30 September, 2006

Wake me up before Agogo

Forest 3 - 1 Swansea

One of the things that puzzled me was the response from a number of Northampton fans when Colinwood (as named by Stress and Pie) joined. You would expect a newly promoted club to be disappointed to be losing their up-and-coming manager, but a number of fans responded with a "good luck, you're going to need it with him". Today demonstrated why.

We lined up in a 4-4-2:

Curtis Breckin (c) Morgan Perch
Southall Clingan Scolt Commons
Grolt Agogo

On the radio, it was explained that Bennett was dropped to the bench because he was on four bookings. If he picked up another today he would be suspended for next weekend - when we will also be missing Clingan and Agogo due to internationals. Hence Perch slotting in at left-back.

My reading of today's game, once more, seems to differ from the pundits. It was not a game of two halves - at least from a Forest point of view, although maybe from a Swansea viewpoint you could say that. The first half was pretty dire from where I was sitting - Forest looked lethargic and without movement, but Swansea made us look awful. They pressed us right from our back-line, denying us space and making the City Ground pitch look like the M25 at rush-hour, through roadworks, behind a pile-up.

But worst of all was that we looked like we had no desire to keep the football. Pass it sideways. Oh that was a Swansea player. Win it back. Pass it back. Ooops, that was a bit lazy. Win it back. Pass it sideways. A red shirt! Oh, crappy first touch. Win it back again. The crowd were getting restless - Scolt, Grolt and especially Perch getting the worst of the moans. And Perch was awful. Full-back is all about the positioning and he had no idea. It was no surprise when Fallon rose above the static defence to head the ball home, after a series of corners, ultimately conceded by Perch.

And now for a slight digression: the referee was awful. I initially texted Rish to say that Swansea were dirty - but that is unfair. Rather, everything we did seemed to result in a booking (one for dissent after Grolt was pulled to the ground in front of the ref), every shirt-pull and shove in the back by them was waved on. But during the corner that resulted in the goal, Leon Knight, as the ball flew in, dived to the floor clutching his face. The ball sailed past him into the back of the net, Knight stood up and cheered. It's a miracle cure for facial injuries, the Trent End nets. A few minutes later Knight pulled Morgan back, who waved his arms about dangerously (given Knight's delicate cheekbones). It could have been a red for Morgan (there was no actual contact) but luckily the linesman had already flagged for Knight's pulling - given the way the ref was performing I had feared the worst. In the end, Knight got a yellow.

No changes for the second half and we still passed the ball slowly, with very little movement from the Forest players. But, for some reason, Swansea had taken their foot off the pedal. Whether they simply could not keep up the work-rate from the first half, or they thought it was job done, they allowed Forest the space they had denied so effectively in the first half. This resulted in a long passing maneouvre (lots of backwards and sideways play) that somehow found Perch in space at their right-back position. He shot the tamest shot ever and, somehow, their keeper failed to save it. Perch ran to celebrate in front of the empty space between the Trent End and the Main Stand and we were back in the game. And then an almost identical piece of play found Commons unmarked in the same area. His shot was better than Perch's, with the same result. That shut the Swansea fans up.

Now the static and unmoving Holt was replaced by Lester who provided some much needed movement up-front. For a few minutes we put Swansea under real pressure - doing to them what they had done to us in the first half. No time on the ball - Lester even harrying the keeper and forcing him to slice his goal-kicks. Agogo took this as a sign that he no longer needed to run. The bloke next to me said "take him off, he's useless" when Southall played a great through-ball that Agogo sauntered on to - one on one with the keeper and he places it home. Three-one up and Swansea were well and truly silenced. Plus the tannoy played "Wake me up before you go-go". They've been waiting for weeks for that one.

Colinwood then took Commons off, replacing him with Bennett. We switched to a 3-5-2 and suddenly Scolt came to life and Perch looked much more comfortable. A two goal cushion does wonders for your confidence and we played a pacey passing game that tore Swansea apart. Apart from a late chance for Swansea, the only real item of note was when Hughes came on for Agogo and made his mark with a half-volley that went over the bar.

So what does this say about Colinwood? I've yet to see us play anywhere near well for ninety minutes. Today we managed about twenty-five, the other week, thirty. The rest of the time we look awful. No passing, deep defending, little movement. And from the Cobblers' fans reports, this is the norm. According to Commons and Perch, Colinwood gave them a good talking to (one of them used the word roasting, but I always thought that had a totally different meaning in conjunction with footballers). But we need to manage ninety minutes, and soon.

Anyway, I'm not going to moan (or boo - disappointing for the players to get booed off again, at half-time, even if it was awful). We turned the game around, we played some decent stuff for a while, Clingan, Southall, Breckin, Curtis and Morgan were all improved from recent performances and we are three points clear. Top of the league and havin' a laugh.

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