Wednesday 31 October 2012

Catching up

Before we get down to business, an apology.
Due to a combination of laziness and lack of time, this blog has been neglected, and judging by a few messages on Twitter and comments in the bar before and after games, some of you have missed it.
Well, you poor, misguided souls, I have finally sat down and will try to get things back on track.
The last post was after the 1-1 draw at Wycombe, where we played very well, and should have taken the win against a very poor Chairboys side who, since then, have sacked boss Gary Waddock and have Gareth Ainsworth in temporary charge.
We have played 11 games since that afternoon in Buckinghamshire, and I am not going to catch up on each game in the detail I have done in the past - I will just give a little precis of each one (just hope I can remember them all...)
The first was the home game with Southend, which ended in a 3-1 home defeat, thanks mainly to more suspect defending, especially from set-pieces.
It all started well enough with a goal from Jermaine McGlashan and all seemed well with the world, until we got the shotgun out and proceeded to fire it at our own feet. Repeatedly.
As half-time approached and Yatesy was preparing a 'you've all done very well' team-talk, Southend turned the game round in the shape of about 10 minutes.
Britt Assombalonga, one of the best loan signings this season in League Two (no bias here as he is a Watford player, it's true...), skinned Keith Lowe and after a bit of pinball around the box Sean Clohessy, who scores about as often as a monk in a brothel, fired in the equaliser.
Then, our defence, disintegrated for the second home game running after the Accrington debacle.
Ryan Cresswell had a free header from a corner which hit the post and Assombalonga tapped in the second, then Mark Phillips had the freedom of Gloucestershire to make it three,
That was the end of that, but in true footballing cliche heaven, we had a game the following Tuesday to make amends.
It was against Oxford, and we were lifted by the return of Alan Bennett from injury, and he made a big difference, with Steve Elliott looking much happier with his partner in crime next to him.
We did look much more solid, and scored two cracking goals through Darren Carter - his first since signing for us - and Shaun Harrad's fifth of the season (and as it turns out, his last goal...).
Peter Leven did convert a penalty after Bennett fouled James Constable, but this was our first Tuesday win since we beat Stockport in March 2011. Yes it's true...
Next stop was York and if I am being honest it wasn't the greatest game, finishing 0-0, but it was a big day for me - my first 90-minute commentary on BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

After winning on a Tuesday, the next task was to win on a Friday, and that was executed rather easily, if I am being honest, when we saw off Morecambe 2-0.
Our new deadly goalscoring machine Darren Carter got them both and either end of the match - after two minutes and two minutes into stoppage time.
Then we moved on to Bristol Rovers, and it was a great night at the Mem and Chris Zebroski continued his run of goals against old clubs after netting at Torquay with the winner - which was exactly what we deserved.
Fleetwood were next - and what an incident-packed game this one was.
We started very well, but fell behind at half-time with David Ball's scrambled goal - but credit to Yatesy as he changed the system to 4-4-2 and with it came a brilliant turnaround.
Shaun Harrad and Jeff Goulding came on, and Jeff equalised from a corner, then Sido Jombati powered in a near-post header from a Billy Jones corner for 2-1.
I have to say that Fleetwood were the niggliest, nastiest team we have come across this season, and it erupted after Junior Brown - their one outstanding player - equalised in the 92nd minute.
Jamie McGuire then tried to provoke Steve Elliott by barging him and celebrating in his face, but Alan Bennett took the bait and confronted him, being shown a red card.
McGuire was a nasty individual for his needless reaction to the equaliser, but Benno should have known better, and he has had to serve his time.
It meant three games out for him so soon after coming back from injury, and gave Keith Lowe a chance to come back into the side, but he played at right back when Oxford came back in the JPT.
We led twice, but once again defensive frailities cost us dear - although it must be said I am not exactly heartbroken that we have gone out.
After Jeff Goulding scored a much-needed goal against Fleetwood, it was Darryl Duffy's turn to end a long run without a goal, and it was a superb finish.
But we gifted a goal to Tom Craddock before Keith Lowe smashed us back in front again - only for us to give it all away again.
Harry Worley got a free header at the far post to equalise, then James Constable and Leven's penalty ended our Wembley dreams... if we had any in the first place.
More importantly, it was the first game of Benno's three-match ban, and the other two were tough-looking games at AFC Wimbledon and Bradford.
At Wimbledon, we played well and fully deserved our win. Marlon Pack smashed in the first and Kaid Mohamed headed in the second and - despite some good crosses and problems caused by our summer transfer target Byron Harrison, who got a late goal - we came away with the win.
It was another success against a bottom half of the table side, and we faced a sterner test at Bradford, and it was another stirring 90 minutes.
We led through a penalty, won by Jermaine and converted by Marlon, then Jermaine should have had another - which was more stonewall than the one we got (hope you are keeping up here).
Nakhi Wells then dived to try and win one back as the 10,000 Bradford fans finally woke up and tried to get their side back into the game.
He wasn't booked, but was soon after for clattering into Marlon - that should have been a second yellow, but in true Ronald Koeman style he was still on the pitch to convert the penalty Bradford finally got in first-half stoppage time.
It was given away by Sido, who fell over then palmed the ball off Craig Forsyth's foot for some reason, and that turned the game against us.
Wells scored again and James Meredith added a third, then Darryl was booked for diving late on, with a fall nowhere near as ridiculous as the one Wells was allowed to get away with unpunished.
So we went down 3-1 - a defeat which is our only one in the League since Southend after we took six out of six from the Devon double against Plymouth and Exeter (never in doubt, as we usually do beat Devon clubs at home!).
Now, against Plymouth I felt we were a bit fortunate, a view not shared by Yatesy in his pre-match interview for the Exeter game, where we mentioned his perceived 'negativity' of the Robins Player coverage of that game.
We fell behind to Conor Hourihane's goal, but fought back to win with Billy Jones set-pieces being headed in by Steve Elliott and Kaid Mohamed.
Happy days that we got the win, but Plymouth had two penalty shouts, missed an open goal at the death and, when we went to 4-4-2 for much of the second half, had a lot of possession and several chances.
Yatesy went back to his 4-2-3-1 later on and we won the control back, but unlike the Fleetwood game the move to 4-4-2 did not seem to work.
The game also saw yellow cards for Sido and Russ Penn, their fifth of the season, so they sat out against Exeter - not that it made much difference.
Yatesy had been looking for a loanee, and in came Lawson D'Ath from Reading, with Keith Lowe at right back, and Darryl Duffy given his first league start.
The first half was even, but once D'Ath finished off a superb move after a one-two with Darryl, the result was never in doubt.
Unlikely hero Lowe added the other two finishing off headers from Steve Elliott from a combined distance of about three yards, all of which was adequate punishment for Exeter boss Paul Tisdale's decision to where purple cords on the touchline, and a very silly hat to top it all off.
The game was also notable for Joe Hanks' league debut. The 17 year old midfielder has been around the first team squad for much of the season, and got his chance with 10 minutes to go - let's hope it is the first of many games for the teenager.
As if that wasn't enough of a shock, Yatesy deemed that 3-0 was a big enough lead for him to risk getting Danny Andrew out of the ice box he has been in for the best part of a year and let him loose on the pitch.
So that's brought things up to date, and we go into the break for the FA Cup this weekend sitting in third place - and still some fans don't think we have hit top gear.
If that's the case then we have some treats in store in the coming weeks and months - hopefully starting after the Cup tie with our nesxt League game at Gillingham, now managed by... oh you know... whatsisname...

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