Tuesday, January 27, 2015

FA Cup 4th Round - Southampton 2 Crystal Palace 3

Koeman Reflects on Fucking Chamakh Scoring Twice

FA Cup time again and a visit from Crystal Palace and their new manager, Alan Pardew.  It’s a bit of shame that he’s there in the context of this game because a 4th Round tie against Neil Warnock’s Palace would have been a walk in the park.  This may not be though as they’ve won every match since he’s been there.  That will change somewhen however and today might as well be the day.

The week leading up to this game has seen Ronald Koeman explaining that we can’t rest players for the FA Cup even if we want to as we don’t have enough players to do so.  Contract issues are being talked about as well.  Jack Cork has yet to sign his new deal and the club want him to decide one way or another by the end of the week.  It’s good to hear the manager talking like this as it shows that he’s planning for next season.  Corky will obviously be weighing up how much game time he’s going to get next season and whether or not his Dad will be able to shut up on Twitter.  The vultures are circling regarding J-Rod and Nathaniel Clyne as well but this is fuelled more by a slow transfer window in general, rather than any concrete bids.  Both of those players have another year on their contracts so I’m sure that Ronald won’t be subjecting them to the same time pressures as Corky.  Also, let’s face it, any rumour regarding J-Rod is bullshtt as he hasn’t played for nearly a year.

Ronald is true to his word regarding team selection and it’s the same XI who started the Newcastle league game with the one exception of Jack Cork starting instead of Harrison Reed.  Palace seemed to have a lot of strikers in their side with Chamakh, Sanogo and Campbell all starting.  Zaha was in the side as well so it looked like they weren’t coming here to defend.  Jason Puncheon was on the bench, as was Dwight Gayle which was interesting as those two have been Palace’s best players since Pardew took over.

The first knockings of the match were quite open and entertaining with Chamakh firing over the bar.  Remember last year when that joker went round the keeper and dived, rather than putting it into an empty net.  From Saints first real attack we won a corner on the left which JWP swung in and Graziano came steaming in at the back post to prod the ball past Hennessey and into the net for 1-0.

To be honest I now expected Saints to settle down and invite Palace onto them and then pick them off. Standard kind of stuff but there was already a problem in that the midfield screen of Corky and Davis was not screening, so much as standing aside and letting Palace do what they liked.  We lose the ball, Palace break and Sanogo got free behind Clyney and hit a low diagonal left footed shot which Fraser should have held but it popped out and there was fucking Chamakh to knock it into an empty net. Bollocks.

Having given the ball away and being over-committed, we then do the same again but this time it’s totally down to Tadic pissing about with the ball and getting caught out.  McArthur nicks it off him and feeds Sanogo and luckily he doesn’t look confident and though clean through, his shot is within easy reach of Fraser who makes up for the first goal.

Back we go onto the attack almost straight away and JWP picks the ball up in midfield and plays a superbly weighted ball over the top of Skate Ward on the left to Bertrand.  Bertrand crosses first time to the near post and with no Saints player anywhere near him, Dann slides in and knocks it past Hennessey and into his own net.  What a shit goal.  We’ll have it though and the Palace defence looks so bad that it’s looking good for the rest of the game.... as long as we can sort ourselves out...

...which we don’t as Palace brak again and this time it’s Campbell with a free shot from the edge of the box which Fraser again gets down to push away.  We really are playing badly as Delaney hits it long, Zaha manages to win it when it should really be meat and drink to Gardos or Bertrand and he lays it across to Sanogo.  Bertrand tries desperately to block and gets unlucky as Sanogo’s corner-flag bound shot flicks off Bertrand and flies into the net to make it 2-2.

It’s like a game of basketball as we pile forward again with Elia setting up JWP who again buys another ticket in the ‘when we he score his first fucking goal at SMS lottery’ and this time he drills a right footed shot just wide.  Another decent move follows and JWP plays a ball in from the left to Pellè, whose clever flick finds Davis who does a JWP and drills a right footer just past the post.

With 5 minutes to go until half time, Palace break up play on our left and Ward brings it away, exchanges a couple of passes with Zaha and no Saints player gets anywhere near him as he plays the ball into an unmarked Chamakh who jinks past Fraser and whilst we were all hoping for another stupid dive, he just slots it into the net.   What the fuck is going on?

The final action of the first half sees Gardos booked for nothing much on the edge of the box and luckily, Sanogo shats it over the bar and the half time whistle ends what has been a shambles from a defensive point of view.  I expect it was exciting for the neutral but football is not about neutrals and their fucking half and half scarves.

Ronald of course doesn’t have many options on the bench but we get a substitution with Matt Targett coming on for Gardos.  This means Bertrand moving to centre back  which makes me think that Florin was either a) injured, b) being saved from a red card or c) so bad that he had to come off.  If the answer is c) then he’s not been on his own and Jack Cork (who in my opinion should have been taken off and Reed brought on) immediately pssses about on the ball and gets tackled.

The game settles into a pattern of Saints possession but going nowhere with it and eventually giving it away.  No onle looks at all lively with the exception of Eljero Elia.  JWP is trying his best and Graziano is fighting a lonlely battle up front with no one getting around him.  For Tadic to get near Pellè he’d actually have to run which isn’t happening today.

