Today we were brought back down to earth with a thud. Before the game I told the team we were playing bottom of the league who lost 4-0 last week but not to get complacent, but unfortunately that's exactly what seemed to happen for the majority of this game.
We started off quite well in terms of keeping the ball, but this was only us passing across the back line without really moving up the pitch. There was a real lack of players wanting to come and get the ball, instead we seemed to want to run away from it and force a through ball every time we found a bit of space in their half. Both Lee and Karl were staying wide nearly all the time and Fin was determined to out run their centre backs every time we looked to attack, this worked once or twice but it soon became very predictable to defend against. We almost scored when Lee got in only to unluckily see his lob come back off the post straight to fin who managed to awkwardly hit the bar from a yard away. That was at 0-0 and you got the impression from then on that it wasn't going to be our day.
Our midfield pairing of Josh and Fred were getting dragged all over the pitch but didn't spend much time in the centre where they are supposed to be the majority of the time. The opposition had so much space in the middle, often completely unmarked. There seemed to be a real lack of communication throughout the team with people moving away from their positions to mark someone else's man leaving gaps where they should have been, and others not putting in the effort to close down or make life hard for the player who they were supposed to. Compared to last week where everyone worked their socks off defensively it was a completely different story.
East Brighton took the lead with a speculative long range strike that Tom let go through his hands, he should maybe have done better but it was no more than we deserved, especially as we were giving them so much time on the ball.
Things got worse soon after when they scored a beauty of a free kick that left Tom with no chance. It came about as a result of sloppy defending. We looked unable to deal with high balls, mainly because there was often no one shouting for the header, which meant either the ball bounced as everyone left it or two people went in half-heartedly. Either outcome induces panic and exposes us.
Whereas last week it seemed we had 11 leaders on the pitch, this week we had none. The only shouts I could hear whilst standing on the sideline were negative, there was no organising, no instructions to teammates, just blaming and moaning. Before the game I reminded the team of the size of the squad and the requirement to put in maximum effort and determination, unfortunately it looked like it fell on deaf ears.
Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh, I don't think anyone was particularly lazy, it was more a case of us being reactive rather than proactive. The other team were the ones making things happen, putting in the challenges and pressing us as a group.
With the ball we looked uncomfortable and unable to pass even 5 yards, with a number of passes going straight to them. Players who usually have composure were rushing to get rid of the ball, almost looking scared of being clattered by their marker. Too many times someone would try and quickly force a through ball that wasn't on instead of us keeping possession and looking for a better opening.
What we needed was at least one of us to try and take the game by the scruff of the neck, get their foot on the ball and their head up and dictate the play, sadly no one really stepped up and thus we never really got going.
They scored another just before half time, smashing home from close range after more confusion at the back left their man free to finish.
I made 3 changes at half time, removing the midfeid 3 because that's where we should have been strongest but was in fact where we looked the weakest because our shape was not right.
The second half was better in terms of that, but we didn't really create many chances and the opponents had quite a few, Tom made a couple of good saves to help keep the score down. Any chance of a comeback was pretty much destroyed a few minutes after kick off when more calamitous defending saw them score with ease.
Tom Eke scored a nice consolation goal with about 15 to go with his left peg. The three subs, Tom, Daz and Urdon all made a positive contribution to the game. Daz did as I asked and got on the ball, kept it and tried to give us a bit more time to move up the pitch into their half. We did so a few times but still never really looked very potent in attack. Our final ball was so often lacking quality and just like in the first half, there was a lot of misplaced passes across the pitch that went straight to the other teams feet, I'm not sure what happened out there to cause such sloppy ball work. Is it because we didn't really do any passing drills in the warm up?
I think (hope) we're just going to have to say this was a bad day at the office. It's certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of team selection for next week.
Man of the match is Tom Eke who came off the bench and looked calm and composed on the ball whenever he had it, was strong in the air, made some good interceptions and scored a nice goal. Well done mate.