Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Friday, April 2, 2021

Floodlight shadow! : Swindon Town vs the Mighty

Imagine if big Gaz makes a comeback today or, even better (on a thematic level) Monday. That would essentially make him the new Jesus. Fans of blasphemy, hymns and bread and wine might object, but c'mon, it's Gary Goals we're on about here. It might not be likely, but what odds did Paddy Power (be gamble aware,when the fun stops stop) give on yer man getting out that cave eh? 

Very similar characters

This game first time around was a piece of piss due to them setting up just like us, but not being as good as us. Even in the dark days of September/October, I can't remember us being simply out footballed by anyone. I think the only time that's happened all year was against Brighton. They're now managed by John Sheridan instead of Richie Wellens, swapping an underrated, slightly controversial play maker from the past for another underrated, slightly controversial play maker from even longer ago.  

Here's a two random facts about Shezza: He signed for Nottingham forest in 1989, played just once in the league cup, then left to sign for Sheffield Wednesday. He has had eleven different managers jobs since 2015. Eleven! 

Clough apparently said "you've had a busy week son, I'm giving you a rest" to Sheridan and never picked him or spoke to him again...

I'm not going to mention any of our current squad in light of that story about ol big'ead. It wouldn't be tactful. Instead, I'm going to treat you to another exclusive insight from inside the coach's quarters in the modular building that is still NOT a Portakabin.

Critchley spoke positively in the week about having worked on a few things... 


Rumours that Steve Banks took the lads for a big game of pitch and putt on the front at Cleveleys and big Gaz got excited and kept whacking it as hard as he could towards the beach trying to get it to land in the sea, then shouting, 'fucking hell, look at that ,someone take photo, mental that, went miles' can neither be confirmed nor denied. 

Critch assures us the squad is getting fitter. Just before we get to the game itself, here's a handy cut out and keep guide to player wellbeing: 


Fig 1: Where footballers should play football expressed by grey (and one green) circles

Well, bless my hat. Demi has been dropped and Ellis Simms is back in the line up. I can only assume it's one of those 'tactical things' beloved of those who give tactical masterclasses as I didn't see that coming at all. He really is a box of tricks is our Critch. I couldn't understand why he didn't give Simms a go last week in the last 15 minutes, now I'm scratching my head about him starting, especially as Mitchell was my standout performer in the previous game. The Viking is back as well in place of Thorniley which makes sense as whilst I like Thorniley, the Viking is fucking class (on grass)

Anyway... Let's do this... 

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Swindon make the first chance as Garbutt fails to control the ball, then fails to foul the man who robs him of it. They go straight down the right, pull the ball back and Brett 'is he still playing?' Pittman slide in, but puts it wide. That prompts a truly bizarre moment where Chissy seems to ask for Brett Ormerod's opinion but Brett doesn't seem to be there. Did this happen? Did I dream it? 

Poll have started fairly meekly. A few balls into the channels and little else. Chissy goes into a weird stop start phase as if he can't remember the end of the sentence he's started. 'Got to defend Luke [long pause] Garbutt', 'Sullay Kaikai doing [long pause] work'. The pitch is a lovely green, but really quite bouncy. Look closely and the grass is patchy and it looks hard underneath. The stands are leaving high contrast dark shadows and there's a lovely lattice work outline of a floodlight on the pitch, running diagonally from one corner flag to almost the halfway line. Remember floodlights? I'm drifting into aching nostalgia for a forgotten world and we're not 10 minutes in. 

A shadow so reminiscent of days gone by, it could reduce you to tears...

Then Chissy does it again... this time, phrasing a statement with the intonation of a question and aiming it at his absent co commentator... "12 minutes of tentative sparring Brett Ormerod?" Once again, there's no reply from Brett. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? This really happened. I even wound back ifollow by 30 seconds to check I hadn't accidently ingested something hallucinogenic and started imagining Chissy imagining Brett. Just thinking about that trip is bringing me out in a cold sweat. Mind you, if I was tripping, I could be imagining rewinding ifollow. 

Embleton slips through Yates, a terrific ball that Anthony Grant clips away from the shirtless one before he can react to having controlled it. Dougall gets booked for a really clumsy challenge in the centre circle. Simms and Sullay run into each other. Dougall puts a simple 10 yard pass out of play. Maybe Kenny is tripping too? Nothing else is saying mind altering experience. no one has a halo around them and I'm not seeing fractals or tracers. 

