Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, March 13, 2021

No mass brawl: The Mighty vs Fleetwood Town

Which is the best tourist attraction?

Here's a thing - earlier this season Simon 'Larry' Grayson managed Kendal Town for a single game because their usual manager had to self isolate. It sounds like it was a cracker. Kendal went 2 goals down, Then there was 2 brawls featuring the whole of both sides. 3 players were sent off in total and Kendal came back to take a point with an 89th minute equaliser. 

I don't know why I've shared that, it's just something I didn't know about a man we know a lot about and it made me think about this season and the fact we've not really seen any high quality on pitch scrapping let alone the delight of mass brawls. Matty Virtue getting in that Charlton lad's face is probably the best we've experienced and that wasn't all that exciting. When people talk about crowds missing, they tend to focus on the sterility of the atmosphere or the ability of a team to find that last bit of energy to push for a win and I think they're missing a key point about why football behind closed doors is less fun. There were fans at the Kendal game - there were two mass brawls. It sounds like one of the best games of the season. 

I've recently come round to accept we are what we are. I've spent about the last 30 games imploring Critch to let loose and attack but I've maybe come to realise that with us actually having a realistic prospect of going up, that we're good at what we're good at and what we're good at is well structured football, closing teams down, everyone doing their job defensively and punishing mistakes by the other side or catching teams on the break... I don't know about you, but Critchball mk2 sounds a bit like the plan behind Larryball to me. 

As you've come to expect high quality graphics from the blog, I've put together (at no expense spared) a detailed and thorough analysis of the key similarities and key differences between our old manager and our current one. 

Fig 1: Potential for wearing a body warmer + satisfaction taken from a good clean sheet (quite close)

Fig 2: Likelihood of making an oblique reference to 'quality in key moments' after the match + possibility of saying the exact same thing they always say in the pre match interview (again, close) 

So far it looks as if Larry and Critch are neck and neck. Surely that can't be? We can't have wasted all this effort just to end up with the same results we'd have had if we'd kept Larry can we? We need to look still further into this... 

Fig 3: Hair + twinkliness (as applied to eyes) - A clear Critch win. 

Fig 4: Not doing the same thing every week/tactical masterclass + not blaming players - (again, advantage Critch)

Fig 5: Impishness/charm + not being perennially haunted for being sacked on Netflix after about 8 games
I think these graphs can firmly put to bed any notions that Critch is 'like Larry' - he's a football manager and obviously, there's an overlap, but an owl, a robin and a seagull have similarities, but you wouldn't say they are the same. (For Fleetwood fans, think a cod, a cuttlefish and a plaice - I'm hoping to pick an diversity award for my inclusivity there. )  

I thought about including a long anecdote about the little one room shop near the Knott End ferry at Fleetwood, where my gran used to buy me model trams from, being the essence of Fleetwood and how it was good, but ultimately it was a totally different kettle of cod to Batesons in Blackpool which was a multi level emporium of wonder (and also home of my last really strong memory of my Grandad being healthy, when he took me to buy a scalectrix car,) but that would have been both self indulgent and a crude, simplistic metaphor for the relative nature of the two sides and who needs that, when everyone can see it for themselves? Why make a cheap dig over the obvious eh?

It would be like pointing out Fleetwood didn't even have a supermarket when I lived there unless you count Heron Foods, Iceland and the other little one on Freeport I forget what it was and then using that as an illustration of the absurdity of them being rivals to us with our metropolitan swagger, towers, historic status in the game and plethora of large retail centres. I wouldn't do that as I actually like Fleetwood (the place) a lot and to stoop to such cheap shots would be low. 

I'm now thinking about my Grandad - He died 33 years ago and he once carved me a model yacht and created all the sails and rigging himself with string and little eyelets and everything. We used to sail it on the boating ponds in Fleetwood. I wonder if I've ever put that much effort into anything for anyone. I can't recall if he liked football. I don't remember him ever talking about it. Doesn't time fly?

Anyway... You were here for football I presume? Sorry. 


I'm thinking of creating a crime noir drama based about a big lumbering centre forward who has more in his locker than first meets the eye that goes missing in mysterious circumstance. Every week an gnomish little grey haired man with a hard to place accent with  tells us the big lad is fine and it's nothing to worry about cos he'll be back next week, but no one ever sees him again. Where the fuck is Gary? I'm starting to worry that someone is going to look at those shots of him in the background of training and spot that they're from 4 months ago... 

Fig 6: A new graphical feature... 

Anyway, the team. It makes sense mostly but not playing Jordan Gabriel doesn't. Nowt against Turton, just that Gabriel is fucking ace and he's really good at defending now so I can't see why you don't start him. Lets get on with it for fucks sake... 

Frankly. I'm nervous. This is why I'm talking too much.  


