Search This Blog

Monday, 30 November 2009

Should I stay or should I go?

I've come to the conclusion that this blog has become a little formulaic lately. I mean, you know what's coming next under normal circumstances: A mini-review of tomorrow evening's home match v Walsall, an examination of the bookies odds followed by a recommendation of where to place your hard-earned cash, finishing with my idea of what the team should be. Well, I'm feeling rebellious today. Sorry, but I can't be arsed with the mini-review, no-one in their right mind would be taking my advice when it comes to betting (-£14.50 for the season so far!) and Skivo never seems to listen to me when selecting his team; so I think I'll take a different approach to blogging today.

The fact is I find myself very ambivalent in my attitude towards tomorrow's game, so much so that I'm considering whether to go or not. Perhaps I'd better explain further: Everyone who knows me knows that as well as supporting the mighty Glovers I'm also an armchair Spurs fan. And tomorrow evening the match against Walsall coincides with Tottenham's League Cup quarter-final tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United, live on Sky TV.

Now a few years ago there would have been no question as to what I'd have done. A YTFC home game took precedence over anything else, no matter what. But these days my attitude has changed. Nowadays the attraction of Huish Park on a cold December night has waned considerably when compared to the advantages of staying home in the warm and dry, in the company of my loved ones. It's not as if the club will be missing anything in the way of financial input from me. I've already bought and paid for my season ticket so the club will count me as attending whether I'm actually there in person or not. I don't buy a programme or use either the snack bars or the beer tent so the club won't miss my money there. The linesman on the Cowlin side may well miss my well thought out constructive criticism when he gets an offside call wrong but apart from that gentleman I don't suppose anyone else would even notice my absence; so why do I feel guilty for even contemplating missing the game in favour of watching Spurs on the box?

The truth be told I'm not feeling at all guilty. Life's too short to do stuff you don't particularly want to do and it's not actually compulsory to attend if you have something else you'd prefer to do instead. It's just that this feeling of ambivalence is something new and strange to me. When does attendance become a habit, and then a chore? It's not as if the team are boring to watch these days, or I live miles away - I'm about 500 yards away from the ground as the crow flies. But as things stand today I have little or no enthusiasm for even making that small effort, not when the weather forecast is for cold and wet conditions and I've got the choice of watching live football on the telly in the warm instead. If that makes me a bad supporter then I guess I'm a bad supporter. Along with all those other missing fans from 3-4 years ago. Who knows, if Huish Park boasted a proper supporters bar or social club instead of a tent then the attraction of going to meet up with friends or family before and after the match for a drink and maybe something to eat would make the effort of going to the game and braving the cold and wet worthwhile, but alas, that's just a pipedream.

I haven't completely made up my mind yet. It might be that come 7.30 Tuesday evening I say 'sod it' and make the short journey to Huish Park after all. But equally, I may not. Sorry.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Reality bites

We all had something of a reality check on Tuesday evening. Hopes were high before the away game at Gillingham that the Glovers would be able to put their frankly dreadful away form behind them at last, but there's many a slip twixt cup and lip as the old saying goes and it was the same old story in the end. The team started poorly and got worse, going 1-0 down to a Simeon Jackson penalty that was in the end the difference between the teams. I was going to have a mini-discussion with myself regarding what Skivo could do about our away form, but Badger has beaten me to it, so I won't re-invent the wheel here.

Our good home form has up 'til now disguised our failings on our travels, but until or unless Skivo can come up with an answer to our away woes then all thoughts of the play-offs can be discarded. Indeed, should our home form start to falter then we could yet find ourselves in trouble at the wrong end of the table again, so let's hope that however the gaffer decides to change things that his changes are effective.

Sigh. As I type I'm watching the Northwich Victoria v Lincoln City 2nd round FA Cup tie on the tv. 2-1 to the Imps at the moment but the Vics are piling on the pressure. It's nice to see a team in green-and-white hoops live on the box but it's also a reminder of our own abject failure in the competition over the last few years. Oops, Lincoln score another on the break - 3-1 to them now.

