Saturday, December 05, 2009

Shrimp Baiting

With some of South East London's finest having assured me of my Vauxhall Corsa's street cred, I proudly brought it to The Valley instead of taking the train.

I'm not sure that the kidz in da 'hood are driving the 5-door version, but at least I now understand why their cars make so much damned noise. Unless the rev counter is above 5,000 rpm, the bloody thing doesn't move.

With the spasms slowly wearing off from excessive gear changes, I took my seat in the West Stand. Fraser Richardson was a surprise inclusion (although he only lasted a half), whilst I had correctly guessed that Therry Racon would replace Jose Semedo in midfield.

If the sign of a good side is winning without playing well, then we must be dead certs for promotion on this performance. It was uninspiring stuff, and I'd be lying if I said I'd enjoyed it.

Strangely perhaps, we could have been backed before the game to win League One at longer odds than those available pre-season, despite averaging more than two points per game.

The reason is obviously the form of Leeds, although their lunchtime draw at home will have provided a useful prematch boost for the Addicks.

The strike pairing of Deon Burton and David Mooney (in place since the MK Dons fixture) has produced 13 points from a possible 15, and has certainly turned around our fortunes.

However based on this performance at least, it has turned us into a rather unattractive proposition, at least compared to some of the passing football apparent during the opening six games.

I suspect that Phil Parkinson hasn't instructed the team to play more long balls, but at this level the players lack the technical ability not to resort to them. This is especially the case when they know the front two are capable in the air.

The first half was scrappy, but compared to the dire second half performance we were like the Brazil team from 1970.

Lloyd Sam had produced an excellent save, before Lee Barnard was foiled superbly by Rob Elliot's left leg when a goal seemed a certainty. The chance had been created after Grant Basey's lack of pace had been exploited in frankly humiliating fashion.

Sam was instrumental in the goal too. An Addicks free-kick had only been half-cleared and ended up at the winger's feet on the right flank.

He shaped to move to his favoured right foot, but confused two defenders by working the ball to his weaker left, delivering a pinpoint cross which Burton headed home through the keeper's legs.

Southend presented a clear and present threat mainly from left-footed set-piece delivery from full-back, Scott Malone. The rest of their approach play was as patchy as ours however, and rarely did they work the ball into feet in dangerous positions.

Elliot Omozusi replaced Richardson at half-time, but that change alone could not explain the total lack of invention and drive during the entire second period.

If Southend had lifted their game just a notch or two, then a draw or more was there for the taking. Instead willed on by 1,500 or so fans who spent the entire afternoon baiting Nicky Bailey, the Shrimpers continued to offer little in the final third.

With the clock ticking towards the 90th minute, I wasn't sure whether I'd die first of cold or boredom but either way I wanted to get the hell out of there. It was a good decision; the score remained 1-0 and I made it home by 6pm.

Here are my match ratings:

Elliot 6: a brilliant first-half save, but dodgy handling on more than one occasion;
Richardson 5: largely anonymous and rarely forged forward; possibly not fully fit;
Basey 6: a terrfic attitude but ultimately a limited player;
Dailly 7: marshalled his defence towards another clean sheet;
Sodje S. 6: he seems to transition from athletic defender to headless chicken with alarming regularity; luckily no harm done today;
Bailey 6: always eagerly involved but in a deeper role than normal;
Racon 5: seems to have taken several steps backward after a sparkling start to the season;
Sam 8: too good for League One in my view, and the transfer rumours are no surprise;
Wagstaff 6: began the game well but faded badly; like so many others who've fulfilled that role, he is not a natural left-footer;
Burton 7: enjoying the twilight of his career up against defenders who can't deal with his clever movement and touches;
Mooney 6: a little unlucky to be withdrawn; not entirely clear what he adds, especially alongside Burton (but results suggest plenty);
Omozusi 5: did little of note in a shocking second half;
Spring 6: must have felt hard done by not to start, especially given Racon's uninspiring display - a more natural holding midfielder;
Sodje A 4: I don't recall him touching the ball, but given he was on the field for thirty minutes I presume he must have done.


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