Well well well, what an afternoon at the Macron Stadium. In atrocious conditions Wanderers locked horns with Cardiff City in a good, old fashioned Championship scrap.
We started the game in promising fashion, coming out of the blocks pretty quickly and giving the dwindling crowd something to cheer about. I was filled with optimism after seeing the team sheet; the return of Dean Moxey (playing in front of Casado on the left flank) gave me a tingle in my loins that I haven't felt since Neil Lennon was unveiled as manager. The optimism didn't last too long however, as after being very quiet for the opening 10 minutes, Cardiff had one attack and sliced through our defence like a hot knife through butter. Who was to blame for their first goal? That accolade goes to Dorian Dervite, with the Frenchman displaying his trademark powder-puff defending of late.
Despite a goal against the run of play, Wanderers produced an uncharacteristic fight back in the form of none other than Gary "I Was Having A Fucking Shot You Prick" Madine. The former Sheffield Wednesday man picked up the ball on the left flank, cut inside and curled one out.*
*Obviously I'm joking. He curled one past David Marshall with the prowess of a Premier League forward. It was an unbelievable finish that everyone in the stadium was genuinely astounded by. I don't think anyone knew he had that in his locker - not even him.
A real key point in the first half came around the 35 minute mark, after a goal line scramble saw attempts from Shola Ameobi, Darren Pratley and Liam Feeney blocked and eventually behind for a Cardiff goal kick. At the time I couldn't help but feel like that would come back to haunt us in the second half, but I trudged down to the concourse on the 45 minute mark for my overpriced pie and flat pint of lager feeling rather optimistic.
The second half was quickly upon us and the driving wind and howling rain had not subsided - it was absolutely fucking freezing. In the first half we'd looked lightweight in midfield and had allowed Cardiff to come onto us, inviting pressure and generally making me shit my pants almost every time they attacked.
We were level pegging for the best part of an hour until another hot-knife-through-butter situation at the back resulted in a calamitous goal being scored at our end. I'm not sure who it'll be awarded to in the grand scheme of things but my money is on a Dean Moxey - and own goal that he was very unlucky to concede. It just goes to show what you get when you're rock bottom.
Lennon then decided it was time to shake things up - hauling off Shola Ameobi (who I thought was absolutely outstanding in the first half) and the aforementioned Moxey (who also played pretty well, all in all) to be replaced by Emile Heskey and Stephen Dobbie respectively.
Five minutes after our changes, Dobbie lofted in a free kick from 40 yards out and, after a bit of faffing around on the penalty spot, Emile Heskey managed to assist Dorian Dervite who literally could not miss from three yards out - he smashed the ball home with no mercy.*
*Dervite was still dog shit, by the way, but we'll come onto that shortly.
At that point I was genuinely sat there thinking, "Fuck, we could actually win this game you know." How wrong I was. On the 75 minute mark, Dobbie found himself unmarked and onside, six yards out. I had a flashback to a video I watched on Soccer AM's YouTube channel a few days ago where, and I quote, Neil Lennon said:
"Stephen Dobbie is a great finisher, probably one of the best we have."
He missed. He should have broke the back of the net. Fine margins that we always seem to find ourselves on the wrong side of these days.
Remember I talked about ruing that missed chance in the first half? Now there were two, and it didn't take long for them to rear their ugly heads as we capitulated at the back once more, thanks to Dobbie giving the ball away 70 yards away from our goal. Cardiff's hot knife swung down again to punish us, putting the visitors in front for a third time.
The game seemed to fizzle out at that point, with chances few and far between. The fight had gone from inside the Wanderers players; the fire in our bellies extinguished. A late red card for Casado only added to Wanderers' woes - his second yellow for a rash challenge to break up a Cardiff counter-attack now sees him banned for the Hull game next week, just as he was starting to hit some really decent form. I really like our little left-footed Spaniard.
The turning point for me was the substitutions. Although Dobbie and Heskey were directly involved in our second equaliser, other than that they were both absent from the game - ghosts of their former selves. The Scot missed a guilt-edged chance that should've secured all three points for us and Heskey just doesn't work hard enough to warrant his place on the bench, let alone in the playing eleven. They are both an absolute waste of space and, if at all possible, should have their contracts terminated in January. I guarantee we can find two young, hungry, useful players to do a job for us on a Saturday afternoon than those two wankers. Dorian Dervite is a confidence player, but based on the way he's performed in recent weeks he needs to be dropped from the starting line-up until January. We have some crucial games coming up and I think Price has learned his lesson after his individual howler at Reading a fortnight ago.
Our only saving grace is that both Rotherham and Charlton lost, the latter thanks to Brighton coming from 0-2 down to win 3-2. Thank fuck they're alright.
Today epitomises our season: missed chances and the inability to kill a game off when we're winning, or go for the jugular when we're behind. At the moment we're our own worst enemy but we have some winnable fixtures coming up during the Christmas period, as well as the return of Mark Davies after suspension and post-injury Wellington/Clough to look forward to.
I'm writing this before I've seen Lennon's post-match comments, but to be honest, it doesn't really matter what he says. We played well today and still came away with nothing. As fans, it's high time we all stick together and focus on what's happening on the pitch, where we can actually make a difference, rather than what's happening off it.
Let's hope 2016 brings us better fortune.
Over and out.