Is the home record still inact? ✔️ Is every single one of those lads an utter legend? ✔️ Are we still second in League One? ✔️ Good, that’s that cleared up. Some thoughts on another Adams Park classic (by the way, thanks to Peterborough for wearing their third kit and ruining my graphics – *ahem*).
Smells Like Team Spirit
It absolutely reeks of it. Togetherness in football manifests itself in different ways, but whether you’re Ipswich (big fish doing what’s expected of them), Wycombe (minnows punching above their weight) or Bolton (tinned sardines – not for now but should be fine for the future), you have to have it. That said, pulling back deficits to salvage unlikely points time and time again arguably takes the most of it – and the most *best Brendan Rodgers voice* character. It was one thing coming from 2-0 and 3-1 down to beat Southend, but this was an entirely different kettle of fish (sorry, not sorry).
We’ve gone behind in 3/7 home games so far. Only three sides have gone behind in three or more – Fleetwood, Coventry and Doncaster – of which only Coventry have recovered to at least draw every one.
Peterborough were the best team we’ve faced so far by a measurable distance, so to come from not only 2-0 down at half-time but also 3-2 down with 20 to play – and a man down from the 83rd minute – was as good as a comfortable win. I can’t be the only one who wasn’t really perturbed as our dodgy scoreboard ticked towards the hour mark with 0-2 on its temperamental display; that might as well be 0-0 to us. Not all heroes wear capes, but they do wear light and dark blue quarters – and it was only fitting that the biggest hero of them all saved the day. What really epitomised our unwavering team spirit, though, was that last-ditch defending and goalkeeping right at the end. I’ll let the footage speak for itself.
More Tactical Intrigue
The short-lived 3-5-2 of the previous weekend lasted half the game this time out. It made sense – pack the midfield and maybe use the wing-backs to try and get round the outside of their narrow-ish 4-1-2-1-2. It didn’t work, instead having the effect of drawing Jack Grimmer out of position, giving Fred Onyedinma too much ground to make up for him to do any real damage – although his apparent knock may also have played a part in his slightly wooden showing – and leaving the three centre-backs a bit disorganised. There was just too much space for Posh and their potent attacking prowess.
Grimmer: all over the place in the first half; awesome in the second. Jackyll and Hyde stuff, you might say.
But Gareth, like any tactically intelligent manager, changed things, reverting to 4-3-3 – which could have left us more susceptible to being overrrun in midfield, but it’s the formation we’re used to. Only it wasn’t quite the usual 4-3-3; Rolando Aarons replaced Fred for only his second Blues appearance and took up a free role in the final third, ghosting from left to right and being involved in our second goal (more on that in a moment). Then there was the eventually red-carded Curtis Thompson’s velcro-like man-marking of Marcus Maddison, who wasn’t able to perform to his usual brilliant best and resorted to cheating instead. He got himself booked for kicking the ball away and was hauled off inside an hour – job well done on our part. Maybe it’s only become more apparent this season and with how unexpectedly well we’re doing, but Gaz, while he doesn’t always get it right, is a great tactician and will only become better.
The Hillbottom Globetrotters
It’s a shame it was a bloody own goal, because our equaliser was exhibition stuff. Grimmer to Wheeler to Gape to Charles to Phillips to Freeman to Gape to Thompson to Grimmer to Freeman to Gape to Aarons to Grimmer to the back of the net (via Posh centre-back Frankie Kent and ‘keeper Christy Pym – nope, still can’t work out why it’s Pym’s OG). Let’s call it an 11-and-a-half-pass move seeing as the last one wasn’t completed. It won’t do the rounds like that Rochdale goal, but this one is actually worth the hype.
It’s not the only wonderfully well worked goal we’ve scored this season either. Scott Kashket’s winner against Southend springs to mind, as does Fred’s lead-restoring strike and David Wheeler’s winner versus MK Dons – and there was nothing ugly about Paul Smyth’s opener against Bolton (which seems bloody ages ago now). That kind of football doesn’t ‘just happen’; expect to see plenty more. I don’t know how we watch that every week.
By the way, we’re not only better than Man United but also almost as good as City now:
Rocky’s Road to Redemption
Ryan Allsop has made a fine start to 2019/20. Save for his debatable error at Fleetwood, he’s not put a foot – well, hand – wrong in a shot-stopping sense. All in black, he looked the part for his Lev Yashin-esque heroics on Saturday. He’s made all the saves he’s had to – including three inside the six-yard box, the joint most in the league – and his kicking has come on leaps and bounds in recent weeks. If he can leap and bound commandingly around his box – and he continues to show glimmers that he might – then he’ll be a complete ‘keeper.
Oh, by the way, those of us yearning for a new number one in the summer were basing our desires of what we saw of Rocky last season. We may have been mostly proven wrong so far, but there was nothing wrong with that stance at the time. Being abusive is one thing, but criticising a player’s performances doesn’t make one a ‘hater’. We all get behind the players, but happy-clapping is not a good look.
Only seven players have scored more goals in League One this season than the big man. He’s level with the prolific Ian Henderson of Rochdale, Ipswich’s marquee signing James Norwood, and Oxford hotshot Tariqe Fosu-Henry – not bad company at all. And so what if two of them have been penalties? You’ve still got to dispatch them and they’ve both been pressure ones. Those headers at Rochdale and this weekend weren’t half bad either, despite some questionable ‘keeping in both instances.
I remember one outsider in the summer telling me that keeping Bayo on for another year was a mistake. I categorically disagreed with that, but I doubt many Wycombe fans thought he’d be playing such a pivotal role for us – and at the upper end of the table. He’s led the line as formidably as you’d expect in Alex Samuel’s absence – and the team in Matt Bloomfield and Joe Jacobson’s – and he’ll surely keep his place as long as he’s scoring. After 150 appearances for Wanderers, he’s one goal off 50 – and he should have the chance to reach that half century against Sunderland. What a player and what a bloke.
It should have been 2-0. None of Posh’s goals should have counted – handball in the build-up to the first and two corners which weren’t for the others – and our penalty wasn’t one. Just sayin’ 😏