The view from the Pu - September
Thursday, 7th Oct 2021 16:49 by Steve Hardy
Steve Hardy is back with his round up of September, a month of just one win and plenty of heartbreak, but still plenty of optimism for what's to come in 2021/22.
Here we are at the end of September, that magical ten game marker that people often refer to that gives us an indication of who is good and who isn’t is upon us already and personally I don’t think it has given many clues of who will be there or there abouts come the end of the season. Let’s dive head first into a month that included six games of which only one resulted in a victory (penalty shootouts aside) but hasn’t removed that feel good factor – well for me at least.
I may as well start all the way back at the beginning of the month – well the 11th – and that Reading game. It had everything didn’t it? Last minute equalisers, debut goals, fans on the pitch, fans in the home end, fans falling over the advertising boards and most importantly clear evidence of how much spirit and togetherness there is in this squad. Comparisons were specifically made to that comeback at Derby after this game and I think I even made comparisons to that great Warnock team in my rambles last month but what I will say is that when you have a decent dressing room that is usually good for around ten points a season and these are the types of points I’m referring to. Obviously we won’t be able to reference the significance of this point until the end of the season but coming away from this game you could really feel that there is something special about this team this year.
I know we subsequently went on to lose the next three in the league but those were all games that ultimately swung on mistakes (more on that later) and there just seems to be that something in the air around W12 at the moment that is creating a real unity between the fans and the players. It’s definitely the romantic in me but it just feels apt that after years of mediocrity and medicine taking, it all seems to be coming together in the first season we’re all allowed back in. To also add to the unity shown within the club, what an incredible move to include include the Tiger Cubs in this years’ team photo, a real class act from the club and another sign of how well we seem to be getting the community aspect spot on, well done to all involved.
So we head into October still in the League Cup for the first time since 2008 and I can’t be the only one who is starting to get cup fever. That Everton game was a great night under the lights and the perfect tonic to get over the heartbreak of the Bristol City game from a few days earlier. Fair play to all the penalty takers as to score all eight takes some doing and special mention to Stephen Duke-Mckenna for having the stones to step up against his former club, in front of the away fans as well, after only a handful of substitute appearances and burying his spot kick. Great to see Charlie absolutely bossing it up top as well after the tough time he had been through. It’s obvious to state that the draw has been kind to us, however let’s not forget too recent experiences against teams such as Rochdale and Port faaaaaaaaaaackin Vale so take nothing for granted, the Sunderland game should be a real contest and hopefully another night to remember under the lights. Let’s make sure we get the place as full as we can, get it rocking and who knows where it can take us.
I made comparisons to the 2010/11 season earlier but there was also a moment this month where it felt a little bit similar to Warburton’s first season in charge where we started quite well but really fell away in late Autumn going into the winter. When we lost the three games on the bounce it did start to feel a little like our good start could slide away like it did back in 2019, however we could just as easily ended up with anywhere from five to seven points from those defeats on another day. But most importantly it was key that we got something from the Birmingham home game, and when you consider the weather that evening I think that could be another result that turns out to have a key impact on our season. As has been mentioned so many times nothing is won in September but I just felt that another game without a win against what people would consider a beatable team it could really start to strain that feel good factor, so to get the win in the manner we did without conceding was very pleasing.
I was probably over the top with my optimism in August, a mixture of being back at grounds, not losing and having an exciting squad probably went to my head but that optimism hasn’t waned for me despite the bumps this month as we could just as easily still be sitting here unbeaten. Keep the faith people, whatever happens this season I still believe it’s going to be a thoroughly enjoyable one.
We can’t be the only club that has certain players who seem to relish playing against us can we? Usually crap players as well, Jon Stead springs to mind, although John Swift bucks that trend as I actually wouldn’t mind seeing him in the correct hoops for a change. The point I’m trying to make here is why it is that certain players seem to turn into the ghost of Eusebio whenever we come to town. Take Swift out of that Reading team at the start of the month and it’s a comfortable win for the R’s. I also seem to remember Darren Pratley scoring the majority of his career goals against us and he really is absolute toilet. It just always seems so predictable, but surely we can’t be the only club that this happens to? When I think about it the only other case of this happening is Luis Suarez scoring about 60 times against Norwich, but that doesn’t really count as it’s fairly evident that Norwich being in the Premier League makes it a 19 team competition. Fingers crossed he picks up a knock or a suspension prior to the return fixture.
Three defeats on the bounce is usually enough to warrant a little moan but I’ve already spoken about the fact that on another day we don’t lose any of those. However, we do need to cut out the mistakes if we want to stay around the top six. I have no problems with the Bristol City defeat as we were piling forward at the time and on another day, specifically one where the other team’s keeper doesn’t play like he has four arms, we win that game at a canter. But when you look at the mistakes in the Bournemouth and West Brom games it’s rather annoying that they are ultimately what cost us getting creditable points against teams that should be up there. The mistake by Dieng at West Brom was particularly galling as they weren’t really laying a glove on us at that point, I know we didn’t exactly cover ourselves in glory with that performance but if Senny doesn’t throw that in the net then I think we win that game. The same could be said about Dickie’s mistake down on the south coast, very preventable and again at a time in the game when we were looking comfortable.
Ultimately – and this is being said by a bloke whose highest level played was the Sunday pub leagues of Buckinghamshire – it comes down to concentration and just goes to show how you need to be on the ball from the first minute to the last, especially if we want to compete with squads that have an exponentially larger talent pool than ours to compete with. Still, if my only gripes are us making mistakes again two teams that will be part of the top four this year then surely we’re doing something right?
September grade – BThe training ground news bumps it up a grade for me
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 >>> December 19 >>> January 20 >>> February 20 >>> March 20 >>> April 20 >>> May 20 >>> June 20 >>> July 20 >>> September 20 >>> October 20 >>> November 20 >>> December 20 >>> January 21 >>> February 21 >>> March 21 >>> April/May 21 >>> August 21
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