Match report- conservative cherries limp to defeat

#1
Yet again, another afternoon approached with a somewhat naive sense of optimism, only to be bought crashing back down to earth by the time the clock hits five by a growingly predictable feeling of an opportunity squandered. The big talking point going into this one was how we would line up, a slightly bizarre team sheet containing no less than four central midfielders left a great number of us scratching our heads. As it transpired we reverted back to our old friend, the tried and tested (to have failed time and time again) three at the back. Smith and Stanislas took the wing back slots with a midfield three of Lerma, Cook and Wilshere patrolling the middle of the park. Shane Long was preferred over Surridge to perform the thankless task of feeding on scraps all afternoon and Phil Billing was given what seemed to be a free role in behind to drift around freely and influence the game wherever possible.

The first half took a while to get going and at times felt a little like a pre season friendly, the visitors enjoying a lot of possession (as you’d expect with four central midfielders on the pitch) and at times knocking the ball around nicely, but not with the usual sense of urgency and intensity that you would associate with an important championship fixture. Having said that however, we certainly did carve out the most notable goal scoring opportunities of the opening period. Firstly Billing was played through on goal by a trade mark slide rule pass by Wilshere, who had picked up a loose ball in the middle of the park. Big Phil, unfamiliar with this kind of situation, seemed to slow down as he bore down on goal, seemingly in two minds about whether to go for goal or to square to a team mate. This hesitation proved costly and in the end the stretched foot of Billing could only prod a looping cross-shot toward goal, that was deflected behind via the shoulder of the home keeper. Later on in the half, following a sustained period of comfortable possession, Lerma all of a sudden decided to take the game by the scruff of its neck and played a peach of a lofted through ball over the hosts back line and onto the onrushing Long. Suddenly, out of nothing, Long found himself bearing down on goal with only the keeper to beat. He took a touch to steady himself and just as we’d have been forgiven for expecting the net to bulge, he proceeded to hit the ball tamely at the goal keeper. Opportunity missed. The on lone Southampton forward fluffing his lines at a time that we really needed him to show a bit of composure. The last action of the half saw a rasping Lewis Cook effort swerve agonisingly wide of the upright following a neat free kick routine, the visitors could certainly feel aggrieved to be going in only on level terms.

The second half started off in a similar vein, Bournemouth enjoying plenty of possession and rarely looking troubled by the hosts who up until this point had not laid a glove on the visitors. The first major chance of the half again fell our way, an overlapping Lloyd Kelly producing a peach of a cut back and finding an onrushing Adam Smith at the back post. Smith, desperately trying to sort his feet out, could not adjust in time and only managed to divert his effort tamely wide of the post. Another opportunity missed and you started to get the feeling that this was going to cost us. This moment swiftly came as Bournemouth were hit by a sucker punch entirely of their own making. Another passage of passing along the back line saw the ball arrive at the feet of Mepham. The often maligned centre back took one look up and arrived at the conclusion that the best course of action was to play a suicidal ball into the feet of the deep lying Lerma, who was being heavily pressured with his back to goal. Before we even had time to utter a single obscenity in dear old Meps’ direction, in nipped the onrushing Johanson to slot calmly past Begovic and give the hosts the advantage. A situation that we could all see coming from a mile away and all of a sudden we were behind in a game that our opponents were yet to even really show up to. Woodgate responded by throwing on Surridge for the largely ineffective Wilshere, and this change didn’t take long to pay dividends. A lovely clipped ball to the back post was met by an equally sumptuous header back across goal by the super sub, presenting Long with an opportunity that even he couldn’t squander, bundling the ball home from no more than a yard out and bringing the visitors back into it. The momentum had now firmly swung back in our favour, but despite again enjoying a lot of possession, we were finding opportunities hard to come by, a couple of speculative efforts being all that we could muster. Then ten minutes from time the unthinkable happened, and again it came out nowhere. A ball played into the QPR forward was flicked neatly down the left channel and into the path of the marauding substitute Adomah. The Bournemouth defence parted like the Red Sea, with notable mentions to both Smith and our friend again Mepham, who were both hopelessly caught out of position. Adomah flashed the ball across the face of goal, which was met at the back post by the late arrival of Kane who subsequently diverted an accomplished first time finish past the hapless Begovic to edge the hosts back in front. It just wasn’t going to be our day was it? The final ten minutes descended into a bit of a farce, with Bournemouth completely folding and QPR missing numerous opportunities to add a bit of gloss to the score line. Notable mentions go to the QPR forward who managed to completely miss the open target from six yards out after Asmir had suffered from a case of the ‘spaghetti wrists,’ and to Sam Surridge who for reasons not known to me, found himself clearing the ball off of our own goal line late on following another QPR break away. The game fizzled out with the cherries unable to lay another glove on their opponents, the hosts seeing out the win to maintain their enviable recent form and leave the cherries looking nervously over their shoulders with off the field matters now sure to take centre stage....

