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Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Team That Doesn't Know When It's Beat

Two games in a week where being behind at 90 minutes means nothing. This team will play till that final whistle and it is bringing us the chance of success. Whereas in the past we may have licked our wounds and whimpered about losing, they knuckle down and eked out a point in both games, which were both tricky propositions before we even kicked a ball.


And seeing as the rest of the Championship all seem like they don’t want to be promoted, tripping over each other and themselves in the run in, these 2 points although we could have hoped for more, may seem huge in the great scheme of things. Palace are way off form, Leicester seem to have imploded, and so what should have been us slipping in and out the playoffs (in reality with where we were 1 month ago, we should really be chasing the pack rather than being the pack) we sit in there with a bit of leeway.

It’s with strange emotions I review this weekend’s football. On the one hand the sheer elation that we got that point against Brighton, and the utter gift that it was, is coupled with the fact that we simply shouldn’t have been behind in a game we were the better team for in large portions.

That said I think any fan with any sense saw this for the dangerous tie it could be. The Seagulls may have recently had their wings clipped, but they have been near the top of the table all season for a reason, have a good manager, and have signed some extremely good players. The likes of Bridge and Upson have played at the very highest level so Brighton are no mugs.

Despite that, we could and should have been ahead at half time. Reid deciding to clip an effort to the back post rather than put his laces through it and let it go. It’d have had a better chance of going in, least of all ricochet to another player moving in to score.

Majewski for me though never got going and I just hope my worst worries and theories about him only being to play well in month long bursts isn’t coming true. McGugan looked far more likely to make something happen, as he ultimately did, to equalise after we fell behind. That goal was kind of contentious. The goal resulted from a corner which resulted from a free kick that was questionable. Therefore a bit of a moan, but it was one of those things. How long after anything happens in a game is the previous passage of play responsible. To use that argument you could go back any distance in any game.

There has been the flash point that had seen Lua Lua “raise” his hands, although how high you have to raise them appears to be the issue. There are a number who after seeing the incident later on TV decided that it probably didn’t deserve a red but for me once you motion aggressively towards another player you lose many of the rights to argue your case. Be it a motion with the head or use your body to charge them, if this is in a scuffle similar to what developed you run the risk of a red for sure. I do contend that sending him off might have made this a less enthralling contest but I also think it speaks volumes that he was then removed by his manager at half time, and forget any other excuse; it was to pull him out of any further confrontation.

Of course Ulloa would score, but for us to get back into it illustrated this team’s resolve. McGugan down the right flank, firing in powerfully but that took a deflection to take past Ankergram who seemed extremely annoyed with himself after the goal. At this stage we could have gone on and won it, but instead we let our guard down and Buckley gave them the lead back. I genuinely at this point couldn’t see us getting anything. Battling back to draw level as it was had took its toll and surely the emotion of going back behind would see spirits drop. Well maybe in the past but now, although it was a tame goal when it came, we just keep going. I’m sure by now we all have seen it that equalising goal, Lansbury’s effort was weak and straight at the keeper, to the point I sat down when he shot, thinking it saved, and so I didn’t see the keeper spill it till the roars came. Thank god for the new big screens.

2 days later we again very late on salvaged a point when all looked lost and again from the midfield. I didn’t see the game, and had to work so didn’t hear much of it either, so my analysis will be fairly weak. I will say this, McGugan took a brave penalty and to be honest you know McGugan will back himself every time in that situation. We might not always agree with him, and often he might fail, but he is on a crest of a wave right now, and so it continues. The midfield goals save us again.

What had been discussed before and during the game was our previously bad record at Turf Moor, especially scoring goals, so as well as getting a point, even scoring is a mild victory. What a difference a manager makes though. Under McLeish and probably O’Driscoll I doubt we’d have got a point in either game. We’d have wilted. Under Davies there is a tenacity to keep going until every clichéd and proverbial analogy can be made about the very end. They will always try. And it’s that tenacity that looks increasingly likely to be rewarded with a playoff spot. This isn’t down to just skill, ability, and luck. They all play a part, but if we we weren’t trying till the death and playing it seem’s for Billy, those characteristics wouldn’t matter a jot. We’d still have lost. But to keep going, to keep trying, even when for 96 minutes it hasn’t been happening, there is clearly something more to the team and squad right now than the traditional qualities. They demand to succeed. They won’t be beaten. And it’s this zeal and passion which is that difference a manager can make.

I’ve recently started reading the Secret Footballer, and he speaks about the manager can make that difference. For one guy they might not try as hard, or put that extra yard in to make something happen. It is clear Davies gets them to do that. Perhaps more than any other manager right now up there is getting. Because to see the way the other teams are slipping whilst we charge into the playoffs makes you wonder how far skill and ability has taken them and how much passion and desire and that grit needed has deserted them. Make no mistake, I remember the days previously under Davies where we would have the January February drop in form, so it’s clear he can’t keep it firing the whole season, no manager can, but for what we needed and at the time, he was the shot in the arm we needed between going for broke and wilting and fading. Mowbray doesn’t seem to have it, Pearson doesn’t either. Warnock probably does but that is where the luck and skill part also play their part, his Leeds team is just not good enough. Had Leicester or Boro had Warnock I doubt you’d have seen them fade away completely. Because when most have played their cards, or put it is all season, when it came to the vital parts of the season they were left wanting. We aren’t.

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