Often in commentary for cricket you hear about a shot being “ a textbook forward defensive” and football has a similar coaching textbook, something along the lines of “The Art of Defending”. Most teams would be advised to read it and take the finer points on board. As far as I am aware there is not a chapter entitled “How to not defend a cross” although the Cherries defence have found it from somewhere and have taken it to heart. At first it became a bit of fun that we were pretty crappy at defending a cross and clearing our lines, but we have now moved from fun to farce and anytime the ball goes into our box you really have to start praying.
Unfortunately Neil Young succumbed to his hernia and had an operation to correct during the week prior. Stephen Purches replaced Young and looked rusty from the outset, this was not surprising as he had only played around an hour of the season prior to today. He lined up at right back with Broadhurst and Maher in the centre.
It was the latter who gave away his third penalty of the season with a clumsy challenge from behind, although the contact was minimal it doesn’t take a lot for a striker to hit the floor and in this case Andy Booth duly collapsed like a sack of spuds and the ball was slotted home from the spot by Pawel Abbott, to increase his lead at the top of the goal-scoring charts.
I mentioned earlier that Stephen Purches was looking a little rusty at right back. This came to prominence in the 35th minute when Worthington robbed him of the ball, easily rounded Moss (who looked as if he would bring him down, but then thought better of it) and slipped the ball sideways to Luke Beckett who calmly rolled it home from the edge of the 6 yard box.
At this point is was no more than Huddersfield deserved. From the 2 –2 draw against them at Dean Court, it was obvious that they were physically and mentally strong, they are a direct and in-your-face sort of team, which reflects their manager’s (Peter Jackson (not the Lord of the Rings guy!)) style as a player. The addition of Luke Beckett up front (on loan from Sheffield Utd) means that they always carry a threat and if they can tighten up at the back they do stand a chance of making the play-offs.
The fragility at the back was not really tested until the second goal had gone in. Until that point we had only played one up front and had defended atrociously. Suddenly we seemed interested and a nice build up by Elliott and O’Connor on the right lead to a chance for Hayter, at which he swiped and missed.
There wasn’t long to wait, however, and a decent cross to the far post from the right foot of Wade Elliott found Hayter ghosting in to nod the ball down and past the exposed Paul Rachubka.
Back in it!! - not for long. Immediately some negligent defending led to a Huddersfield breakaway down their right, a simple cross and Beckett is on hand to sweep the ball home. The cliché that you are always vulnerable after you have just scored appears to be true.
Second half, what a change! We all know that when we put our minds to it we can play. When we pay attention to our own game and stop worrying so much about the opposition, they can’t live with us. There appeared to be a mind shift in the players’ approach to the match.
Back to our usual 4-4-2, although O’Connor was allowed a free role and was at the focal point of most that went on. A lovely through ball from O’Connor found the forward run of Spicer who was just muscled out by Efe Sodje. Eventually the pressure paid off and a right wing cross from Elliott was headed back across goal by Spicer and James Hayter was on hand, six yards out to notch his second of the match.
Even Steve Fletcher was starting to play, chasing down and pressurising the defence (theirs not ours). He nodded down another Elliott cross, but Hayter just couldn’t get enough on it to complete his hat trick. The pressure was relentless with everything going through O’Connor and Elliott. A Hayter one-on-one was smothered by the keeper and the follow-up by Holmes (on as a sub) was also blocked. An overhead kick from Elliott narrowly drifted beyond the post and it was not to be.
If only we had played like that from the start.
Hayer scored the goals, Elliott was outstanding on the wing, but my vote goes to
AFCB: Moss, Purches (sub Howe 83), Cummings, Broadhurst, Maher, Browning (sub Holmes 83), Spicer (sub Connell 87), O’Connor, Elliott, Hayter, Fletcher.
Unused subs: Stewart, Coutts.
Phil Henstridge, Deddington, Oxon