Another Week, Another Defeat

Match report by WALLACE & GROMIT at the Weston Homes Community Stadium

Colchester U 2 Pools 1 (League 2) Saturday February 25th 2017

This huge let down of a season trundles its way to a tense finale with Pools looking unlikely to do the great escape if either of the basket cases below us find a weaver with reeds, canes and willow to spare. If they do, then we are stuffed. 

I got my tickets from Kate at the Pools ticket office who was cheerful and efficient. Top quality customer service needs to be appreciated. The "Gaffer without the Gaffer tape", Dave Jones, set us up to not get beaten and for 60 minutes this pretty much worked.

I took Tim, an Ipswich fan who coaches a bit, along with me and he worked out that we were playing 4-1-4-1. We were pressing them fairly well in the first half, limiting them to hopeful punts over the top. The downside of this was that our 10 defenders left Amond to fight three centre-backs on his own. 0-0 at half time was the logical outcome of this stalemate. Sat in a windswept concrete arena (albeit one with clean toilets, efficient bar staff, friendly stewards and plenty of spare seats) you couldn't help but hope that the second half was going to be better.

I don't know which of the coaches pulled the tactical change over the orange slices, jelly babies and Woodbines at half time, but Pools sat right back and invited Col U onto them and for 20 minutes we waited for the inevitable Colchester goal. It came from the overlapping right back and The Beanpole With Big Hair who were the most likely candidates for danger. They had been effectively subdued earlier but after the break when we retreated to the edge of our box and left Amond on his own in the other half, we looked weak.

Shortly afterwards, Guthrie, The Beanpole With Balance Problems, fell over in the box and earned a soft penalty. 2-0 to the home side with what was a pretty effective penalty it has to be said. At this point the Gaffer tape came out and two of our weakest players went off - Oates and Alessandra. We switched to 4-4-2 and were back in control. Two Pools fans went to leave the stadium 10 minutes from the end saying that as we hadn't had a shot for 80 minutes we were unlikely to have two in the last 10. They weren't even down the stairs to the front when Nathan Thomas burst into the box and stroked an absolute beauty of a shot into the corner of the net. Game on!
"The last 10 minutes saw an absolute belter of a performance from Nathan Thomas"

Pools roared back into life until The Beanpole With Weak Legs fell over and begged for help. Given his earlier performance neither Pools (to loud boos) or Col U (to even louder boos) kicked the ball out until the ref stopped things because the lad was now clearly in trouble. A 7 minute delay saw him stretchered off with what looked like a nasty injury which I hope he recovers from quickly.

This is a real issue with footballers, they feign injury so much that when it actually happens nobody believes them. This delay helpfully broke up our flow and after the restart it all fizzled out. I do hope the injury was not really clever bit of deceit.

The last 10 minutes saw an absolute belter of a performance from Nathan Thomas. Just back from injury and stopping to stretch what looks like a knackered hamstring every couple of minutes, he ran Colchester ragged and set up and took chance after chance. Despite being left footed he was played out on the right and seemingly only given licence to attack once we were two down.

There was evidence of defensive organisation about Pools, the high pressing in the first half was good but the completely passive display until the we were two down was really poor. We had no plan going forward, leaving 20 yards between Amond and the other 10 players for lots of the game. We had no plan to pick up any knock downs, weak clearances or what I think is called "second phase ball".

We were impressed with Fryer's distribution and shot stopping (apart from one comedy howler with a back pass). Richardson looked out of his depth and seemed to be identified by the home team as our weak link as most of their attacks went down his side. Donnelly tackled robustly but offered nothing going forward into the acres of space they left him to exploit, which he failed to do.

Brad gave a solid display in the centre, Scott Harrison too looked largely untroubled. Featherstone, Alessandra and Oates in the middle were far too ponderous with their movement and passing and were often caught in possession or playing sloppy balls to the other team. Most of our defence and midfield were guilty of weak under hit passes, passes straight to Col U players or passes behind runners.

Woodsy oozed class throughout, playing great passes, making solid tackles and looking truly composed in the congested centre of the park. Thomas exploded into life at the end when he was allowed to but looks to have injured himself in the process, but you can't fault his effort - he fought like a dog for us. Amond was, as young people say "Meh". Mind you, I doubt there are many who would get any change from three defenders including the brick outhouse called Elokobi, who was just immovable.

Tactically, I think we got it wrong. Colchester are not great and when we attacked them, they looked a bit of a mess. We did not send any runners up for the attacks and when Amond got the ball, there was nobody within miles to support him. Walker, Harrison, Thomas and my Man-of-the-Match Woods came out of it with some style, the manager and the others less so.

We are going to have another exciting season end, playmates!