Sunday, 3 February 2008

Match 14 - Sheffield United

It's been a long time since we played a home league match (last year) and our performances have been variable since then. Three away matches in which we have won, drawn and then lost (a close encounter 0-1 at Barnsley in midweek) leaving us still the strongest team in the Championship - holding everyone else up.

Discussion before the game centred on whether the away team would wear a change strip since both clubs wear stripes and it might be difficult for those with black and white TV sets to tell the difference. Check it out for yourselves!

Today's opponents have brought a veritable who's who of former top flight players to the most intimidating ground in the football league - 'The Management' of Bryan Robson and Brian Kidd with players Gary Speed, Ugo Ehiogu, James Beattie and Keith Gillespie. Beattie was good natured enough to share some humour with the home fans at one stage while warming up.

It was 'Welcome to Layer Road' for three new players making their home debut after some frantic activity by our own management during the January transfer window. Chris Coyne was dominant in defence, Phil Ifil was rugged at right back and Scott Vernon made his second appearance here this season as substitute (his first being for Blackpool when he scored both goals that beat us 2-0).

The most impressive thing today was the fact that the whole defence looked more confident for the most part. The midfield didn't have to stay back as much and started to get creative in their own way and it was great to see Duguid back in his right wing role. Even the guys up front seemed to be playing with more enthusiasm and it was a team performance that gave the fans a great afternoon's entertainment.
OK there were a couple of slip-ups that cost us two goals, but that's for George to deal with in the changing room and on the training ground.

Our two goals were taken with small measures of opportunism and luck and a 2-2 draw was probably the right result. No-one was really upset at this, except that I found it really strange that there were a few dozen home fans leaving the ground a good ten minutes before the end with the scores level. Didn't they want to see us score again and win it, or had they seen the future and they knew it was all over?

There was a lot more noise and enthusiasm from the fans today and I realised that we will be lacking a major voice in the new stadium. I guess I have to call it 'Woody' - the wooden boards in the stands. At corners and free-kicks we have our own drumbeats to regulate and build up the heart rhythms of the players and strike fear into the opposition. How will we manage without the wooden boards? What are the alternatives - CUFC drums on sale in the club shop? Or maybe just slap the seat in front of you?

We left the ground today with the feeling that we have it in us to beat the drop. It's not going to be easy, or even pretty, but it will be gritty with performances like today. Bring on the Burnley.

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