As a big critic of Marc Antoine Fortune I have to say fair doos on this one, his energy had a direct effect, he was one of few playing as if aware of having a point to prove, ran at their backline to begin disrupting what was till then a comfortable defensive shape, was rightly encouraged to whip in early crosses whenever possible following his success in that regard at Emirates. For his reward he helped deliver the equaliser.
Getting the second goal with only 12 mins left however meant we had no chance really, although it was nice to see a moment of class, followed by a bit of passion on show from new bhoy Efrain Juarez.
Some have remarked that Brown’s individual performance was OK-ish, at least relative to others if nothing else. I didn’t see it but even still, it was surely woefully lacking from a captain in any event; more generally I can’t remember a less deserving figure in the role in my lifetime, and would hazard a fair guess beyond. Not only is his status coupled with long-term lack of form one of a number of factors causing us problems, he’s at the very root of them. The manager has to realise this and act.
Sadly I agree that Neil Lennon got it wrong from the start with a line-up short on, dare I say it, real risk. The opportunist goalscorer Gary Hooper aside it was predictable. In hindsight he and Fortune may have been a far better option than Georgios Samaras, more on whom in a bit.
Without making the Artmedia debacle sound like anything other than precisely that, a debacle, WGS did at least for the second leg have the right idea and obviously managed to get some urgency across to his charges given how we came out the blocks that evening. By far the most disappointing aspect of tonight was watching the first 20 minutes play out with the same hesitant, tentative, one-paced rubbish on show from a team once again unable to manage a single shot of note. Even before their away goal killed the tie in any event we were making a full enough statement in our own right that we lacked both the heart and the smarts to even threaten a real turnaround, however unrealistic that may have been to begin with.
European football may not be anywhere near close to the top of the agenda this season but surely Lennon had to understand the value of at least making a statement this evening and energising a sizable crowd, £500 per person lighter for the privilege of funding his education and rightly waiting for proof that anyone in charge at CP has a clue what they’re doing any longer.
Even as we rallied the second half was pockmarked with defensive blunders approaching full-on calamities, at a time when the Portuguese had themselves taken their foot off the gas.
Hardly any need to highlight the main individual culprits. Our £50k p/w tragic twins were I felt to the fore again, and it’s hard not to become resentful about the way both Brown and Shaun Maloney’s performance level over a period of years now essentially rip the proverbial out of their paying public. If we’re serious about progressing in any way shape of form, we have to get shot of both. Of course, that won’t happen overnight, although Maloney’s injury may once again offer us the worst of both worlds for another season – unavailable, unsellable.
For the umpteenth time about Samaras, too often a hit when it doesn’t matter, a miss when it does. Charlie Mulgrew, go figure, badly caught out for a goal, although he was not alone in being suckered as four hoops went chasing the man in possession playground style on the touchline to leaves acres of space for the killer opener, before being embarrassingly hooked at the break. In goals, Lukas Zaluska, ordinary, unnerved and clearly having a panicking effect on an already spooked backline. Jos Hooiveld struggled, and showed that some folk have to temper their pre-season view that he is already a clear step above the like of fellow CB Glenn Loovens. So long as the defence is third-rate as a unit, his true worth remains to be seen and the need for proven quality in that department, maybe not exclusively but certainly above all else, is marked.
The rest of the new bhoys naturally deserve time to show what they can do. Flinging Joe Ledley in at left back for a half because we don’t have a single other senior player the manager has faith of pitching in in the circumstances won’t smooth the Welshman’s settling-in process any let alone what other worries it flags. Two games in and if we value our professionalism that should already be the last we suffer of the patchwork antics in a competitive fixture.
The manager, well the season is now fully underway, he’s seen his team both in friendly and now competitive action. He absolutely must hit the domestic ground running against ICT and preferably make a statement of some sort with the performance also. We have way more to lose than them, and I’m nervous about it. If we do win, I have a feeling we may all be thanking, and further raving about perhaps, our exciting new Mexican midfielder. In difficult circumstances, Efrain Juarez is for now, sending out the right signals about his appetite for the fight, and we’ll need that, yes, even to claw back above this h*n team.
I had us as underdogs in this tie to begin with an anticipated a defeat.. The nature of it concerns me in parts though, especially tonight’s evidence – if what Lennon lacks in tactical nous is at least to be compensated by his understanding of the character and passion essential to the role in the aftermath of the Mowbray experiment, then I would have expected to see some more fire in the belly this evening, but it plain wasn’t there until it was too late, against a side who were mentally boarding their return flight.
Our objectives for the season haven’t changed one bit. We’ve at least one marquee signing almost certain to be delivered, though that one (yes, that one, him) isn’t a defender. And you really can’t overstate how crucial major improvements are at the back as we attempt to regain the SPL. The Europa League? Respectability at that level on the side is still not an altogether unrealistic target for the season, but only some colossal conditions.
The remainder of the transfer window still has massive amount to tell us especially since any EPL firesale will be short and spectacular in just the last few days of the window, with the 25-man limit on squads raising the fascinating possibility of Man Citteh and others offering heavy incentives for clubs to take on some very capable (at our level) players left out.
The new managerial axis of MON disciples better have a good plan though, be serious about streamlining the squad back to a hardcore of quality operatives offering more bang for buck within a reorganised wage structure, and over the course start dictating certain very important terms for Peter Lawwell to relay to the organ grinders.