Finally Chissy explains. Thank fuck. I don't think I'd have made it to the end of the game in one piece if he hadn't. Brett is apparently in the studio in Lancashire but his feed isn't connected to iFollow. That said, Chissy is sounding a bit broken today. His rhythm and timing is all off. It's like listening to a skipping CD. I was genuinely worried for him for a few minutes, imagining him turning up to the ground on his own, making reference to 'Brett' to confused press officers, insisting on extra empty seat next to him for 'the co commentator' and ordering two teas and two twirls for half time to pitying looks. 

Nothing has happened at all, which gives me time to delightedly spot a player who looks like a real person. Swindon's no 2 Paul Caddis is both greying and looks a little portly. Once in the first half, he goes on a run and looks as if he runs out of steam at the end. Good to see. 

We pass for a while and everyone creeps forward, eventually, the Viking plays a nice neat, well timed pass to Embleton who takes it, strides forward and hammers his shot into the advertising boards that line the roof of the stand. 

Pool work it really well, Ward showing nimble footwork to escape his man in the centre, spreading it wide to Sullay, Garbutt overlaps and receives a quick pass from Kaikai, he pulls it back, it's nodded back, but Ward leaps and shoots in a strange, but very effective kung fu style and it bounces just wide. Again Ward is impressing me, looking like the one player who has control of the ball on a surface that looks like more like dried clay than it does a football pitch. 

Simms squares it to Yates on the edge of the box, Jerry shapes to shoot but the shot takes a deflection. The corner from Sullay is OK, but Chissy deems it terrible, then purrs over Garbutt's ball straight into the keeper's arms. Jerry gets it out wide and does so many very pronounced step overs that he looks like a Cossack dancer but his ball from the byline is cut out. Dougall plays another pass straight out of play. I'm thinking this is 45 minutes I'm never going to get back... 

... Gabriel plays it from just inside the Swindon half, A well measured ball over the shoulder of Simms who rolls his man brilliantly, takes it on the bounce, near the right hand corner of the box and smashes it home with what I can only term 'aplomb.' A superb finish. 

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That was hard work, with a goal for Pool at the end to make it all worth it. We started really slowly, but from about 25-30 mins we had control over the game if no real cutting edge. The big plus point is how comfortable Gretarsson has looked on his return, his distribution, positioning and calmness making him look like nothing like he's just had a few months out. 

The pitch is really having an impact on the quality of the game. No one really looks like they want to play much more than a 10 yard pass as the bounce is horrible and makes it a complete lottery. On many occasions I've sat before kick off at Bloomfield Road and wondered why the sprinklers are on. This is the answer. 

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Swindon start a bit more busily but the pitch is creating mistakes. Jerry nicks it and Ward almost plays in Simms. Ward then has a heavy pass but Swindon can't get through. It reminds me of playing at school on an ash pitch with an over inflated ball that had lost its shape. It's clear that the weather is also having an impact, the long kicks forward losing impetus like a beach ball dying into the wind in one direction, but going wildly far in the other. 

Yates and Embleton play a brilliant move on the break, playing 1-2s all up the pitch before finally Embleton is squeezed out of it at the near post. Gretarsson has his obligatory moment of pain as he crashes onto the ground behind the goal, landing on what looks like a patch of concrete where someone started making a patio but gave up after they'd had the foundations poured. What is it with football grounds? We've got deadly pitchside metal barriers, they've got this? Have people who manage football grounds not noticed that players sometimes go 'off the island' as well as the ball? 

Embleton does a piece of magic so sublime that no one notices. Pool have worked it on the right, He's got a crossing chance, he shapes to cross, he swings his leg to gross, but fuck me, he doesn't cross, checking the impetus at the split second before his foot goes through the ball and instead, playing a disgracefully clever little flick over the top for Gabriel who has gone round his outside. The only flaw is, not only has everyone else in the ground bought that Embleton has crossed it, but so has Gabriel who just trots along, completely unaware of the ball until he realises too late and Swindon have cleared it be the time he can react. 

Garbutt nearly uses the pitch to great effect with a low, raking free kick from 30+ yards that skips horribly off the turf. 