Right, get into them for fucks sake. I'd prefer it if we could score at least 4 in the first 10 minutes. They're wearing a terrible grey kit that looks more like the corporate dress polo shirts of a team of engineers than a football kit. We're attacking and Stewart finds Simms, he finds Hamilton wide, CJ has a promising amount of space, pulls it back finding Sullay who is squeezed out of it at the last and can't make a decisive contact. A promising start. 

The Cods work a corner with Vassell holding up well and some clever wing play. There's a shout for a handball against Ballard from the corner. Don't be daft... Lets move on... We do and almost put CJ free from a goal kick but he can't quite control a lively bouncing ball. We then have shout for a penalty. This one was nailed on obviously. 

The ball finds itself with Sullay wide left in the penalty area, he wriggles, steps over and looks for a way through. Just as it appears there isn't one, he rolls it back to the edge of the D where fragile Luke hits it, it's curling wide but Yates darts as if shot from a blowpipe and dives at it, almost turning it home from point blank range but for some good keeping as Cairns reacts equally sharply

There's already more happened than Tuesday and it looks full blooded, not cagey. We've had some joy on either flank. The left wing brings us another chance from a free kick near the corner flag, but it's cleared easily and Vassell charges the length of the pitch, only to be denied by a very well timed sliding challenge in the box from Turton. I told you it was right to start him

Sullay is gaining a burgeoning reputation as a midfield hard man. Charging down the defender on Tuesday and this week, kicking Garner in the face. He's practically Gary Brabin. Sullay's kick is completely accidental but he gets a yellow, whereas Fleetwood clatter two within the next 60 seconds and there's no card.

I was hoping to be 8-0 up by now. The game goes through a stodgy spell, lots of head tennis and crunching challenges. Wes Burns flickers without catching fire. The Cods seem to have shut down the width they were allowing us and have the better play, putting us under pressure several times, the most heart stopping of which is a free kick that Maxwell comes to claim, but gets nowhere near. The keeper finds himself on the wrong side of the ball and it looks very dicey but someone lashes it away... 

The Cods look very 'Larry' - very physical but with a sprinkling of skill and a big man causing the defence problems. They're more comfortable than us now. We look to struggling to get through midfield and several passes go badly wrong. 

There's a nasty moment went Kevin Stewart goes down in mid play. I don't see the challenge or him falling, just the camera scrolling past Stewart punching the turf, curled up in a foetal position. Larry is having a tantrum about something or other but Stewart looks bad. Eventually, he is coaxed to his feet but he can't continue and Matty Virtue comes on. Worrying that we're outnumbered in midfield and now we've lost the player who might be able to be the 'extra man' and have sub and a slightly out of sorts looking Kenny Dougall. 

We muster a bit of play though, working it through midfield for the first time then wide to Garbutt, he crosses deep, but it's Ollie Turton who has the chance on the volley and whilst he shapes up to the ball very nicely, it flies comfortably over the top. Fleetwood respond with another spell of pressure, Garner, Vassell and Burn all causing problems and a decisive punch from Maxwell is needed to calm the nerves after they've gone across the box a few times. 

We find a great passing move on the left from nowhere, but are offside at the end of. Shortly after Simms slides Yates through, but Hill makes a really good challenge in the box. We have a corner, then another corner. Vassell practically puts Husband in straightjacket and hits him with a cosh for good measure as we wait for it to be delivered. He stops just short of grabbing by the topknot, but his arms are everywhere else. The ref is happy with that though and we manage a snapshot from Jerry that is never dangerous.. 

We win another corner, they smash it clear - a long up and under and Vassell charges through. It's as direct as it's possible to be and it looks dangerous, but Maxwell gambles and gets there first. His clearance isn't as long as it could be and there's a flicker of danger, but Virtue is in, then spreading it to CJ, for the first time today, CJ does his thing, poking it past Burns then exploding away, leaving a wake behind him that swamps anyone trying to come and challenge. He goes into the box, he slips it to Jerry, but he can't get a convincing effort away, it hits a Fleetwood defender, it falls to Jerry again, but he's off balance and the second effort is as unconvincing as the first. 


We started well and we ended well. In between I thought they were more dangerous. Guess what. We're struggling to hold it up front and frankly, it does feel as if Vassell is the latest player to make us pine for big Gaz. Simms has done ok and turned his man several times, but he's not got that vibe that makes it feel as if every time the ball goes near him, the defender with him is going to have the battle of his life. Good strikers of that mould play exactly on the line between GBH and 'a tustle' and we're lacking that. 

Virtue has done ok and possibly given us a bit better use of the ball in midfield and for as much as I've felt on edge in the game, the Cods haven't really had a chance yet. 


We start the first half with a string of blocked shots from several moves, then a really clever little nod  down by Yates, that finds Simms with a great chance about 3 yards out, but whether it's a great challenge by the keeper or a scuff from Simms, the ball doesn't get much closer to goal as a result of his efforts and they clear. Burns picks it up in midfield, steps inside and blasts it from about 25 yards. Maxwell doesn't look comfortable but parries it out, scrambles after it where both he and Vassell try to dive on the ball and Maxwell takes a crack on the face. 

