Don’t know how many of you listened to the interview with Adkins on Humberside after the game but, for those who didn’t catch it, it – or in particular Adkins’ general mood and tone of voice – was remarkable, in that for once there was none of the trademark happy-clappy optimism: here was a genuinely angry man. On the face of it the anger was directed at yet another pissing up the wall of a two-goal lead: the third in 2019, and had we won each of those games we would now be level on points with sixth place, you might be interested to learn. And yet, listening to his bitter criticism of the players after yesterday’s showing, you couldn’t help wondering whether his malaise might perhaps be rather more deep-rooted, perhaps the frustration of a man who, unsupported by his lords and masters and for a long time unwanted and unloved by the Club’s ever-dwindling support, faced with the challenge of trying to restore his reputation against that background and getting very close to succeeding, suddenly finding that the relentless running up a downwards-moving escalator has finally got to him. And if that’s correct, could there be any link between the timing of it and the recent revelations in the local media about the slashing of playing budgets and the now-ritual lack of progress with contract renewals?
This might all be off the mark, but it all genuinely felt like more than just a rant about a team of players who had to an unacceptable extent performed quite ineptly. Perhaps Nige is actually feeling our pain. For, although most rational Tigerwatchers would have happily settled for where we are now at this stage of the season it all seemed very despondent as we filed out of the Circle, and that despondency felt as though it was more about what lies ahead than what has gone before, a state of affairs which, paradoxically, could actually have been made worse by our making the play-offs and getting promoted.
This is not a good time to be a City fan. In fact so not good a time is it that my pal and I were discussing yesterday, with completely straight faces, whether we should go to a Showaddywaddy gig instead of a forthcoming City game, something which would have been unthinkable until quite recently. That’s what we have been reduced to.
Anyway, the football. Well, it was pretty crap for the most part. I would even opine that, notwithstanding that an error in front of goal stood between us and a 3-0 lead around the hour mark, we were when you look back on the game as a whole arguably lucky to get a point.
Failing to whelm us were the following:-
McKenzie Burke Ridgewell Kingsley
Bowen Irvine Pugh Grosicki
City, as is their habit, set off brightly, kicking towards the North Stand. It wasn’t long before visiting keeper Lumley was tested by Bowen’s angled drive following a great through ball from Irvine. And not very long after that before the scoring was duly opened, when Grosicki finds Bowen out wide, and the star man playing on the right, cuts inside and drills both the leather into the far corner and himself into the annals of Tiger history by scoring for the eighth consecutive time in home games. What a fine talent this young man is: enjoy him while you can.
For a spell then it’s all Hoops. They go close within a minute of our scoring and then on 13 an overlap with width of the M62 appears on our right – don’t ask me where McKenzie was – and Bidwell whistles one across the face of the goal. As if that’s not enough, three minutes on and the visitors once again stroll through our defence and the pace of a through ball is slowed down by a deflection, taking it right into the path of a Ranger, with Marshall – who had left his line in anticipation of the through ball – in no man’s land. In probably the best defensive play of the afternoon from City, though, Kingsley gets in a fine tackle to save a certain goal.
The game takes on a formly largeless air for much of the rest of the half. There are a couple of bookings, Lynch for chopping Fraizer down and then Ridgewell for a clumsy challenge on Wells, but the only other thing about which to write home was an underhit backpass from Ridgewell which prompts my neighbour and Tig-Chat regular to instruct me to write down, “Fucking Ridgewell, fucking idiot”. Have to say that my chum has a point here: I suppose he made a couple of clearances and square balls to Burke and Kingsley, but really, what is the point of Ridgewell? I found myself idly wondering whether there’d be a market for a cartoon book entitled “101 used for a Liam Ridgewell, with drawings of his stubbly chin being used as an alternative to a Clag-Gone (Google it if you don’t know) or that sort of thing.
The game, as you will have gathered, is actually quite rubbish, albeit played at quite a brisk pace as if in an endeavour to reassure the onlookers that oh no, missus, this really isn’t a dead rubber. it comes as a bit of a surprise therefore when we double our advantage a minute before the end of the first half. Surprise, surprise it’s the old double act with a peach of a ball from Grosicki finding Bowen again in the inside-right channel, who flicks the leather inside and powers it in through a forest of blue-and-white-clad defenders.
Not altogether sure we deserve that, but we’ll take it.
