Date:Saturday August 31 2013
31/08/2013 - 15:00
I must confess to being a little bit disappointed at still being able to write a match report on today`s game, as I was very much hoping to have erased a woeful afternoon from my memory already. Sadly, it`s all still crystal clear.
It`s not often you lose 1-0 away to one of the favourites for promotion one week, name an unchanged team the next, and it raises the eyebrows of most in the ground. But today Dean Smith fell into the trap of ignoring everything his eyes had told him about the positive performances of Andy Taylor, Nicky Featherstone and Romaine Sawyers at Stoke in midweek, and blindly reverted to type.
The problem though with doing the same things is you inevitably end up with the same results. This meant that for all the tippy tappy football, there was very little creativity (the same as last week), hardly any shots (the same as last week), no goals (the same as last week) and no points (the same as last week). And today, even the 'tippy tappy` football deserted us in large parts as we were, to put it bluntly, just plain rubbish.
I`ve been quietly impressed with Mal Benning so far this season. Ok, he hasn`t exactly set the world alight, but he has done his job well. He`s filled in well for Andy Taylor without really looking out of place. Today however he looked less like a fish out of water, and more like a fish up a tree.
He was on the wrong end of a verbal volley from O`Donnell after just 8 minutes when he ignored a clear shout of 'LEAVE IT!` and tapped it out for an unnecessary corner.
It got progressively worse from there as his passes were going astray, his balance was desserting him and he generally played like he`d been abducted by aliens overnight, and replaced with a doppelganger who had never seen a game of football in his life before.
He wasn`t the only one having a bad game though. Baxandale was anonymous, Mantom couldn`t find his range, and Westcarr was doing his best to illustrate the need for us to sign a striker. Quite why Deano thought it was a clever idea to swap Hemmings and Baxendale over, thus exposing Benning even more, is anyone`s guess. Maybe he was trying to limit our problems to the one side of the pitch.
Had Preston been any good they`d have been ahead long before they were. The fact that they weren`t made the performance even more frustrating because the visitors weren`t really having to work for it. They were being handed it on a plate. This was illustrated beautifully by the opening goal which would have been comical if you were a neutral fan watching the game on the tele. A free kick floated in from our left was left by everyone, including O`Donnell to drift, into the net pretty much in its own time.
The only real hope was that once half time arrived Deano would get the players in the dressing room, throw a few tea cups, make a couple of changes, and generally send us out for the second half all guns blazing.
He didn`t. And the result was Preston having two attempts on goal in the opening minute, the best of which saw Kevin Davies head over when he really should have scored, with O`Donnell flapping.
Preston finally doubled the lead in the 55th minute when the visitors right winger skipeed inside Mal Benning like he wasn`t there, to fire in left footed. Then, just to add insulted to injury, Benning miscontroled in the area, saw the ball bounce up off his foot, onto his arm, and just as the ref looked like blowing for a penalty, Preston saved him the bother by tapping in their third and killing the game.
Sawyers, Featherstone and Taylor were introuduced for Hemmings, Westcarr and Benning respectively. I`m not sure what was more inevitable, Benning being dragged off or the reception he got when his number went up. For all his heroics, he didn`t deserve that. He`s not a bad player and he will come again, but he certainly needs resting for a while.
For the final quarter of the game we did look mildly more dangerous, but Preston had clearly taken their foot off the gas so clinging to this as a positive really would be clutching at straws. We did however manage a shot on target, which was a skill that had desserted us for the opening ¾ of the game.
Next up, Wolves away in the JPT on Tuesday. If anyone was worried before today that we might throw in our worst performance of the season against them, and those fears have been eased at least. Playing worse than today really will take some doing.
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Date:Saturday August 31 2013
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