Even after the utter nonsense being spouted by the club this week, I felt positive about this game. Excited even. maybe Wassall would be all that Mel said he was, maybe the players would approach the game with confidence & easily beat one of the worst teams in the division. I was even thinking about what it would be like to celebrate a goal & a win again, to release some anger & frustration. To feel engaged again.
Oh well. Aside from a little bit more effort from a small number of players, it was the same old shit. What a naive fool I am.
The team news was interesting, to say the least. Johnson was back but on the left of midfield. Ince returned as well, on the other side. His wrong side, of course. Baird was completely discarded from the squad. Buxton was back on the subs bench. A 4-4-2 formation with Russell & Martin up front. This was truly radical. Not sure we’ve seen 4-4-2 since Clough was in charge. Or maybe it was that 45 minutes Wassall had in charge of the team that night against Ipswich. Oh what a night that was.
There was an air of expectation inside the ground before kick off, perhaps we were all going to find out what this fabled “Derby Way” was.
And then we kicked off.
To be fair, I thought there were some positive signs. Olsson got forward well. Christie bulldozed forward to good effect (well, a lot better than Ince, who was nominally in front of him). Johnson looked far more comfortable on the left than he had in his normal lethargic central role. But his final ball was simply awful most of the time. Jeff had a pretty energetic game. The defence was solid.
But we didn’t score, despite a few reasonable half chances. Maybe if we’d hit the back of the net early doors it would have been different. Yet again, our quality in the final third was poor. It was all a bit long ball to be honest. Oh well.
MK Dons weren’t really playing ball. I’m sure most of us were hoping they would play in the naive, open manner we’d seen in the cup game against Chelsea. No. Clearly, they’d done their research. Just be a little bit organised & solid, break up the play by falling to the floor on a regular basis, waste a bit of time. They didn’t really try anything creatively & I think their eventual free kick goal was their only shot on goal. That did cede possession to us an awful lot but, hey ho, when we’re incapable of using that possession effectively, it’s not really a risky approach. Let’s face it, play the way MK Dons did yesterday & you’ve got a pretty good chance of beating us.
The 2nd half substitutions at least weren’t left until the last 10 minutes but none of them had any positive effect. If anything the performance deteriorated with every change. Butterfield replaced the ineffective Bryson but made no impact on the game whatsoever. I’m presuming Hendrick was either injured or dead on his feet as subbing him didn’t make sense. His replacement, Weimann, did nothing more than lose possession in useful areas. Bent had replaced Russell by this stage & looked like a player who had been left out of the squad for months.
The 4-4-2 didn’t work I’m afraid. We clearly didn’t need a holding midfielder against a team like this. But Russell looked like a little boy lost up front. Having someone close to Martin didn’t seem to help him out of his lethargy either. Especially when Ince swapped with Russell for a period. Not sure Ince gets on too well with Martin, all they seem to share is an ability to flap their arms around & look mardy. So much for team togetherness.
So what next then? No one apart from our Candy Crush benefactor expected the appointment of Wassall to work. There is something badly wrong at the heart of the club. Clearly. And it won’t be long before we’re slipping out of the play off positions. So what’s the solution? A tough, experienced manager like Moyes or Pearson to bang a few heads together? That could work. But it depends on Mel having an epiphany doesn’t it & making some decisions that make sense again? That doesn’t seem likely at the moment does it?
God help us all.