Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, December 19, 2020

This year Christmas really IS cancelled - Accrington Stanley vs the Mighty



This time last year I wrote a blog entitled 'Christmas Cancelled' when we lost to Shrewsbury in the pre Christmas game. As if Christmas would ever get cancelled though. Lol lol lol. Ho ho ho. That's not going to happen. Not in a month of Sundays! 

Last year's Boxing Day game against Accy at home was a proper sickener and the away game I can barely remember as I came as near to suffering serious heatstroke as I ever have - my main (sun fried) memories are

1) Me getting a bit arsey with some lads as they pretty nearly trampled my (considerably smaller) lad underfoot but not arsey enough for them to notice me being arsey cos they were pretty big lads so I just contained my arsiness to generally muttering and glaring and imagining their hangovers in the morning. 

2) getting ready to be frisked and realising my pockets were full of sherbet (actual sherbert, not euphemistic sherbert from my lads sherbert dib dab that had, unknown to me exploded in my pocket ) and wondering how I might explain the large quantities of white powder to a steward who didn't look in the mood for chatting and probably, seen as some of the lads around me looked quite 'alert' might jump to a different conclusion. 

3) the sun. the never ending sun, beating down non stop, inducing a sort of horrible throbbing nausea, a sort of fever dream through which I could sort of see Ryan Hardie loping about up front like he was playing for a different team and Ryan Edwards playing right back like he was walking a tightrope. 

4) A game that seemed to last for years where we were mostly a bit shit till Matty Virtue scored in the last minute which made it all worth it. 

5) Going to Accrington Asda on the way home and buying a 6 pack of ice lollies and me and the lad eating them all in about 5 minutes in the car park under the shade of a tree. 

Here's a compendium of pictures to remind you what we're missing. Try not to cry. I'm getting fed up of this. It's the small things that make life worth living like....

...Pints. Sunshine. Football...




Today, we're on the telly, it's not a heart and soul, blood and guts physical experience but one of distance.  That effect of that distance is emphasised by Accy being one of those grounds where you are right on top of the players, where you can see just how physical high level football is and whilst it might fit some people's ideas of 'tinpot' I think, like seeing a band in a tiny cellar, shorn of all the pyrotechnics of stadium show, there's a lot to be said for seeing football in this sort of arena. It's one of my favourite things about League One, that you can be at the Stadium of Light one week and the Crown Ground the next. It's weird how little grounds can seem louder than ones with 10 times the fans in and how much where you watch from can affect the way you watch the game. 

There's none of this to reflect on these days. A pitch is a pitch is a pitch and the mood of a club is impossible to judge on telly in front of an empty stadium. There's always a buzz at Accy and a sense of occasion but not today... 

We've been on a roll and seem to have got both spirit and skill but I'm anticipating a difficult game. Coleman is as canny operator as there is at any level and Critch is still learning the artform of management to add to his undisputed mastery of the craft of coaching. Accy are a good side and they don't play with the expectation that some of the other good sides play with. They take nothing for granted, fight for every ball and earn every point. That's not easy to play against and they're on decent form this year. My mystical senses tell me the game will be decided by someone unexpected and I'm hoping it's something like the ball going in off Marvin's arse or similar. How's that for top grade analysis? 

Team news sees Matty Virtue in which is good as I like Matty Virtue. Even better, Madine and Yates start together and Dan Ballard plays in a side that definitely has a physical bite to it. The mystery is Sullay disappearing completely, not even making the bench - he wasn't at his best on Tuesday for certain, but he's always an option if you need a bit of magic. Presumably Keshi will play on the left where he did a good job when moved there last time out - I like him a lot but it feels like he's never quite found his spot in the side, not quite a midfielder, not quite a striker and maybe cutting in from wide will suit him. He certainly adds a bit more combative edge than Sullay, but I bloody love Sullay. 

