After "The Beginning"
After the draw with Fulham, we were met with continued frustration as Sheffield Wednesday managed to grab a late goal to rescue a point and keep us out of the top spot. Next up was Portsmouth in the second round of the EFL Cup, we asserted our dominance early on, and when they managed to grab an 80th minute equalizer, we returned with 3 goals of our own to win the game. After the confidence gained from the Portsmouth I felt sure that we would be able to beat Nottingham Forest away, but we were again denied the 3 points by a late goal. The problem with our defense in the last 30 minutes of the game is a real issue, and one that was made even more real when we conceded late at home against Huddersfield Town. We made a few tactical changes, and beat Both Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff City rather soundly, which gave confidence that the changes were working.
Our next and biggest challenge was to be found in the third round of the EFL Cup as we take on the Premier League quality of Southampton at home in Elland Road. Our hopes were building as we took kept Southampton from taking a single shot during the first 60 minutes, and took the lead with a goal from Alex Mowatt at the close of the first half. The second half began to turn sour as Southampton score with their first two shots of the game in the 62nd and 65th minute. Luckily Antonsson was able to equalize for us in the 76th minute, and we took the game into extra time. I thought that we would be able to take Southampton into penalties and have a real shot of winning, until they scored the winner in the 119th minute and ended our EFL Cup Dreams. We struggled to a draw with Ipswich Town in the game following, and then went on to perform a demolition job away at Bristol City. Unfortunately, Antonsson went out with a concussion in the first half, and was made to miss out in our convincing victory at home against Barnsley where Chris Wood stepped up and showed why he was capable of stepping in for Antonsson. Following the Game with Barnsley we had the international break which allowed us to recover from the couple of knocks we had picked up and left us rearing to go against Derby City.
League Game 12
Our next task would be Derby County, a team that is expected to be within a shout of the League Title come the end of the season. We lined up with the same 11 that have proven to be the best in position all season. Gaetano Berardi has been back o good health for several games now and is fitting in nicely at the defensive right-back position. Manchester United's James Wilson is on loan at Derby and should prove to be the biggest threat of theirs on the field.
Going in to the beginning of the game, it was clearly Derby's intention to utilize Wilson's goal-scoring prowess, and we shut him down rather completely. We gave away a penalty in the 20th minute, which is unfortunate but was not the end of the game. We then equalized at the close of the first half with an excellent strike from Eunan O'kane. As the half closed, we had dominated possession and held Derby County to only 5 shots. The second half would prove to be a different story, as we appeared to be out-classed in every way. We didn't really get any meaningful shot on goal, and we no longer dominated possession. Derby County would go to score their second goal in the 60th minute, which proved to be the winner as we could not get anything accomplished with the ball.
League Game 13
The next game is against a relegation threatened Wigan Athletic, and our captain Liam Bridcutt and the center-back Liam Cooper were both suspended due to an accumulation of too many yellow cards. Toumani Diagouraga will step into the holding midfield position to replace Cooper, with youngster Ronaldo Vieira taking over his place on the bench. Kyle Bartley replaces Liam Cooper, with Luke Ayling coming onto the bench. There are no other changes to the team for this game.
In the early minutes of the game, Wigan seemed to be the superior team as they had all of the possession and the only shots on goal. Wigan scored a controversial penalty in the 28th minute as Gaetano Berardi appeared to push the Wigan striker Le Fondre in the box, further review of the footage would show that no contact was made, and Le Fondre merely lost his footing while handling the ball. We didn't really make any impact for the rest of the half, only making a total of 3 shots on goal in comparison to their six. In the second half everything changed. Suddenly we were the ones shutting them out of the game, we made 10 total shots in the second half, but only managed to find the net once, which is unfortunate given the scale of our dominance in the first half. at the end of the second half, we had only allowed one further shot from them, and we had majority possession.
During this time, Stuart Dallas dislocated his shoulder in training, and will be out for 2 months. Kemar Roofe will step into the starting left-winger position during this time.
League Game 14
For this league game against Wolverhampton, Liam Bridcutt and Liam Cooper both return to the starting 11 from their suspensions, and Kemar Roofe replaces the injured Stuart Dallas as the left-winger. Chris Wood will take over the forward position from Marcus Antonsson who has yet to find the back of the net in nearly 400 minutes.
This game was so frustrating that there really isn't much to say about it. We had 60% of the possession for the game, and MORE SHOTS ON TARGET THAN THEY HAD TOTAL SHOTS. They had 3 shots on goal in total, scoring every single one of them. Chris Wood scored our only goal in this disappointing collapse in logic. We were unlucky, and will need to build moral with wins in the upcoming games.
There aren't many positives we can take away from those 3 matches. We played well most of the time, and were rather unlucky on more than 1 occasion. We have a new young midfield talent in Diego Poyet, and hope that he lives up to all of his potential. In the next episode, we will take on the task of deciding what to do with Charlie Taylor, our star left-back who refuses to sign a new contract to replace the one that expires at the end of the season. We will also enter the winter transfer window, which means we can hopefully move on our dead-weight players and strengthen weak positions.
FM fanatic and football pundit