Tadic so we’ve actually got stronger with a substitution which in round 2 of the League Cup is more or less unheard of.
We have a half chance from a corner as Tadic’ delivery is flicked miles wide. From the resulting goal kick we defend like 8 year olds and everyone leaves it and Gueye is 1 on 1 with Fraser but with glory in his eyes he slices wide in horribly shite fashion. The rest of the first half is pitiful as well and Saints first team fails to show anything to trouble Millwall reserves. I expect that a few Dutch swear words will be flying about at half time.
The shockingly bad first half has prompted a chance as Corky is on for Big Vic who can rest his neck muscles in preparation for watching West Ham hoof the ball over his head on Saturday. There’s no immediate improvement though and Easter picks it up and runs at the defence and gets to the edge of the box before driving a shot across the goal and about two feet wide of the far post.
Suddenly, it’s a brilliant game as Saints remember that they are the Premier League side and they can play decent football as we carve our way up the right hand side. Eventually Clyne gets his head up and pulls the cross back to Tadic who hits it and Forde tips it over the bar. Shane Long, his international team mate indicates that it was one for the cameras which is a bit harsh.
Millwall are contributing to a new spell of pressure for Saints by trying to play out of defence but Tadic nicks the ball off them about 30 yards out and tees up Pelle who turns his marker and thumps in a shot but it’s high and central and again and Forde tips it over the bar. What happens next is a bit of Saints history and I’m sure that someone (not me) has put a quid on Jack Cork to score the first goal in every Saints game for the past 3 years…. Well today’s the day and Tadic swings over a left footed corner and Corky, totally unmarked, powers a header into the net. Get in. I’m actually listening to this game with Dave Merrington expert analysis which I haven’t done for a few years. He describes Corky’s header as ‘a good connect’. What the fuck is that about?
I have to say that im liking the way Millwall are playing with John Marquis up front playing well and Easter in midfield is decent. Chappers is having a bit of a mare in his first game for 5 months and he lashes one miles over the bar in tired fashion when there were many better options, just before he gets substituted.
Another build up down the right from Saints, this time involving a bit of skill by Long by which he aims to cross it with his right foot but instead shoves it to Clyne with his standing foot. England’s best right back produces and superb cross on the run and Pelle gets up well and heads back across the goal and it clips the post and wide with Forde nowhere. The big Italian is now looking slightly pissed off with his failure to score as well as smouldering and swarthy for all the ladies.
Coky is having a great game in midfield and switches the play ance more to England’s number 2 who once more gets his head up and picks out JWP on the edge of the box who clips a right footed effort wide of the far post. This is but a break from the Saga of Graziano. This time Tadic picks him out in the box but the ball won’t come down for him to hit. When it does he’s facing the wrong way and so improvises and back heels it but it squirts wide.
Having read a load of shite criticism of him after the Baggies game, it’s great to hear the away fans chanting his name. Magnificent stuff and the fans are at it again as we build up down the left with Tadic again teeing up Pelle but this time he sidefoots just high and wide. The mortified look on his face is getting more pronounced with every miss but the ‘Graziano’ chants are getting louder and louder.
Millwall, lest we forget are still in the game and Williams has a long range blast which is on target but Fraser casually punches it away from danger but this is just a break from Saints pressure and this time it’s Dusan Tadic who creates a yard for himself by shaping to shoot twice before eventually curling one at the far post and missing by not much.
91, 92 and it looks for all the world like 1-0 will be enough but a final break and Davis puts Pelle through on goal, a good connect…. 2-0 and the big man is very happy. I am waiting for the offside flag to go up but it doesn’t and so Graziano has his goal and everyone is happy, except Ian Holloway who is a helmet and he always will be.
The second half performance was pretty good and we really should have wrapped it up long before Graziano’s goal but having capitulated horribly in cup competition last season, I’m not going to moan about a 2-0 win. It’s a very important goal for the confidence of the big man and how nice too see Corky come on and make a massive deference. He’s being challenged to make a case for his selection and for a new contract and he got given a chance and took it. Fair play to him and he’ll be keeping JWP, Steve Davis and Big Vic on their toes.
As far as our league compaign is concerned, it’s important to remember that Millwall rested a few players so we can hardly be said to be the finished article as yet but we played well in the second half and looked decent. However, as Ronald reminded everyone afterwards, we were desperately poor in the first half and this shouldn’t be forgotten and it certainly won’t be by him. The fact that he picked such a strong team for this fixture augurs well for our cup campaigns this season and the draw for the next round has thrown us a really interesting one…. Arsenal away. Wenger will no doubt field a team of reserves and will no doubt be hoping we do the same so he can work himself up into a frenzy afterwards. I hate the fucking Child Catcher and the good news is that we’ll play a strong side and have a great chance of winning.
Next up we have a trip to Upton Park and West Ham. They’ve started the season well but we have to be going there looking for a win. Carroll and Nolan are both out injured and Fat Sam is their manager. They’re still going to hoof the ball so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Florin Gardos come in for that one. Hopefully Graziano can go on a run now and with the backing of the away fans, he will at least be encouraged. Maybe 2 goals in 3 games will help the more unintelligent of our home fans to give him a chance as well.
PS – Roy Hodgson has successfully managed to kill off my interest in the England football team. Not even Graham Taylor, Steve McLaren or Sven Goran Erikssen (or Adrian Chiles) managed that but Hodgson has. Firstly, he’s taken a player who hasn’t had a meaningful good game for England in 10 years and made him captain. Wayne Fucking Rooney… I ask you. Yet more reward for a player who does not warrant it, yet more cementing of his undroppable status which he doesn’t deserve.
Then there’s the issue of Calum Chambers getting called up as a right back. He’s played 3 games for Arsenal at centre back and suddenly he’s better than he was before the World Cup? Apparently Arsene has said he’s ready. Does Hodgson only pick players when a club manager says it’s ok? Senile old goat. Meanwhile, Nathaniel Clyne doesn’t get picked but that’s a double edged sword. He of course should be England’s first choice right back and should have been for the World Cup but if he was then no doubt Brendon fucking Rodgers would have started a whispering campaign in the press to get him to Liverpool.
The rest of the squad is littered with examples that make you question Hodgson’s suitability and competence. Fabian Delph and Jack Colback in the squad despite being as bang average as you could be? Phil Jones still in the squad despite being shite this season and last? James Milner still in the squad despite not playing this season and not being able to kick a ball in a straight line? Andros Townsend recalled as he was in good form a year ago? Danny Welbeck still in the squad despite not playing for United except in a 4-0 defeat to MK Dons? Rickie Lambert still in the squad despite hardly playing for Liverpool and only 4 minutes game time in the World Cup? Hodgson has lost the plot – if he ever had it. Well done Greg Dyke – give him another vote of confidence.
So – who could he have picked instead… I’ll have a look and let you know.
PPS – I’ll still watch the game…