Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A sniper only needs one glimpse: MK Dons vs the Mighty


Bang! 

It's been a funny week, but I'm not really arsed about Meghan or Kate or James Hewitt's lad and all that. I'm more concerned about Ethan Robson and Bez. How are they? Are they well? We've not seen them for ages it seems, even though we've still not really fettled the problem of having a functional left hand side and some creativity in the midfield... 

I wonder if him and Bez exchange knowing glances every Friday when Critch announces the team, chucking a little sideways eye roll at each other. Do they get together after training and do uncomplimentary impressions of the players ahead of them in the pecking order like "Ooooh, look at me, I'm Kevin Stewart, I'm so workmanlike, look at my shoulders, aren't they square..." "Ooooh, I'm Kenny Dougall, isn't my hair blonde, look, I've let my roots show through, aren't I cool..." "Oooh, I'm Sullay, look at me trap that ball, aren't I clever, now watch me track back but not actually do anything to influence the game for 20 minutes" "I'm Matty Virtue, aren't I sensible, look at my work rate and my funny running like I think I'm Emlyn Hughes... oooh I used to captain Liverpool y'know... ooh, is that Neil's tongue"

I really hope not. I feel a bit for them. I hope they're not turning bitter. 

After the success of last week's graphs, we're going to try a pre match Venn Diagram... 

Fig a: When we have one up front - note how none of the above intersect. 
Fig b: When we have two players up front - note how Gary Madine is a fucking football god


I've got to be honest, I'm not feeling totally optimistic about tonight. I really want to see Embleton start, but not at the cost of a forward. If you've been here before, you'll know that the diagram below expresses my feelings pretty well.
Fig 3: There's more to football than just running about and looking busy... 

Despite the above, I'm prepared to sacrifice Sullay (not literally, I wouldn't do that, possibly Teddy Howe, but not Sullay), just to see if Embleton is *actually any good* or merely looks decent in flashes. My theory is, we're always lopsided when CJ plays as the temptation is so strong just to give it to him to run like a maniac. I think Embleton has the nous and skill to come in side and add to the central midfield but also is good enough at drifting wide to keep that side of the pitch alive. Kind of like what we tried to do with Matty Virtue on the right, but without the player doing it being ridiculously unsuited to doing it. Again, I'll try to express several things in a single Venn Diagram. 

Fig 4: I've had enough of Venn Diagrams now

What's the little man in a big coat got for us this week in the way of hilarious team selection shocks? Has he picked that keeper we signed for no apparent reason at all up front?

Ok... he's spun the roulette wheel with particular force today. In comes BOTH Sullay and Embleton (who will be in the middle, who will be wide?) Fragile but lovely haired Luke is back as is Grant Ward... It's a lot to take in, especially as CJ is benched and wor Gary is STILL nowhere to be seen... Where is he? I imagine him just stood outside the ground having a tab, staring into the middle distance with Bez and Ethan, muttering to himself about Critchley whilst the other two kick a can about between them and hope they don't get caught with Gaz smoking. I digress.

One up front.. Boo. Actually quite creative players. Yay. Not sure overall. Don't really get what Thorniley has done to get dropped and why Gabriel is on the naughty step either (to be fair, he might just be knackered cos he does run about 80 miles per game) but I quite like the possibility of more than one player on the pitch who can pass/dribble/shoot at once. The last game we had against them was awful. It was a migraine of a football match but we won, so it's all fine. I'll take the same tonight.  

One of my valued readers asked if I could add XG stats to the blog. I'm going to do one better and use another (final) Venn diagram about a sign I saw on the way back from the supermarket just before writing this bit which is far more interesting than all that possession/XG shite: 


Fig 5: It's a win for sure... 

---

It's 2 years since *that day* and it seems bizarre to mark the anniversary of what was one of the most wonderfully emotional, soulful and elating experiences I've ever had, by watching a game on my laptop that takes in an empty soulless plastic bowl against a plastic soulless fake team.

It appears there's fake crowd noise as well, though weirdly, it turns off when we kick off. The commentator refers to 'the cowshed' which is absolutely not a suitable name for a stand in a new build stadium at all and is clearly a wank attempt to inject some 'traditional' character into a pretend club. Dean Lewington comes to shake hands with Chris Maxwell and he looks pleasingly (as I like players who look like real life people), a little bit portly, sort of reminding me of a builder who has his own company now and doesn't get his hands dirty as much as he did. 