On the hour mark, Shane Long is ready to come on and you could almost draw a name out of the hat to come off but it’s no surprise that it’s Corky who gets hooked.  Jason Puncheon also makes an appearance soon after, replacing Chamakh who is miming having cramp in the corner and taking ages to get the fuck off the pitch.  Long immediately begins to pull the Palace defence about and combines with Elia to hammer in a shot which deflects for a corner which JWP chips straight to the keeper.  Just what you need when you’re not creating much.  Shane Long is making a difference but he doesn’t have much of an afternoon as he chases a ball and he and Ward clatter into eachother and he has to go off again and it’s debut time for Ryan Seager.

The game is really going nowhere and we’re meandering to a cup exit.  We’re passing it about in areas that are not threatening to the opposition and creating nothing at all and when we do get in range, everyone seems frightened to shoot.

With a minute to go we get a free kick out on the left and JWP surprises everyone and taps it infield to Elia who absolutely smashes it with his right foot and it’s screaming towards the near top corner until Hennessey takes off and tips it over the bar.  Great effort, good save and finally we’ve made him do something.

If the roar that went up when the 4th official held up an electronic 6 was supposed to raise the players for one last big effort, it didn’t work as minute by minute ticked by with us doing nothing.  The closest we got was a speculative JWP effort from miles out which sailed harmlessly into the crowd.  It aint happening and sure enough it didn’t.

Well that was shite.  The second half was marginally better than the first with regard to restricting pressure from Palace but what did we create?  I made it one shot from Elia which was saved but other than that, nothing.  Yes the injury to Shane Long didn’t help but there was nothing going on up front. 

The team have obviously been doing superbly recently but I’m going to have a bit of a dig at some of them.  Dusan Tadic, for the 3rd game in a row, didn’t look like he wanted to be out there.  His movement off the ball was non-existent and when he had it, he had the air of someone who was only playing at about 50%.  Not good enough.  Jack Cork was so lackadaisical in midfield, he was almost running backwards.  Awful performance as simple passes went astray and defensive duties were shirked with alarming regularity in the first half.  I’ve never seen Steven Davis have a game as bad as that, constantly giving the ball away.  Usually his shooting misses the goal by 10 yards or so, today it was 10 miles.  With Cork and Davis having shockers, it was no wonder the defence was exposed.  In hindsight, the one selection error made was picking Cork ahead of Harrison Reed who would have got stuck in and not let Palace just bypass our midfield.  As for the defence, Florin Gardos is turning out to be decent against good teams who pass the ball on the floor but give him a big combative centre forward to mark and he’s useless.  It’s like watching a 6 foot 5 12 year old.  He’s all over the place, getting shoved around and brushed aside there is no excuse for that.  Man up and get stuck in there.

So, out of the FA Cup again and to make it worse, a shedload of big teams went out as well.  There’s no point in worrying though as you know we’d have lost to a Championship side if we’d got through... it’s the Southampton Way.  Unlike last year I don’t blame the manager as he picked the strongest most experienced side that he could.  Last year, that wnnker left out two of our best players and by not doing FA Cup press conferences, passed on a vibe to everyone that he couldn’t be bothered with it.  Interestingly, Spurs were one of the Premier League sides to get knocked out today, having made 8 changes.

When you get knocked out of the Cup , there’s always that League versus Cup question, regarding priorities.  Whilst I would take winning the FA Cup over finishing 4th in the League any day, I feel that this year it’s not an issue.  We picked our best side available, didn’t play well and lost.  End of.  The frustrating this is that Palace weren’t much good and they closed out the game comfortably.  Their defence was a shambles and we just didn’t test it in the second half.

Next up we have Swansea in the league who also had a cup shocker today, having been knocked out by Championship side Blackburn Rovers.  They’ve lost their main striker with Wilfried Bony moving to Manchester City and as of yet, they haven't replaced him.  That may change of course by next Sunday but it’s a good time to play them for us.  Maya Yoshida will be back to bolster the squad (and almost certainly replace Gardos) and just maybe we’ll see a return of one of Vic, Toby or Morgan... and we could do with Senegal getting knocked out pronto and sending Sadio Mané back.

A day for keeping the faith.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Premier League Match 22 - Newcastle 1 Southampton 2

Get one of these, 80% off in Sports Direct

Newcastle United at the horribly named Sports Direct Arena awaits for the boys on the final part of the Week from Hell Trilogy.  Having lost two players after Part 1 and another after Part 2, in addition to the one in Africa and the one in Asia – we would now be down to the bare bones and needing to buy some players a.s.a.p…… if we were managed by ‘that’ negligle tosser.  As it is, we are managed by Ronald Koeman who just responded with ‘we have many young players that we can use’.  Love it.

Newcastle at the moment are not managed by anybody – well they are but it’s John Carver who is like your Geordie mate from down the pub.  Think Jimmy Nail’s character in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.  Did you know that the term ‘Pet’ has been banned up there now because it’s been deemed as sexist.  The shit you find out playing quiz games at Christmas.  So, having finally got rid of Alan Pardew who was the devil they knew, the Newcastle fans are now waiting for Mike Ashley to get them a new manager.  The cynical amongst us would wonder if he was waiting until after the transfer window was closed so that the new manager had no chance to spend any money.  It will be interesting to see if he sells a player (Sissoko probably) before he gets a manager in place.  On a personal note, my Grandfather was a Geordie so I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them and I hope they do well, after today.

