Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Heavy legged near heroics: The Mighty vs Plymouth Argyle

Makes sense later...

I know the top notch graphics and highly skilled illustrations have been popular, but this weeks, lads, lasses and gender non binary folk, google search bots and anyone else who may read, I've stumbled across something so explosive, I can't not print it.  Don't ask me how I got this, I'm sworn to absolute secrecy, just enjoy this peek inside the mind of one of Britain's leading impish football enigmas. 

I give you. Neil Critchley's diary for Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. 

What a night! The win was great, couldn't have asked for more. So much so, that 5 minutes before full time, I turned to Mike and said "Mike, nip out to tesco metro and get 4 litre of sugar free Shandy Bass and some plastic cups - lads have earned a little party" 

Took Wednesday off for a bit of R+R and so on Tuesday night, after doing some excellent pausing thoughtfully (if I say so myself) before answering questions, I hit the road in my sensibly mid range saloon car, listening to my favourite driving music compilation and did some very satisfied light finger drumming on the steering wheel. Hit 72mph at one point. I must be on a high! Usually stick around the 63 zone to get that fuel economy sweet spot.

Got home around 11:30 and went straight to bed, but not before touching my framed UEFA Pro coaching licence and doing a few rounds of Lee Trevino's putting challenge on the computer to calm myself down after all the excitement. Switched the phone off and went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. 

What happened next, I'm still disturbed by. I dreamt it was Wednesday morning and I had a risen early, enjoyed some tasty but sensibly priced fibre rich muesli, swapped the club polo shirt and monogrammed tracksuit bottoms for my own polo shirt and monogrammed tracksuit bottoms, had a little morning walk around my sensibly priced mid range housing estate and then my phone started ringing... 

"Boss, it's me, Jerry" went the jabbering breathless voice... "I know you said to take it easy, but I went and bought a multipack of monster energy drink on the way home and stayed up all night running round with my top off and now I've got weird heart palpitations, been to the A+E, they say I've got to stay in for observation, but I can't stop running round the ward and closing down the porters and the nurses

No sooner had I taken that call, the phone goes again... "Gaffer, it's me, Jordan Thorniley, I know you didn't give me your number, but I got it off Ollie. Look, I'm really sorry but, I was watching some old Russ Abbot videos last night and I was laughing so hard, I've gone and done my stomach muscles. Don't think I can play Saturday, I'm in agony" - then, would you believe it...? it went again, this time, Sullay, he'd apparently been practising tackling things (like I'd told him too) and had tripped over the cat. Then Kenny Dougall's girlfriend, he's got hair bleach in his eyes, Grant Ward's mum, saying Grant had got really bad razor burn from trying to get his beard really neat. Garbs rang and just said 'Gaffer, you know the score, pulled something, just went 'ping' and then rang off without waiting for my answer. Even Stuart Moore rung, saying he'd had a breakdown as even he didn't know who he was or why I'd signed him... 

The dream got weirder though. First I was watching Demi Mitchell just walking down a street, then suddenly a huge tsunami swelled up behind him "DEMI!!!" I screamed, but he had his big headphones on, listening to 50 Cent and I couldn't do anything as he was swept away. Then I was a lifeguard but my loudhailer was malfunctioning as I spotted Ellis swimming and a giant shark circling behind him. "Get ashore" I shouted, but my voice was carried away on the wind... Most disturbingly of all, just I was thinking, 'well, at least there's Ollie', I was on a space ship, with a space suit on, clinging to a boot as the void pulled Ollie out into the infinite blackness. I couldn't hold on. I tried, but my grip slipped and he shot away, circling, spinning endlessly and soundlessly into nothingness. 

Still I didn't wake. 

What could I possibly do about this disaster. Everyone injured? I could play Bez I suppose... Nah. 

