I am really not quite sure what upset me more, watching our listless and inept display at Brighton last night or listening to the so called experts on Sky Sports line up to put the boot in on Brentford and how the club has been run over the last year.
Let’s start with the performance which highlighted all our weaknesses and exemplified everything bad about us and the way that we play when things do not work out as planned:
- Tons of possession, sixty-five percent, to be accurate but with absolutely no end result
- Barely a shot on target in the whole match
- Nearly six hundred passes of which less than a third were forward in direction
- No real tempo or pace on and off the ball
- Being careless in possession and turning the ball over with monotonous regularity as soon as we got into Brighton territory
- No incision in the final third of the pitch
- The lone striker, firstly Vibe and then Djuricin, being totally starved of possession and support
- Neither striker showing any real appetite for the fray and Vibe showing a lack of anticipation when an excellent chance eventually came his way
- A total reluctance to shoot when the opportunity arose
- Never getting sufficient players into the penalty areas to threaten a tough and organised home defence
- A distinct lack of bite in the tackle as we stood off and admired our opponents as they ran through us unchallenged
- No pressing or defending from the front or committed effort made to win back possession
- Dean and Barbet being left totally exposed when the two fullbacks were far too often left marooned upfield when our attacking moves broke down and the home team taking full advantage of Dean’s lack of pace
- John Swift looking like a little boy lost as the game totally passed him by
- Sam Saunders having one of those nights when nothing went right for him
- Alan Judge reduced to impotence by the incompetence around him
- Josh McEachran hardly putting himself forward for an Ironman Award as he gave in and succumbed to a hip injury after an evening punctuated by a series of sideways and backwards passes and an inability to get stuck in
- Our players being shrugged off the ball with embarrassing ease as we were outplayed, outmuscled and outfought
- We were too soft, small and lightweight, the heads went down as we ran up the white flag, and there was no evidence of leadership either on or off the pitch
I am trying very hard to find anything positive to say about any of our players but I am really struggling to come up with anything beyond the fact that Ryan Woods never gave up or let his head go down and performed excellently both on and off the ball and Lewis Macleod finally made his debut for the club as a late substitute and hopefully there is much to look forward to from him.
Brighton knew exactly how to manage the game. They allowed us to keep possession for seemingly minutes at a time and funnelled back happy and content in the knowledge that we did not have the wit, imagination, guile, strength or numbers in support to break them down.
They waited for our moves to break down, mainly through our own over elaboration or careless errors and then picked us off on the break with fast, incisive attacks that tore massive holes in our defence which had the consistency and solidity of a sieve.
What was most noticeable was how quickly they got forward and how many players they got in and around our penalty area to support their attacks.
There was danger every time they attacked and their strikers, with the exception of the lumbering Zamora, were far too quick and strong for us and we could never match their movement off the ball.
All three goals were well taken but giveaways from our point of view. We started the game quicker than Brighton but after Judge forced an excellent save from Stockdale with what turned out to be our only serious effort of the match, Brighton grew into the game but their first goal should easily have been prevented.
Saunders gave the ball away and was brushed off like an irritating fly when he attempted to win it back. Colin was slow to anticipate a long diagonal pass that looked as if it was drifting out of play before the excellent Murphy chased a seemingly lost cause and set up Anthony Knockaert, the best player on the pitch, who brought the ball instantly under control and left our defenders with twisted blood before he finished emphatically.
The second goal, coming as it did just before halftime, ended the game as a contest. A quick free kick was played to Kayal who was waved past by McEachran whose abysmal apology for a challenge was a total embarrassment and his perfect centre was headed in by an unmarked Hemed.
Amateur hour at the back by the Bees.
The third goal came just before the final whistle at a time when the long suffering Brentford supporters were almost past caring and we were caught by yet another breakaway with vast swathes of space on our right flank and Murphy was left to run in totally unmarked and unchallenged to score easily and set the seal on a night of misery for the club.
What highlights our lack of bite even more clearly is that we never gave Keith Stroud any reason or excuse to put his own indelible and inimitable stamp upon proceedings.
What made matters even worse and poured salt on an already gaping wound was the seemingly biased, inept and ignorant coverage on Sky Sports which amounted to a total Brighton love in.
We were a mere afterthought, the lambs to the slaughter, apart from a brief Alan Judge puff piece before kick off. That would have been bad enough but worse was to come as the commentators and analysts alike, Ian Holloway, Peter Beagrie and Don Goodman, took potshots at us in turn and lost no opportunity to sneer and jeer at our apparent decline and fall from the heights of the Mark Warburton-led regime of last season.
Every transfer out of the club was forensically examined with a metaphorical shake of the head and remarked upon with the overwhelming and unanimous verdict that we had weakened the squad for no apparent reason and had no strategy, plan or ambition for the future and were a headless chicken club and a laughing stock surely destined to fall further from grace.
Not for one minute was there an ounce of introspection or analysis of why we had in many cases been forced to take the action that we did and sell players who we could not afford to keep once their head had been turned by clubs with far greater resources than ours.
So where do we go from here? That is the million dollar question that needs careful consideration. The other day I wrote a long list of everything that we had to look forward to for the remainder of the season.
Overwhelmingly the most important consideration was that we kept our focus and concentrated on winning football matches, something that we seemed totally to forget last night.
There was a chasm between the two teams both on and off the pitch last night. Brighton’s well appointed new stadium is a cash cow and their off field income and an attendance last night two and a half times higher than that of Brentford means that we are totally unable to compete with them in terms of income, and that was reflected on the field where an experienced and expensively assembled squad boasting players we can only dream about, was totally superior to ours.
Let’s also try and keep some sense of perspective as we had taken four points from our last two matches and good players do not necessarily become bad overnight. But it has to be said that the blend did not work last night and we were far below our best and fell far short of what is required to compete at this level.
I will not resort to a knee jerk reaction and pull everything and everybody apart but I am sure that last night was a wake up call that will not be ignored by the powers that be at the club.
Our strategy for the remainder of the season seems to be quite simply to hunker down, retreat into our bunker, make do with what we are left with and simply count off the days and get through the season before readdressing matters in the Summer and hopefully coming again next season.
Maybe the shortcomings that were highlighted last night will bring about some rethinking?