Pete Sixsmith felt cheated. Not because he believes Gus Poyet or the team deliberately lost, but because he was obliged to sit through a dreadful display against moderate opponents that exposed glaring weaknesses in the squad. We must all hope to find him in better spirits at tea-time six days from now …
To borrow a phrase from Oscar Wilde (a bit of a Chelsea fan, I believe but not awfully keen on Reading), ”to lose once to Hull City is a misfortune, to lose twice looks like carelessness and to play like a third rate pub team in an FA Cup quarter final and lose to the sods a third time looks like a first rate disaster”.
The results have deteriorated the more men we keep on the field.
When we had nine we lost 1-0, when we had ten we lost 2-0 and now, with a full complement of 11 (although the contribution from Giaccherini and Dossena was so poor that we would have been better off with nine), we lost 3-0.
Things are clearly NOT getting better.
The head coach took a real gamble on this game and clearly wanted to see if the fringe players were up for it for the last dozen games that will decide which league we will be in next season.
Will we be rubbing shoulders with Liverpool or Leeds? Will it be Middlesbrough or Manchester, Southampton or Sheffield Wednesday? On the basis of what we saw here, if the best XI ie the one that started in the North London trading estate last week is not available, then we will be spending a lot of time in West and South Yorkshire in 2014/15.
Last week the players were heroes as they rose above the mediocrity of their league position and gave Manchester City a really good game, thrilling those watching on TV. This week, both sides reminded those suffering ITV’s abysmal football coverage, that the Premier League is pretty damn average away from the upper echelons.
It doesn’t help that our head coach made it perfectly clear that what matters now is survival in the World’s Best League. With a string of crucial home games coming up, I suspect that Poyet looked upon the prospect of a replay with as much enthusiasm as Piers Morgan looks forward to reading Private Eye. Should we win it and make it to a semi-final at Wembley, Home of Football, Ikea, Tesco and Bob’s Drain Repairs, that would be another game to squeeze into an already tight schedule.
This game showed that whereas we may have 14 or 15 decent players, we do not have the two players for each position that successful clubs (and for us that means staying in this league) need to have. We are lacking in defensive cover, any form of creativity in midfield and any prospect of a forward scoring, if this absolutely shambolic performance is anything to go by.
All three goals were handed to Hull on a plate. Had Reginald Jeeves turned up with a silver platter with a ball and a whisky and soda sitting on it, he could not have been more accommodating than Lee Cattermole was in allowing Meyler and Fryatt to wrap the game up.
For Meyler’s goal, he failed to make a tackle, probably because he knew that the slightest error of judgement would see the Irishman go down and the feeble Mr Pawson reach for a second yellow and send him off.
Fryatt then took advantage of another “Villa” moment as Cattermole knocked the ball back without looking.
Unfortunate or unforgiveable? You decide. Actually, he had had a decent game up until then, replicating his combative performance at the Home of Football and Singh Brothers Cash and Carry.
Hull had spent much of the game winding him up in the hope that he would explode and leave the pitch earlier and there were some crude challenges on him. Had he perpetrated the tackle on Huddlestone that Huddlestone perpetrated on him, it would have been a red. Huddlestone got a yellow. But they got to him. His composure went and it reinforced my view that he cannot play a full 90 minutes. He tires mentally and that is when the passes go astray and the tackles are missed.
I am sure that Tony Pulis will have Palace players doing the same next week, hoping for a similar reaction from Cattermole.
But it was the first goal that really worried me. O’Shea gave away a needless free kick in the corner and then compounded his error by failing to out jump Curtis Davies, allowing him to head a good goal that won the game for them.
How many times this season have we failed to defend a free kick or corner and allow opponents a free shot or header which far too frequently, leads to a goal? Any future opponents will have seen this and will be queuing up to fall down around the penalty box. Free kicks are as good as penalties against us at the moment.
Many were convinced that he picked the wrong team. I would say that he picked the right team for this game. How else are we to find out if players are up for the gigantic scrap that is coming up if they are not given opportunities?
So, what did we learn from this?
* Ustari looks a decent goalkeeper, apart from his kicking which was reminiscent of the late Tim Carter’s. The penalty save was a good one and he handled the ball well enough in the box. We have problems in the heart of the back four.
* This should be O’Shea’s last season at this level and, without Brown, he struggles.
* Dossena was hopeless. Bardsley at left back is a better option if Alonso is absent.
* There was nothing in midfield to worry a mediocre Hull team. Without Johnson and Ki we do not create. Colback was the pick of the bunch.
* I have more chance of going to Brazil than Giaccherini who was almost as bad as Dossena.
* We have real problems up front. Was Fletcher fit? I hope not, because if he was, that was a truly awful performance. He did not look happy and made little attempt to link up with Scocco. The Argentinian also looked well off the pace and could be another of those wonderful January signings, following in the footsteps of Rada Prica, Danny Graham and Darren Byfield (although he did actually score a couple of goals).
* Where was Altidore? We were led to believe that he would play. Is he not mentally ready after last week’s disappointment?
The cups are gone now and we have 12 games to save the season and maybe the club. Palace is a huge game. Win it and things look brighter. Lose it and we are favourites to join Fulham as almost certs to go down.
The coach has to prepare his team well for what will be the defining game of the season. Tempo is all important as there was no tempo whatsoever here. Once again, we allowed a team as mediocre as we are to seize the initiative. Can’t happen next week, Gus.
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