Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Boxing Day Hangover: The Mighty vs Accrington Stanley

Christmas is never like the cards suggest it will be.

Boxing Day is a grey affair, the rain is on the verge of becoming sleet as we set off. Spray on the motorway makes driving miserable, but it's ok, because we are off to see the Mighty and today is going to be the day we put things right and wipe away the stain of the turgid display last week.

I know we will, because I have faith and hope and after all, hope is important. Without it, what's the point?

Accrington are a good side to play on Boxing Day - they're not important enough to get really nail bitingly worked up about, but they're not completely random either. They're the Fleetwood Town it's alright to admire a bit because unlike Fleetwood, they haven't had it on a plate. They are a sort of perennial ongoing miracle, turning the toughest of deals and geographic locations (Accrington is essentially a railway viaduct and an ASDA between two much bigger, more successful football clubs) into a backs against the wall, never say die club that somehow seems to unearth enough talent in the cast offs it feeds on to be actually pretty decent every year.

We're the Mighty though and I'm confident, we're due a good game, due a good win and there's players in our team I'm sure will come good today. I'm sure they will.

From the kick off we move the ball quite well, get a few crosses in then Thompson bursts into the box and goes down. From the other end, you can see, in the way he looks like he's snapped in half mid air, that he was looking for it and there's a bit of aggro and he's booked. It feels a bit like he was looking for a penalty from another division. This is league 1 Jordan. Stay on your feet son!!!

Thompson and Gnanduillet combine nicely down the middle, we're on our feet but the run collapses under its own weight and we're sat down again.

It's not quite clicking. 3, 4 passes, things starting then a heavy touch. Husband is particularly culpable.

Sullay Kaikai is a full blown superstar on his day, but today it doesn't appear to be his day. He looks rusty, maybe still carrying a knock and as he takes the ball in and affects a shimmy then back heels it to no one, I think 'surely this isn't another one of those days is it?'

But we've got 'Oh Nathan Delfouenso' and he's bursting forward, his laid back gait turned into explosive energy and surely.... we're too good for them? surely...?

The ball is at the back, they've offered little threat, we've been comfortable and Fonz has come deep, he's begging for the ball, almost literally on his knees, beseeching. Instead we go long, instead we go sideways, then long. Fonz just shrugs it off, and turns to trot after play. He's Fonz, he doesn't throw tantrums.

They are neat and tidy and hard. They were neat and tidy and hard at their place too. I suspect Accy are always neat and tidy and hard. They haven't brought that many but they make a noise. If Fleetwood are a chihuahua (a little dog with a complex about its size) then Accy are one of those 50cc bikes that are designed to look like a superbike. The 50 singers and drummer never shut up all game but it's a bit of a hairdryer whine rather than full throttled roar.

Dion Charles, once of this parish, is never going to be a Premier League player but he's exactly what they're about, he runs every ball, he jumps for every header, he shoulder charges, he muscles, he barrels around and he's a nuisance. They burst forward from time to time in an impressively direct way, moving the ball quickly between them.

They make a chance, it's a low shot that Alnwick parries away in a strange way, like a five a-side keeper going down to his knees. You can hear the slap of the wet ball in the stands against his hand or arm (I can't tell) and it's clear straight away that he's hurt. 'Ooh' Phil Horner is on and anyone who has ever played football on a cold afternoon and got in the way of the ball is wincing.

Before long Alnwick has his arm up - he can't carry on and there's a moment of panic as we realise that it's not the dependable Mark Howard on the bench, but the raw kid Jack Simms. After cheering the lad on the pitch, via a big hug from Big Armand and a big arm round the shoulder and words in the ear from Big Ben, we take an intake of breath as Accy hang one above him, their angular, barrel chested players rushing on to it, like bulls on stampede and the kid is coming, he's going up for it in the crowd of charging horns and steam and he takes it. There's a big roar and it's probably the best bit of the game.

Jack Simms has the ball now. He holds it to him, he breathes, calms himself, Turton has found some space on the right, but Simms isn't for letting go. He's a pro, in a real game and he's just plucked a cross out the air - he needs a second to take this in. He holds on to it for an age and Turton is closed down, then he goes to kick it ... and if Alnwick's injury was like something off the park, then this goal kick is classic school team stuff, sliced, it barely makes the centre spot... There's a hum of concern. This wasn't the script.

Somewhere around this point, maybe before, maybe after, Sullay has the ball in the net, but it's ruled out for offside, but the flag seems really late. It surely can't be another one of those days can it?

Then Sullay's on the ground, first time he gets up and gives it a go, second time he walks off with Ooh Phil Horner and we see Sean Scannell again. Oh, Sean Scannell, he's silk spun magic from time to time, but my overriding impression is of a player whose body no longer quite does what his brain tells it to do, who lost a yard somewhere and never quite found another way to play.