Player ratings and verdict to follow
 
#3
Verdict
In my opinion the football played at times today was an improvement on what we’ve seen on many occasions this season, however this was largely due to the inclusion of an excessive number of possession orientated midfielders and potentially came at the expense of an added attacking potency. It’s a hard one to judge and in fairness we did create a few presentable opportunities, but you can’t help but shake the feeling that when you have defenders who are as generous as ours, that to be winning the games that we need to that we really need to be taking the game by the scruff of the neck and trying to attack the opposition. Today felt very measured and conservative, and I’m not really sure that we have it in us to play this way and be successful.
 
#6
Agree with your verdict/summary. The personnel, tactics and shape were completely baffling which resulted in a very strange performance. Bizarre.
 
#8
Good report Waz, not sure if it’s the removal of any kind of expectation to win games/put in a half decent performance or giving yourself time to reflect after the game (possibly both!) but the removal of that frustrated emotion definitely puts far more credibility into your observations and thoughts - keep up the good work!

The decision to so drastically change the side was criminal, all very well blaming Covid for forcing the dressing room into smaller groups, but cohesion and development of a team identify is hardly going to improve when we continually chop and change - amazing how this appears to be rocket science to our management team.

I am torn between two schools of thought. One is we are a liability with all this pissing around at the back and in any case how much of that play ultimately leads to goals? It’s about retaining possession and drawing the opposition out some will say - all very well, but I don’t remember us having to do this to be successful when we were promoted from this division last time, there was an ability to mix things up. It is clear that some rebalancing needs to be done in our players percentage play, when it’s ok to work the ball around the back 4 and when they knock something into a channel or get Bego to belt it up just to clear our lines. All very well blaming Mepham for not looking up and under hitting his pass, but our insistence as a team of playing this way leads to those mistakes. We are not good enough to do it. Would a tougher manager like Nigel Pearson cut that rubbish out, reset that awful mentality and give us a base to rebuild from?

On the other hand, confidence seems fragile, maybe we need “an entertainer” like Harry Redknapp or Kevin Keegan (not sure who a younger example off that would be!) till the end of the season as our best chance of getting promoted.....their way with the media will take the pressure off the players and their style would allow them to play with freedom, god forbid they might also seem to enjoy playing football again rather than going through the lethargic motions we have sadly become accustomed to seeing, I bet it would also have a positive impact on transfer valuations in the summer should we fail to go up as there would be more glimpses of what they are actually capable of. Would be much more fun to let the handbrake off and lose 4-3 then continue to ensure the turgid dross we are currently being served up.

I can only hope that Woodgate learnt a lot from that yesterday; maybe the good results were papering over the cracks and gave him a false sense of security that his changes yesterday would be a managerial masterclass. Unclear how many games he has left in the hotseat but it would speak volumes if he could get a reaction from the side against Cardiff and get them showing signs that having seen the mistakes we are capable of that he can then influence the style of play for the better.....do that and he just might strike upon his best XI, which (and I may be dreaming here) gets repicked rather than pressing the reset button to counteract the threats posed by the visit of Watford

In all likelihood, I expect even if he got back to back wins, we would see a new manager in after next weekend so that we can rip it up and try a different (but no doubt similar) approach under Henry or some other uninspiring appointment such is the propensity of this board to shoot ourselves in the foot with their recent decision making.

Fingers crossed for Woody and the boys on Wednesday night, the optimist in me hopes they finally take the opportunity to make a statement!
 
#9
I realise that I'm probably v much in the minority here, but the performance / tactics bar Mepham's disaster (is he going to get 2 managers the push with glaring errors??) could be seen as relatively good and certainly better than other JW League games.

It was a very Swansea-like performance where we gave them little bar the flurry at the end where we were trying to push forward, but created nothing. I doubt you'd see too many Swansea fans upset if they keep winning 1-0. On another day we would have won. Realistically, however, if football was fair, we may only have come out with 2 points from the last two games, and we got 3.

The xG of the game is below, and we were firmly the better team, away, against a team who had won 5 from 6 until late on.

QPR.JPG

Before the game we had discussed Coventry's second goal against Brentford and were contemplating the dangers of playing it out from the back and then lo and behold. I'd said that we're not good enough to do it and yesterday reinforces my view.