The team news filtered through and Saints were more or less as I expected.  The 4-3-3 formations was back with the expected back 4 and Pellè, Elia and Tadic up front.  Steve Davis and JWP were always going to be two of the three midfielders and Harrison Reed was chosen ahead of Jack Cork who was on the bench which also contained Shane Long who was somewhat unfortunate to miss out having played so well on Wednesday.  Newcastle lined up with one striker, the 5 foot nothing Ayoze Perez so they were going to have to play some football for him to get on the ball.  Cabella was on the wing and if ever you wanted to prove that the ratings on FIFA are wildly out for some players then he’s your man.  Great on FIFA but does fuck all on the pitch.  The midfield looked strong enough with Colback and Sissoko in there but this was balanced out by Anita, who is one of the most ineffective players I've ever seen.  I'm sure that if he sneaked off the pitch then no one would notice.  A defence with Coloccini (massively overrated in my book) and Dummett (a left back) in the centre looks like it might be a bit leaky.

The opening exchanges were a bit scrappy and long ball.  We weren’t retaining possession much and didn’t look particularly calm in possession.  Newcastle looked a threat on the flanks and Haidara burst easily past Reed before Clyney saw him off to give Newcastle a corner.  Mike Ashley put the corner on sale for £19.99 which was an 80% discount on the recommended retail price, honest.  The corner was headed away to the edge of the box and Gouffran tried a ridiculously optimistic volley from 30 yards out which luckily was straight down Fraser’s throat.

From out first real attack and against the run of play we took an undeserved lead.  José chipped a ball forwards and Graziano superbly laid it off with his chest to JWP as Coloccini totally committed himself to winning a ball which he was never going to win.  With Coloccini out of the game, JWP slid the ball through and Eljero Elia had come off the left win and lashed it first time, under Krul who went down in instalments, to put us 1-0 up.   Whether he was a bad boy or not in his past, the good news is that Elia is obviously grateful for the opportunity to play here and his celebratory run straight to Ronald Koeman was a nice touch.

We’re now playing some decent stuff and Pellè knocks down again to spark some nice play up the wing between Elia and Tadic.  We win and throw which is knocked back to Clyney who gets fouled by Gouffran.  JWP’s delivery is perfect and Fonte has totally lost Coloccini but he thumps a poor header over the bar.  You gotta hit the target from there.

Lo and fucking behold we find ourselves at 1-1 soon afterwards as we concede against the run of play as Newcastle did. Cabella gets on the ball in midfield and threads it though via a deflection towards Gouffran.  It’s keepers ball all day long but whether he called and Gardos ignored him or whether he didn’t call – there’s a fuck up and Gardos slides in to clear it and his clearance hits Gouffran on the shin and it could go anywhere but it flies in the top corner.  It’s an unlucky break from our point of view and I really don’t know how Gouffran has the neck to celebrate it like he meant it.  Carver is giving it the large one on the sideline as well, as you’d expect from a Geordie in the pub.  I'm surprised he hasn't had a bar installed in the technical area since he became pretend manager.  He could lean against it, get pissed and talk shite to his mates.

Newcastle have their tail up now though and pass their way up the right and suddenly Sissoko is nearly though.  Clyney goes to ground and gets enough on the ball to mean it’s the correct decision not to give a penalty.  Cabella, though shit, plays another decent ball in from the right and Perez meets it on the half volley and though for a second it looks like it may be heading in, it eventually lobs tamely wide.  It’s the kind of chance where the home fans go ‘ooooooh’ and the away fans go ‘oh shit….. ahhhhhh’.

Halt time was upon us and overall, I think we have to be happy with what we’ve seen so far.  After a shaky start, Reed had come more into the game and we were looking decent going forward, with the exception of Tadic who really looked like he couldn’t be arsed, a bit like he did at Ipswich.  Elia was looking strong on the ball and there were definitely going to be chances in the second half with Dumb and Dummett at centre half.

We weren’t long into the second half when Ronald rolled the dice and brought on Shane Long and Jack Cork.  Tadic, who was infuriating both Saints fans and the Newcastle bench with his rolling about, was an obvious one to come off but it was a slight surprise to see JWP hooked as well.  From the restart we manage to lose the ball and eventually, the rarest of things as Haidara got the better of Clyney and swung in a cross but Gouffran was never going to score two in one game and his header was shite and it slid off his head and well wide.  I find it hard to understand why when the replays were shown, he was smiling.  You’ve just missed a golden chance to put your team 2-1 up and you think it’s amusing. 

Like when Fonte missed the chance in the first half and Newcastle made us pay, it’s now our turn as following a bout of head tennis, Long goes up for a header and beats Coloccini who is again, steaming into a challenge that he’s never going to win and Elia is through again.  He jinks onto his right foot and shoots, a nice little nick off of Janmaat who has tried to cover round and in off the post.  Get in!!!  It’s shite from Coloccini again who has David Luiz’ hair and the same amount of defensive instinct. None.

From the restart, Steve Davis picks up a booking for some comedy wrestling of a small child who has invaded the pitch, only it’s actually Vernon Anita who has made his first impact since he was introduced to both teams and the mascots before the game and given a pendant to mark the occasion.

