Date: 5th December 2010 at 11:52am
Written by:

I had set my alarm clock to ring at 7.30 a.m. yesterday but it must have gone off earlier because it was pitch black outside. Yet another false dawn … and so it proved.

Even my wife was sympathetic. She listened patiently while I berated the team, and passed me a bottle of beer. To indicate solidarity, she asked me who was to blame, adding (perceptively, I thought) that in her experience as a teacher an effective head made the difference. This morning I actually got breakfast in bed: fortunately for our marriage, without the Sunday papers.

Pathetically, I dared to countenance the possibility that this time our fortunes might have changed. Indeed, I was so impatient for the kick-off that to kill time I volunteered to brave the ice and snow and do the Sainsbury`s shopping run by myself. Then, I hoovered the house from top to bottom (though I did it the other way round: perhaps that`s why my wife irritatingly kept pointing out things I had missed). Even so, she was so impressed that she took a picture of me hoovering the stairs and sent it to our daughter in Glasgow (who collapsed in astonishment).

And it could have been so different. Had we scored in that flurry of shots at five minutes, we might have won. We had clear-cut chances late on in the game too. And what about the injuries? Ohmygod, I am sounding like our manager, the master of would`ves and should`ves. If the ball hits the crossbar or is pushed away by the goalkeeper, that`s not bad luck, that`s poor placement.

However, it`s not really the fault of the attackers (I`m almost as sorry for Doyle as I am for myself). Yesterday`s performance forcibly reminded me that we are in this predicament because of the frailty of our defence. It has been ever thus but, yesterday, the defence as a whole was particularly dreadful. Even MM admitted it, though continuing to insist that the goals were due to isolated slip-ups. Rubbish! The players were utterly incapable of defending against set-pieces, were turned at will and caused me palpitations every time a long ball came through the middle. The team sheet was interesting too. If MM had decided to get the Strictly Come Dancing T.V. audience to select the players, he might have told us.

What can we do? Getting Craddock fit again will be a start, as he brings authority to central defence and coaxes a better performance out of his partner. Chopping and changing the pairing does not help either. It`s been a feature of the season, though yesterday it reached its nadir: if I recall correctly, we had three different partnerships. Taking the overview, circumstances have sometimes dictated the choice and, of course, we are stuck with the players we have. Nonetheless, one could be forgiven for assuming that, as we have a former international defender as a manager, our back line would at least be well-drilled and capable of functioning effectively. Even Blackpool managed to act as a cohesive unit against us. Surely, our defence is in such a sorry state that we must qualify for an emergency loan outside the transfer window!

As the latest match proved, Berra is just not good enough and, typically, had to resort to fouling the opposition. It did not take him long to find a place in the referee`s book. Incidentally, I would forego a settled pairing if it meant that he was one of them. Ann Widdecombe displays better footwork and she is more difficult to get round! At the moment, Mouyokolo isn`t the answer either, being at least partly at fault for both of the first two goals. Zubar looked uncomfortable in the middle too. What chance is there of picking up Lescott on loan in January? As we stand at the moment, he is the only defender of quality who would want to join us. Lescott and Craddock: that just might do it. If we do not sort out the problem – and the one at left back- we are doomed. If this happens, at least we will have time to groom the youngsters, Mouyokolo and Stearman, in preparation for our return to the top flight.

I`ll be at the game next Sunday, hoping that yesterday`s debacle will concentrate minds and lead to an improvement, just as a similar disaster did last year. Damn! That was the Birmingham match.