Muffwatch: Time for yet another new era for our, er, friends on the south coast. This time last week it looked as though a consortium led by yet another property developer and an undischarged bankrupt was going to take over the reins at the Wessex. A week is a very long time in Weymouth club politics however and that consortium has now gone the way of so many others. Liquidation looked the odds-on bet at one point in the last couple of days but literally with 10 minutes to go until the club's self-imposed deadline for serious bidders to come forward, cometh the hour then cometh the man. And that man is George Rolls, former chairman of Cambridge United, who left that club in unusual and acrimonious circumstances earlier this season. Some might say that takes the Terras out of the frying pan and places them firmly into the middle of the fire, but not this blog. Regardless of Mr Rolls previously chequered history I wish him the best of luck in dragging the Muff, well, into the 20th century will do for now, the 21st century can wait for a while. The only alternative to Rolls would appear to have been liquidation and no-one would want that. At least we've still got someone to laugh at for the time being.

Just read: Under the Dome by Stephen King. Another monster of a book (800+ pages) and very much a return to form from the master of the horror genre. I've read most of King's stuff over the years and enjoyed most of it too but while his later novels have been very readable they've not quite hit the heights of his earlier works - until now. Under the Dome - the story of what happens to a small Maine town when it's cut off from the rest of the world by an unbreakable barrier - bears comparison with The Stand, It, and The Talisman to name but a few. King is back, long live King.

Monday, 23 November 2009

New kid on the blog

I've been moaned at by several different people lately for only updating this blog twice a week. Never let it be said I don't listen, two updates in two days now, I'm too good to you. And when if you get fed up with my words of, er, wisdom there's somewhere else to go now for your Glovers fix with the appearance of another YTFC blog - Vyse's Green and White blog. You can't have too many Glovers blogs as far as I'm concerned, good luck to Vyse and I hope he enjoys doing his blog as much as I enjoy doing this one.

It's a funny old week this week. A rare Tuesday night game tomorrow (at least, Tuesday night games appear rare this season, probably because we've been knocked out of all cup competitions in the 1st round) followed by an even rarer free Saturday, followed by a home Tuesday night game next week.

The Glovers travel to deepest Kent for tomorrow evening's match, away to Gillingham. And a fascinating match it should be. The Gills are 18th in the table, 4 points behind ourselves and are coming off the back of a 2-1 loss away to Bristol Rovers. On the face of it this is the kind of bread-and-butter game that we have to fancy getting something out of, certainly if any vague play-off aspirations are to be fulfilled. However, let's not kid ourselves - Gillingham have an excellent home record this season with 5 wins out of 8 games played and are nobody's fools at the Priestfield Stadium. The bookies make them 11/10 favourites for the win, the draw is priced at 23/10, and a Yeovil win at 5/2. Despite the Gills good home record I honestly fancy us to get something out of this game, but will err slightly on the side of caution. My fiver's going on the draw. Running total: -£9.50p.

As for the team tomorrow night I said in my last blog that I think Skivo needs to try to find a way to play Ryan Mason, Jon Obika and Dean Bowditch in the same team without exiling any one of the above on one of the wings. To that end I would be inclined to tweak the formation slightly. I'd keep the flat back four and the two holding midfielders, but I'd lose one of the wingers, either Scott Murray or Andy Welsh, keep Mason in his floating position behind Obika and let Bowditch join Obika up front. The remaining winger would then play as a winger but would swap sides as and when to keep the opposition guessing. So a kind of 4-3-1-2 if you like, but in effect swapping a winger for an extra striker. My team then, assuming all are fit:

Alex McCarthy
Craig Alcock, Stefan Stam, Steven Caulker, Danny Hutchins
Scott Murray, JP Kalala, Shaun MacDonald,
Ryan Mason
Dean Bowditch, Jon Obika

Easy this management lark! By the way, hands up who else picked this weekend to put Jermain Defoe into their fantasy premier league team! Luvvly jubbly!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

L1: Yeovil 1 Charlton 1

A tale of two halves in which the weather was the ultimate winner - that's the verdict on yesterday's entertaining 1-1 draw at Huish Park. The Glovers played with the elements in the first half and dominated early proceedings, assisted by Sam Sodje's dismissal on 30 minutes for a professional foul on Ryan Mason. The home side went into a deserved 1-0 half-time lead following Jon Obika's strike 2 minutes before the interval. We thought the wind and rain had been bad enough in the first half but if anything it got even worse after the break and now the boot was on the other foot. Charlton used the conditions intelligently - dare I say it with rather more goal threat than Yeovil showed when they had the wind and rain in their favour - and bombarded the Glovers goal with shots and crosses from all angles before another Sodje - Akpo this time - equalised with an unstoppable 25-yard effort. The Londoners put the Glovers goal under siege for the rest of the game but a combination of superb goalkeeping and heroic defending kept the Addicks at bay. Another thoroughly entertaining afternoon at Huish Park and a good point for both sides in the end in dreadful conditions.

