ICE STATION CAT
Mickey Blue Eyes
Christ, but it was cold on Saturday, frigid as a witch's tit, real thermals and wooly-hat weather. Moreover, it was the day after the Graeme Sharp night before so celebrants' blood ran more than a little thin. The questions were whether we could warm ourselves up with an exhilarating winter display against the plastic Brummies, would our strikers show up and would Jack Rodwell get another run out. We were still without Felli's impression of a burst couch so it was once again make-do-and-mend in midfield, where John Heitinga kept his ersatz place. The Yak and Vic were on together from the start. No Phil Neville, always a bad sign for defensive organisation and leadership.
After ten minutes and a couple of missed chances Plewsy said, "We'll murder these." And I must admit that's how I felt. Well, it didn't last long. Albion had three, maybe four, attacks in the first half and scored from a very badly defended corner after a quarter of an hour and a free kick ten minutes later that Tim Howard should have dealt better with. Meanwhile, our general play descended to the level of the Newcastle game. Five minutes before half time Tim Cahill got one back with a typical superb header that screamed in from about ten metres. However, it couldn't disguise the mess in the centre of the field. Heitinga, no midfield player as we all know, was simply awful - so bad, at times it looked almost deliberate - but Mikky wasn't far behind him; I don't know what's wrong with the Best Little Spaniard We Know but I hope he gets it sorted soon whatever it is. I only hope it is a lack of Felli and Jack or slow recovery from injury. Whatever, the result was yet again a centre midfield you could drive a bus through. Apart from the first ten minutes our game just worsened by the second, the ball given away, left, right and centre. The plastic Brummies weren't much better but they did have some cohesion and got more confident as the game went on and had short phases of dominating the centre of the field. Steven Pienaar did his level best to compensate as he also switched wings, but he was very much on his own.
The second half was more encouraging, though that's a bit like saying the north east of England has been warmer than the Cairngorms. We had a measure of bad luck too. Ominously, the foul count began to go up within minutes of the restart as Our Boys responded to a presumed half-time arse-scorching in the dressing room. Ten minutes into the half Moyesy had mercy on us all by doing the inevitable and substituting Here's Johnny with Jermaine Beckford and The Yak with Louis Saha - so now he had played all his strikers cards. Immediately Becks broke through left of centre and missed a one-on-one with the 'keeper. A couple of minutes later, a Brummy Boot Boy charged straight into the face of Bainsey during an attack at the left angle of the penalty area and dropped him stone cold. The referee did nothing though he was only two metres away and staring straight at it. The ball got cleared to our left and ended up in a melee of players right in front of the dug out, where Mikky got a deserved red card for being sucker enough to retaliate. Oh well, that's it, isn't it, down to ten fucking men and freezing into the bargain.
Two minutes later Moyesy brought on Jack The Lad for Vic and immediately team shape looked better. So much so, it still looked like it was eleven aside. But I knew if we didn't get a quick one the last twenty minutes would be hard. Louis began winning headers and laying them off to Becks, who promptly missed two clear chances - one a volley that must have altered the domestic architecture of City Road.
Then a quarter hour from time they got a deflating third goal against the run of play and that was that, really. Five minutes from the end Sylvain Distin oggied to put a cap on it. So there we are, back in the shit at the wrong end of the table again.
Not much consolation in this one, except for the return of Jack Rodwell. Our three best players were Steven Pienaar, Sylvain Distin and Tony Hibbert, though Tony spoiled his game by standing off their man too long for the third goal. What this game showed is the foolishness of those who whine about bringing the strikers on.......well, Moyesy tried them all in this match and they all failed to deliver when they were given plenty of time to show what they could do. Not that midfield or defence were much better. Jags had another mediocre game by his own standards. But the real problem is in midfield. Having lost Felli for three after a stupid sending off, now we lose Mikky for the same reason - and just as Jack's on his way back. No wonder Plewsy said after this one, "I'm gonna buy a cat just so's I can volley the fuckn thing all over our road." Seems like a good idea to me.