“…But I honestly don’t see what we could have done differently today…” began my post-match punditry.
“We could have got a keeper stood in the right place for their goal for a kick-off!”, piped up Old Codger. I couldn’t be bothered to argue with the man. “He weren’t covering that said of goal at all”, he continued. “We aren’t gonna get promoted if we can’t score at home.” Here I did agree with him.
“Yeh” I mumbled.
“And what makes it worse is that we’re playing so well away! Why can we not play like we do away at home?” I left his questions unanswered, because I really didn’t have a clue why.
“We could do with getting a striker in on loan” I opined.
“I said we could do with getting a striker in on loan” I repeated, slightly louder.
“We could do with gettin somebody in anyway!”. And with that Old Codger disappeared.
Our record speaks for itself. Of the 17 away matches this season we’ve won 10. Only the top two (MK Dons and Hereford) have better away records. At home however, we’ve only won 4 out of 14.
“Glenn Murray, Glenn Murray, he goes by the name of Glenn Murray” sang some lads on the way out of Spotland.
“Haha, that’s made my day that has” smiled on of the group, with a sarcastic smile on his face.
“What, has he scored again?” we asked.
“Yeh, they won one-nil ‘gainst Oldham, Murray got the only one.”
And off they went, defeated smiles on all their faces.
“Three hundred grand has cost us this league”, another slightly less Old Codger suddenly said. I nodded.
“The problem were not getting rid of Murray” I said, “but not getting anybody else in is”. The man faintly agreed. “We could do with getting Daggers back” I added.
“He’s not back til April though is he?”
“Back in time for Wembley!”
“Pfft, we’re not going to Wembley”. I wanted to tell him why we shouldn’t be so pessimistic, but decided not to. “I went to Bradford last week and we were brilliant, but at home we’re rubbish, can’t score”. The home-vs-away argument again.
“Maybe we should go and play at Oldham or sommat.” I said, and the man laughed.
“Anyway, my lad’s here, taxi service”. And with that, Slightly Less Old Codger disappeared.
I wish I could put my finger on why we don’t win at home more often. We’ve seen today’s match a few times this season, the opposition get in front early on and put ten men behind the ball. We just can’t break them down. I’m sure Keith Hill will say words to this effect in his post-match interviews. For the record, it was Leon Knight who scored the only goal of today’s game – he was played in by a nice through-ball and stuck it in the near-post corner. Contrary to what Old Codger said, I didn’t think Spencer could do anything about it. That was after thirteen minutes, and what we thought was a bright start for Dale.
The next 77 minutes consisted of Wycombe punting it hopefully towards a lone front man (either Knight or McLeish depending on who’s turn it was) and Dale vainly trying to create chances on goal. I would like to say we’d battered Wycombe, and we did territory-wise, but there weren’t too many chances of note – Howe’s powerful free-kick ricocheted off a defender and threatened to bounce in, and later on Alfie missed from a glorious one-on-one situation – but apart from that, nowt much.
I don’t know what we could have done differently today though. Our defence looked quite solid (apart from Holness’s dodgy error in the first few minutes), our midfield (especially Perkins) dominated theirs. If anything, it was our forwards (Rundle, Muirhead, Buckley and Howe) that were the problem today. Having said that, I don’t think anyone on the bench could have done better quite honestly. We did lack a bit of pace in the front two, but Alfie is out of form at the moment, and proved this by spooning it horribly over when he should have scored when brought on. Higginbotham isn’t at his best either, hence him being dropped in favour of Muirhead recently. So what else could Keith Hill have done?
3-4-3 has been touted as an option at home, but today I think we would’ve been slaughtered by Sergio Torres if we’d have played without full-backs. He looked dangerous did the Argentinian, and I was glad when he went off at half-time.
It seems crystal to me that we must have a different team at home than away – but it looks like we don’t have the strength in depth to achieve this. Perkins is a class player, and he even forced Wycombe to put five in the midfield today – he was all over the place. But the fact remains that, at home at least, Perkins and Jones together to not create enough opportunities for the strikers. It may seem harsh to drop Jones, because he’s not been playing badly, but his first touch is always away from goal, and this often destroys the momentum of the team. But with Doolan seemingly past it, who else can we play? The untested Basham?
When it became clear that we were unlikely to score, Hill did change the tactics not long after the half-time break – Will Buckley came off for Adam le Fondre and Muirhead was replaced by Higginbotham and we seemed to be playing entirely in the Wycombe half (at one point I noticed that all 20 outfield players were in their half until McArdle stepped back into ours). But at no point did we look like scoring. In essence, it was a perfect away performance from the Londoners, and their defence looked very good indeed. Possession is nine-tenths of the game apparently, but what good is possession for possession’s sake?
And so, we all left Spotland with that now-familiar feeling of frustrated disappointment. Of course I still think we can gain promotion – but we cannot simply rely on away form to achieve it. We must change something. We must.
On the way home me and my Mam had a tenner bet on Dale’s final position. I win if we finish in the play-offs, she wins if we don’t. Why are the older generation always so pessimistic?
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