Date: 19th May 2017 at 10:14pm
Written by:

As I took my seat last night I knew straight away it was going to be a long one. The fella to my left was clearly sober but smelt like he`d washed his hair with Tenants Extra. To my right, one of ‘those blokes`, you know the ones: spends at least a third of the match just looking at the away supporters, occasionally standing up to tell all 2,000 of them to eff-off or ask them who they are, even though they`re approximately 100m away. I wanted to tell him to take it easy, to enjoy the evening as best he could, but the size of the vein bulging from his neck suggested it wouldn`t have been a good conversation starter for either of us.

To the match, and what can I add? The only thing that really matters in these games is the result and we didn`t get it. Next season we go again.

But. Something has to change. The two most recent games I`ve watched at Hillsborough – Cardiff and Huddersfield – have been weirdly similar. Stodgy fayre, with often a painfully slow build up that, when it gets to the final third, ends with a deep-ish cross looking for Stephen Fletcher. For a lot of Championship games that will be enough. The individual quality on the squad will see to that. But automatic promotion? No. Not at all.

I`ve long hovered on the ‘glass is half empty` side when it comes to Carlos and I`m not saying I think he has to go, but again, something has to change, in personnel and how we play.

This team lacks speed and creativity

No wonder the football is often so one-paced. The difference in panic between the two defensive lines was stark, with Huddersfield possessing speed and penetration down the wings and into the box. Even if the players themselves weren`t outstanding, Huddersfield had a threat and outlet Wednesday just didn`t.

I rued the loss of Ross Wallace more than I ever thought I would: losing one of the few players willing to carry the ball and break opponents out of their shape wasn’t going to be easy while his long range shooting prowess was another weapon blunted by his withdrawal. In replacing Wallace, Adam Reach just had no impact on the night. He looked lost and without purpose.

So this is about personnel and how we play. Nando aside, what is Carlos` impact on creative players? Callum McManaman never got going and Almen Abdi`s confidence looked shot before injury ended his season. This season Aiden Mcgeady has been excellent at Preston. Was it them? Or something else?

There’s Only One Barry Bannan

The main bright spot in this of the whole night was Barry Bannan. There may be only one Barry Bannan but last night, like many others, I was hoping another five of him would appear from somewhere. Neat and tidy when he needed to be, pressing hard when he could, driving attacks as frequently as possible, it’s the biggest shame that his efforts didn’t get the rewards they deserved. It seemed at times that he was trying to do it all, when he shouldn’t have to.

The Manager, The Play

I’ll return to those David Moyes-esque crosses into the box. Can you tell me, beyond that, how we were trying to win the game yesterday? I just couldn’t see the pattern and couldn’t understand the approach. I leave Hillsborough more often than than not with the same thought.

Furthermore, Jordan Rhodes is not a younger version of Stephen Fletcher…yet we bring Rhodes on and keep doing the same things. We could blame Rhodes all we want and it’s true he had chances to stick the ball in the net, but I didn’t see any real adjustments being made to our play, did you?

The Rhodes thing is just odd. We play kiss chase with him for the best part of year and when he finally lets us catch him, we give him a wedgy instead.

People who watched the game on tv have told me about the focus on Carlos’ body language after the equaliser and into extra time and penalties, and the stark difference with David Wagner. Now, jumping up and down like a loon doesn’t mean you’re doing a good job, but Carlos seemed out of energy and out of ideas last night. Just like the team on the pitch.

The Future

As I said, some thing or things need to change. And you don’t need to be a Birmingham or Swansea fan to know what a risk changing managers can be, especially when links with the likes of Alan Pardew (utter failure in last two jobs) emerge. Give me strength.

No, I think Carlos – if he wants it – should get another crack, but not at any cost. I’d like to see some summer business that trims the squad but makes additions that will truly address weaknesses including that lack of pace and invention in midfield, plus more quality at fullback. Gary Hooper was a miss last night and hopefully we’ll see more of him next season, but it’s what’s happening behind him on the pitch that could improve. That’s the test for Carlos. Let’s see if he passes it.