There are 20 minutes to go and Newcastle have thrown on the giant Sammy Ameobi and also Riviere who is one of the French blokes they signed in the summer who hasn’t done anything yet.  However, he wins a corner which Colback curls in and Fraser has a horrible flap at it and Graziano heads clear.  He also heads away the next one and Shane Long the one after that.  Another corner and Dummett has a free header from 5 yards and it slides off his head and wide. Sitter.

Again, it looks like we’ve made them pay as we build up through Reed in the middle and the ball gets fed out to Elia.  His cross is recycled by Clyne who plays a 1-2 with Corky and puts over a pearler which Graziano, unimpeded by Dumb and Dummett, meets and heads it over Krul and sees it smack off the bar and away.  Apparently, he’s hit the woodwork 6 times this season but it seems more than that.  I’m sure it does to him anyway.

As the game ticks down, Elia is off and replaced with Matty Targett.  This does however mean that we’re retreating further and further back which would be fine if we were clearing the ball which we’re not.  From an Ameobi cross (he’s better than his shite brother), Cabella plays an airshot from 5 yards.  There are 3 minutes of injury time remaining when Saints are trying and failing to clear the ball and it eventually sits up for Riviere to smash a volley goalwards.  The ref is looking straight at it as it hits José Fonte’s hand which is up at shoulder height.  You can tell by the way all the pace comes off the ball that it’s hit his hand and it’s a clear penalty, 100%.  Not given.  Fuck me we got lucky there.  The only explanation I can give is that it hit the hand and then hit the chest straight away and the ref just didn’t see the first part.

One more attack to repel and Gardos does that and that’s it.  A bit fortunate but they all count.  We weren’t at our best today but we’ve had 3 tough away games in a week and were without one of our main centre halves and both of the main men in midfield.  We’ve won the fucking lot and sorry Adrian Durham, it doesn’t matter a shite how you do it.

The story of the day is of course Eljero Elia who did so much more than his two goals.  I like the fact that he’s not afraid to put himself about and on one buccaneering run up the left, he left 3 Newcastle players on the ground.  If he can maintain this form he’s going to be a major player for us over the rest of the season.  He looked much better today than he did against Man United so I think we can assume that there’s more to come.  The post match Man of the Match interviews with our new Flying Dutchman confirmed what we suspected already, that he really wants to be here and is going to grab the opportunity with both hands.

Ronald was delighted as usual and said this was an even bigger win than the Man United game.  I can see where he’s coming from as we were without players and it was the 3rd game.  However, the Koeman household will not be celebrating the fact that he got one over on John Carver.  I sense the Louis Van Gaal victory might mean slightly more.

Talking of Carver, he used his post match interview to question why there’s wasn’t a manager in place yet at Newcastle.  He obviously wants the job but they’d be mad to give it to him.  It’s good to see a local lad making his way with the club but he’s not manager material.  I’m sure that even Mike Ashley can see that.  It’s as obvious as the fact that no item has never ever been on sale for full price in Sports Direct, ever.

A while ago it looked like Harrison Reed was not going to get a game for any reason but now he looks like a genuine option for the manager, especially for the next few weeks until Morgan and Big Vic come back.  He gets bustled out the way by physically bigger players occasionally but with game time he’ll learn how to deal with that and he already has a superb reading of the game.  You can see a bit of succession planning here  - to me he looks like a slightly more defensive version of Steven Davis and it’s great to see another kid come through the Academy and look comfortable at Premier League level.

We’re back to 3rd in the League which is mental and still doesn’t seem right.  What does seem right is that we have broken the 40 points barrier so it’s unlikely we’ll be going down.  All the big guns beneath us are beginning to pick up wins with Liverpool and Spurs in particular managing to string a few results together.  I don’t pay too much attention though so I do wonder if they’ve had a run of games against the really big boys yet like we've just had.  Enough of the league though, next up is the FA Cup and a 4th Round, Saturday 3pm kick off against Crystal Palace at St. Mary’s.  Savour the occasion and just maybe the season can get even better.

Friday, January 16, 2015

FA Cup 3rd Round Replay - Ipswich 0 Southampton 1

Big Vic Felled by Tranquilizer Dart

Tonight’s FA Cup 3rd Round Replay has been picked for live screening by BBC1.  Great, the whole country will tune in to see the team that just won at Man United, lose 1-0 to a Championship side, probably.  To be honest, it’s hard to know how we’re going to do in this game.  We should win of course but then, we should have beaten Sheffield United in the other cup.  The wins against Arsenal and United seem to have moved the goalposts somewhat regarding rotating players as the perception is now that we are right in the mix for a Champions League place.  I still, really can’t take that seriously myself but anyway, maybe a few fringe players will improve the attitude which I did think was a bit half-arsed in the first game.

A quick check reveals Ipswich to be 3rd in the Championship, just a point off top spot which is currently occupied by the Dorset Oddballs.  They got beaten at home by Derby on Saturday when a win would have put them top, so will be looking at tonight as an opportunity for a pick-me-up.  Saints just need to keep it going of course but whilst we are all basking in the glory of the Old Trafford win, talkSPORT presenter and Daily Mail columnist and professional Devil’s Advocate Adrian Durham has been sticking the boot in because we played well defensively at Old Trafford and didn’t go out to try and blast them off the park.   Loads of teams go to United at try and out-score them in an open expansive game don’t they Adrian?  Even Chelsea don’t do that.  I’m mentioning it because it made me laugh.  I’m, not mentioning it because I want to give Adrian Durham any more exposure... in fact, I’ll shut up about it as he’s a compete penis.