Line up and merit marks as per usual:


1. Alex McCarthy: 9/10 - Unquestionably the Glovers man of the match for his second half performance alone. Made any number of vital saves and blocks in the face of a howling gale and driving rain. Outstanding.

2. Craig Alcock: 8/10 - Committed and gritty performance exemplified by his brave charge-down of a Charlton shot right at the end. Excellent.

4. Stefan Stam: 7/10 - Strong in the air in particular. Sometimes you just wish he'd HOOF the ball clear rather than always looking for the clever pass, but that's a relatively minor criticism.

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - Another first-class display, particularly during that backs-to-the-wall second half.

23. Danny Hutchins: 7/10 - Danny's back! Ran out of steam towards the end and was rightly subbed, but the promise he showed at the end of last season is back.

16. Scott Murray: 6/10 - Not a bad performance by any means but one would have hoped for a little more goal threat from our most experienced player in the first half particularly. Faded right out of it after the break and was rightly subbed.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 6/10 - Not one of Shaun's stand-out best performances. Never stopped running but somehow didn't see as much of the ball as usual.

21. Jean-Paul Kalala: 7/10 - Usual all-action game. I remember being lukewarm concerning his return at the time, but in fact he's turned out to be one of our most important permanent players.

11. Andy Welsh: 5/10 - As the least physically-imposing player in the squad Andy was always likely to struggle in yesterday's conditions. Never really came to terms with the wind from his set-pieces. Disappointing.

13. Ryan Mason: 8/10 - As the second least physically-imposing player in the squad Ryan was always likely to struggle in yesterday's conditions - except class will out. Ran the game in the first half, caused the visitors to go down to ten men and provided the pass for our goal. My only criticism would be that he should have taken the opportunity to shoot on goal more during the first half - Sodje showed after the break what might have been if Ryan had given himself the chance more often rather than trying to find that killer ball all the time. A wonderful player to watch however and one can only guess where he might be in a few years time. Spurs first team? At the very least, I would say.

26. Jonathan Obika: 7/10 - I said a couple of weeks ago that Obika needs to start upping his game and I'm pleased to say that he did that yesterday. Has a good understanding with Mason and took his goal clinically.

6. Terrell Forbes (69 mins for Scott Murray): 6/10 - Came on as an emergency extra-defensive midfielder - and did okay in an unfamiliar role.

14. Dean Bowditch (60 mins for Andy Welsh): 5/10 - Bowditch is a goalscorer and if he's going to play he must surely play as a striker. As it was he barely saw the ball stuck out on the left. Skivo must in my opinion find a way to accomodate Mason, Obika and Bowditch in the team, without exiling any of them on the wing.

28. Nathan Smith (85 mins approx for Danny Hutchins): N/A - Not on long enough to make a real impresson, but nice to see him back at last.

The result leaves the Glovers down one place in the table from last week in 13th position and on 22 points. The biggest talking point of the weekend was the crowd, or the lack of it, with around 3,600 home fans making the effort on what admittedly was a foul day. I'm afraid that I can't see things improving in the short-term at least, regardless of the attractiveness or otherwise of the football on display.

The board and their apologists would like you to believe that crowds are down because of the effect of what they call the 'Slade years'. They would have you think that the previous manager's pragmatic tactics and way of playing football is solely responsible for the decline in home crowds over the last few years, but of course that is simplistic rubbish. The club has squandered the feelgood factor that saw us averaging just over 6,000 a few years ago and with the board's lack of forward planning, their seeming complete indifference to the needs and desires of the ordinary supporter, and their almost total lack of communication with the ordinary supporter I'm honestly surprised that home crowds haven't dropped even lower than they already are. The supporters bar is an embarrassing disgrace, the tea bars are worse, and the match-day experience at Huish Park generally dismal, the football on show apart. Floating supporters are positively discouraged with a £2 surcharge on matchday admission. You can't buy a ticket at the turnstiles anymore even if you're willing to pay the surcharge, but have to go all the way around to the ticket office and brave the queues there. The club should be making it as easy as possible to go to Huish Park, but instead seem to delight in putting petty obstacles in the way of fans. I could go on (and on), but it's a rant I've made too many times before already and no-one at the club is listening. One suspects that crowds will have to slip to pre-Conference levels before anyone will.