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It's raining as the players trudge out accompanied by subs and staff bedecked in thick club issue coats, hoods up looking like puffer jacketed monks. Nottingham looks bigger than he ever did in a Pool shirt, the rule being that former players grow a bit or get a bit faster when they play against you. Pool are bedecked in angelic white versus Stanley's devilish red, Not lonely this week Jerry jumps as he realise he nearly forgot the knee taking, then we're off with a long ball leading to a goal kick... 

Tiny moments for each side in the early stage, Accy building a move from a Keshi mistake but getting crowded out and Madine putting pressure on the Accy keeper forcing a slightly wild clearance. It's notable that John Coleman doesn't seem to entertain ideas of Nottingham as a total football centre back as he (playing on the right of a three) makes several 'industrial' clearances in the first five minutes. 

A few more not quite moments, a lovely little chip from midfield puts Dion Charles through but it's a tough job for him to control it and it rolls away from him. At the other end, Garbutt puts a corner in dangerously but it's headed away from inside the six yard box. From Accy's first corner, Nottingham gets some space at the far post but can only head straight at Maxwell. 

Then a bizarre moment as a direct free kick puts McConville through, all he needs to do is slip it home but I think Marvin gets a touch and Maxwell chucks himself at his feet and between them, they scramble it away when it looked certain Accy were in. At the other end, Virtue is at his best as he slide in hard and spreads it to CJ in space. The referee pulls it back though and both sides are outraged, Stanley at tackle and Pool at having the moment taken from them. 

Accy are on top but it's CJ's tenacity against the full back that creates the next chance, wrestling the ball away from him and pulling back for Yates who swivels and fires it against the post. In response Accy go up the other end and Bishop and Charles almost bully their way through and might have managed it but for the presence of Dan Ballard who is about as unbulliable as a footballer can be. 

A dicey touch from Maxwell that he gets away with. A sublime bit of skill from Keshi to go past one man  but the second stops him in his tracks, Turton almost away on the overlap but CJ's touch forward is too heavy. CJ crosses it, Nottingham tries to intercept but almost puts into his own net, only for the linesman to rule that it went out anyway... Yates with a Cruyff turn, a stumble and then righting himself on the half way line and spreading play for Keshi but again, it's just not quite the right ball... Keshi gets on the end of a first time cross but can only head straight up in the air. Nothing is quite coming off for anyone. 

Accy come forward, working the ball well on the edge of the box but Pool break them down and Keshi is away, charging up the middle of the pitch then putting Madine through, Super Gaz takes a touch, then another and cracks a low shot that is comfortable for the keeper. A few minutes later, the Goal Machine lashes a stunning half volley just wide and is appealing for a deflection only for the linesman's flag to render his protestations moot. 

--- 

It's been a very tightly contested game, both sides having spells where it looked like they might assert control and create few chances but neither going on and putting that much together. Against Accy you have to stand your ground and we've done so, but we've struggled a bit with the right ball at the right time, everyone from the front six having suffered from a dodgy pass at one time or other. That's a symptom of how little time Accy give you to play I think and what is a really heavy pitch that's getting bobbly and cut up as the game goes on. 

I think this one could come down to stamina. Both sides have given a lot, it's a tiring surface, neither team is backing off and letting the other play and it could be that the team who tires first loses the game
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Boris is apparently going to announce something, maybe it's that they're going to ban those daft goal kicks with players in the 6 yard box? 

Accy work an odd free kick routine on the box which is probably very clever when it works but just looks daft as it involves literally passing it to Chris Maxwell. 

The wind is howling, Virtue sets Pool on a move that ends with Keshi shoulder charging his way into the box but then crossing to no one. Accy charge away but Dougall is canny enough to impede Charles to block the break. Charles is fuming and Dougall is yellow carded. It's really that sort of game. 

Accy swing in a corner, they've had a little spell of pressure but now Pool break, CJ finally getting to run, almost the entire length of the pitch, before squaring to Yates whose touch is a fraction too heavy and lets the keeper get close enough to smother the shot. 

McConville is put through and is just about to take his shot, when Turton (who is solid as a rock today) slides in with an unbelievable tackle. It's that sort of day, a wet pitch, nothing falling and sliding tackles are the high points - and why not? Who says football is only about attacking? I fucking love a good sliding tackle. I was shit at dribbling but I could tackle the flashy twats who were good at it and I love watching players defend well as much as I love watching players attack well. 

