Search This Blog

Monday, 13 December 2010

L1: Colchester 0 Yeovil 0

All Graft and no Craft - by Cruncher

A train journey into London followed by another out of it is often more chore than pleasure, but my first trip to Colchester's new(ish) stadium was straightforward and pleasant enough, despite the hordes on their annual pilgrimage to Selfridges and Hamleys and the like.

I met two away-shirted Yeovil lads to whom I was now going to be useful with directions to the shuttle bus bay, except they mysteriously weren't safely zipped-in-pocket like I would have bet a tenner that they were. Anyhow, no problem, we'd just ask the blue-and-white striped guy in front. Except he didn't have a clue and was hoping we could tell him, as he told us with American accent. Amazingly, he had in fact crossed the water to watch his chosen team for the first-ever time. The young Glovers had cracked it on their mobile internet just as the Big Yellow Warehouse blocked the view and we realised we had stumbled our way to the bus.

The friendliness on the bus signalled how it was to be at the ground, right through to the ticket office staff and stewards, and the few Colchester fans I had a brief word with. When I asked the American guy to account for his strange hobby (he could have chosen one of the Big Four or anyone to follow) he explained that it was the result of some serious drinking with Brits when stationed in Germany, and as far as he was concerned a drunken pledge is as good as any - he was stuck with his choice and he wasn't budging. We all knew what that was like, but extra kudos to him for walking madly with eyes open into what chooses us.

Frost and snow had at last made way for football. The modern stadium - with one end closed and empty seats aplenty with a good distance between the pitch and the stands - was a good contrast with the old Layer Road ground holding supporters packed in like sardines close to the action. Conditions were in fact as perfect as you could expect for a mid-winter football match, a dry clear day with the surface in very good nick. The scene was set to cure our mid-winter blues, my hope was that the enforced break had enabled the squad and management to talk through their woes and come up with some answers. The specific answers I was looking for were to benefit the good play we were capable of by putting away our chances and cutting out the lapses in defence.

Terry Skiverton though opted for a change of plan to a blunt but resolute 4-5-1, with both Sam Williams and Adam Philip confined to the bench to provide for a three-man central wall (Shaun MacDonald, Jean-Paul Kalala and Luke Ayling) flanked by Andrew Williams and Ivan Sproule, with the shadow-chasing job unsurprisingly given to Dean Bowditch. Yeovil's season to-date had seen either dismal failure after a woeful performance, or glorious failure despite good open play. This display hardly had a whiff of invention, one-touch flowing moves or sustained attacking intent. What it did have, and in bucketfuls, was a Yeovil determined not to be brittle against their loftier opponents as they set their stall out to battle their way to a result rather than bombard and create.

The first half was as even and as uneventful as they come, with the slight difference that the Colchester centre-backs were having a picnic clearing under no pressure whatsoever. Shaun MacDonald provided an odd moment or two of spark alongside his good tackling and covering play, with Nathan Smith also doing well including having our only serious effort on goal with a long range shot that was narrowly off-target. Paul Huntington too had done well, but unfortunately injured his ribs when making an urgent clearance. Young Tom Parkes came on for his debut and looked the part from the word go, quickly tackling Kayode Odejayi on a rare threatening surge forward and then out-jumping him for the ball. An amazing physical presence for his age with an assured air; just on this showing he seems to have a good future ahead.

Overall though, it was no spectacle. Colchester also looked blunt going forward, but in Odejayi they were holding the ball up at times whereas the Yeovil formation didn't allow for their normal pass and move - it was either head-tennis or hoof and chase, and then repeat it all again. But hearts and minds were strong, and they were sternly matching the huffing and puffing of the higher-placed home team who were certainly not showing any serious potential to rip though the Yeovil defensive layers.

After consecutive losses we ought to have felt happy with the prospect of grinding our way to a result, but with the continued ineffectiveness of the Colchester attack in the second half it did seem that perhaps we should have reverted to the usual 4-4-2. Especially, I thought, when a knock forced Bowditch to be subbed by Adam Philip - too much too ask for the youngster to be the sole man up front, though to his credit he gave it a good go. A Colchester fan had told me that they had been getting results but not performing well - this match seemed to prove that.

I had just thought that we had not made a lapse at the back when, on cue, Adam Virgo duly obliged by gifting Odejayi space in the box. Happily though, it wasn't punished as John Sullivan was forced into his one serious save of the match and what a sensational save it was, stretching to tip the close-range effort on to his bar. I have for a while now supposed that Virgo might be accountable for a fair few of these lapses, and although he does good work in between I think it might be a key point.

Sam Williams at last entered the fray. With two up front, we now had options and at last got forward a bit more. Nathan Smith cropped up on the right wing and forced a good save out of Ben Williams, Andy Williams had a strong shot closed down just in time. And in the fourth minute of injury time Sam Williams set Adam Philip on a positive run in on goal only for keeper Williams to block his effort as the away support anticipated a joyful end to the game. The ball rebounded to Sam Williams who had to stretch for his first touch to gather the ball, and the second whistled just agonisingly wide of the left post as he got his shot in before being closed down, to add to the long list of 'if only' moments for this season.

A useful point but a deep feeling of there were three for the taking against an unadventurous Colchester side, who ironically on that performance had elevated themselves into the top-six. The Yeovil plan on the day had kept quiet a number of players who had caused us problems in the past, but I couldn't help but feel that maybe we had sold ourselves short by rejecting our normal flowing strategy for this game. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing, and this was debated amongst a million other things by a small crew of us on the train.

The conclusion has to be that it is now up to home form to at last become decent to make this weekend's result an effective one in our quest to survive. We have to hope that the injuries picked up by Bowditch, Huntington and Virgo are not serious. As for formations, I hope that the 4-5-1 was a short-term fix only. Despite the very admirable steel and application shown in this defensive performance, it was a weak Colchester effort that allowed us to get away with it. Others won't be so helpful, and in any case we need wins (and now even more so that we are bottom after fellow strugglers all won) and for that we need a front-line, options when in possession and an attacking intent - at home at least.


No comments:

Post a Comment