The team news is in and ....meh! The most glaring issue is that Pellè isn’t playing which immediately makes me think ‘Sheffield United’.  The list of names makes me think that Bertrand is on the left wing again but unlike at Sheffield United, he’s on the left of a back 3 with Fonte and Gardos. Targett and Clyne are the wing backs with Big Vic, Harrison reed and JWP in midfield. Tadic and Long are up front.  Ipswich have McGoaldrought up front and the comedy bearded Bartosz Bialkowski is in goal.  I liked Bart and thought he was pretty good in the main, THAT mistake aside.  He could easily have succeeded Kelvin Davis as first choice keeper but for a strange alcohol induced decision by Whiskey George Burley to drop him for the playoff semi-final against Derby – a move which seemed to shatter his confidence.  I wonder if George is here today as he has connections with both clubs.  Maybe he is or maybe he’s sat under a bridge with a bottle in a brown paper bag.  Has Rudi Skacel signed yet?

Away we go and after a nondescript opening five minutes, we have a bit of a scare as Ambrose lifts it over Gardos and Stephen Hunt runs in, to knock it past Fraser in a scruffy little git kind of way.  The flag is up and rightly so but it’s very close.  Whilst the neutral and the BBC may have wanted an Ipswich goal to liven it up, we certainly didn’t and got to work at trying to work the ball up to Shane Long.  Reed started a move in our half and fed Clyne who advanced and found Tadic.  The Lion of Old Trafford backheeled between two defenders to JWP who was tackled in the area, the ball squirting out to Long to the right and with a first time swing of his left boot, he despatched it inside the near post without giving Bart a chance.  Nice build up and a great finish and 1-0 to us.

Ipswich would now have to come out and play which is something they haven’t looked capable of doing since they went in front at St. Marys.  Two Ipswich midfielders faff about with the ball a bit too long and both get Wanyammered as the big man emerges with the ball and feeds JWP whose shot is deflected over the bar for a corner.  Hyam, who was one of Big Vic’s victims, looks like he’s been hit by a train and he eventually gets back to his feet.  JWP’s corner is headed away by a combination of two Ipswich players and the ball goes to Big Vic who humorously tries to score goal of the season with a volley but completely misses the ball.  The two Ipswich players concerned have banged heads and though he ended up with a turban bandage on his head, Murphy must have been pleased to actually connect with something.

Ipswich are totally lacking in any ideas at all.  They advance to the half way line and are then confronted by midfielders and they either bang it long which is meat and drink to the back 3, or they turn round and knock it back to Bart.  Chambers managed to give Shane Long a sniff from one such backpass and Bart’s clearance hits the Irishman on the back and Ipswich got lucky with the bounce.  It says something that McGoldrick is their best player and he’s crap.  He gets an opening on the right of goal and instead of putting it across for Hunt to tap in, lashes it wide of the near post in a display of complete brainlessness.

We nearly make it 2-0 as Tadic dances in from the right but there’s a decent block by Chambers and Berra as he works it onto his left foot and hits it.  The rebound drops to JWP who hits it at the floodlights.   It’s uninteresting but very very comfortable and as half time approached, a ball is played behind the left back for Big Vic to chase and he pulls up with the hamstring grab of doom.  Shite, shite, shite!  Of all the people to go down injured.  Steve Davis is ready to come on but Koeman decides to wait until half time, I assume to give him time to warm up properly.  Half time happens and 1-0 up and decent with the injury to Big Vic being a major downer.

I’m not gonna lie… the second half was shit.  The wind was howling and the pitch was crap and the game basically did nothing.  Steve Davis was on for Big Vic and he was helping Saints have more control in the middle of the park but we were playing in 2nd gear.  Tadic looked like he had to chance to burst onto a pass at one point but he went from favourite for it to giving up in an instant.  Ipswich threw on Tyrone Mings at left back and he attempted to show Saints what they’d let go at 16 by having a right battle with Clyney.  He was apparently let go by Saints for being too small at 16 which is hard to imagine as he’s 6 foot 5 now.  He gets a cross in from the left and Ambrose flicks a header goalwards off his ear which Fraser picks up comfortably.

Pellè came on for Tadic who couldn’t wait to get off and this was the signal for us to put more ball up in the air which bearing in mind the swirling wind, probably wasn’t the best thing to do.  In a rare outbreak of football, Davis spread the play to Long and eventually got the ball back before wafting a hopeless effort into the crowd.  It was that kind of second half.  Ipswich tried to inject some urgency as the game wore down but the defence was expertly marshalled by José Fonte and he, Gardos and Bertrand remained completely untroubled by the Ipswich attack.  There was an irrational fear that sods law was about to let Ipswich equalize and us have to sit through another 30 minutes of this but in truth, it was never going to happen.  And that was it…. Into the 4th Round we go.