Friday, 20 November 2009

How green was my Valley

One of the biggest games of the season to look forward to tomorrow: Charlton, at home. Who'd have thought that one day little old Yeovil would be in the same division as Charlton? For someone my age Charlton are a big club and always will be and of course one of the heroes of my youth, Dick Plumb, left Yeovil to play for Charlton before making the return journey home a few years later. I always had a soft spot for Charlton, maybe because of the Plumb connection, but also because a lot of the players in their team in the 70's had beards, which seemed to me at the time to be a good thing. Another thing I liked about them was the huge side terrace they had at The Valley, not that I ever saw it in the flesh, capable of holding a completely ridiculous number of people and quite out of keeping with the rest of the ground, at least as far as I could tell from what I could see from viewing ITV's 'The Big Match'. And it was always The Big Match with Brian Moore commentating that Charlton appeared on because for some reason they never used to be on Match of the Day. Why was that? Another of life's little mysteries... I even like their name: Charlton. It's a satisfying, solid name, a name to relish and mispronounce with a silent 't' and of course you're irresistibly reminded of those 60's icons the Charlton brothers, Bobby in particular, even if they had nothing to do with the club itself (as far as I'm aware) and just shared the coincidence of the name, Charlton.

As befitting a club of their size they're bringing down a good lot of fans tomorrow, 1700 altogether, so let's hope the weather gods look kindly on us and the game goes ahead. The forecast is for rain of biblical proportions on Saturday, so fingers crossed that the drainage system will be able to cope. Charlton are currently second in the league and looking good for the 2nd automatic promotion spot and are indeed the first club from the top half of the table we've played at home this season so tomorrow's game will give us a pretty good indication of exactly how well-placed Skivo's team is to kick on (or not) as Christmas approaches. I've seen enough already this season to be very confident now that we will not be involved in a relegation battle at the end of the season, but do we have enough about us to do the unthinkable and push on to try and get into the scramble for the play-offs? I'm getting carried away here, aren't I? Let's get real once more - it's not games against the likes of Charlton that will define our season, it's the bread-and-butter of Stockport, Gillingham and Swindon that does that. Anything we can get from tomorrow is a bonus.

So here's hoping we have a right go at them tomorrow and enjoy ourselves. I'm not even going to try and second-guess Skivo's team, the lack of information coming out of Huish Park these days regarding injuries or illness renders such attempts almost meaningless and every week there are absences which may or may not be explained after the match and more often than not the rumour mill is left to fill the gap. The team will be what it will be. The bookies not unreasonably have the visitors as favourites to win the game at 5/4, the draw is priced at 11/5 and a home win at a tempting 23/10. A very tempting 23/10. An utterly irresistable 23/10 in fact, and that's where my fiver's going this week. I didn't manage to get my usual bet on last week thanks to my encounter with the surgeon's knife but I would certainly have gone for the home win against Southend which would have left my weekly running total in a much healthier state than it actually is at -£4.50p. Life isn't fair at times.

The Irish would certainly concur with that pithy observation. This week's big talking point has of course been Thierry Henry's Hand of God Maradona moment, which resulted in France beating Ireland 2-1 on aggregate in a World Cup qualifier play-off to go through to the Finals in South Africa next summer. The controversy isn't about whether Henry cheated to put the French through, that's a verifiable fact. The controversy is that everyone knows Henry cheated, yet nothing is done about it, to put things right. In this day and age it is simply absurd in my opinion that at the highest level instant tv replays are not employed by the 4th official off the pitch to make instant calls so that the right decision can be made. Everyone watching the game on tv on Wednesday night knew within 30 seconds of the incident that Ireland had been cheated by the odious Henry and that the hapless referee had made the biggest blunder of his officiating life. And because of the archaic laws surrounding football everyone also knew that Henry and France would get away with it. How many more times will the authorities allow cheats to prosper before doing something? Other sports have successfully integrated tv replays into decision-making at the highest levels, it's ludicrous that in the year 2009 football has never even tried.