So, half-time, and thoughts turn to the crowd. The attendance was given as 11,227, but it did not take more than a modicum of functioning eyesight and the most basic grasp of mental arithmetic to establish that there were well fewer than 8,000 souls inside the stadium, including about 300 reasonably spirited West Londoners. Whilst it’s fully appreciated that the local media have to tread on eggshells with the Club over so many things it would be pleasing to see a bit more made of the over-reporting of attendances, as that is the most graphic testimony to our Club’s demise and malaise currently available.
Anyway, off we go again. We’re lucky not to see our lead halved after more comedy defending eight minutes into the half, but Wszolek fires wastefully over from close range, but then come close to increasing the lead a minute later when Bowen fires just wide after being set up by McKenzie (who started dreadfully but seemed to get going as the game went on). On 58 minutes, another poor backpass from Ridgewell.
Then comes what with hindsight was the turning point. The sweetest bit of football of the afternoon from City’s midfield sees Grosicki released on the left and a deep cross duly delivered to the feet of Bowen in splendid isolation at the far post. Maybe he even has time for a touch, but we’ll never know exactly what his intentions are as the leather gets caught underneath his feet and Fraizer’s attempt at a follow-up is cleared off the line.
3-0 then, and we would surely have been home and hosed. But with teeth-grindingly frustrating predictability we concede soon after in bizarre fashion. Scowen strokes the ball gently into the box from easily 30 yards out. it’s not meant as a shot but everyone in a busy box contrives to miss it and the leather nestles gently just insider the far post with Marshall – who admittedly might have been unsighted – rooted to the spot. The only similar goal I have ever seen in my life was scored by me in the mid 70s during a kickabout behind my uncle’s house in Paisley, when I attempted a similar ball to my cousin who was playing centre forward, but instead of controlling and shooting he leapt over the ball, which eventually bobbled an inch inside the post with my brother, who was playing in goal for the other side, flat-footed and mouth agape. On that occasion my cousin and I collapsed into helpless laughter, but that was fine because our game was being played by a bunch of spotty teenagers, not a highly-paid team of professional sportsmen. This really wasn’t funny at all.
We’re thrashing around badly now and it’s not hard to work out where this is heading. Grosicki tees up Pugh (why don’t we chant “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb” when he gets the ball? I’d pay to get in just to be able to do that) but the Bournemouth man’s shot, from optimistically far out, is a shade too high. Wszolek is booked for a foul on Kingsley, there’s more Ridgewellitude, this time in the form of needlessly giving away a corner (this all sounds terribly mean and the poor chap is no doubt doing his best, but really?) and then in a rare moment of cohesion from City on 78 minutes Martin, who has just come on for Campbell (what, by the way, are we to make of the stuff on social media last night about the lack of any contract talks with Fraizer?), feeds Bowen whose effort is saved by Lumley.
And then the moment we’ve all been waiting for, on 83. The ball is hoofed out of midfield towards the by-line on the right, Scowen chases, is allowed to cross (Adkins was insistent afterwards that the ball had gone out of play, but even so….) and sub Hemed bundles over the line at the near post with scant resistance from the City rearguard. Just shocking.
Predictably, the Tiger Nation is then treated to a flurry of faux-urgency for a few minutes (the sort which would have prevented both QPR goals) but the reality is that we have fallen apart. Again. It actually comes close to getting even worse with two minutes left, as Irvine unnecessarily fouls Scowen near the edge of the box and Eze’s free kick clips the outside of Marshall’s left hand post. Stewart is then booked for a foul on Eze.
Into the generously-short three minutes of added time, and QPR’s claims for a penalty are waved away by referee Martin. Marshall then gathers the leather and promptly rolls it out straight to one of theirs.
The final whistle comes as a relief, even though it takes us back out into the rain which has persisted through the afternoon. Cue the aforementioned disconsolate filing out.
Well, surely that’s it now as far as this season is concerned. Some tasty away trips for the fans but more in the sense of good days out than bona fide footballing contests. With eight games left we can at least hope that City will turn on the style in the way in which they sometimes do in dead rubbers, Burton being a fine recent example, and it might well be a case in that event of our taking our pleasures when we can because, treating any takeover fairy-stories that might be out out over the summer with the contempt that they deserve, the one thing that looks certain at the minute is that next season looks destined to show this one a very clean pair of heels in the bleakness stakes. Which takes us back to our manager’s mood post-match.
Ian Thomson (via Tiger Chat)