Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Monday, January 2, 2023

POVEDA! - the Mighty vs Sunderland AFC

I'm in a bit of a haze. Driving there, I can only hold a thought in my had for about 3 seconds. The music pounds. Isn't 'chevron' a good word? How can I change my life? Should I park in a different place? Maybe I could quit my job? I could stop drinking? Is everything inevitable? Do I have a choice in anything really?

It turns out I've parked in the usual space. I wasn't concentrating. I thought it might change our luck. Maybe nothing I do is actually a choice. I check the team. Michael Appleton probably shouldn't work in PR. It feels like the selection is code for 'fuck you, I'll do what I want'

Kick off approaches. I decide that on balance I admire what he's done. Live or die by your convictions. I like the technical midfield. It might be made of 3 players who have less presence than leaves on the wind but it's got some intent to it. We either attack or we die.


We do attack. It is pretty good. I'd forgotten that football is fun. CJ doesn't hesitate to run into space. Patino and Carey have the energy of 2 Yorkshire terriers nipping at the ankles of the opposition. It's like they've been watching 'the best of Jay Spearing.' Lavery has got his boots on the right feet and his head down. Gaz is marshalling it all like the proud conductor of a youthful brass band.

The star of the show is Ian Yan Poveda. He drives from midfield. He's in the middle. I didn't think he could possibly do this role. He can do it better than I can imagine. He's like a piece of driftwood, tossed about in a storm, going one way, turning in the churning currents, racing, ducking dipping, but never sinking. He's a cat's cradles untangled. He's a pinball in a machine, surging, acute angles, sudden bursts of movement.

There's joy in his feet. There's defiance in his play. Weeks and months go by where you watch players in systems doing their jobs. It's like watching an office. Everyone defined by their job description. Everyone just aiming for their targets. Everyone staying within the lines. Suddenly your watching an artist. Suddenly there's colour and music and glorious freedom. It's beautiful.

He picks it up. He spins. He goes. Wow. And again. It's like a cartoon where bodies go into fight and there's a big cloud of dust and you see the hero run out of the cloud of dust and the baddies are still fighting each other. One run ends with a shot into legs when Husband has overlapped, another, this one from his own box to the edge of theirs ends with him getting booked for having his angle clipped.

There's a one-two-three-four with Madine who is looking as sprightly as I've seen him, his senses jangling with thrill of having someone around him to make sense of his endless knock-downs and hold up play. The ref is a jumped up twat who shows no consistency at all.

The goal has little to do with Poveda. CJ. Go on CJ. He doesn't burrow for the by-line though, but tap a little sweet pass for Lavery who curves his run, picks it up and charges for goal. Shayne will miss this. He's just stuck in a rut. We're stuck in a rut. He puts it away with aplomb. I'm not sure what aplomb is but that was it for sure.

Laveey on his knees. Lavery's fists clenched tight. Relief is tinged with the pain of the ordeal and his season has been a rough ride. Who could begrudge him this moment? He plays well today. We're in front and on top. C'mon Pool!

We make couple more chances. Just before half time we have a free kick. I dare to dream of a comfortable lead. As I'm fantasising, Sunderland cut through is and hit the bar so hard you can see it flex from the other end of the ground. That would have been typical. It didn't go in. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe we've turned a corner?


The best we've played in what seems like forever. More.


Things change. Nothing lasts forever. It's not too big an ask surely though for us to be a functional side for an hour and a half is it?

The second half is anything that the first half wasn't. We have one effort, Lavery again away, squaring for Madine and eventually the ball coming back to Carey who brings a save.

The rest is backs against the wall. Our midfield is overun. Mowbray yawned at some point in the game and waved an arm and changed things. He's not panicking. The sad eyed gravedigger looked quizzical, the place where one of his eyebrows should be raised on an otherwise impassive face. What do we do about this?

A) Bring Kenny on?
B) Drop the 10 deep?
C) Sacrifice a wide man, bring Kenny on and send Poveda wide to escape his man marker?
D) Nothing?

They pour forward. They're very good. They've got patience and belief. The chances just rack up. One move has a scramble under the cross bar where Marvin saves us and it's impossible to believe it hasn't gone in. Husband is shepherding, Jud is tracking Stewart who combines touch, movement and being a big ugly fucker as well as I've seen in ages.

Maxwell sprawls and makes a great stop. Marvin blocks one at the near post. He's playing as well as he has all season. The midfield are chasing shadows. CJ was good first half but now he looks like a kid who won a prize to train with the team. Beesley is on for him. Yates for Lavery. It's just more of the same.

The goal is one of those where we can clear our lines. In it goes, away it goes, back it comes. The defence is all over the place, the last attack churning us up as if a giant spoon had stirred us round and left us anywhere but where we need to be and one header, then a glance from an unmarked Stewart and it's in.... Maxwell collapses, the rest of the team follow. The ground is silent. It's not really as the travelling mob go wild but it's like I don't hear it.

Finally Kenny comes on. It's all too late. They spin one to the far post. It's just too hard. They crack the cross bar. Somehow Stewart contorts himself into a position that sends a point blank chance side. Connolly gets sent of for mistiming a tackle. He's the victim of the refs inconsistent approach. He's in no way the biggest offender today. To be honest, it feels a bit like a luxury to only have to play for ten minutes with ten men. Luke Wright comes on. He looks frightened.

We hold on. Just.


It's a game of two halves. Funny old game. I enjoyed it. I hated it.

There was a blueprint for how we could play to some extent. It was, again, some of the wrong players doing the right things. At times it was the right players doing the right things extremely well but there aren't enough of them to make it stick. CJ is a lovely lad who made the goal and let's not slate him and I'm sorry. I really am but but he loses the ball *all the time" and it creates problems. Patino, Carey and Poveda are tremendous players but there's absolutely no defensive qualities at all between them. Midfield has to have balance or we have to score 4.

I loved the football in the first half. It was brave and up to a point really effective. It looked fun. Remember fun?

The problem was, we had no answer at all to the second half. It's a game that gives both optimism and fear. I suppose that's life in a nutshell. There's other shite teams though. We need to do more of what we did and better. We need to show up and get into some of the mediocrity in the league like we did for the first half. We need a midfield presence. I can barely bring myself to type 'Josh Bowler' in case it's bullshit.

Anyway... Poveda!



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