Just read: Careless In Red by Elizabeth George. I didn't realise this was part of yet another detective series when I picked this up, but indeed it is, the Inspector Lynley series. No matter anyway, it just means another set of books to get around to reading one day. Thoroughly enjoyed this one anyway, a murder mystery set in the thinly disguised Cornish town of Bude. Contains as many red herrings as you could want and a particularly nice twist at the end. Good stuff.

Monday, 16 November 2009

L1: Yeovil 1 Southend 0

The Glovers bounced back from last week's FA Cup disappointment with a 1-0 win over Southend United on Saturday. Your humble scribe unfortunately missed what by most accounts was a very good performance, but I did have a reasonable excuse for my absence - 24 hours earlier I was having a rather large collection of stones removed from my bladder at Yeovil District Hospital. Keyhole surgery has much to recommend it - it meant I could have the procedure in the morning and be home by 6-o-clock that evening - but on the other side of the coin there are some holes that one would rather not have surgical instruments inserted into, even under a general anaesthetic. I'll draw a veil over the precise details and the aftermath, suffice it to say that it was an experience.

Anyway, I was fully intending to go to the Southend game but in the event didn't feel up to it. Why do we always play well when I can't go? By most accounts we thoroughly deserved the 3 points and indeed were unlucky not to score 4 or 5 more than the 1 we managed, but the curse of the returning ex-keeper nearly struck with Steve Mildenhall putting in a man-of-the-match performance to frustrate both crowd and players. That was until the return of Dean Bowditch, nearly a month ahead of his injury schedule, who scored with the proverbial deflection off his arse. Well, his shoulder really, but that doesn't sound quite as apt, even if it was the shoulder he injured at the start of the season that provided the goal.

It was interesting to read the respective manager's comments after the match, both of whom appeared to have been at different games. For Southend boss Steve Tilson denial is evidently not just a river in Egypt. Taking a leaf from the Sir Alex Ferguson school of constructive criticism he accused the officials of "ruining" the game by sending off Shaun Morrison when a yellow card was all that was justified (it wasn't) and gifting the Glovers the winning goal by awarding a free-kick that wasn't (it was) and adding insult to injury by allowing Bowditch's goal when he clearly handled the ball into the net (he didn't). All this after "Yeovil had run out of ideas". A fine display of sour grapes from a manager doing an excellent job of deflecting attention away from the fact that in 90 minutes of football his side didn't manage to get 1 effort on target.

Skivo by contrast was not unnaturally rather more upbeat, and why not? After 16 games his side now lies comfortably mid-table, in 12th position and on 21 points. Cup disappointments aside, things are looking pretty rosy currently in the Huish Park garden, at least on the pitch. Despite that it seems that not all in the home crowd understands and appreciates what Skivo and the team is trying to do. As he put it: "I think that sometimes our supporters don't realise the way that we are trying to play football. We're not just going to lump it in the box and go long. We're going to play a technical game, which is to move people about, and when that final ball is ready, it will present itself. We're not going to try and force it."

To ram home the point Skivo added: "There were a few people shouting put two strikers on. That's not the way we play. We're going to play my way and if we keep doing it my way and it works, then fair enough. If it doesn't work, then we're still not going to change it! People will have to lump it! But that's the way that we play, that's the way that we stay in games, and that's the way that I feel we create our best chances. It's also the best way to have someone like Ryan Mason playing in the team, who if I'm not mistaken got the man of the match."