I tried to ring Mike, but he didn't answer. Probably doing his favourite thing - bellowing 'Sweet Caroline' on Sing Star over and over again. He never improves his score, but it keeps him happy I guess. I thought about ringing Big Colin, but last time I called out of hours, he'd said something about not liking being disturbed when he's in bat form and feasting on the blood of the weak. Don't know what that was about? Probably a Scottish thing. 

I unrolled my portable wipe clean tactics mat and smoothed it down on my sensibly priced mid range laminate finish dining table. What was I going to do? I hit on a plan. Some would say, 'a backs to the wall masterclass'... It involved Madine, so I gave him a call... 

"Gary, I know you're not 100%, but could you turn out on Saturday anyway? Got a bit of a crisis and I think if I play the kids and get them to ping it at you, it might be the best way to go

"Aw, look boss, I'd love to, but I've got a big Call of Duty online mission planned and I've been to Macro and got a crate of tinnies and a rayt load of Lambert and Butler. Got some of the lads from back home online, gonna be a rayt laugh like.

Then finally, I woke up in a cold sweat. I had to do my side parting three times I was in such a state. Checked my phone. Nothing. Just a message from Paul Clement about whether I fancied a zoom meeting to talk about the best kind of cones. Later Paul. I'm in no fit state! Calmed myself down by looking at random heatmaps and reading an article in 'Sensible Coaching Monthly' on the optimum blend of anaerobic exercise in interval training then I drove to Ikea Warrington and sat in the carpark for bit and wrote this. 

Actually, on reflection, I'm not sure if the chat with Big Gaz mightn't have been real... 

I know that's a LOT OF WORDS and we've not even got to the game, but I'm sure you'll agree, it's solid gold sensational soaraway soccer special scoop stuff. Don't worry though. I've got some graphics below, that break down how we need to approach the rest of the season and offer some real additional value to the reader. 

Fig 1: Things that worry me slightly about the rest of the season...
Fig 2: Things not to worry about for the rest of the season

It seems the roulette wheel has only been given the tiniest of nudges and the only change is Brad Holmes being replaced by Ewan Bange on the bench. That gives me little to say, other than I hope the lads who have played so well and with such intensity in the last two and a half games have done little other than sit down, watching Homes under the Hammer, having long baths and early nights since Tuesday at 9pm and that, I also hope Mike has nipped out and stocked up on Lucozade sport to fill the giant vending machine, that since seeing the masterclass in advertising and acting at the start of the piece, I presume all dressing rooms have in the corner.   



Ryan Hardie runs wide, carrying the menace of the former player, but the danger is tidied up. Chopper Sullay slams both himself and one of their players into the empty hoardings but they both recover. Thorniley strokes the ball out of play. Ward breaks well, but his intention to split the defence is well read. 

Plymouth have early pressure and though Pool stick close to their men, a short pass from wide, finds Ennis just inside the area, who turns in the smallest space and hits the base of the post. At the other end, Mitchell nips in winning a second ball and stabs it to Kaikai, he sees glory, going for a glorious half volley from 25 yards out, but his standing leg is clattered into. From the free kick, Garbutt hits the wall and the chance is gone. 

Then Hardie does the business. A long ball over the top, he races with Thorniley, beats him, chips Maxwell, who flails maybe gets a finger tip touch... it's going wide, but in nips Ennis who again hits the post from about 2 yards. A let off? No. It bounces out to Hardie, who takes a touch, makes the angle and sweeps it home with confidence. 

We respond with some frantic energy but it's clear as Demi runs it out of play, that we're shaken. We indulge in some calming square passing and hold the ball, up and down the pitch. back to Maxwell twice, up to their box, side ways, both flanks, but no real attack until Garbutt lifts about the 45th pass into the box and Yates is penalised for pushing. Not long has gone, but this feels like the Home Park game repeated so far...

If Thoniley was the man in focus for the goal, he's the source of the next attack, stepping out perfectly, beating his man and spreading play fantastically, the width of the pitch to Demi who controls it, the ball hits his knee and as gamely as he chases it, he can't catch it as it rolls out of play. Come on POOL! 

