Thursday, 4 November 2010

Das Bot

Our lovely new yellow submarine seems to have sprung a leak.
Many leaks.

The warning signs have been there for weeks: Aldershot, Macclesfield, even the home win against Northampton, but the flood gates really opened against Bradford and Torquay did nothing to dispel my fears that the rot has started to set in.

Unlike many of the crowd at the Northampton game I thought we were lucky to get away with three points. A commanding Jake Wright second-half performance, a great Payne freekick and a soft penalty papered over the cracks that Worley, Purkiss, Tonkin and Hall left in our defense throughout the game. We keep hearing that they are 'young lads', inexperienced at this level and the odd error is to be expected. But week after week now we are seeing the same players making the same poor decisions, failing to communicate with or support each other, failing to closedown, failing to distribute properly and failing to focus and concentrate the whole 90 minutes.

It would actually be nice if some of these players managed to focus and concentrate for even 45 minutes a game - it would at least be an improvement on what we are getting right now.

Without Jake Wright we are lightweight at the back. During the Northampton game he was having to talk to the rest of the back four incessantly and clearly wasn't happy with their positioning or work rate. That second half we were a one man team and the 3-1 result could easily have finished the other way if Wright hadn't have shaken off his lack of match fitness and upped his game. Creighton's introduction was also a blessing.

I feared for us at Bradford and although Creighton's first yellow was a little harsh, the second - and his sending off - was justified. Quite why Wright then reacted as he did to the elbow flung at him to secure his own straight red, I do not know. The game effectively already lost at that stage at that moment became a disaster, as with Wright out for three games we are sitting ducks.

During a pre-match drink before Tuesday night's Torquay game I expressed my feeling that Worley and Franks are not up to the task. My first impression of Worley on his debut was a positive one. But as the games have gone on his decision-making has become increasingly questionable and without Wright alongside him to continuously mentor and guide, he looks a liability right now. Franks has been sporadically good, but like many of his team mates he seems inconsistent. Tonkin - who should be a vessel of experience - is likewise all over the place since coming back into the side. Whether it is a lack of confidence or a niggle, with Tonkin unforced-errors directly behind at least two of our recently conceded goals, why hasn't Wilder turned to the very capable Kinniburgh?

And so I was unfortunately proved right... An early own goal from Batt - who did his best to try and get a head to a poorly-marked freekick - set the scene for another comedy of errors at the back. Even with 10 men for 75 minutes, Torquay showed more discipline, a higher work rate and unbelievably, more efficiency and effectiveness upfront.

What are Hall and Craddock currently doing on the park?!

Hall fails to contribute anything positive as far as I can see: nothing going forward and certainly nothing on the back foot. He doesn't track back. He doesn't win challenges. Despite his height he fails to win any aerial balls. Poor Heslop looked knackered second half - and with no support from Hall who can blame him?! Why is Bulman out on loan at Crawley when his presence on the pitch instead of Hall would immediately strengthen our core and protect our back four? Has Wilder forgotten the old saying that 'you build from the back'?

And Craddock... what an anonymous figure he is. Apart from a couple of late goals and a soft penalty kick what has he contributed since his arrival? His support of Constable is poor. His link play is poor. He seems half a yard off the pace at times. Nobody but Wilder seems to know why he is continuously getting the nod ahead of Midson.

Midson might not be the best player on the planet but at least he puts in a graft and his performances were improving game after game until he got benched in favour of the new boy. Perhaps Wilder has also forgotten that classic saying 'you defend from the front'? I'd rather have Midson's strength, height, ability to hold the ball up and willingness to get involved alongside Constable at present, particularly as so much of our Plan A football seems to be route one hoofing.

The callers to Radio Oxford post-Torquay bemoaned the lack of finishing as our problem. Wilder said the same. It may be true that Constable's miss should and could have changed the course of the match for us. But it is also true that with 4 or 5 wonder saves from our MOTM keeper Clarke we could easily have been looking down the barrel of another 5-0 defeat. At home. Against ten men!

And that should tell you everything: You don't lose games 5-0, or 2-0 at home versus 10 men, due to poor finishing. You lose these games due to atrocious defending.

Forget shooting practice boys, start again at the back. Mister Meville has his money to earn and if Wilder was serious about looking outside the club for answers, can I recommend another quality centreback and a tenacious midfielder?

You know the kind of tenacious midfielder I mean...
Someone like Bulman.

I'm getting a horrible sinking feeling. And I'm not the only one - that was the biggest mass exodus from the Kassam before the final whistle since the Orient relegation match. Could we please direct the submarine back up before it's too late? I do not want us plunging the depths again. Thanks!

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