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Wycombe Wanderers 1 Watford 1 (27/10/2020) 28/10/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- It’s 22:20 on a school night.  We’ve just drawn 1-1 at Wycombe.  You’re damn right this is going to be straight to the point.  None of your drawn-out meandering intros today.  No Sir.  This is a no-bullshit report.

2- And we needed a no-bullshit performance.  A performance that was capable of absorbing what Wycombe could throw at us, meeting the physical challenges head on and letting the quality tell.  We didn’t get one.  Not that we appeared complacent, nor lacking in effort particularly.  But the weaknesses of our team thus far, such as they are and bearing in mind that we’re third in the league, lost one game, conceded four goals and so on and so forth were cast into sharp relief.

3- And cast into sharp relief by a Wycombe side who were far more impressive, focussed and effective than their record hitherto had suggested.  They hurtled around doing the high press thing like shopping trolleys crashing around a slippery car park, not giving us a moment’s peace and, without being dirty, risking physical injury if approached tentatively or half-heartedly.  Both their full-backs caused us issues, Grimmer giving Sema a good old game down the right and Jacobson delivering quality set pieces.  Kashket snapped around feeding off knock downs and chasing everything down.  They had enough about them to make you wonder quite how they hadn’t earned any points until now.

Most of all, they had the game’s dominant player in Adebayo Akinfenwa,  making his first start in the second tier at the age of 38.  A sixteen stone force of nature, almost unplayable and completely brilliant.  And exactly what we were missing for the most part – a focal point to hold the ball up, provide some welly and provide the facility for our attacks to drop anchor rather than needing to be fleet and precise.  Akinfenwa’s in a white shirt, we win the game.

4- As it is, we are happy to be goalless at the break.  Not to say lucky… there’s nothing lucky about your goalkeeper being completely brilliant.  But we’re lucky to have a brilliant goalkeeper.  Foster his out bravely, defiantly, to claim a Jacobson corner and again when the same player is able to send in a follow up. Kashket controls a knockdown with his hand, the officials miss it and Foster’s block is critical.   Akinfenwa forces a shooting opportunity, Foster saves well to his right.

Meanwhile our attacks are the sort of rapier thrusts that we’re used to seeing and it’s not impossible that we take the lead but there’s no heft to our performance.  Capoue could have provided that but he’s disappointingly low key.  Femenía rattles up and down the right flank and is a constant force for good, but it’s not enough.  As the half closes, Troost-Ekong’s sloppiness lets in Kashket who squares for Akinfenwa to shovel over.  Then Wanderers break through on the right and Troost-Ekong redeems himself by thundering in to deny Horgan.  No, not lucky.  Not hanging on.  But, yes, half-time would do very nicely we thought you’d never ask.

5- Second half starts in similar vein until we score.  And of course it’s Kiko and Sarr’s far post header is perfect and suddenly we look like the newly relegated side weathering the storm and then mercilessly killing off the game triers with a moment of quality.  And then Sema’s rolling through challenges, threatening to stick the knife in but doesn’t quite.  Sarr powers in a shot, Jacobson denies João Pedro a tap in.  We have all the possession now and look every inch the better side.  That should have been it.  We should have seen it out.

And that’s the other recurring trend.  Looking good.  Looking solid.  And not quite being good enough.  See also Reading, Sheff Wed, Bournemouth.  We’ve looked vulnerable at set pieces against sides less well equipped to exploit them than Wycombe and there was nothing spawny or half-hearted about Stewart’s equaliser.  Indeed, Wanderers can consider themselves unlucky to have a second disallowed as substitute Samuel tangled with Foster.  It wasn’t a travesty of a decision, but he could certainly have gotten away with a more generous interpretation.

Consolations?  Silver linings?  Glenn Murray putting in his best minutes for us, drifting into space for Kiko to slip him straight through, the shot from nowhere across the face of goal.  In all honesty he could have been on earlier.  Some tactical flexibility, Chalobah on to provide some more controlled passing from the back as Kabasele departed with a shirt spattered in blood from a facial injury.  It didn’t work, it might have done and might do in the future.