Sullay get cleaned out for the third time and they work it quickly to Hardie who puts a good ball over, Garbutt does a curious diving chested clearance. There's a shout for a penalty, but it's a corner. It's one that causes all sorts of horrors, one of those where the ball vanishes into a crowd and then rolls out again, going mercifully just wide. 

Plymouth are looking very good. They're giving Sullay and Embleton no space at all and pressuring the makeshift defence very high. Kaikai is drifting to try and find space but that's affecting our shape and we're not looking crisp at all. The passing is ponderous or hurried, never the lovely purposeful stuff we've seen in the last few weeks. We look heavy legged. 

I'm just about to write that Grant Ward is the one player finding space, when he feasts on a mistake, carries the ball right up the middle and unleashes a drive from 25+ yards that is stopped only by the keeper flinging himself low to his left. From the corner, Garbutt goes short, Mitchell steps over it, Sullay appears from nowhere and hits a low daisy cutter from just inside the box that is blocked on the line. Better. 

It's a tense game and we need a great stop from Maxwell, doing really well to hold the ball low to his left after a 60 second spell of pressure that starts with a loose Dougall pass and ends with a sharp effort from in the D. In other news, I've noticed the Terry's Carpets board in front of the north is at an odd angle, but when the camera sweeps back it's straight. Don't lose sight of the important details... 

It's not getting better as the half is drawing to a close. We look confused as Hardie runs through the heart of the defence. Garbutt and Thorniley both get turned by him and fortunately his shot is at a well positioned Maxwell. We look in trouble, every time they go down the right and we're sliced open one more time, but grateful for some hesitant finishing and a side foot that goes well wide from the edge of the box. 


It's not been very good. We've not been able to press, we don't seem to have any width and on the rare occasion we've worked a moment, we've either fluffed it or the referee has blown up. Embleton, so vital and enterprising recently has barely touched the ball and Yates is looking frustrated. 

It seems as simple as fatigue to me. Heavy touches, troubled by the other side moving the ball quickly and running at us. There's not a lot on the bench. I'm not sure bringing the viking on has any impact on what we need to do (attack better) and that leaves a keeper, 3 kids and Robson. I'd be tempted to give Robson a run out as he can't be tired and then, I'd also be tempted to gamble on kids. We've got no option but to try and pass and at 6.5 Bange might change that. Ok, he might not be ready, but we've got attacking players who are having no impact anyway, so what's to lose?

Mitchell is also looking wrong footed and Apter is right sided naturally, so that could be an option and Antwi is the embodiment of energy. Ok, he's never going to bring them all on at one at half time, but the point is, what other choice do we have and what else are we going to do. Plymouth have dominated but without seeming to hit the heights of energy that say, Crewe did. They've looked quite good, but I don't feel like they're 'special' or are going to run out of steam. They've just played to a plan and we've looked tired. 

C'mon lads! 


What the fuck do I know? Critch of course brings the Viking on and the Viking brings a goal! (sort of) - We start with more energy, and it's Demi who harries and chases on the right, inside the box, causing a mistake, playing it hard across goal, it squirts through to Sullay who doesn't hit it cleanly but it rolls over the line none the less. Much better.  

The Viking is in the wars as Hardie puts him on the floor, it looks worrying, but he gets up and carries on. Sullay and Fragile Luke fluff a one two and Plymouth race away, we get a foot on the ball three times, but can't stop them until Gretarsson gets clattered again. Plymouth launch it long from a free kick, the Viking climbs well and completes a headed clearance without coming to undue harm, but a lashed, low shot comes from distance, goes through everyone and creeps just past the post. 

We've started the half more brightly brightly, but I still feel we need some energy. We're pressing better, but it's still not the snapping, threat we're capable off. Again though, I know nothing as we put together a spell of patient passing, before the much more involved Embleton switches play well to the right. Gabriel dinks it forward, Demi, who've I've taken off at half time, runs hard into the box and gets chopped down. Here comes the sniper. One step, two step, three steps and BANG! The keeper goes left, the ball goes right and nestles into the side netting with delightful certainty. 