They burst through and in a one on one Simms saves well, staying up long enough to foil their striker's attempt to slip it past him.

Half time and we're the better team. Not by much, but by enough for me to think '2-0 - easy, just need to turn up!'. I watch Callum Macdonald and Callum Guy doing a passing drill and I wonder why the former isn't playing as he's got a lovely touch with both feet.

We're off for the second half and it's an explosive start  really dull. They look like John Coleman has made them even sharper, tougher and neater and they start to worry me a bit. We seem to ignore any option of playing from the back most of the time and when we do, it breaks down, sometimes with a heavy touch from Husband, sometimes with Feeney running inside into traffic and all to often with Jordan Thompson turning inside instead of having his head up, then falling over when he runs out of space.

Around an hour we have a 5 to 10 minute purple patch, we play quite well, moving it about, there's a shout for hand ball, Feeney hits one that the keeper tips over, Scannell finds his mojo for a few seconds and plays a divine curling pass that Fonz nearly, nearly gets to before the keeper and we swing a few crosses in and Larry decides it's time for Big Joe.

Big Joe should be really good. He's strong and athletic, he's powerful, quick and he looks like if he puts his laces or his forehead through it, it would stay hit... but Big Joe hasn't been really good. I want Big Joe to score more than I want anything in the world. I want him to shove a defender out the way with his backside, take the ball on the turn and slot it into the top corner and run to the corner flag, soaking up the adulation of Bloomfield Road.

We're losing Feeney in the swap and when we lose Feeney, that's basically it for the attacking threat from midfield. He's not had a great game, but he's run and run as he always does and carried the ball a few times and shown for it plenty more. I don't really know why Thompson is staying on the pitch, why neither of the two Callum's haven't had a shot at rectifying either our imbalance or the lack of presence in the middle, but I'm willing Big Joe to do it.

He trots on to a resounding chorus of low level muttering and grumbling and a Mexican headshake from the West (which is like a Mexican Wave, except without the energy, the waving and consists instead some old fellas sighing and shaking their heads in a domino effect as the realisation that it's Big Joe coming on passes along the stand.)

Nothing really happens for the next 15 minutes. We learn for about the 8th time that Big Joe and Big Armand can't play together. We don't learn much else. Maybe next week eh lads?

Then they score. It happens quickly, ball flashed into the box, one of their nippy, neat, tidy but tough players darts free and heads past the kid. I'm gutted for Simms, to be robbed of a clean sheet so late when he's done well. Their lad runs off, elated and the referee is called over by the steward and handed something. A bottle? No, it's the Accy lad's shirt he chucked off in his ecstasy. The ref ambles back to the half way line with it in his hand and there's a booking but he doesn't care. He's just run the length of the ground in what looks like a sports bra - he doesn't care.

I should go now, but I stay to watch the unedifying sight of us trying to land it on ancillary striker  Rob Edward's head for the second week running in the last few seconds. Nuttall is offside to further muttering and the whistle blows.

Just like last game, it's dancing players and dancing away fans. If Accy are that 50cc bike, then it's doing wheelies round the pitch and I'm stuck watching as the queue to get out is that long. They make a decent noise for their size.

Ultimately, it wasn't a good game. For the second week running, we had no answer to a well organised but quite basic side. The ref wasn't great again, but is that doesn't feel enough to excuse us.

Accy were very well drilled but no single player on their team scared me that often. We clearly need players if we are going to compete, but it also feels like we didn't get the best side we have on the pitch today or last week. The problems we had earlier in the year were back as Feeney, KaiKai, Fonz drifted about but didn't provide much cutting edge - I don't know why we can't play Macdonald out left and Feeney out right, with chalk on their boots against a side like Accy or Shrewsbury - yes, we'd be a bit more open, but we've scored 1 in 3 now.

I don't know whether I blame Larry. I decide to not blame Larry for now but I do think he should surely realise that we need a left and a right side to the team though. I also think we missed Matty Virtue a lot. He doesn't do much that sets the crowd alight (aside from the odd cracking goal), but he keeps the game moving. He does simple stuff, but he does it at pace. Spearing was better today than against Shrewsbury but the midfield just can't pick a lock against defense that is set up for a draw and with Kaikai half fit, we lack the pace to slice through teams

I decide we need a transfer window and wonder where Accy get all their competent footballers from, for the sort of fees and wages they pay?

If they can take 4 points of us when their idea of a transfer fee is John Coleman sending Jimmy Bell to wash the selling team's chairman's car and give him a tip on the horses, then we surely can unearth some diamonds with our new scouting system and our new reputation as *not run by the O****n family* and therefore not known throughout the game as 'one to avoid if you can'

I um and ah about whether to go to Rotherham...

It will get better. It must.



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