Stan was worried last week. Worried because he was mildly confident!
'There's no way a team as average as Sheffield Wednesday was going to roll us over for an eighth consecutive time…' went the thinking.
We'd performed with guts and guile at Birmingham and seemed to have a bit of wind in our tails. The arrival of Alan Lee had given us much more balance and at least half the squad was well rested after a fortnight off? and then?.
And then? That happened.
Regardless of the appearance of another hapless referee and his gutless assistant (what is the opposite of a 'homer') we were poor, disjointed, full of the problems of old and ultimately can't be too aggrieved at the fairness of the scoreline, however painful it was.
The arrival of the team-sheet was the first thing to dent Stan's pre-match confidence. He senses that he wasn't the only one in the ground to be a bit baffled as the team selection entered the public domain.
Lee's omission we'll come on to in a mo, but the gamble of playing two wide men who'd endured such an unsettling ten days prior, was possibly a step too far.
Carney had been to the other side of the planet and back and Crofty had spent his 'international break' in the treatment room, and it showed.
Understandably and sensibly 'Team Gunn' have gone a bit more pragmatic in their approach over the last five games or so.
We're seeing an increase in the use of the 'percentage ball'. Otsemobor in particular has been given clear instruction to hit the channel when a simple option isn't available.
The problem is that in order to do this effectively the wide men or the forwards have got to be able to exploit this, to harry the full back and then to get men up in support.
For whatever reason this didn't happen enough on Saturday. Any forward passing moves seemed to be almost accidental and lacked any 'fizz'. Once more we looked like strangers at times and many of the failings of old resurfaced.
The 20 minute period after we conceded, a fittingly self-inflicted goal, was almost too painful to watch. We just seemed so devoid of spark or clear pattern of play.
The game was calling out for a change but we had to wait until nigh on 70 minutes for this to happen, and from the moment it did the folly of leaving a player like Lee on the bench in such a crunch game became apparent.
The opposition hate him. We hated him when he was at Ipswich. He's an absolute handful and exactly the sort of player you need on the pitch when your very Championship future depends on it.
If you're going to play percentages and the quality of your crossing is generally poor he's got to be on the pitch from the start. It's like having a 30-year-old, fit, Iwan Roberts available and leaving him on the bench.
If he was fit, Lee should have started.
The game was transformed by his arrival. He's hardly Ronaldo but the panic he caused in the Wednesday back-line was there for all to see.
Mooney will relish the scraps he supplies and so it nearly proved. Lee was spoken to after a couple of minutes, was embroiled in a ten man scrap, got his head on everything and was pivotal in everything going forward after his arrival.
Quite why Mooney's 'goal' was scratched off is a mystery, but at the end of the day it was and it's indicative of the sort of luck we're getting at the moment. We're now back in the mire regardless of Southampton's ultimate fate.
A Plymouth win at Blackpool and a point each at Barnsley continues to reinforce Stan's belief that 52 points will be required to stay up. That's a long way to go, and on the back of performances like this one is totally beyond us.
However, should the Norwich of Cardiff 'home' and Birmingham 'away' reappear it's still possible that we'll kick next season off rubbing shoulders with West Brom rather than Yeovil.
It's going to take a huge collective effort and undoubtedly some more stomach turning days, but we need to display the same attitude that a certain Alan Lee was allowed to display all too briefly on Saturday afternoon for it to be a successful conclusion to yet another wretched season.
Fight the good fight everyone. Dust yourselves down, write this one off and let's go again, as one, into what could prove to be the most important five games in our clubs history.
Leave a Reply