After such an inspiring performance last week I was hoping that would be the catalyst for us to go on a winning run and steer this season in the right direction. Unfortunately, things came crashing down with an almighty thud.
Firstly, I'd just like to say please don't get too upset if you are mentioned in this report in a negative manner, we are all adults, who play the game for fun (I hope) and sometimes we don't perform to the best of our ability. It's only my opinion and you may have a completely different view. That's normal and expected. Just take it on the chin and try to prove me wrong in the next game.
It's tough to pick a team with the squad that we have at the moment, given the injuries - both physical and mental - and availability we are having to deal with. We've got a real lack of players and competition in certain positions, I have to take some of the blame for that as perhaps I should have recruited more over the summer, it's a double-edged sword though as I don't want a massive squad and have to leave people out all the time making them unhappy, but when the numbers drop you are left trying to work with what you've got.
Based on players available I went with a 4-3-3, Karl G was there again and told me he often plays as a target man so as my hamstring was not feeling great and I've been suffering with a nasty cold all week I decided to see what he could do in my place. This meant Lee unfortunately got moved out to the wide left area, I could see the disappointment on his face and had a little word about it after the team talk, he took it well though and still gave it his all which was pleasing to see.
We got off to the worst possible start, conceding after a couple of minutes. I didn't see exactly what happened as I was busy trying to locate the ball bag that had gone missing, but I did see the ball somehow making its way across our back line (who looked like they were scared of the ball) and it eventually arrived to their player standing on his own at the back post for an easy tap in.
Things didn't get any better, our passing was absolutely atrocious, diagonals, short and long, all seemed to be going straight to the opposition. No one was getting their foot on the ball with their head up and dictating the tempo, it was rushed and there seemed to be a sense of urgency and panic amongst us all. It was as if we were playing against a team of blood-hungry convicted murderers who were top of the premier league, instead of a team of nice-boys who were bottom of the SSFL Division 4 with 0 points.
The formation didn't appear to be working quite how I'd hoped, Karl told me before the game he doesn't move much and he wasn't lying! ?? He was mainly stood high up against their back line for the duration of his tenure up top and we were struggling to get the ball up to him and when we did it didn't really stick. He confessed to me he was severely hungover before the game and was also wearing some outrageous new boots that he said were likely to give him problems.
Lee and Karl were making runs and trying to give us options out wide, I don't think anyone managed to put a decent ball to Karl for the whole half, despite him getting in some nice positions and screaming like a banshee for someone, anyone, to just pass it to him! Lee got put through a couple of times but was unable to beat his man and make something of it, visually showing the signs of frustration and then not trying to atone for losing the ball by winning it back.
Woodingdean were clearly up for this game and I have to say they were impressive in how well they closed us down and forced us into the panicked state we had got ourselves into. It was very similar to the second half of the opening game of the season, where despite being 4-0 down they came out in the second half and took the game to us, and cracks began to show in our back line, with numerous misplaced passes and putting ourselves under pressure with poor decision making from goal kicks.
Having produced possibly his best two displays for us during the last two games, I think it's fair to say Aiden had a game he'd rather forget. He was not at fault at all for the first, but for the second he will be having sleepless nights. Their midfielder found him self in acres of space - not for the first and certainly not the last time - and hit a tame shot along the ground, after which Aiden made the cardinal sin for goalkeepers and bent over to try and stop it with his hands, the ball just laughed at his gloves and rolled straight through them after wiping its feet and into the net. You've either got to use your feet there or get your body behind it, there is never a time when bending over with your hands dangling like that is the best option.
We were truly shell-shocked and I'd love to say we found the resolve that we found when going behind so often last season and turned it round to win 17-2, but we just got worse. There were some sliced clearances, full backs being miles out of position leaving massive gaps in behind them, at least twice I saw Jamie put his hand up to Luis when he was about to throw the ball to him indicating he didn't want it! If you're centre-mid then you need to be comfortable receiving and keeping a ball under pressure, and you should be wanting to get on the ball not waving it away.
There seemed to be a real lack of chemistry between the midfield 3, from the sidelines it looked like Barnes and Jamie were on top of each other a lot and doing very similar things, in the same spaces. There was a bit too much marking of space and not enough picking up spare players that were coming through. You can get away with it if one of you is doing it but certainly not both. It comes down to communication, I obviously couldn't hear what was being said between the midfield 3 from the sideline but I'd be willing to bet it wasn't much. I also had to ask Buggy to move further up the pitch as he was sitting in behind the other two on a few occasions. With Karl G so far forward and Johnny so far back we had a massive gap between the midfield and centre forward which meant there wasn't any linking going on to help us move up the pitch, forcing us into smashing it into the channels in the hope that Karl or Lee would make something happen.
The third came from some absolutely calamitous defending, I can only assume no one was taking charge of the marking from corners, as their tallest player who was their best in the air was completely unmarked and allowed to rise up and head towards goal, there was some shenanigans on the line and linesman Fabio told the ref it had gone over it...0-3 against bottom of the league...