Critch got really excited about MK Dons and their possession beforehand and the game starts with loads of slow passing. I feel as he'll be loving this. The lack of urgency gives me time to wonder why the seats have tape wrapped round them. It's like there's a murder investigation going on in the stands whilst the game goes ahead. Maybe there is? It's weird, it's like every other row, but not quite in a uniform pattern. I can't work it out at all... 

Nothing at all happens for 7 minutes till a diagonal ball gives MK a shooting chance, but Jimmy Husband chucks himself full length and makes a great block. The ball comes back though, but Laird hammers it into the stand, possibly to bounce around amidst a load of CSI people dusting for prints and searching for the murder weapon. 

Then nothing at all happens for a very long time, making the initial 7 minutes of nothingness seem a mere flicker in time by comparison. Whole millenia seem to drift by as I watch Embleton run around under the ball but never get anywhere near it. I have time to wonder if we'll ever get fancy advertising boards as watching them cycle is more interesting than the game. No one seems capable of doing anything. We've got less than no presence up front and they're looking like they've drunk from the same well as Critch at his most purist Critchball peak as they pass up the pitch and then pass back for no obvious reason. As the game goes on, I'm wondering if actually Dean Lewington retired 4 years ago and we're all somehow watching his benefit game.

We finally get the ball vaguely near their goal, but the ref has blown a whistle for no reason that anyone can work out as Yates nods wide from a Ward cross. It's that dull, that I'm resorting telling you about chances that weren't even chances. I feel sorry for the commentator who is clearly struggling to stay awake. He starts a sentence "And... the manager, Neil Critchley......" and just trails off, as if losing the will to speak. We never learn what was to follow. 

Just as I'm thinking about the fact their commentator sounds as if he was a bit stoned earlier on today but it's mostly worn off and now he's merely a bit sleepy, Sullay (of all people) charges down the dithering Darling and the ball breaks for Jerry, he's electric in this kind of situation, coming alive, charging at goal, dragging it wide, round the keeper and slipping it home! YES! Yates, you a fucking god amongst men and Sullay is a snarling midfield tiger... Fuck you haterz! 

In response they muster a shot wide of the near post but it's us who come nearest to scoring as a Kaikai corner is nodded a couple of inches over by Turton, rising really well about 8 yards out and twisting to reach the ball. We also manage a vaguely dangerous free kick from wide left that Garbutt hits low and Ballard deflects goalward. A third attack is wasted as Garbutt puts a corner straight into the keeper's hands. 

It's bowled straight out, they run the length of the pitch and put a good cross over, only terrific tracking back from Grant Ward denies them a chance to equalise. 

---

Can MK be as poor second half? We've hardly been great but we have taken our chance and grown into the game a bit. MK are basically the opposite of Crewe or, for that matter, the real Wimbledon. They look like a group of lads having a half arsed kickabout. It's as if Critch and Russell Martin got together before kick off and said 'How about we play a game of jogging football and save our legs for another day?' 

Embleton hasn't really provided the thrills I'd hoped for and to be honest, it's not very easy to pick anyone out as good or bad as barely anything has happened. Husband has made some timely blocks, Stewart has done some worthy huffing and puffing, everyone has tracked and moved in neat lines and all of that. It's looked like a training game. The most fun aside from the goal has come from the commentators manful attempts to breath life in the game, declaring a terrible Stewart shank out of play as 'oooh, not a bad effort' and an MK Dons lad running with the ball for barely 2 seconds as 'majestic' 

It has to be said though, we've kept CJ up our sleeve and that's a decent weapon to bring on as their defence looks like it doesn't relish being run at... 

---

It occurs to me at half time that maybe the crime scene investigation tape everywhere is due to several people dying of boredom at the ground if this match is anything to go by. Still, cheer up! We're winning! It's not like we'll fuck that up with daft subs or owt is it? Imagine doing that?!!!

Virtue bangs a long ball. Embleton gets some space and... lobs it timidly to the keeper. Their commentator is still at it, describing Ward running into traffic, Garbutt lobbing a hopeful ball forward and Husband smacking it out of play as a 'threatening' start by us. It looks more like a box of damp matches to me but there we go. 