So there we have it. We're going to pass the ball until it kills us, or at any rate it kills those in the crowd who get impatient unless the ball is in the opposition's penalty area, or at the very least in the air and heading towards the opposition's penalty area. For what it's worth while I applaud his general sentiments I hope Skivo isn't going to be too dogmatic about our style of play. When it works, as it evidently did against Southend, then it works, and to change would be crazy. But if it ain't working, as it equally clearly wasn't working against Oxford the previous weekend then not to change would be just as self-defeating. As Emerson put it: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Muffwatch: The good folk of Weymouth have found the answer to their self-inflicted wounds. Having been brought to the edge of extinction by one property developer they're now going to be saved by another, you guessed it, property developer! And a property developer whose spokesman is an undischarged bankrupt at that! What could possibly go wrong? You just gotta love the Muff.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

FA Cup R1: Oxford 1 Yeovil 0

The biters were bit. The giant-killers giant-killed. The Glovers poor recent run in the FA Cup continued at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday, Conference leaders Oxford United beating a surprisingly lack-lustre Yeovil side by a single goal to nil. I watched the entire game (for my sins) on a Polish tv stream on the net, so just for a change feel qualified to comment more fully on an away game than I usually do and to give my usual marks to the players. To sum up: We were fairly shit.

The team lined up as follows in a 4-4-1-1 formation:

15. Richard Martin: 7/10 - Possibly my MOTM, apart from letting in Oxford's goal. Made several good saves to keep us in the game otherwise.

2. Craig Alcock: 2/10 - Oh dear. Craig's hate affair with the FA Cup continues unabated. At fault for Oxford's goal when with plenty of time to clear the ball he dithered, called the keeper to come for it when it was his ball to clear, dithered a bit more and then let Jack Midson in to lob the ball over the now oncoming keeper and into the empty net, for one of the softest, stupidest goals it's ever been my displeasure to witness. As Alan Hansen might say, Alcock's indecision was final. Shocking defending, Gary, just shocking. Added to that he seemed incapable of beating the first defender when crossing. You can just imagine the furore on the green room if Nathan Jones had played like that...

5. Steven Caulker: 7/10 - Actually coped with the dangerous James Constable pretty well and kept him quiet most of the time. Possibly my other MOTM.

6. Terrell Forbes: 5/10 - Not one of Terrell's better games. Managed to look like a headless chicken in both penalty boxes, defending and attacking, where he fluffed chances to score and to clear with monotonous regularity.

3. Nathan Jones: 5/10 - Didn't do much wrong before his substitution but on the other hand didn't do much at all, right or wrong.

26. Jonathan Obika: 4/10 - Oh dear. Spent most of the game out of position on the right wing and was as effective there as you might expect for someone who's played most of his career as a left winger/striker. Resembled a fish out of water, in other words. His first touch was abysmal and his passing worse than that, at times it was almost embarrassing to watch. Marginally more effective when moved up front alongside Williams in the second half but contrived to get in the way of one goal-bound MacDonald effort and then shot weakly at the Oxford keeper when in a good position in injury time. Needs to up his game considerably.

25. Shaun MacDonald: 6/10 - Not at his most effective best, but at least tried to put himself about and impose himself on the game, even if he didn't really manage it much of the time.

8. Keiran Murtagh: 3/10 - He's got all the physical attributes to make a successful football league career for himself, but one wonders about his mental strength. Just when we needed an all-action, box-to-box midfielder prepared to run his bollocks off for the cause, Murtagh turned up instead. The only surprise was that he wasn't subbed at any point. Needs to up his game considerably.

11. Andy Welsh: 6/10 - Not his most effective game by any means, but was one of the few players in the green-and-white to provide any kind of attacking threat. Which made his 62nd minute substitution all the more incomprehensible.

13. Ryan Mason: 6/10 - As above, not his most effective game by any means, but was one of the few players in the green-and-white to provide any kind of attacking threat. Somehow became too isolated from the rest of the midfield and from Williams up front and ultimately ran up too many blind alleys. At least he looked like he cared.

9. Sam Williams: 4/10 - I like Sam, I really do. He gives it a go, gets battered from pillar to post and never gives up. But a striker simply has to provide a goal-threat or at least make chances for other people to score, and yesterday (and too often in other games) that just didn't happen. Another who needs to up his game considerably.

7. George O'Callaghan (62 mins for Andy Welsh): 6/10 - In hindsight and fitness permitting should have started instead of Murtagh. By no means the best midfielder in the world nor even the club, but at least got involved and looked like he wanted to be on the pitch.

23. Danny Hutchins (56 mins for Nathan Jones): 6/10 - Good to see Danny back at last and - considering his lack of playing time this season - not looking out of place either. Let's hope there's more to come.

