For the second season running, I don't think we deserved to end the opening day with no points. We gave away three soft goals and Plymouth conceded two that they won't be happy with, but in the end it came down to a 30 second period of play. Steve McPhee volleyed over from a great position in the Plymouth box and they scored a route one goal from the goal kick. That was about all there was between two sides who were otherwise evenly matched and played a similar brand of football, spear headed by the excellent Dean Windass at one end and the excellent Rory Fallon at the other.
The goals we conceded were really, really poor. The rest of the performance was quite good. Enough to trouble Plymouth and create three or four chances that should have seen us sitting pretty. After Windass's goal inside 3 minutes, we conceded to David Norris. Fallon dropped deep to meet a long pass, held off Danny Coles and found Hayles, who held off Delaney and found Norris charging through a massive gap in our defence and one on one with Dawson. Daws didn't do enough, he backed off to far and let Norris shoot low from 20 yards. It was too easy. Coles and Delaney charged into the strikers and no-one tracked Norris from midfield. The second was the worst. It was just a quick throw in, Garcia didn't react and Fallon stooped low, ahead of Coles, to head home. The whole defensive unit were asleep, ready for half time. We equalised when Marney tapped in after Windass missed a penalty. The third was coming really. Not in that Plymouth were pressing us but because every time they hit the ball forward, Delaney and Coles were pulled apart. I'll be very honest, I thought the Plymouth threat had gone when Fallon went off, but we still managed to make a pigs ear of a long boot up the pitch. The ball bounced up off Coles and Blake, Chadwick out jumped Delaney and Blake reacted quickest to thump it in.
We were set up in the 4-3-3. Browny got it spot on in midfield, Ash tackled and protected, while Marney and Hughes were mobile and creative. Both worked hard and passed well. We won the penalty when Hughes was pulled down trying to connect with a fantastic Marney cross. The defence was probably right too. There was a lot of emphasis on trying to pass the ball well and build quickly from the back and Delaney is the best passer we have in defence. Coles has had a good pre-season and offers more pace and strength than Turner, so against Hayles and Fallon, it looked a good pair. In the first half, they did pretty well, the first goal aside, but after the break they looked likely to make a mistake. There appeared little communication between the two and the goalkeeper, I'm not sure any knew what the others were going to do. Up front, Windass and Garcia were obvious, but I would have played McPhee. Barmby had a hand in both goals and made one or two great runs, but generally looked very pedestrian and got himself caught offside far too often. There wasn't enough threat down the left.
The right hand side was our best weapon, Sam Ricketts was absolutely superb in the first half, bombing into space at every opportunity and forcing something to happen. Dawson didn't quite reproduce it on the left. For a start, there was very little space to run into because Barmby and Windass would pull out and try to link up, whereas when the ball went right, Garcia and Windass would hit the middle and leave bags of room for Ricketts. There was no real out ball on the left either because Barmby likes to drop off and doesn't have the pace to get in behind anyway. If Barmby is going to play, he needs to play between midfield and attack in the middle, otherwise he doesn't offer enough of a threat. Other than the soft centre in defence, the lack of pace is still the biggest problem. Only Marney and Ricketts look like they can run in behind. Garcia is quick when he gets going, but slow off the mark (see goal #2).
Ricketts and Windass were the pick of our players. Deano took a battering playing a very lonely role up front but linked play with his head and feet, stood up to their defence and generally cause havoc. The negative was his discipline. He was lucky not to be sent off when he elbowed Doumbe in the head while chasing a back pass. Barmby was undisciplined too. He was booked for a crude tackle from behind and then continued to push his luck. While heat and fitness took their toll, both had to be substituted before they were sent off. They need to calm down and set an example.
I just hope Phil Brown continues to encourage the team to play the way they did today, to try and pass the ball, to be patient and wait for openings and to keep the ball until the full back's can join to make a wide 5 in midfield. We need to tighten up in some area's, but unlike Parkinson last year, hopefully Phil Brown will look to eradicate the individual errors rather than set-up a team to draw 0-0. I'd rather see us lose a few while trying to play the game properly. The attendance was disappointing, just 16,600. Those who did go saw a good game of football. It's hard to judge our crowd though. At times when we tried to keep the ball and went backwards rather than lump it forwards, there were still people complaining.
As a form guide, it's pretty hard to judge, it really depends on how good Plymouth are. They were no better than us. We were 2 or 3 poor individual decisions away from a comfortable home win. It's important that we get something at Coventry, otherwise we'll end up with no points out of 6 again and suddenly the situation looks a bit bleak. The players were brave today. I hope the fans will be too. Stick by them.
Ratings: Bo 6, Ricketts 8, Dawson 6, Delaney 6, Coles 6, Ashbee 6, Marney 7,Hughes 7 (Livermore), Barmby 5 (McPhee), Garcia 6, Windass 8 (Bridges).