What a disappointment. At the start of the festive period I thought 7 points our 3 games was well and truly on the cards: a solid win against Southend, a hard-fought point away at Sunderland and at 1-0 at half time against Shrewsbury I was feeling full of Christmas cheer. Then Jason Lowe, Scrooge-personified, went and ruined it.
Yes, we had conceded the equaliser minutes before but had he not made the downright ludicrous decision to two-foot Bolton-born midfielder Ollie Norburn and be sent off I am convinced we would still have gone on to win. That we held out for a point showed great grit and resolve but what an opportunity to finally get off the bottom it was, and we blew it.
A quintessential game of two halves, here are my player ratings:
Remi Matthews 8
A “Remi” moment early in the first half, where a half-cleared header as he rushed out of his box fell nicely for Shaun Whalley, should have been punished. The fact it wasn’t mean we can focus on the sheer brilliance of his late double save to deny first Josh Laurent and then Whalley with some Schmeichel-esque starfishing. The first save may well be the best I have seen live. A monumental feat of goalkeeping. Take a bow, son.
Josh Emmanuel 6.5
Possibly a controversial one, especially within the LOV chat, but I thought he acquitted himself well. I like his confidence in outmuscling attackers to win the ball and his ability in the air is very handy. Is his positioning the best? No. Does he lose the ball in bad areas at times? Sure. However, overall, I love watching him play. The strength, pace and quick feet are useful attacking weapons and defensively I don’t have too many complaints. Player of the Year to this point, for me.
Liam Bridcutt N/A
Two errors that almost led to goals before he got injured. We are dangerously short in midfield and I was sad to see him go off, but we looked so much better without him in that first half. And all of you reading this know we did.
Jake Wright 6.5
Got into a mess for the equaliser but read the game well and won a lot more headers than usual. The experience alongside a player like Earl means, for me, he is worth keeping on until May as there aren’t many with his credentials available at the moment.
Josh Earl 7
As mentioned, should have done better to clear the ball for the goal, though was the better of the two centre-halves overall. The Cruyff-turn was impressive and it highlights his ability on the ball, which is his best quality despite his physical stature. He should win more headers but he’s got a lot of natural ability as a centre-half and deserves his place in the team in that role rather than at left-back on this evidence. Another who I would like to see stay.
Jason Lowe 3
Idiot. What a bloody idiot. Was having a decent game until his rush of blood, though still not up to his September/October form, but you can’t overlook the significance of the red card. There was no need for it and from someone with his experience it’s downright inexcusable. Needs to come back and prove a point, let’s hope we aren’t cut even further adrift by then.
Luke Murphy 6.5
Played a part in our goal and kept the ball nicely. He wins a lot of balls in the air which I hadn’t noticed before and did a lot more dirty work than usual. Doesn’t get higher because I felt he should have taken up the mantle to really press the Shrewsbury playmakers towards the end of the game as the senior midfielder and he seemed to wilt under the pressure of that role. He has to be near perfect in the coming games given our lack of midfielders.
Ronan Darcy 8
What a player this lad will be. He’s only little but he’s got a fantastic attitude towards the physical side of the game. Usually that would be a big question mark against him but the fact he answers said question every week makes him invaluable as his ability as a footballer is undoubted. A clever flick to Thibaud Verlinden for the goal showed his vision and a long-range strike that was just tipped over by Max O’Leary showed his confidence. Marry these with clever passing, skilful roulettes and incredible work-rate, Darcy is some prospect indeed.
Joe Dodoo 5
Not great, it must be said. Had one shot of note that was well-held by O’Leary and did most of his work out of possession. His clearance off the line was fantastic and it is clearly his role as the free player from opposition set-plays to win headers and clear the ball. He does it well but he’s a talented boy and should use it to greater attacking use, especially at home.
Thibaud Verlinden 7.5
We want him stay. The cracking chip for his goal followed a great run and cross for Daryl Murphy, a chance he should have buried. He showed so much confidence it was as if he owned the pitch at times and though some defenders work out his tricks, 80% of the time they come off. I would understand why Stoke would wish to keep him, but if they did I would add it to the already long list of reasons why I hate them. We really need him to stay.
Daryl Murphy 5.5
This was a tricky one to score. He missed two good headed chances, the first of which was a borderline sitter, for me, though I thought he had Ethan Ebanks-Landell on toast in the air and held the ball up nicely. His positioning late on allowed us to ease some pressure by using him as an out-ball, which was helpful, but I want my striker to score and he didn’t when he really should have.
Adam Chicksen 7.5
He had some hairy moments towards the end that almost spoiled his performance, but only almost. I thought he was exemplary for 90% of his showing, winning tackle after tackle and showing a great skill for reading the game. He needs to work on his heading as some strikers tend to pull on him at crosses and set-pieces, but as a full back if you tackle hard and intercept well I don’t have many complaints.
Sonny Graham 4
Just a nothing performance and I only really remember him giving the ball away. Have to say that I worry for us with him probably starting against Burton.
Chris O’Grady N/A