Accy get a free kick right on the point where the penalty box meets the touchline, Nottingham meets the ball at the far post but squeezes it over the top onto the roof of the net

The rain is swirling, and the game descending into chaos. 

Maxwell stops an effort from Charles, a ball lifted over the top, the little lad chasing through and sliding in, striking it with his stretching leg, Maxwell throwing out a leg of his own to stop it, then getting up to claim a second effort that he clutches tight to his chest. 

Virtue spreads a beauty of a diagonal ball, CJ hares away and whips it across, but Yates can't make it and Accy get it away for a corner... 

A weird moment where I think 'I fancy Bez for this' - his chaotic style might work in the chaotic condition and Critch obliges within seconds as if I'm mind controlling the match. Bez's shiny white kit is a contrast to the greying mudstained shirts of the lads who've been on for the whole game. 

More scrappy football ensues, lots of wayward passing and heavy challenges and then Bez has a snapshot which is low, hard and well stopped by the Accy keeper. Pritchard responds for Accy as he puts in a horrible ball, leaning back, and stunning a fizzing ball right across the face of goal that is begging for a touch but doesn't get one. 

The lights of the Pool coach twinkle in the gloom behind the empty terracing. To the sodden and battered bodies on the pitch it must look so enticing. Calderwood and Critch shout and point on the touchline. Mike Garrity walks up and down on the cinder track in front of the stand, behind the advertising boards and remembers when he was allowed in the technical area. 

Accy make a chance, Charles on the turn and shooting just past the far post. Pritchard has a couple efforts from the left hand side cutting in, one effort deflected wide, the other slammed wide without a touch from us... Charles again gets on to a flick and has an effort from the near post that is deflected away from goal for a corner. 

Virtue comes off after an afternoon of honest endeavour (what else would you get from him), Grant Ward on looking even more pristine. He reminds me of classy dressage horse as he seems to glide over the sodden pitch more gracefully than the others. 

The game ends as much of the last ten minutes has been played, an Accy free kick and then a corner gamely defending by the manful Pool. Critch and Coleman have a right good natter on the touchline, it looks good humoured enough and we all exit the magical world of a football match into the harsh reality of a shite winter where it turns out that Boris hasn't finally announced the Indrek Zelinski signing has at last got over the line or that the Ormerod money has been found after all these years, but that Christmas is all but cancelled. 

Oh well. At least we've not lost to Shrewsbury at home this year. There's always that. 

--- 

I think that's a good point. I've seen teams with better players but few better teams (in the sense of 'a group working together') than Accy. Every single Accy player gave absolutely everything and knew exactly what they were doing. We matched that effort and as I said at the beginning of the article, Coleman was canny enough not to let us play for a second. CJ has rarely been shut out as well as he was today. Madine was marshalled effectively and having chosen an industrious midfield over flair and finesse, we didn't really have much else to offer. 

It's easy to say 'oh, it's Accy, we should win...' but plenty of sides fall into that trap and we didn't - On a horrible pitch, in awful weather, we were never going to get the passing game going and I am sure, earlier in the year, we'd have been bullied out of that game but happily, we gave as good as we got. 

Virtue did ok for a first start back and is a good option to add to the midfield strength and presence when required. Again, the stars were at the back where it really wasn't easy and I'd say, once again Maxwell had a good game, taking the ball from cross in a crowded box and being quick off his line several times. I was also pleased to see Garbutt getting stuck in, showing he's not just a classy looking passer but a proper full back. One moment where he stood his ground against the massive Bishop and levered him off the ball summing up that he's no soft touch. 

It's one of them as Saint Brett would say. It was a proper tussle, a right old fight, a game that from the outside, if you don't follow either side, you'd probably have said was crap, but I enjoyed cos it was played with total commitment. It can't be all sexy football, one touch, first time passing on a summer afternoon.

Sometimes you have to go to Accy, get covered in shite and be happy with a point.

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