With perspective in mind, only three months ago this fixture would have been between teams separated by two entire divisions. As an example, if we drew them, away, in the FA Cup and then we went on to lose by four goals, would you have been bothered? I’m not sure. Don’t forget they had international players in their ranks not to mention players who cost more than the value of our entire club, never mind squad.
That said, there are elements coming from the game which will give most right-minded fans food for thought. Most obvious is the moronic behaviour of some as detailed in DTMR’s excellent piece which you can read by clicking here on this old link. The old ‘we want a refund’ mob can take the same walk towards Fuckoffsville.
On the pitch, I can only imagine that Phil Parkinson came away with an entire book full of ‘to do’ notes.
Even before the game, the loss of Josh Vela has been huge. There’s no other way to dress it up, he’s one of our most important and influential players and to have him ruled out for a week would’ve been a blow. To have him ruled out for months is potentially catastrophic.
It has left us incredibly light in midfield. Parkinson’s odd choice to leave out Derik Osede aside, we now have Jem Karacan on the injured list. He is a fine player with loads of experience at this level (and higher) and again to have him on the sidelines is a massive blow.
A specialist defensive midfielder (maybe with the initials JS) is essential. We are way too exposed when defending and the absence of a destroyer in the middle of the park is costing us big time. I was a bit surprised to read an interview with the manager in the BEN after the game where he expressed a desire to sign another winger. I found that odd as we don’t play with wingers - unless he is finally considering knocking the 3-5-2 formation on the head.
Phil Parkinson said after the match that we need to better organised and that’s absolutely true. That said, fans have been calling for Parky to scrap the 3-5-2 formation since the first game of the season. It appears that our full-backs are, funnily enough, just full-backs and this formation is leaving them exposed as evidenced by Kamil Grosicki (one of the previously mentioned expensive internationals) running riot on Friday night. In my opinion we don’t have the quality of player needed to play 3-5-2. In that formation your full-backs need to be athletes as well, and that isn’t a knock on Andrew Taylor and pals, but they’re defenders, first and foremost. We are shipping goals at an alarming rate and something needs to be done to stop that trend.
I’m starting to believe that the step up from League One to Championship tougher than the step up from Championship to Premier League? It might be. Look at Huddersfield Town and how they’ve adapted. Derby County, Leeds United and now Hull City have all looked a level beyond what we are capable of, but similarly the fact remains that our season won’t be defined by results against the best teams. The likes of Brentford, Sheffield United and Bristol City could well be the sides where we look to earn points.
So don’t be too demoralised by results such as the one we saw on Friday. There’ll be many more to come as the season progresses.
Signings are essential, but the off-field mess still appears unresolved despite the developments of last week. Ken’s promise to remove the embargo is now 18 months old and we are struggling for quality. Gone are the days when we can build a solid squad of experienced players with the odd sprinkling of Premier League talent on a loan.
We have a squad of League One players and are relying upon the organisational talents of our manager and I am convinced he remains our best chance of staying up. We looked in disarray on Friday, a far cry from the well-drilled outfit we were last season and which played such a key part in our successes. What we lack in ability we should be able to make up in effort, but sometimes we have to realise that in this division that may not be enough.
Middlesbrough at home might be another bleak afternoon, but with a week’s training behind them and with my trust in the manager remaining as strong as ever I will be looking for a reaction from the players and I expect we’ll get it. Boro are a strong side, again with expensive players - both in terms of Premier League quality and Championship experience, but we can do it, and I absolutely back Parkinson to get it right.