We can’t complain with a point, and no away point is a bad point.  An away point at Wycombe might look a lot better in a month or two’s time than it does now.  But we need to be able to score imperfect, scruffy goals if we’re going to be the cruelly effective side that we ought to be.  We need a striker fit.

Bring on the next one.  Yooorns.

*Foster 4*, Femenía 4,  Sema 3, Cathcart 4, Troost-Ekong 3, Kabasele 3, Capoue 2, Cleverley 3, Quina 2, Sarr 3, João Pedro 2
Subs:   Murray (for Quina, 74) 3, Chalobah (for Kabasele, 74) 2, Garner (for Cleverley, 90) NA, Wilmot, Sierralta, Ngakia, Bachmann

Comments»

1. sptemple - 28/10/2020

It dawned on me last night that I haven’t enjoyed a game since we beat Liverpool at the end of February. (Ok, maybe the Blackburn game).

Either this squad is massively underachieving or we have to accept that they are not as talented as we think they are.

Last night we needed to earn the right to play football, and needed players to take responsibility for the team’s performance. Instead we had too many players wanting to do little tricks and flicks which ultimately lose momentum and possession.

Our goal was the perfect example of how we should be playing. Unfortunately, it was the only example in a very poor 90+ minutes.

I’m so fed up with this that I’m very close to walking away and following a non league team where I can go to a stadium and watch players willing to show commitment.

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2020

You’re entitled to your opinion of course, and without doubt the “not being able to go to the games” thing is a powerful filter. For me, if this version of football is the best we can do and it keeps more of football going for the longer term then I’ll take it. And actually it’s providing me with much needed stuff to look forward to in the week even if it’s not the same as being there, I AM enjoying it and enjoyed last night for all its inadequacy. My co-editor has taken the non-league route and it’s got its attractions without doubt.

But your “squad is underachieving” thing is bollocks in my opinion (and I know you qualified “either…”). Ivic has inherited a relegated side with no transfer window, a load of players that want out and a bunch of injured strikers. In front of that backdrop he’s fashioned a way of playing that’s been effective and earned us a lot of points. It’s not the end game, if it were I’d agree with you absolutely, but it’s a holding position while we sort out our attacking play (which includes getting players fit) and in the longer term recruit a defensive left back facilitating the 4-3-3 that he wants to play. I’m extrapolating, but your line of argument is a bit too close to “we’re a big club, we should be walking this” for my liking. We’re not walking it and tonight was poor, but let’s not get carried away, we’re doing ok at worst. Patience needed.

2. Leggatts 'orn - 28/10/2020

Foster, I think we need a corporate fans line here. Something like “yeah.. Ben’s OK, stops a few, haven’t really noticed his performances, anyway he is off to ride his bike round Europe or something, nothing to see, move on please, social distancing, etc…”. Otherwise come January someone from the grown-up league is going to have a goalkeeping crisis and they will be trundling down Occy Road with a wheelbarrow stacked high with readies. But in the private and closed community we have here, amongst friends, what a monster of a keeper. Pickford, England’s #1, you are having a proper chuckle. Ben, you done just a bit good.

3. simmos - 28/10/2020

Matt, you said in your Bournemouth report you were angry after the game but this one made me more angry. I take your point about the squad the manager has inherited with no real pre-season or transfer window to add players who want to play for the club but the attitude feels very much like “must not lose” as opposed to “lets try to win”. The last time we were promoted, Slavisa went out trying to win every game and changed tactics to suit. I may be wrong but I cannot recall us sitting back on a lead under Slavisa. Personally I feel the squad we currently have is better than the one we had to get us promoted last time so why does it appear that we are trying to “hold” a lead and only look to score on the break when we have so much talent to kill a game by going forward. I hope we will improve and evolve as it is a long season but I don’t feel that the current tactic to allow the opposition to play while we try to score on a counter is going to get us back to the top division.