Gretarsson lifts it over the top, it looks like it's offside as Yates collects on his own. No flag. Mind you, they flag late these days... Yates advance on goal. Still no flag... maybe... He looks like he's gifted it to the keeper but a lovely shimmy has the keeper on the ground and Yates wide of him with the goal at his mercy... There's not going to be a flag... The sniper strokes it home and we're 2-0 up. A simple goal, beautifully executed by shirtless superstar Jerry 

Swindon respond with a Jack Payne effort from a defensive mistake (the Viking? if so, his only foot wrong today) that Maxwell plunges low to his right and saves quite brilliantly. Swindon hit the bar from the corner, a driven effort at the far post. The referee has blown, but I think Maxwell gets an equally good touch to direct it upwards, from really close range. 

Demi replaces Simms. Swindon make four subs. Paul Caddis is off sadly, - he doesn't look too fussed, looking like he's headed directly for the snooker club after this. It looks as if the Robins have gone with 4 players up against our back line. Grettarsson cuts out a ball over the top, beautifully, stretching, controlling, clearing in one fluid move. Absolute class. It comes at a cost though as he ends up stat on the turf getting treatment. The iceman is made of strong stuff though, as he gets a dab of the magic sponge and is up and playing again, making a great sliding challenge barely 45 seconds later. Critch though, decides caution is the best option and hooks him, sending on Thorniley instead. 

Look at it. It's got even more beautiful now!

Elliot Embleton picks up the pieces after a long period of head tennis. He looks to shoot, but drifts left instead, now he'll shot, but this time he shuffles the other way, he's over cooked this... but he hasn't, as he turns inside again and finds a ridiculously subtle little chipped finish that sneaks past the far post. He's got some class this lad. 

Sullay goes down with a knee injury. Ethan Robson gets his obligatory late cameo to replace him. Sullay looks ok when he comes off though. Chissy refers to 'Gordan Jordan Gabriel' which reminds me, that he was even more surreal early, as he responded to an earlier Jerry effort that went over with 'he missed the chance to wrap this one up, with a bunny on top.' There's topical* and there's just downright baffling. 

Swindon are mustering nothing. We muster a lovely move with Embleton, Yates and Robson combining beautifully, crisp passing and beautifully timed run from deep from wor Ethan, that ends in a pull back to no one as Yates had been on the edge of the box pulling strings. 

Swindon can't get out their half and when they finally do something other than hack it away for a throw in, Ollie Turton tidies up as he has all afternoon. In the last seconds, they summon up the faintest shadow of an attacking thread, a wide cross hurled in, a man escapes his marker but his header is high and wide and that is that... 

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A terrific win. It wasn't a great game, but the win is all the more pleasing for that. Swindon weren't the purist side we saw early in the year, they didn't invite us to play at all, but we got stuck in and class told. I wondered about the validity of the selection, but again, Critch has put me firmly back in my box marked 'know nothing blogger' with another masterclass. 

Defensively we did very well. I never really worried about the outcome after the first 10 minutes and the centre backs were remarkable considering one of them is in his comeback game and the other one was Ollie Turton. Simms took his goal beautifully and if I could grab back a shred of credibility, it was an effort on the turn, running away from his man, which is absolutely his strength, not playing as a target man. Gabriel deserves the assist, for few players strive as hard as him and his attacking qualities have gone unrewarded for quite some time. 

Again, we worked really hard. I thought Embleton was excellent, he really is due a goal, due that moment where his quality gets properly noticed and he seems to combine hard work with a bit of a free spirit, which is a rare thing. 

I look up the table and see we're still 6th. It feels like someone has done some cheating here. It feels like we should be 5th and have more games in hand... I've no science to base that on. It just does! Anyway, who cares  - We're wizards... 

We're on a march. We really are. 

utmp

*Eagle eyed readers may be feeling that i'm being a tad hypocritical accusing Chissy of shoehorning in topical references, having earlier compared the Goal Machine to Jesus but in what world do you wrap things up with rabbits, either using the rabbit as the medium of wrapping or placing them on top of stuff? If anyone has ever received a gift with a rabbit on top of it, fine, I'll withdraw my questioning of Chissy's metaphoric topical prowess. 

**Note - if the gift IS a rabbit (real life, stuffed or chocolate), that doesn't count. The rabbit has to be on top of the gift, used in the style of a bow

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