Last week, the local free rag, the Advertiser, in a classic burying it’s head in the sand moment, referred to the Peterborough defeat as “one of those times you just come up against a better team”. It wasn’t, of course. It was a culmination of poor team selection, abysmal tactics and bizarre substitutions. This week’s shambolic performance against a far, far poorer outfit in Hartlepool proved the point even further, with as gutless a surrender as any seen under P**l Me***n
What made it worse, of course, was that this happened on a day where we were supposed to be attracting in the fans of the future, with a “Chuckery Day”. Quite frankly, I think we probably ensured that none of them will ever come back.
Mullen’s first game in charge as caretaker was a home game against Hartlepool, when he was totally out thought by Danny Wilson in the second half. Yesterday was a repeat, except the opposition went the whole hog and won instead of drawing.
The main reason was the complete absence of a midfield, both in the first half, when we were completely bossing the worst looking team I have seen up here this season, but failed to capitalise on the great start and the possession, and in the second half, when all four of them disappeared completely when ‘Pools stopped trying to find Kyle with every ball and started passing it instead. The defence was, organisationally, a complete shambles, witnessed by it, yet again, being drawn over to one side, leaving, this time, Weston trying to mark two players. It also wasn’t helped by Roberts (yet again) losing a striker completely for a free header and him heading a cross directly to an unmarked left winger.
In general, however, I have to agree completely with Plastic Hawk:
My God – that was an absolutely shambolic display tactically. Hartlepool were rubbish and gifted us a two goal lead. We really should have gone on to win more comfortably, but instead contrived to throw it away.
Selection was a joke today: the midfield made me laugh when I heard it before the game, all three subs were totally wrong and it’s simply inexcusable for a professional side to throw a two goal lead away so late in the game (even to draw, let alone to lose).
Can someone tell me what Palmer actually does except take corners? He’s a shocking full back at League 1 level and didn’t look to offer anything at all on the wing today. Yet he seems to be immune from being dropped or subbed. He was shifted into midfield today when Ishmel deserved a chance to prove himself – and then moved back to full back when Ishmel eventually came on.
Is Troy Deeney really our best option on the right? If so, then why? The lad is a raw, young centre forward. He surely can’t have been pencilled in even to be the second choice in that position at the start of the season. What’s happened to the players who should have been ahead of them?
Why leave Jabo on when we’re 2-0 up at half time, he’s not trained for most of the week and we have a ready-made replacement on the wing? We didn’t need three strikers on the pitch second half. He should have put Bradley on, shifted Deeney up front and Taundry to the right flank (where you know he’ll support Weston and keep possession for the side). We must have known that Hartlepool would come out all guns blazing, yet we did nothing at all to prepare for that.
Why take Weston off? Bring Bradley on by all means, but just take a central midfielder off. Weston is a far better right back than RT, especially in the air, so leave him there – don’t haul him off. If anyone can suggest one sensible reason (long throws isn’t sensible) for preferring Taundry to Weston then I’d be interested to know what they are.
Why take Deeney off for Nicholls at 2-1? Deeney is better defensively than Nicholls and he’s a factor from set pieces at both ends. The winning goal came from a header on the far post after the manager had removed two players who are strong in the air from our right flank and replaced them with dwarves.
Why leave Ishmel standing kitted up and ready to go in the dug out for five minutes when time is running out? There were several chances to get him on sooner, but it was left until there was barely any time at all left. Did he even touch the ball?
Why have we only got two senior centre backs? Roberts is generally solid, but incredibly gaffe prone. Yet we can’t take him out because Smith is far too inexperienced.
Why don’t we have a sensible option to Hughes in central midfield (one that can actually have an impact on the game, rather than running around a lot, tackling anything that moves but generally being passed by by the game)? Remember Hughes was signed incredibly late – so what was the plan if he’d chosen someone else.
All managers have “favourites” – it’s inevitable as everyone sees players differently. But not only are Mullen’s favourites (Palmer, Taundry, Sansara) weaker than the players who he has routinely preferred them over (Weston, Boertien, Bradley), but he’s also preferred to shuffle several players around just to accommodate a place on the pitch for Palmer. Further, Weston and Boertien especially are model pros with experience at a higher level – exactly the players that he ought to be looking at to be leaders, not alienating by mucking them about.
Why did our pre-season leave us looking like a pub team for the first few games of the season? I’m still not convinced that fitness is sorted. We take a long time to get going (admittedly today was an exception with the early goals) and don’t tend to finish strongly either. Do we do anything other than practice set pieces in training?
All of the above are the responsibility of the manager. Mullen appears to be a good motivator (we’ve got a reaction after every defeat so far this season – and the first half today was no exception). But that’s not enough. To be a manager you need some degree of tactical awareness. So far I’m yet to see that JM has this. We always set up the same way, we don’t make game changing subs (either to hold a lead or to save a game we’re losing) and we don’t react to the opposition’s changes.
All in all, a complete and utter shambles, to which I’d add that, if we carry on like this, I’d be more inclined to look at the bottom of the table than the top.