The BBC studio team seemed to be bemoaning the fact that it was a bit of a bore and that they could have been at Valley Parade (4-0) or White Hart Lane (4-2) and brought the nation a more exciting game.  Once we scored we were only ever going to do the bare minimum to win the game and that’s what happens when you have 3 away games in 7 days.  What did they expect exactly?
They probably expected Ipswich to have a go which they didn’t really do.  I thought they were desperate to be honest and whilst I have no real idea who their regular starting XI is, I know that Murphy and Fatty McGoldrick are regulars and if that strike force can get you to the top of the Championship then heaven help us, as they were shockingly bad.  Defensively they weren’t bad with Chambers, Smith and Berra looking ok and Mings was good when he came on.  Some of the other like Parr and Hyam were terrible though.  Good luck to them though and I hope they do well.  I would rather they came up than Derby or Middlesbrough.

Saints on the other hand did what they had to do and won the game.  The problem of not winning at SMS in the first game was brought home though by Big Vic’s hamstring.  Ronald confirmed afterwards that he was going to play half a game each with Steven Davis and whilst that was sensible and therefore, we were unlucky to lose him with 10 seconds of the first half left... it would have been better to have won the first game and not been here at all.  The injuries are suddenly racking up again as we’ve lost Alderweireld and Schneiderlin from the United game and Big Vic from this one.   Midfield is the obvious area of concern but we still have Steve Davis, JWP, Harrison Reed and Jack Cork is fit again.  In addition we have Elia to come back in so it’s not all doom and gloom. 

So, we have a few choices to make for the Newcastle game on Saturday.  I’m not sure we’d play Ryan Bertrand as one of a back 3 in a league game so I reckon it will be the regular back 4 with Davis and Cork in front of them with JWP, Tadic and Elia supporting Graziano.  We also have Shane Long and Harrison Reed to throw into the mix so it’s not all bad news and I’d trust Koeman to get a result with those resources.

Two  games into our nightmare week of away games and we’ve won both of them which is something not many would have predicted.  Lets’ get up there and win this one as well and trigger another True Geordie rant perhaps.  We weren’t great today and we certainly weren’t entertaining and I for one don’t give a sh1te.  Out status in the top 4 does not mean we are obliged to entertain the masses.  We did what we had to do, end of.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Premier League Match 21 - Manchester United 0 Southampton 1

"You're only Jealous You Fat Twat"

Oh look we’re playing Manchester United again only this time it’s at Old Trafford, the Theatre of Dreams, the Republik of Mancunia and all that complete wank.  Can’t stand them.  You admired them of course if you were feeling fair minded when Taggart built a succession of great teams, usually around their youth products who he supplemented with world class players.  You could never like then but you could admire them.  They hadn’t just found themselves being the richest fish in the pond and bought everyone like Chelsea or Manchester City had but that was yesterday.  The current Manchester United are everything that their fans used to goad City and Chelsea about.  They’ve just paid stupid money to prop up a neglected squad.  Neglected because the good players got old and the youngsters they usually bought weren’t very good.  It seems odd that in these Financial Fair Play times that we live in, that they can be millions of pounds in debt and still buy Angel di Maria, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, Radamel Falcao (loan but ridiculous wages) and Luke Shaw as well as fund astronomical wages for Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie etc etc..

The man spending the money is Louis Van Gaal who has a touch of the Ferguson’s about him in his arrogance.  Fair play to him though as he’s managed to get them to 3rd in the league without ever playing really well and having a defence which could be described as anything from mediocre to shambolic.   Smalling, Jones and Evans, McNair and Blackett are all pretty average to be fair but he’s got away with it so far, mainly due to the annoying brilliance of David de Gea in goal.  If Saints can get on the front foot and control the midfield – we can definitely win this.  Oh yes… and throwing goals in our own net like we did when we contrived to lose to them at St Mary’s is something we need to avoid.

This game is the first of 3 games in 7 days for us so we could do with everyone being fit.  Clyney is the obvious one we need back and Eljero Elia is available for the first time which is good.  Some kind of good news is that Sadio Mané doesn’t seem to be as badly injured as initially thought which of course means that he’s off to the African Cup of Nations with Senegal after all.  Maya Yoshida is also absent having gone off to play in the Asia Cup with a new 3 year contract in his pocket.  I like Maya – he has his wobbly moments but he’s a good player and when he comes into the side he’ll do a decent job.  Also, he won’t piss and moan when he’s not in the side or talk shite in the press.  He seems a decent stand-up guy who I imagine gets on with everyone (apart from Wilfried Bony who appeared to want to kill him for some reason).

The transfer window is of course open again and though the feeding frenzy hasn’t been as bad as in the summer, the guesswork has started with Morgan Schneiderlin being linked to a lot of teams who are lower than us in the table.  On the positive side, we have Elia and we appear to be looking to to tie up a 4 year deal for Toby Alderweireld.  If this is all we do in this window then I’ll be delighted.  He’s already right up there with the best we’ve ever had at centre back so it would be quite something to get him to stay.  Aside from securing a genuinely world class player, it would send a serious message to other players and other teams.  The media wouldn’t get it of course and would still link all our players with Liverpool.

To the teams and Clyney is fit and the only surprise really is that Eljero Elia is pitched straight in with Dusan Tadic on the bench.  United have their usual collection of ridiculous overpaid superstars.  Luke Shaw is playing as is the player who I call ‘Rooney’ when he plays for England and ‘Squirrel Headed Twat’ when he plays for United.

