View From The Bycars
Yesterday`s game was almost a microcosm of Vale`s season: the good bits were pretty good; and the bad bits were pretty bad. It was also something of a re-run of the AFC Wimbledon game: we were dire in the first half and dominant in the second. The big difference was that this time the opposition gave us a man start instead of us giving them a two-goal lead.
I often wonder whether professional footballers watch the telly. Every week this season some muppet has been sent off for making a lunging tackle, usually under no pressure and in the face of no danger. The replay showed that Barnett was unlucky, but if you do what he did you should expect to be unlucky. Referees, of course, are glued to the telly and once one of them sends someone off for a lunging tackle the rest will follow. I took no pleasure in the dismissal. I thought it was going to make Vale`s task more difficult. Stanley went to 4-4-1 and held their positions. Vale utterly failed to make life difficult for the ten men.
Indeed, it was impossible to tell that Stanley were a man short during the first half. Vale played too deep. The central midfield players got no pressure on the ball. The wingers were never in the game. Pope and Hughes did not run the channels. There was no space anywhere. Vale were reduced to rolling the ball out to Purse, who took ten paces forward and lumped it. Beckenbauer, he isn`t.
The dismissal of Barnett meant that the threatening-looking Boco was moved from playing in the 'hole` to playing wide right, leaving the totally unthreatening Beattie up front on his own. It was impossible to see Stanley scoring from open play, so Vale, especially Jones, Purse and Chilvers, decided to lend a helping hand by giving away stupid and unnecessary fouls at regular intervals. Even Neal caught the mood, committing a series of uncharacteristic handling mistakes. Vale looked nothing like a team chasing promotion.
At half time I was unable to consult the wisdom of The Man in the Urinal as everyone was shocked to discover that the evil-smelling place had been refurbished. Well done, Mr Wildes! Perhaps this was an omen. The second half was very different.
Vale`s first goal just after half-time changed the game. Burge`s neat through ball left Hughes with a lot to do, but he produced a striker`s finish, lobbing the ball in with a subtle mid-air volley. After that it was all Vale. Burge and Loft got a grip on midfield, play was switched from side to side, shots rained in on Rachubka`s goal. It became a question of how many. Three-nil was actually a poor return on Vale`s dominance. Hughes, Pope and Shuker missed chances they might have taken on another day. Williamson could have had a hat-trick. I like Williamson. He`s quick, he goes past people, he makes space for Pope, he sows doubt in defenders` minds, but his finishing is abysmal.
A caller to Praise and Grumble seemed to think that AFC Wimbledon would be a pushover. They may be bottom, but their current form is quite good. They have two strikers who always score against us and they have strengthened other parts of the team. We will have to play a lot better than we did against Stanley if we want to beat them, something we have yet to do. We live in interesting times.