I was lucky enough to witness two superb goals at the City Ground on Saturday.
The first, by Almen Abdi, was a stunning strike; it seemed to really settle him down in the game and he put in a very decent performance after seemingly being out on the cold for so long. Hopefully this past week will be the beginning of a longer run in the team, playing in the role he is best at, or was bought for, and it inspires him to bigger and better things.
The second strike, another piece of superb individualism by Fernando Forestieri was only superseded by his amazing celebration, where he not only disappeared into the depths of the bottom tier, full of the away fans, but didn’t reappear for what seemed like an absolute age! Again, this couldn’t have been better timed if I’d have written it myself, and Forestieri’s passion and delight was there for all to see.
At this stage of the season the matches come thick and fast and that is just how most players like them. You are usually just ticking over in training, working on the opposition, set pieces and keeping sharp, but the majority of your fitness work will be done with now as the run to the end of the season is quickly descending upon us.
Along came Brentford on a blustery Tuesday evening and the talk was of going above Leeds into fifth and then taking them on at Elland Road on Saturday coming. Unfortunately somebody forgot to tell the Bees about the plan and their visit to Hillsborough was a night to forget.
Yet again I felt we started the game slowly and lacked tempo. After 15 minutes the majority of the game was being played in Wednesday's half and our reluctance to play forward with crisp, sharp passing encouraged the visitors to grow into the game.
I hate it when referees get the blame for defeats and in no way will you hear me blame the officials - we defended poorly and Brentford were the better team by far in the first half but I have to say that the first half performance from Mr Bond was as poor as I can recall. However, what you can’t do is hide behind his performance and, although the second half was better, we still struggled to break them down and failed to create any clear-cut chances until the final 10 or 15 minutes.
What concerned me was our lack of creativity and the reliance on simply lumping the ball forward. In the first half there were occasions when we ignored the opportunity to play into our strikers and choose to keep possession in a slow and lethargic manner. Yet after the break we are happy to fire it forward from all angles and try to play off the second ball. Of course, at 0-2 down we are desperately trying to get back into the game but if we are a passing side then I would have thought that is the way the manager wants us to play.
Again, the excuse of tiredness and fatigue was rolled out but it doesn’t wash with me when we showed we can play the second half with a far higher tempo and energy than we did in the first. We defended the set pieces poorly and it really was one of those nights when you draw a line under it and hopefully can make amends on Saturday.
As well as learning from mistakes you have to try and take some positives out of the game. I thought McManaman looked good when he was introduced and was full of pace and creativity. Forstieri looked like he’d carried on from his second half performance at Forest and his work rate was excellent.
The result now puts even more importance on the trip up the road to Leeds on Saturday and a solid defensive display has to be paramount, in my opinion. When they visited us earlier in the season they looked powerful and, to be honest, swept us aside on the day. Not only will we be seeking revenge for this defeat but we will also want to rectify the loss against Brentford and consolidate our top six position.
I will be interested to see the team selection at Leeds on Saturday. Carlos Carvalhal has to round up his troops, dust them down and prepare them for the cauldron that will be Elland Road come Saturday, not a place to be for the fainthearted!
I DON'T ACCEPT THE 'TOO MANY GAMES' ARGUMENT
It's been a truly amazing week in footballing terms, with non league Lincoln City beating Premier League Burnley at the weekend to get through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. All this followed by piegate and the shenanigans of what went on at Sutton United.
Personally, I am very much in the camp of many ex-professionals when it comes to the issue of teams playing under-strength sides and the reasoning, or as I see it, excuses, that players can’t play so many games.
In this day and age, sports science really is at its most advanced and clubs know more about the fitness and well-being of their players than ever before but I’m sorry, I simply don’t accept that footballers are over-worked. Of course, players get fatigued with constant weekend and midweek games but nothing gets you ‘match fit ‘ like 90 minutes. In some way I’m quite happy that the so-called bigger clubs have been caught out this season on so many occasions and hopefully next season some of them may consider doing things a little differently.
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques Unit 1, Old Barracks, Sheffield. S2 4EE