Now, some, or even most, of you might not think I offer anything to this team, but when I am on the pitch I will always make sure we are organised at set pieces. It's something I've found I've had to do in most teams I've played for. There's always players who just sort of stand there doing nothing, marking no one and not looking particularly interested. For the record, we MAN-MARK on corners, I do not and will not ever subscribe to zonal-marking being a good idea on corners. Having a big man spare to go and win the header is something that can work, but only if the opposition do not have the numerical advantage. If I'm not on the pitch then someone, please, take control and bark out some fucking orders to your teammates to pick up the spare men. Even better, if you are one of those players that's not marking anyone then get your arse in gear and find someone who isn't being marked and fucking mark them! It's really not rocket science lads. As soon as the ball goes off for a corner you should all be alert and getting yourselves and each other organised. Also, if someone is taking control and telling you to mark someone, don't start telling them why you don't/can't/won't do it, just do it and ask questions later. The only voices that should be heard are people organising and people confirming that they are marking someone....
...Anyway, just before half-time Lee got fouled and unfortunately injured. He's since told me it's apparently gonna be 2-6 weeks out which is a real kick in the bollocks as he has been far and away our most potent player in front of goal this season and will be a massive loss. I had plans to switch up the team for the second half which were now scuppered, leaving me stuck with what to do as we'd not have his pace up top to hurt them. Johnny volunteered to go up there which was one of the only options, but unfortunately that meant we lost him in the middle and now had two centre-mids who were largely doing the same things and there wasn't much creativity in there. Still, you have to do what you can so we switched to 4-4-2, Fabio came on at right back with Luis switching to left midfield, I reluctantly had to come off the bench as Karl.G. said his foot hurt. I was not warm at all and feeling like shit but it was either that or play with 10 men.
The first fifteen minutes of the second half were actually much better than the whole of the first, we seemed a lot more lively and were creating some chances. There were two diving headers attempts from Myself and Barnes, Karl whipped in an excellent cross after I found him with a searching pass and continued the run into the box, unfortunately it was more of a token dive as I was never getting to it! Barnes on the other hand was incredibly unlucky to see his effort come back off the post after connecting with a pinpoint Buggy free kick. There was a claim for a penalty after I 'controlled' a ball in the box that had got over their back line, it hit their player smack bang on the back of his arm and in the current climate was a stone wall penalty. The ref would have done very well to see it as he was quite far off play, it was still a bitter pill to take though and it was another sign that it just wasn't gonna be our day.
Adam had to go off after around 60 minutes as his groin had gone, meaning Karl.G. had to come back on at centre back and George switched to left back.
I had started to fade after feeling quite fresh for the first 5 minutes I was on, finding it very hard to breathe properly and was completely bunged up, as well as my hamstring being very sore and felt like it was gonna go at any moment. Fabio wasn't gonna let mine be the first to go and later on had to leave the field after his other hamstring pinged (not the one which had kept him out for the last couple of weeks). He had to run the line in the first half and I presume didn't do a proper warm up and had now paid the price. We had no more players on the bench so we'd have to play out the rest of the game with 10 men.
Luis was having a decent, energetic game. His parents had come to watch and you could tell he was trying his hardest to make them proud. His Dad almost got booked for diving when he tried to control and loose ball from the pitch and stacked it, thankfully he was alright! Luis was trying to make things happen down the left, working well with Johnny and myself, I played a poor pass from a one-two that would have put him in if it had been better, sorry! He did get our consolation goal though after a bit of a goalmouth scramble found him at the back post and he finished well through the keepers legs. We had another similar scramble a few minutes before but as previously said, it just wasn't falling the right way for us today.
Any hope of a comeback was well and truly shat on a few minutes later. A harmlessly placed up-and-under free kick was delivered into our box right down Aiden's throat, but for some reason he didn't move and their good-in-the-air defender found himself unmarked and unchallenged at the back stick to tap it in. I was marking him and I have to hold my hands up that I should not have let him get there, regardless of my assumption that it would be easily dealt with, it was poor on my part and I apologise. However, Aiden should really be calling for and coming to collect those balls, it was exactly the kind of ball that a keeper should be taking with ease. We need you to be a bit more commanding Aiden, you should be screaming for loose balls that are coming towards you and having the confidence to go and get them. Calling for a loose ball in the air not only lets everyone know you're coming to get it but it also put a little bit of fear into attackers that know there is a chance they are gonna get clattered! If you aren't confident of getting there then you should be calling 'AWAY!' so your defenders know they need to get something on it.
We had one more chance after I flicked on to Luis who was put through one-on-one, he never looked calm enough to finish though and the keeper, who used to be their centre-back, collected to ball at his feet easily. The ref blew to put us out of our misery and start the inquisition into what went wrong and who/what was to blame.
Luis gets MoM despite his questionable teammate ratings as he got into some decent positions and managed to score a goal, he wasn't brilliant though, no one was.
We are now in a bit of a shit situation, with numerous injuries and morale at an all-time-low. It doesn't get much worse than being beaten comprehensively by bottom of the league...Hopefully we can recruit one or two players over the next few weeks to replace those who can't/won't play and we can get out of this slump that we are still in. I'm confident that we can and I hope you all are too, otherwise there's not much point really, is there!?