We escape shortly after, a ball wide from the left, that Vassell stretches for but can't reach. I notice how when Turton goes on a run, CJ doesn't overlap with him and just sits in behind him. Then Garbutt and Sullay go down the other side and I think 'that's better' but Sullay is offside. CJ has a little chance to run, but Burns clips his heels. CJ just rolls over and gets up. It's that sort of game.

There's a lot of heading in our box for a while. 

C'mon Pool! We try some passing, but we spoon it out of play. Simms tries falling over instead of trying to win the ball but has the same effect in that Fleetwood can clear without much fuss. Then we seem to be getting a grip for a few minutes, passing it quite nicely but also having a 'who can get their final ball intercepted most often' competition. I count 5 moments where we make a good position but can't create danger.

Then Sullay drives forward, coming inside from the left he strokes the ball across the face of the box. CJ is in acres of space, it seems almost as if he's offside but he's not, and he strolls forward, he takes it just a bit wider than looks ideal and his smashed effort hits the outside of the post... 

We get a lull, first another spell of hard tackling then a genuine low ebb, as if the players are taking a breather. CJ's last act is to exchange passes with Yates but fail to control it as he tries to burst through. Demi replaces him. 

Demi has the most Demi run ever, completely doing his man, charging into the box, forgetting the ball, checking back to get it when he remembers you need the ball in football and it's not actually just a race or a game of tag, then laying off to Turton who gets scythed down. Garbutt curls a shot from almost the touchline and Cairns has to tip it over. The corner is cleared easily and again, Fleetwood go right down the middle and again, it's only a piece of great timing that prevents Vassell from taking the ball through on goal. 

I envy their muscle up front. It's like all they have to is boot it towards our box but they work it rather more acutely for the next chance, Burns with a low ball in and for once Husband has lost Vassell and from 12 yards out, he looks set to sweep it home but sweeps it over the bar to general relief. 

There's several runs where Demi is obviously on the wrong side of the pitch. As Sullay is right footed, why don't we swap them? Is that too simplistic? Would putting one of the lads from the youth team who can play up front on to run about like a madhead up front not be useful now? Am I naive? 

I miss an incident which appears to be another case of Chepper Kaikai reeking havoc on his enemies. There really is nothing doing for us now. The game is dying...

...but then it's Turton of all people charging onto a lay off from Simms, he's belting forward, there's no support, where are the fucking strikers, the midfielders, anyone? We don't need them though, because Turton goes it alone, checks back inside, and shoots, the shot is blocked but rebounds to Virtue who hits it from the edge of the box, it looks like it might be heading in, it takes a deflection and it now looks like it might be heading in even more, but it sneaks past the post. 

There's still time for Sullay to hit a lovely sand wedge pass to spread the play, for Turton to put in one of the nicest balls of the game, Demi darts between two players but heads it over the top because he's Demi. 

Fucking hell. 

At least we didn't lose. 



It feels like the same points from several recent games. We've limited Fleetwood to one real chance and again, Husband has done a good job on a very difficult opponent and indeed our general defensive play was effective. We've created a few chances and their keeper has made a couple of saves but it still smacked of a game in which we firstly didn't want to lose and then any attacking was a bonus on top of that. 

Maybe that's harsh, but it's three home draws in a row and we just don't seem capable of making the running. On a number of occasions, I didn't see us commiting forward, didn't see a risk taken when it seemed like we could have taken one and I guess that's because the shape is all important to us and it's drilled into us not to lose it. 

I do think, and yes, it's a well worn opinion, that we are seriously missing Madine. Simms is a prospect but he's a season or two short of being the player he needs to be. Playing a 442 the way we do, the target man is the most important player. He needs to hold it up, he needs to buy the seconds that let our player run on, he needs to cause constant concern to the defence and give them a relentlessly hard time and Simms doesn't do that. He's 19, coming from a technical background at a Premier League academy and players like Madine or Vassell have hundred of games in their mind, they've seen it all and done it all in return. We don't have a great deal of creativity and thus a player like Madine, who comes deep, who holds up, who plays little chipped passes over the top for runners from deep, or just waits and waits, denying the ball then releases someone when they finally go is worth so much. Simms can't be that player - it's just not fair to expect it. 

We were crying out for an injection of energy up front at the end - we did muster a little burst but that little renewed threat, different problem, new question for their defence just isn't there. Going through the game, we definitely had a bit more than them, but we don't create sustained pressure. It feel like we produce a few chances, but we can't put teams under pressure for long. Again, it's as if we fall back into the structure, we don't go for the jugular, we don't target a weakness that might emerge, because the structure is all. 

We don't concede goals either but it's frustrating. It's like an un-iced cake. It's a very good cake, but it's quite plain. 

It is what it is. We'll just beat everyone else. Big Gaz WILL be back. He is the icing. (ok, it's a stretch, but what or who else is going to be the icing in this tortured metaphor for our functionality without cutting edge?) 



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