Away we go and on the attack.  The ball eventually ends up with Carrick who just passes it out of play as we close him down.  Clyney’s throw ends up with Graziano who plays it straight back into his path.  He attacks the box and screws his shot through Jones’ legs but wide of the far post.  Didn’t J-Rod score in about 20 seconds here a couple of years ago?

United have barely touched the ball when Elia gets his first action and is dragged down by Shaw.  I’m not going to spend this whole report slagging Shaw off but if you grab hold of someone and haul them down, stading there with your mouth flopped open as you appeal to your 12th man is only going to make you look even more like a thick twat.  Meanwhile, JWP swings over the free kick and José Fonte is the target but he heads Carrick’s head instead of the ball but we still get a corner.

United do eventually get the ball and attack with Rooney pulling the strings – the ones that keep that squirrel in place on his head.  Shaw tries to take on Clyne and predictably, loses.  Saints are defending really well but disaster strikes on 20 minutes as Rooney tries to play di Maria through the middle and Toby Alderweireld overstretches in clearing it and appears to have done a thigh muscle.  He’s down in the 6 yard box and the game goes on until Valencia knocks it out for us in a most un-Man United gesture.  Time is taken to get Toby off as he can hardly walk and bearing in mind that only 20 minutes have gone, you’d think that would be ok but oh no.  Van Persie loses the plot and begins ranting around, trying to restart the game.  Phil Dowd has no control whatsoever, the little fat twat and allows van Persie to pick the ball up and throw it at him.  Now, that’s a yellow card or even a red but not here of course.  Dowd has no idea and even though it should be a throw to us, he restarts with an uncontested drop ball to van Persie who knocks it to Valencia and United attack again before we’ve got Gardos on the pitch.  Di Maria drags wide which is just as well else it would have all kicked off.  Van Persie in ‘cunt’ shocker.  Referee at Old Trafford in ‘piss weak’ shocker.

The next non-shock is that Carrick is hopeless when he’s closed down.  This time he’s hunted down by Big Vic and ends up shitting himself and passing the ball 40 yards straight back to give us a corner.   Just the sort of thing you expect from the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League (TM – Gary Neville).  We work the corner short and eventually Steve Davis chips it in and Fonte loses the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League and heads wide.  Whilst he’s doing that, Smalling is attempting to have Pellè’s shirt off his back – Dowd is looking straight at it but is there ever going to be a penalty given for shirt pulling against Man United at Old Trafford.  Of course not.

We have a minore scare in the last 5 minutes of the half as Rooney nicks the ball to van Persie whose shot is well blocked by Gardos and loops up for Fraser to grab.  Half time and no real alarms, United haven’t had a shot on target and we’ve looked confortable.  We need to do a bit more up front in terms of creating stuff but the team has worked so hard and I feel quite strongly that we can get something here as long as Dowd referees the game for both teams.

We start the second half as we started the first with JWP sliding  ball through to Davis who saw his shot deflected wide. The corner was cleared out as far as Bertrand on the left and his cross looked perfect for Graziano to volley but Shaw threw himself in the way to block well.  There was yet more ridiculous shirt pulling by Smalling and after Pellè’s complaints, Dowd actually had a word with him.  Maybe next time then.

Eljero Elia is having a mixed debut.  He pulls off a lovely bit of skill to leave Jones facing the wrong way as he tore off down the wing and not long after, he played a shocking ball across the midfield to Big Vic and clattered Mata as he tried to make up for it.  Squirrel head’s free kick is met by the gurning mug of Phil Jones but he heads over.  On the hour mark, van Persie executes a perfect scissor tackle on the back of José’s leg after he’d forced him off the ball.  Again it’s a yellow or borderline red and this time at least, it’s a yellow card.  Amusingly though, the utter tssser has injured himself int he process and is replaced by Herrera.

Elia turns up on the right and his cross is thumped behind for a corner.  Pellè gets to JWP’s delivery but once again, Smalling has still grabbed a handful of shirt.  I’m wondering what the point of Phil Dowd is.  Elia is done now and taken off to be replaced by Dusan Tadic.  United respond by removing Luke Shaw and putting on Tyler Blackett so their back three is now Jones, Smalling and Blackett.  There has to be a mistake in that lot for us to capitalize on.

On 70 mins, a cross from Jones is easily fielder by Fraser who bombs it forward to Pellè.  The whole United defence has been attracted towards him, possibly because he’s a good looking bloke or maybe because they’re not very good.  It drops to JWP who feeds into Tadic.  Tadic holds onto it just long enough before rolling it right to Graziano who is through.  He sidefoots an effort past de Gea but it hits the near post and pings out to the penalty spot where Tadic calmly sidefoots it past Blackett who makes a really poor effort on the line.  You beauty. Get in.  I’m in a pub.  I don’t like watching Saints games in the pub but moments like this are what it’s all about as the place goes mental.  We now have 20 minutes plus Fergie time of hell to go through.

Koeman’s face as the ball goes in is priceless and he’s down the steps to celebrate before pulling a slightly bewildered face as Tadic rips off his shirt and pulls the ‘hulk’ pose as popularized by Cristiano Ronaldo.  I hope all you Sunday morning park footballers are ready to do that one with your beer gut the next time you score a goal.  Yellow card and off we go again – he’s an idiot because he now has to go 25 minutes without tackling anybody.