It's a good job I'm not Blackpool manager eh? Maybe Apter would have bagged a hat trick... 

Our press is energised by the goal and now Plymouth are stuck in their half. We force two errors, can't punish the first, but pounce on the second and work it well, clever interplay and a lovely Sullay flick presents the chance for for Embleton to shoot from distance. The only problem with the move is he misses the north stand, let alone the goal, but it's good intent. 

Grettarson is in another collision on the left hand touchline. Michael Jackson on commentary describes him as 'a crash test dummy' and I don't think I can improve on that. Plymouth have a few crosses, but Maxwell is commanding, taking one well, screaming for another to be left and diving at his near post to save Ward's blushes after a lose pass in midfield gave the Pilgrims a chance to go forward. 

Embleton slides Jerry in twice. The first time he can't keep his shot down, the second he can't spin away from his man. I love Jordan Gabriel, but the one thing he can't do is finish. Mitchell sets him free with a lovely, lovely weighted pass. Gabriel charges inside his man, into the box and as he always does at this point, panics... Ward weighs in well next, doing a similar run, but finding a well hit shot that is parried away by an outstretched hand, Sullay tries to slam the rebound home, but kicks air and then Yates has a go, but the ball eludes him too. 

Yates is looking knackered. Surely Ellis Simms would be the right sort of energy now? A sub is being readied, but it's Ethan Robson for Embleton who gets an affectionate clout around the back of the head from Critch. Mitchell and Gabriel, (who sound like a firm of solicitors) combine brilliantly on the right again and only the sprawling keeper prevents Mitchell from adding what would have been a stunning goal as he touches it down the line to Gabriel then hurtles into the box to nearly connect with the full back's cross. 

We have lovely spell, passing it with ease, Sullay almost goes through as a finish to the move, but Plymouth sweep up the pitch and it takes a great slide from Turton to put it out for a corner. The corner then takes a punch from Maxwell to clear, which leaves him with a sore hand and in need of treatment. 

Then for fucks sake, just as injury time starts there's a loopy cross from the left and a late run met by a crisp finish, Maxwell hurls himself unhesitatingly despite his gammy hand but he's got no chance at all as Edwards arrows it first time into the bottom corner from 12 yards. Kaikai falls to his knees and Chissy is delighted as he always is when Kaikai falls below perfect, to suggest he might be to blame. 

There's some long up and unders and some shoulder charging. Plymouth have a bit more territory, but nothing really happens and the whistle blows. 


I was going to write about how I can't believe the spirit of this team, I don't know how they dragged up a win out of that but then Plymouth spoiled it. It's probably what they deserved as the balance of play first half was entirely theirs and though we were much, much better second half it's probably even overall. 

I do think we missed a chance to freshen up front around 75 minutes when were on top and creating chances that I think a fully fresh Yates would have made something of and I don't really know what the point of Simms is, if he doesn't come on and run about on 75 minutes in such a situation. I can't be too critical though as my panic subs at halftime were rendered ridiculous by the steel nerve of Critch sticking to what he does. 

It was a weird game, the last two have been wonderful spectacles, but this was definitely quite open, but also really quite bitty. It's the sort of game I'm left not sure who played especially well or badly. Mitchell was terrific second half and everyone sort of did what they do but whilst looking a bit tired at times. Thorniley clearly struggled with Hardie's pace, getting close to him, but not being able to stop him turning and being beaten several times. I thought Maxwell was very important today, making several stops and keeping things calm when they might have fallen apart first half. Ward could have had a goal with 2 well struck efforts and didn't do much wrong. 

I still don't fear anyone else (Aiden McGeady aside) but I do fear fatigue. C'mon Pool... C'mon physio! 



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