Latics 0-0 Stoke
Saturday 8th November 2008
I’m not about to jump on the ‘Stoke are ugly but it works’ bandwagon that seems to be doing the circuit at the moment, but you have to some credit to any side that is prepared to work so hard for each other and get their bodies in front of the ball as much as Tony Pullis’ men do. Of course you don’t have to roll over and die ever time a more established Premier League club comes along, but brazenly embracing a game plan like Stoke’s would be frowned upon at th’athletics stadium, never mind in the top flight. Playing to your strengths is one thing, but I’m not sure it counts when your only strength seems to be having a side full of six-foot odd brick outhouses.
If we’re honest, this was never going to be game of the day on Sky, or get extensive analysis from Alan Shearer, but did anyone expect the Division Two flashback that we got in the first half? Actually, scrub that, half of League One would have been ashamed of the (lack of) spectacle that both sides put on in the opening 45, but it had more than a touch of the school yard about it.
If everything started with a bit of the old “get it up to the big lad see if they can handle him”, the second half settled down into a bit more of an expected pattern. It’s funny, but I don’t remember using the old ‘camped on their 18 yard line too much before last winter, but since Bruce’s arrival it’s been wheeled out four or five times (in spirit if not in pixels).
Thankfully, this time the siege didn’t end up with Latics getting beaten but really any side who enjoys the amount of possession and pressure that Latics had here, and doesn’t score, doesn’t deserve much else. It might be a frustration for all involved, but after our “hell in a handcart” interlude it seems like Latics are back to preparing those, didn’t deserve to go down excuses.
We’ve now played 5 games against opposition that we could honestly expect to be in the bottom third of the table come May for a return of five points. A point per game may be a reasonable foundation for a mid-table finish overall, but we should be aiming for the top end of that little grouping.
That’s been made difficult enough by the decent start that Hull and Boro have had along with Stoke’s shock results and we need to start picking up points out of these type of games soon. You can’t see Blackburn, Spurs and Newcastle keeping us company all term, and the picture without those three in it looks petty stark for Latics.
It may well be that Latics only need a bit of momentum, the right result to et things rolling again, but it’s difficult to see where that’s coming from at the moment. You can look to Tuesday’s cup game for inspiration but the bookies don’t fancy us, and there aren’t too many reasons to argue with them, really.
And if it seems to be all doom and gloom then at least we didn’t make a mess of the fabled Delap throw. First up we managed not to concede too many in dangerous areas and secondly, when we did, we defended well. When, called upon, this was another decent showing from the back four, Titus Bramble in particular (does that mean we’re due a calls up?), and it seems to be fair to suggest that the problems, in this game at least, are at the other end of the pitch.
There’s a spark missing and whatever that’s down to, it’s up to the management team to sort it out, and quickly. Some of the teams in that large group between 7th and bottom are going to start winning soon and unless we’re one of then it’ll end up an uncomfortable 2009.
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