There's been a lot of criticism of Skivo's tactics and team selection on the green room since Saturday, but in my opinion a lot of the criticism can be classed as being wise after the event. Given the players he had available I thought he picked the right team and formation initially, where I think he was at fault was for being too slow to recognise that what we were doing wasn't really working in an attacking sense. Defensively we looked reasonably comfortable for most of the game and in the end Oxford only scored because of one man's error. The match stats show parity between the sides in pretty much all areas, but for me that's where the real disappointment lies. We were the team from 2 leagues higher, we should have stamped our authority on the game and imposed ourselves on our opponents.

Specifically, it was clear from very early on that Obika on the wing wasn't working and that Williams had too much on his plate as the sole striker. Murtagh was having a 'mare in the midfield and the obvious change to make as I saw it was to go to a 4-4-2 replacing Murtagh with O'Callaghan and pushing Mason out wide, with Obika up front alongside Williams. Instead for some reason Skivo took off Welsh, who had been one of our few attacking threats and Murtagh was left to carry on doing what he was doing before - nothing. The midfield became more congested, Ryan Mason was left more isolated and frustrated and with no-one now providing any width now Welsh had been withdrawn we were relying on the fullbacks to get forward which they didn't really do consistently - and when they did get forward the crossing rarely went beyond the first defender. Despite all that we still created enough chances in the last 15 minutes to score, but when your luck's out it's out, and so were we.

It's not the fact that we were knocked out of the cup by a lower league club that was so disappointing, after all we've done it to enough higher league sides over the years to know how easily it can happen. No, it was the manner of the defeat that rankles. We went out with a whimper rather than a bang. It wasn't what we've come to expect from a Terry Skiverton side. Let's hope we see a reaction this coming Saturday at home to Southend, a reaction that will enable everyone to put this defeat behind us. It could be an uncomfortable month otherwise.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Up for the Cup

There was a time once when the likes of Oxford United would have been terrified at the thought of playing Yeovil Town in the 1st round of the FA Cup. That was in our non-league days of course, when the Glovers would regularly beat football league sides. We still regularly beat football league sides these days, but as a football league side ourselves those wins don't have quite the same impact as they used to. The boot is on the other foot now at any rate, and it's ourselves worrying about going to the non-league club and being giant-killed.

It was good to see Skivo talking enthusiastically about playing in the Cup this week. In recent years our record in the competition has been less than inspiring, the nadir reached two years ago when we were dumped out 4-1 by then non-league Torquay United, in a match televised live on BBC1, thus ensuring our humiliation was visible nationwide. The season before that we were also knocked out in the first round, 3-1 at Rushden; and last year we improved by almost 100% inasmuch that we didn't lose in the 1st round. No, we lost in a 1st round replay, a 5-0 thrashing at Stockport. So there's an awful lot of room for improvement in our recent cup record. Fairly or unfairly one always had the vague impression that former manager Russell Slade saw cup matches as something of a distraction from league survival, so it's nice to see Skivo talking tomorrow's game up and to get the feeling that we're actually going to have a go at winning the match.

We've been helped by the news that Tottenham have not only given permission for Steven Caulker, Ryan Mason and Jon Obika to play in the FA Cup, they're also allowing us to keep the players until the end of the season, an excellent piece of news that will allow a modicum of continuity for this season at least. Just as encouraging is the news that Swansea have given permission for Shaun MacDonald to play, which makes one wonder whether a similar announcement regarding his long-term eligibility will be forthcoming shortly. Fingers crossed! Interestingly (well, I found it interesting) Spurs have refused permission for former Glover loanee Andros Townsend to play for Orient in their cup game. Whether this is because the left-winger is closer to Tottenham's first team or is likely to loaned out to a Championship club in the near future is open to conjecture, either way it doesn't help the O's. Probably of more interest and indeed relevance to ourselves is the fact that Reading have refused to allow on-loan keeper Mikkel Anderson to play for Bristol Rovers in their cuptie, opening the way for our own on-loan Reading keeper Alex McCarthy to play for us tomorrow, with any luck. Life was a lot simpler for managers when loan players were rarities rather than the rule, but such are the realities of modern-day football.

Skivo will have to make at least one change tomorrow because of the suspension of JP Kalala. If it was me in charge I would be inclined to bring in Kieran Murtagh to sit alongside Shaun MacDonald in the centre of midfield, and I would go with the 4-4-1-1 formation with Ryan Mason in the hole behind Sam Williams, but the great thing about the squad Skivo has built is that it is flexible and he has options to change things if things aren't quite going to plan.