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2020

To repeat the above, we haven’t got a fit striker. What’s he supposed to do? He’s also emphasised repeatedly, even when we’ve won, that the attacking play isn’t good enough. Finally a reason to be grateful that fans AREN’T in stadiums, I suspect the impatience prevalent in responses to last night (not just your post simmos) wouldn’t do anyone any favours.

simmos - 28/10/2020

Matt, I am sorry but I disagree.We do have Murray (I am guessing he is fit) and personally I think most teams in the division would love to have Pedro and Sarr starting up front. It would certainly help if Gray, Perica and Deeney were fit but to me this isn’t the only problem. We seem to be creating very few chances for the strikers who are playing and I give them a great deal of credit as we are converting a high proportion when the chances do fall to them. If we had done this last season we would not have been relegated.

Apologies for repeating my comments but I don’t agree with what seems to be a “must not lose” culture at the club. I don’t want to sound like an entitled fan but we know that these players can do so much better. It was only 8 months ago that we outplayed and demolished the current league champions who were undefeated at the time. A lot has happened since then but I don’t think good players become average in such a short space so I am baffled that we are now unable to defend a lead against Wycombe who in truth deserved to beat us,

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2020

Not pretending last night was OK in any sense. Just don’t share your wider prognosis.

And who knew that Liverpool win would prove so expensive in the longer term. I know I’m exaggerating your position totally unreasonably but… the Liverpool win is in danger of being a version of Forest’s European Cup win. An unreasonably high standard by which everything that follows shall be judged. It was an exceptional evening, not a benchmark for everything to be compared against going forward.

4. Thanet horn - 28/10/2020

Frustrating result although Wycombe played well and worked hard to compete with us.I take your points Matt about the side gaining a good tally of points and not having a set striker to choose Perica getting injured last week was a blow I hope we can get someone else fit up front soon ,Start is excellent and our main outlet but teams are getting wise to this tactic Sema has been the most consistent player apart from Foster that’s one good thing about this season as he was headed out the door I hope Ivic can vary it freshen it up as players get fit can understand some fans frustration.the.on the observer sight fans are kicking off far more .thanks for another good report

5. Bob Mayho - 28/10/2020

I thought you were generous awarding Pedro 2. He was awful, his passing particularly poor. Yes I know he’s 19. And what’s with Sarr’s long face? He doesn’t seem to be enjoying his football. You don’t have to do some elaborate goal celebration (cf. Stewart and Akinfenwa, but a smile wouldn’t go amiss. Could it be he is pissed off still to be at WFC?

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2020

My recollection is that he was always kinda glum last season too?

6. Harefield Hornet - 28/10/2020

The Wycombe result, as disappointing as it was, needs to be put into some sort of perspective. They were very unlucky to lose at Norwich and only lost by one goal to Reading.

7. David - 28/10/2020

I think not loosing a game is a good foundation upon which to build our season, I have no alarm bells going off in my head yet. Sarr and Pedro are both learning on the job and arguably don’t suit the traditional No.9 role, as mentioned by many, this team needs a Deeney but that possibly needs a 433 formation that without an adequate left back we can’t field. Kiko was our best outfield player and yet in the second half was turned inside out when doing his full back impression.

I’m going to spend my commute home considering if this squad is better than the 2014/15 season…….

8. Duncan H - 28/10/2020

A great review as always, Matt. You are spot on about the danger of the Liverpool game becoming an albatross around our neck. The game last night was a weird one, because it wasn’t like we were truly terrible – we’ve all seen plenty of games where WFC have looked a total shambles and fallen apart entirely, and yesterday wasn’t one of them. It was disappointing, nothing much worked, there was not enough speed or flare or vim or whatever it was, and Wycombe looked more up for it..but it wasn’t a total shambles and it didn’t feel like the players had given up.

