The view from the Pu - December
Wednesday, 8th Jan 2020 17:41 by Steve Hardy
Steve Hardy's monthly review column looks at a December that started on such a high against Preston and Birmingham but quickly fell away from there.
So 2019 is over and we’re now into a new decade safely ensconced in the dreary slop of mid table mediocrity - happy new year to you all by the way. A December that started so well ended up flying off a cliff similar to the ending of Thelma and Louise resulting in two wins, a draw and three defeats. Let’s have a look at what we did well and what we didn’t do quite so well.
I made a note during the Birmingham to have a quick word about Grant Hall. Seeing as we didn’t keep a clean sheet this season until the first weekend of December and have only kept two in total overall it does seem odd to be singing the praises of a defender but pass me some water because I’m going to do a bit of singing.
Since signing in 2015 it’s safe to say that Hall has had an up and down time with us but it is good to see him back to his best and more importantly scoring a few goals. It’s been a tough few years for the centre back and he has been very open about the effects of a long term injury on his mental health and for that I think he deserves all the praise coming his way and the goals that he has scored so far this season, long may it continue. Although the cynic in me does note that this also coincides with his contract running out at the end of the season, did I hear someone say Matthew Rose?!?
If singling out praise for individuals seems to be the theme for this month then surely the next spot is reserved for Mr Bright Osayi-Samuel? What a month the lad has had, I am writing this post Cardiff but even before then he was a clear stand out for player of the month, he really has shone. It all started with a solid performance against Preston, arguably peaked with his goal at Birmingham but he still continued to look solid even in our poorer performances. It was frustrating to see him moved position up at Barnsley especially when he had posed such a threat out wide in the two previous games, however when you compare his performances recently to when the lad was first signed there is real progress, exactly the type of signing we should be making as a club. People often use to throw the criticism of no end product at the guy but I slowly feel that we are now starting to see the complete player - one missed sitter at Barnsley aside - and there is a real sparkle in his play. Let’s just hope that a new contract can be negotiated with him as I’m sure none of us want to see him sold for pennies in the summer. For my money player of the month, an absolute star (last one, I promise).
We started the month with the sheets clean. It may have taken us 20 games but we finally kept that elusive clean sheet, ironically it happened after I had done some extensive research (a four minute google search) in my last monthly piece to see if a team had ever gone a whole season without keeping one but we kept one none the less. We then followed that up with another at Birmingham and for a while there it really looked like we seemed to have those defensive frailties sorted and we looked a lot more solid for it. What did we do next? We went to rock bottom Barnsley and made that footballing god Conor Chaplin look like the second coming of Romario. Just a blip surely, but we then go and ship five against the big three - Charlton, Reading and Hull - so it appears the blip was actually the two games at the start of the month. Anyway, it’s good that we are capable of keeping clean sheets which is a good thing and bar Lumley throwing one into the net against Hull I genuinely believe it would have been three shutouts for the month.
So finally after the best part of four months I think I have a rough idea of where we will finish this season and that will be anywhere between our beloved sixteenth place and twelfth, which seems a little small time to putting as a positive for the month but I’m still haunted by the first half of this calendar year and also how I felt in the summer - especially after the Boreham Wood game - this is a pretty good achievement. If we can keep up beating the teams around and below us and hopefully not do our usual in the FA Cup then hopefully it will be a lot more positive second half to the season than last year.
I trekked all the way up to Barnsley at the start of December. I don’t know what the question was on the day but I can certainly tell you that moving Ryan Manning to midfield so Lee Wallace can play left back wasn’t the answer. I was tempted to put the Barnsley game (not performance) in the good section because as a fan of football and being entertained it was riotous fun, basically two teams playing without a defence scoring with near enough every attack, well nearly every attack when you take into account some of the chances we missed.
Long story short though is that we should not be getting beaten that comfortably by a team who were - at the time - rock bottom of the league. The thing that frustrated me the most was how solid and in control we had looked in the two games previous, don’t change a winning team they say and then we go and put Bright up front and Wallace left back and it just upset the balance of the team. A real missed opportunity and driving away that day I thought it smacked of arrogance, two wins in a row, we’ll just turn up and pick up three points and with the Championship the way it is this season that is never the case. Also when you experience, sleet, rain, sunshine and snow all in a 17 minute period you cannot really classify any of it as a positive. Poor Greta would have been fuming and rightly so, you cannot leave players unmarked at the far post like that.
Following on from that Barnsley game we picked up one more point for the rest of the month. The game that we did gain a point in - Charlton - ultimately felt like a defeat in the end but I refer back to my previous months review where I ask when will we get to a point where the chances that we miss are spoken about in the same tone as the defensive mistakes, that Reading game for example was a real opportunity missed and yes there was an element of luck (or lack of) for some of the chances but we do certainly need to start being more clinical, especially given our aversion to keeping clean sheets. As stated earlier I am writing this post Cardiff game but unfortunately I cannot write about that game yet, rules are rules.
I just want to quickly touch on one final point to round off the negatives, at the end of the Hull game you could her the first real venting of frustration/anger/disappointment (delete as appropriate), which was a shame to hear to be honest. Alright things hadn’t gone as well as we expected and may not for the rest of the season but let’s all remember to have a bit of perspective here.
One final point from that Reading game. Did anyone watching it also think how similar Charlie Adam and Toni Leistner looked? Honestly at one point I thought it was Leistner with the wrong kit on. Probably doing Leistner a disservice there but I just couldn’t get over how much they looked alike - face wise not gut wise - and to be honest it kept me very entertained during the first half.
December grade - C-
Links >>> Follow Steve’s match-by-match reviews on Instagram >>> August 18 >>> September 18 >>> October 18 >>> November 18 >>> December 18 >>> January 19 >>> February 19 >>> March 19 >>> April 19 >>> 18/19 Season Review >>> August 19 >>> September 19 >>> October 19 >>> November 19
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