The bookies can't split the sides in their odds for the game. Oxford are priced at 8/5 for the home win, the draw is 12/5, and a Glovers win at 8/5. My fiver is going on the away win. Running total: -£0.50p.

Extended highlights from the match are being shown on ITV at 10.50pm on Saturday evening. Those who are internet savvy and not going to the game may, if they're lucky, be able to pick up a live stream of the match on Saturday afternoon, not that I would condone such a practise. Oh no.

Just read: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. A dense, multi-layered crime thriller and also the first part of a trilogy. Not an easy book to read inasmuch as the complex storylines and Swedish names and setting take some getting into, but it's well worth persevering with. Unfortunately the author died after completing the final book of the three, so this and two sequels are it. A gripping read anyway and I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Premiership Giants 4 Plucky No-Hopers 0

Too optimistic for my own good again this weekend. After 6 games unbeaten I hoped that the Glovers might come away with a point from Elland Road this weekend and after 42 minutes it was all going to plan. Unfortunately the mighty Leeds sneaked a somewhat lucky goal just before the break and that was that: Three more followed after half-time to make the final score Leeds 4 Yeovil 0, a repeat of last seasons thrashing.

Not that it matters a jot. Leeds are so far ahead of the Glovers in terms of stadium size, fanbase, budget, squad size - you name it, in every measure they dwarf us. One of their hospitality suites holds as many people as the entire Cowlin Stand for god's sake! They have more police and stewards on duty at every home game than our average crowd! Come to that they have more people arrested at every home game than our average crowd! They've probably got more burger vans than our average crowd! Their wage bill for a week is probably as large as ours for the whole year! They are a Premiership club in all but name and have under-achieved appallingly over the last 3 seasons, so to lose to them means nothing in the great scheme of things. Our season will be defined by how we do against the likes of Carlisle, Bristol Rovers, Brentford and Hartlepool; not against a team whose striker is worth more money than our entire club - land included - combined. I just hope that Leeds have their inevitable promotion back to the Championship confirmed before the return fixture at Huish Park on April 6th next year. Their fans are arrogance personified as it is, to have to watch them celebrating promotion at Huish Park would be more than flesh and blood could bear. And the thought of that tax-dodging prick of a chairman of theirs taking the plaudits for having 'guided' Leeds back to the Championship (when it was on his watch that they were relegated to L1 in the first place) on the back of ripping off countless creditors (including the St Johns Ambulance Service) is truly a nauseating one.

Er, where was I? Oh yes, so to lose against Leeds is no big deal. The result means we drop 2 places in the table to 14th, still on 18 points. Next Saturday we have a break from league action when we travel to the Kassam Stadium to meet Oxford United in the 1st round of the FA Cup. We really do need a good cup run this season to boost the finances if nothing else, it might be that a cup run is the difference between us being able to sign (or even re-sign) players in January or not. Let's hope that the gap between the Conference and League One is still as big as I remember it from a few years ago. More on this game later in the week.

Away from the Glovers and in other news former rivals Weymouth are continuing to limp along on the verge of liquidation. I know, you've heard it all before. How many times have innumerable other clubs seemed to be going under only to be rescued by a last-minute deal? Well, the Muff may just be the exception to that general rule. Even would-be administrators appear reluctant to take the club over and when those vultures are fighting shy then you know there are real problems. Never say never, but it really doesn't look good for this present incarnation of Weymouth FC.

And finally, former Glovers manager Russell Slade got the boot from Brighton yesterday. He did it in slightly more conventional style than when he left Huish Park, after a run of bad results rather than four wins in a row. I've no doubt there'll be more than a few Glovers fans pleased to see Slade's downfall, but I'm not one of them. Speak as you find, as they say, and the odd occasion I met Russell left me with a good impression of the man. I felt he did a decent job for us under trying circumstances and deserved far better support from the board than he received, particularly in his last season with us. That's not to say I wish he was still here, I'm very content with the job Skivo is doing and wouldn't want to change that at all. Nevertheless I hope Slade gets himself sorted with a new club soon. It didn't work out for him down at the Withdean, but he's too good a manager to be left permanently on the shelf.