Admittedly, it’s not only about last night. In my mind, some of the football so far this season has been a little dull (it’s not all about results, and a lot of the games we lost in the PL were much more fun). I always doubted the regularly floated idea that it would do us good to go down, because then we’d be a big fish and could enjoy smashing teams every week, and so far only the Luton and Blackburn games were genuinely entertaining, in my book…BUT…

…but as you say, what do we expect at this point in the season, with so many changes, with injuries, people still not fit, etc?! There’s a long way to go, and we are hardly in a bad league position. You rather feel that people won’t be happy even if we’re top, unless we also win 6-0 with a Sarr hat-trick every week…

Either way, the sooner we forget about the Liverpool game (or indeed much of 18/19 when we floated around 7th), the better (though this is perhaps easier for us, as like you, I wasn’t at the stadium that day). Those were our high points, not the norm, and we need to recognise that, or we will all just be miserable. And God knows, we don’t need more reasons to be miserable right now…

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2020

Amen.

9. Ray Knight - 28/10/2020

Have to agree with Bob. JP did not play well. Not only his passing but his first touch was awful. Femmy and Sema did their best in patches to get us up the pitch. Again no real control in midfield and Wycombe actually made a lot more interceptions [or rather we gave the ball back]. Apart from the Sarr goal after a 10 minute good spell and Foster’s saves, I did like Troost-Ekong’s last ditch sliding block, something he also did against Muff. He had no right to get either of those tackles in, but it has been a long time I’ve seen that from any WFC defender. Feeding off a few positive scraps here and all credit to Wycombe. If we can actually put in a much better performance against Barnsley and come away with the points, I’ll forget this match. However, the portents are not good. Ivic must go to 4-3-3 soon or if Gray returns otherwise the honeymoon period will well and truly be over.

Matt Rowson - 28/10/2020

Agree with you until closing gambit. “Honeymoon over”? After one Slightly unlucky defeat in 8?

10. Jez Fayerman - 28/10/2020

The sky commentators against Muff noted how much our defence looked like they enjoyed defending. They didn’t look like it last night. Akinfenwa was given far too much respect. For all his attributes, and I don’t seek to diminish them, he is a 38 year old lump who was making his first ever start at this level. Cathcart and WTE in particular looked, dare I say it, a little lacking in cojones. I still think there’s a lot more positives than negatives so far though!

11. Simon - 28/10/2020

I’m a bit perplexed by the level of some of the criticism after 8 games, 15 points and a load of upheaval.

Don’t get me wrong, last night wasn’t good by any stretch but if you were going to pick a (with the greatest respect) limited side to cause us problems, we match up particularly poorly v Wycombe who bullied us a bit (well, quite a lot).

It’s also fairly clear that, while we’ve show flashes, the team hasn’t really clIcked yet, particularly going forward and there’s a lot of work still required for things to fall into place.

But… Ivic is trying to impose a culture change and a change of style on a squad that was hugely up in the air until very recently with a shortened summer and compressed schedule so limited training time. It really doesn’t seem to me that we’re far off and there are definite signs of what he’s trying to do.

We can’t have it both ways. Many of us were less than pleased last year at the number of managerial changes and yet I’m sure some of those decrying the multiple sackings are the same as those writing Ivic off already.

simmos - 29/10/2020

In isolation I agree that a 15 point return is pretty good but it is the performances and in particular the lack of creativity that is of greater concern to me.

I am definitely not in the camp that wants “a change of manager” but I do want “our manager to change”. Even accounting for injuries we have players that are much better than the performances so far. When Ivic came in we were told he can be flexible and hopefully that will now start to happen as more players become available.

12. Ray Knight - 29/10/2020

Matt and Simon- I am certainly not one calling for Ivic to go and agree he is trying to change the culture. He doesn’t have the desired LB to enable him to easily change formation. It’s the lack of chances we created against Wycombe, which is the big concern. Not a big fan of Gray but we need a focal point up front. When we get the balance right we should be OK. In the meantime Reading have shot ahead and we are in a close pack of 10 teams. Plenty of time but this a ruthless league.

13. Harefield Hornet - 29/10/2020

Reading are on a bit of a roll where everything’s falling right for them at the moment – they’ve only really scored a few goals against sloppy defences i.e. Blackburn on Tuesday. They struggled to beat Wycombe 1-0 last week so our disappointing result at Adams Park needs to be put into perspective a bit. As if we needed any reminding this division is unpredictable at the best of times. Long way to go yet!


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