The next moment comes again from a loose touch in their defence, this time seized on by Grant Ward, who struggles to control a bouncing ball but makes it to the byline, whips it back, Jerry can't make contact, but there's a loud shout for a penalty. Nothing is doing and we return to the pattern of the half, them passing around with no real purpose and us closing them down when they have so much as half a chance of getting near our goal. 

I've not described much of the game really. Here's a typical bit of play. MK Dons slice a pass out of play on the edge of their own box. Sullay sniffs a chance for a quick throw so comes alive. No one comes to take the throw though, so he goes back to sleep and by the time Garbutt arrives to deliver, Sullay isn't even watching. Garbutt shouts, Sullay realises it's coming to him and jumps but nowhere near the ball, they head away, back towards Garbutt, who goes to nod it back on the bounce, but the ball hits a divot and it comes away at a weird angle and sooner or later there's another throw and something broadly similar but involving different players happens. That's what this game is like. 

I mentioned damp matches above and the very non-flammable for quite some time now Will Grigg comes on and heads wide. Elliot Embleton shoots well over. Virtue concedes an unremarkable foul but it's one that causes me to note that Virtue is one of the least subtle foulers I've ever seen. He just clatters people and makes no attempt to disguise his intent. 

Sullay's last act is to try a repeat of his tigerish tackle that led to the goal, attempting to catch them in possession but his slide falls comically short of actually reaching the player he's trying to tackle. Headless Demi comes on instead of him. Embleton hasn't had a productive night and makes way for CJ, with Ward coming inside to leave Jerry completely on his own. 
 
Suddenly, MK come alive from nowhere, a slide rule pass bisects Turton and Ballard and Jerome muscles through and lifts the ball above Maxwell. It looks for all the world like it's going to hit the roof of the net, but it cracks the bar instead. Thereafter they manage a few minutes decent pressure and suddenly it's not so easy. Grigg is denied by an offside flag, Jerome by another excellent sliding interception from Husband. 

I can't help wondering if we've fallen into the same trap. Embleton didn't do a lot but now Jerry really is on his own and the ball isn't sticking at all. It's fine bringing pace on, but we need to hold it up in the opposition half. Husband makes another terrific defensive header, running back, twisting and denying Jerome again as he lurks... 

Then CJ nearly makes me eat my words about pace as MK are again caught on the ball, Hamilton gets a toe in and streaks free, but can only hit the keeper with his effort. Nothing then happens for a while apart from some offsides, Kenny Dougall coming on for Matty Virtue and us generally taking ages to take throw ins and set pieces. 

Mitchell is set free by a long raking ball, he sprints forward, looking like a hamster who has escaped his wheel, then stuns the ball across the box, where only a great interception stops Yates from adding a second. MK then have the ball in the net, but it's offside again. They're not showing a lot of urgency... the commentator makes a bit of a fuss as Ballard skews a clearance from a long up and under but in reality, though the ball loops across the box, Jerome is nowhere near it and Maxwell gathers fairly easily.  

We don't seem to be doing much to keep the ball, but they seem to be kindly doing it for us, passing it about at the back for ages until they finally charge forward and win a corner. We head clear, they crash it back, we clear again and they pick it up and... go back to the keeper. 

The game looks to be ending with a massive out of proportion row about whose throw it is. It is the most animated things that's happened outside of the goal. There's still time though, for Demi to get dragged back as he looks to go right through the middle. From the free kick, we pass it sideways, the whistle blows and we've done. 

--- 

Jimmy Husband was fantastic. We worked hard, the defensive aspects of our game were spot on, even if the match was shite, we limited them to very little. To be fair, they did the same to us but shirtless Jerry is a one shot sniper. Give him the merest sight and he'll make you regret it. MK were really poor and have been the side I've least enjoyed watching this year. Slow, purposeless, characterless. Maybe we've caught them on two bad days, but I've no idea what they were trying to achieve. At least nasty teams like Gillingham have some mischief and devilment about them and even Northampton ran about a bit. We've never beaten them away though, so tonight is a first.

I almost hate to say it cos it's the hope that kills you and we didn't look like a play off side at all tonight, nor in the last two games, but implausible as it may feel on recent evidence - this season is still alive... 

Bring on the Cods. 

utmp

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