A Cambridge too far

Cod Almighty | Article

by Ron Counte

19 February 2018

Ron went to watch Town at Cambridge. He wasn't impressed...

It's hard to write a match report when there is no match. We failed to compete in any meaningful way against what was a very poor Cambridge side.

Dire though they were, however, they could at least punt the ball in vaguely the desired direction, and at least showed some urgency on occasion. On the few times that they ventured into our penalty box our so-called defenders stood by and watched them poke the ball into the net.

We had no defence, midfield or attack. In the second half one of our own players headed the ball against his own post. You could tell it was one of our players because the ball didn't go in. I don't even think our team has the wherewithal to score a decent own goal.

A word about our midfield. Rubbish. I also have a number of words with which to describe the performance of Matt. In order to keep things clean I will though satisfy myself with this one. Useless. I have seldom seen such an inept and ineffectual contribution in a Town shirt. He spent the entire game ambling around like a stunned giraffe in its death throes. What on earth would possess Paul Wilkinson to put this guy’s name on the team sheet? It's not as if we don't have any alternatives. When Hooper - hardly a Christian Ronaldo - came on, he showed twice as much energy and commitment.

I was not a great footballer myself, though in my teens I did turn out for a Sunday league team. But even I had mastered one or two of the basics of the game. For example when the ball came to me I could usually bring it under control without it bouncing off my knees straight to an opponent. To quote a phrase, for most of our players their second touch is a tackle. I could also move the ball forward in the general direction of the opposition goal. Yesterday one of our players, about 12 yards out, hit the ball so far off target that my friend and I looked at each other trying to decide whether this was in fact a shot or merely an attempt to knock over the corner flag.

Our players appear terrified of the ball. The sole intention is to get rid of it as soon as possible, like watching a game of pass the parcel with a beaker full of sulphuric acid

One aspect of the game which is apparently unknown to our players is called "passing". I realise this is a relatively obscure discipline, but the idea is that you give the ball to a player with the intention of progressing down the pitch. Our players appeared terrified of the ball. On those rare occasions when they have it at their feet, the sole intention appears to be to get rid of it as soon as possible, even if this means hitting it at high speed towards the midriff of a fellow player who is already heavily marked. It's rather like watching a game of pass the parcel where people are throwing a beaker full of sulphuric acid at each other. To be fair though, it is hard to find somebody to pass to when no one has the faintest idea about moving into space. So rather than our play being 'pass and go', it was 'pass and don't know'.

The other option extensively deployed during the game was the aimless punt. This would either be to an area with no Town player within 30 yards, or occasionally straight into touch. That might be a valid tactic in a rugby union game, but is oddly out of place in a so-called football match.

Still, things can always get worse. This was amply demonstrated when Sam Kelly made a comedy appearance. I was sitting near Tony Butcher and he warned me of what was to come, but frankly I didn't really believe it. What a naive fool I was. Shortly after coming on someone inadvertently passed the ball to Kelly. He carried it about five yards and then, as soon as he got close enough to sniff the opponent's aftershave, he leapt majestically out of the way like a young gazelle pursued by a pack of hyenas. He obviously intended to get as far away from the ball and the opponent as possible.

I have never left a game early, but after the third Cambridge goal I sorely wanted to. I only went to this game in the first place because of renewed optimism generated by the sacking of Russell Slade. On this performance however, it would appear that Paul Wilkinson has no more of an idea about team selection and organisation than his miserable predecessor.

Thankfully we still have a small points cushion between ourselves and the bottom two. But based on what I saw yesterday it's hard to see us beating anybody. Slade, by systematically getting rid of any vaguely talented players from the squad, and replacing them with a bunch of hopeless journeyman and loanees, has all but destroyed the club's prospects. We certainly need a new manager as soon as possible, but it's hard to see how anyone is going to galvanise this sordid assortment of hapless inadequates into a meaningful unit. It is certainly true that a great deal can be achieved by a skilled man motivator. But I think Winston Churchill himself would struggle to put fire into the bellies of some of these wastrels.

All is not quite lost yet. The return of Macca in goal was a welcome sight. Perhaps bringing Davies and Collins back may add a little steel to the back four. A couple of the more recent loanees such as Wilks and Vernam show some promise. I think our season will boil down to two consecutive home games in April. If we can beat Barnet and Chesterfield at Blundell Park we might very well avoid the drop.

On the plus side the vast majority of the squad will be gone at the end of the season and so a new manager can rebuild virtually from scratch. It remains to be seen whether that project will commence in the Conference or the Football League.

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