Thursday, 2 December 2010

No Quarter-Final Effort Given

Memo to self: always take two pix of Ipswich & Albion legend Bobby Robson in case a passing snowflake gets in the way of him pointing towards the Exit for WBA
Only 11,000 at Portman Road for this quarter-final. Shocking. Plus another early EXIT sign.
First-half pressure from Ipswich
Late and predictable attempts at an equaliser. You might even say half-hearted.
More of the same
... and more.
Hopperational details
Wednesday 1 December 2010 at Portman Road, Ipswich Town 1 West Bromwich Albion 0 in the Carling Cup Quarter Final.
This match in one sentence
Leadbitter scores from the spot
An abject performance by my hometown team who even created the chance for the winning penalty.
So what?
Ipswich go on to a two-legged semi-final with Arsenal in January, some of the media pressure on manager Roy Keane is reduced, West Brom’s assistant manager Eddie Newton was left to apologise to the TV cameras, and I have £28 less in my bank account.

I watch most of my football as a neutral these days, and I was so looking forward to a night of partisan behaviour and even a Boing! Boing! on a cold night.  Albion, you had a chance to re-ignite my passion for following you expensively week in and week out, and you blew it with an uncaring display of breathtaking lethargy.  I’ll be groundhopping if you want me.
Who caught the eye on the pitch?
Only one man emerged with any credit, and that is WBA keeper Boaz Myhill.  Myhill signed this season as the experienced and credible understudy to Scott Carson, and West Brom are following the lead of the so-called bigger clubs in using this competition as a chance to give games to the fringe players.  I have no problem with that per se, although I would have objected more if West Brom had been at home and charged £28 for this rubbish.  (I could have saved a few quid by booking earlier, but the weather conditions had put the game, and safe driving, in doubt until the day of the match.)
Myhill is about to save a free-kick in an excellent first-half display
Myhill kept his side in the game in the first half with a series of decent saves and blocks.  Ipswich had a shout for a penalty when he dived at Priskin’s feet, but I was in line and for what it’s worth my view is that he got the ball first.  Most of the early opportunities came down the Ipswich right where Marek Cech was having a lamentable game in defence.  And in attack.  And, dammit, even in standing still.

Full-back James Hurst had a decent enough debut.  Graham Dorrans and Steven Reid showed moments of class and control.  However, the attack of Marc-Antoine Fortuné and Simon Cox had the cutting edge of a cucumber.  Albion gifted the goal opportunity.  Cech miscontrolled Myhill’s throw and lost the ball, giving Carlos Edwards a clear run on goal.  Dorrans sprinted back and caught him right on the edge of the area.  I was a long way away from the incident but I was not surprised or outraged when the referee pointed to the spot.  Myhill dived the right way, but Leadbitter’s penalty was a good one.
This match had the same effect on my pulse rate as …
… opening door number 2 on my Advent Calendar to find a picture of Roberto di Matteo agonising over whether to have Toblerone or pannettone for the dolce after his secondo team have served up a contorni of leftovers.
A snippet from the programme
In Roy Keane’s programme notes, he talks about the frustrations of this season and the inevitable pressures on him as manager. “I’ve always done what I consider best for the club.  I did it as a player at United and Celtic.  The club is always bigger than the individual and I’m pretty sure I’ll make the right decision if it comes to it.  That might be next week. That might be next month. That might be in 10 years’ time.  At the moment, I don’t feel we are at that stage.  Some supporters I’m sure have “turned” and when that happens it’s very hard to turn them back again.”
What I learned today
It was good to meet up with my twitter friend @the_penny_drops.  She has inherited true Baggie genes (see what I did there?), and if either of us is even mildly optimistic before the game then you are no doubt in store for 90 minutes of doom and gloom.
Modus Hopper Random Talking Point
Like I say, I can understand the policy of using squad players in this competition as part of the management strategy for a Premiership club.  I don’t like it from a sporting point of view, but I can understand the pragmatism.  I no doubt made many such pragmatic decisions in my years of running schools.  However, I would have expected those players to be playing as if they wanted to be in the regular first eleven, with more urgency, and more respect for those of us that had taken the trouble to get there.  In the last ten minutes, with only one substitution made, it actually felt like the team were not prepared to go to extra time.  I could have had three or four competitive lower league hops for £28 and had better value for money.

I try so hard not to hanker after the past but I look again at the groundbreaking 1978-9 season where the club played 42 league games, 6 FA Cup ties, 3 League Cup ties and 8 UEFA Cup ties, essentially with fourteen players and the very, very occasional need for a reserve.  OK, perhaps the game is more athletic now, but the travelling is better, there are fewer fixtures (especially replays), the playing and training surfaces are better, and medical treatment and nutrition are better.  The spectacle was cheaper in real terms for the spectators and remained within the reasonable grasp of the Black Country family budgets.  Could West Brom ever finish 3rd again given the way the game is now run and funded?
What Next?
If Thrapston Town v Burton Park Wanderers survives the freeze on Friday night, it’s back to step 6 and the United Counties League Division One.

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