One minor positive, although Cardiff won 4-0, the xG was actually close. 2.54 vs 2.42. We live in hope of 3 points on Wednesday.

UTCIAD

PS - Thanks for the match report Waz
 
#11
Good match report, thanks. Having now calmed down a bit, I find myself a little more positive. But it’s necessary to put to one side our early season experiences and/or any feeling that “with our squad, we should be rolling other teams over”.

We set up to match their system and, in effect, play man for man. We did that and were (I would say comfortably) the better team until the Meps mistake.

That mistake caused a formation change and a huge shift in approach to the game. It forced to abandon the careful man-for-man chess game (where, overall, we looked the better team) and do something else. And it worked initially as we equalised and looked good for a second for about 5 minutes after.

There was of course a choice having equalised - to revert once again to the matched man-for-man. Perhaps by substituting Long and bringing on Pearson and/or by replacing Stan with Rico (see below). It would have most likely secured a point but would have been by most of us as super negative (and criticised)... benefit of hindsight and all that.

The shift in formation and approach left us far more exposed to a counter attack and that’s exactly what happened. We pressed for the winner but screwed it up. End of story ... The last few minutes we pushed even more and were nearly punished by more counter attacks. There’s an issue in that our “going for it” attack play has been pretty toothless this season compared to many in the past. But, overall, we should take some comfort from a decent
60 minutes until the mistake. How many times has a Mepham mistake led to a goal this season? I think that’s possibly 3 now?

A final thought: their winner was scored by the right wing back, the same player who had been booked a few minutes before for hauling back Surridge when arguably through on goal (they had players covering but he’d have got a shot away). That right wing back arrived pretty late at the back post to put away the cross. Whilst I think he’s one of our best players this season... where the hell was Stan? If you’re playing wing back .. that’s your man and you’ve got to be back there. Stan wasn’t there because, I assume, he was given licence to roam around and make things happen up front. So back to the original point (and a short summary)

- rigid system more than matches QPR - unlucky not to be ahead
- poor individual mistake gifts goal against run of play
- changed / less rigid system produces deserved equaliser
- changed / less rigid system looks just as likely (or unlikely) to produce a further goal for us... but exposes us to a counter-attack.

Overall... i think there is at least a positive to take. First half was okay and if we’d scored first (which would have been deserved) I think we’d have won.
 
#12
Good match report, thanks. Having now calmed down a bit, I find myself a little more positive. But it’s necessary to put to one side our early season experiences and/or any feeling that “with our squad, we should be rolling other teams over”.

We set up to match their system and, in effect, play man for man. We did that and were (I would say comfortably) the better team until the Meps mistake.

That mistake caused a formation change and a huge shift in approach to the game. It forced to abandon the careful man-for-man chess game (where, overall, we looked the better team) and do something else. And it worked initially as we equalised and looked good for a second for about 5 minutes after.

There was of course a choice having equalised - to revert once again to the matched man-for-man. Perhaps by substituting Long and bringing on Pearson and/or by replacing Stan with Rico (see below). It would have most likely secured a point but would have been by most of us as super negative (and criticised)... benefit of hindsight and all that.

The shift in formation and approach left us far more exposed to a counter attack and that’s exactly what happened. We pressed for the winner but screwed it up. End of story ... The last few minutes we pushed even more and were nearly punished by more counter attacks. There’s an issue in that our “going for it” attack play has been pretty toothless this season compared to many in the past. But, overall, we should take some comfort from a decent
60 minutes until the mistake. How many times has a Mepham mistake led to a goal this season? I think that’s possibly 3 now?

A final thought: their winner was scored by the right wing back, the same player who had been booked a few minutes before for hauling back Surridge when arguably through on goal (they had players covering but he’d have got a shot away). That right wing back arrived pretty late at the back post to put away the cross. Whilst I think he’s one of our best players this season... where the hell was Stan? If you’re playing wing back .. that’s your man and you’ve got to be back there. Stan wasn’t there because, I assume, he was given licence to roam around and make things happen up front. So back to the original point (and a short summary)

- rigid system more than matches QPR - unlucky not to be ahead
- poor individual mistake gifts goal against run of play
- changed / less rigid system produces deserved equaliser
- changed / less rigid system looks just as likely (or unlikely) to produce a further goal for us... but exposes us to a counter-attack.

Overall... i think there is at least a positive to take. First half was okay and if we’d scored first (which would have been deserved) I think we’d have won.
Pretty much my view (and the xG view) but you said it much better!