Plan A isn’t working for United as they haven’t had a shot on target yet so the genius that is van Gaal summons Fellaini from the bench and throws the haircut on up front.  He’s taken off the creative and skilful and £60 million di Maria off to do this.  Rooney has gone up front to play off Fellaini so it’s a right collection of haircuts up front for United and hoofball on the way.  Has he not noticed that we have Fonte at 6’3 and Gardos at 6’4 at the back.  Tactical genius.

Time begins to drag by as United try and force a way back into it and isn;t it remarkable how the refereeing then begins to get right on your goat.  Graziano is back fighting for the ball and he turns away from Mata and accidentally treads on him whilst looking the other way.  Free kick to United and a booking.  Ridiculous decision.  The kick is chipped up to Fellaini and we head it away – there’s a shock.

Daley Blind has moved out to the left and as we remember from the World Cup, he has a hell of a delivery on him.  He pings over was wonderful curling cross which Fraser paws out to Mata who has an open goal to aim at but puts it wide.  We don’t learn the lessons and once again, Blind crosses the ball and Mata steals in and meets it on the half volley on the six yard line and balloons it over. Judging by the smell coming from my trousers, that was close.

It’s time for the Ginger Pitbull and Steve Davis is off to be replaced with Harrison Reed who is palced on the right to stop Blind one assumes.  Now that avenue is closed down, United resort to hoofs up to the Wiggy twins again but they’re not very good at it as most of them don’t reach and are headed away by Big Vic.  Despite the alck of danger, Phil Dowd and his two twat assistants are doing my head in.   We are playing it long now and it just can’t be that every single time Pellè goes up to head it that it always comes off of him and he’s never fouled.

You just know it’s going to be at least 5 minutes of injury time and that’s what it is.  The 5 minutes is then added to as Tadic has an accidental collision with Jones and makes a king sized meal of it.  What transpires is the usual United bollocks in that Rooney gives us the ball back by rolling is right into the corner so Bertrand is taking a throw from by the corner flag,  Classless Squirrel headed little fucker.  Fuck off and shag a granny you twat.

We nearly have the last laugh as Tadic and Pellè build up down the left bu the clearly knackered Italian wafts a left foot shot across the goal and out for a throw-in on the far side.  One more bomb forward is cleared away and that’s it.  Fatty Dowd blows the whistle and United can fuck off.  Have that you bastards.  Look at all the empty seats.  Look at the Saints players celebrating.  Absolutely fucking brilliant – different class lads.  Lost our centre back and still beat them.

It got even better after the game.  First of all the league table now has us in 3rd place and then we had the joys of that bitter squirrel headed twat being interviewed.  They deserved to win and had the best chances apparently.  You didn’t get a shot on target you utter bell-end.  The van Gaal came on and said roughly the same thing.  We were lucky and we played for a draw apparently.  Standard managerial deflection crap when you’ve been out thought and out managed.  It’s not as if United gave us the goal like we gave them 2 at St Marys.  Have some milk with those sour grapes you wanker.  Typical classless United and no wonder everyone hates them.  You know that everyone who supports every other club in England other than Portsmouth and some Bournemouth oddballs will be loving that result.

Ronald Koeman was unsurprisingly beaming afterwards, acknowledging that we had a bit of fortune with Mata missing chances but he was delighted and under it all, you know he and Erwin will be delighted on a personal level about sticking one over van Gaal.  Love it.  You know that the post mortem will all be about United and the deficiencies of their star individuals and Falcao not playing etc.  That’s the difference – we’re a good team, United are a collection of good individuals with no real cohesion.

To our boys and it wasn’t a day for flash stuff, it was a day for graft and stopping the opposition playing to give us a chance.  JWP and Davis never allowed Carrick the time he needs to do anything and Big Vic and Morgan were just outstanding in defending in front of the centre backs.  All three did well when they were on but José Fonte in particular was outstanding.  Chelsea have John Terry as their talisman, we have José Fonte.  Ryan Bertrand struggled a bit with Valencia at times but Clyne saw off Shaw easily and it was only when Blind moved left that they created anything from that side.  Up front, Graziano worked so hard with no help at all from the fat twat Dowd and Eljero Elia gave glimpses of what he’s about and we’ll hopefully see a lot more of that as he gets fitter.  The headline grabber though will be Dusan Tadic and the class he brought from the bench was massive, setting up Pellè for the shot onto the post and coolly putting the rebound in.

Last year when we drew at United, Match of the Day edited the game so all our attacks bar the goal were missing and every time United got in our half was shown which made it of course look like a smash and grab.  This time it's better but they decide to omit the two examples of Robin van Persie being a prick.  You can guarantee that if a player from another club had thrown the ball at the referee, they'd have been all over it.  

I need a lie down.  That was brilliant.  I’ll be awake again on Wednesday for when we have to play Ipswich in the FA Cup replay.  I anticipate a few changes with the major squad issue being that we have Fonte and Gardos at centre back but otherwise, Alderweireld is injured, Yoshida is in Australia, Turnbull and Stephens are on loan at Swindon and Jason McCarthy is next in line.  Let’s hope that Florin and José get through it ok and lets get into the 4th Round for a reunion with Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace.