Written by kirsikka
FA Cup time and with a chance to put the recent league form behind them Tindall went with a very strong team from the outset, Wilshere making his first start since re-signing and none of the youngsters getting on from the beginning the notable choices.
This venerable competition sometimes produces matches of blood and thunder between teams from different tiers as the less celebrated side draws the other into a battle where heart and hard work can overcome superior technical skills.
However, it was clear from the outset that Crawley had no interest in going toe-to-toe, instead employing the other well-worn technique of sitting in and then trying to get something on the break. Probably the right decision given how we’ve played against teams doing that of late.
The gauntlet was laid down to the Cherries to break them down in a 4-3-3 that saw Lewis Cook sitting almost like a quarterback, Billing going box to box and Wilshere given the freedom to roam the pitch with a particular focus behind or near the front three.
The early possession showed moments of promise as Wilshere acted as a forward fulcrum around which we could pivot and Danjuma looked back to his direct running self after his recent injury layoff.
On the eighth minute, a corner from the right was played in with pace, eschewing the recent habit of floating them in, only for Billings’s header to bounce back off the post.
At the other end, Crawley showed they had some teeth as well when the usual passing around in the left-back area gave it away and the ball broke for a Crawley attacker to fire a shot across goal to which Begovic was comfortably equal. I’m starting to feel like a broken record but every single game we screw up multiple times trying to play it out from the left-back position.
Every. Single. Game.
There comes a point where you have to start giving the manager pelters for not changing how the team are shaping up for passing out from the back from one specific position that continually gets caught out. I think we’ve reached it when a League Two side are getting joy out of us. Tindall and his staff need to take charge of this situation as it’s like we’re putting the location of our Achilles Heel on the electronic hoardings for the other team at the moment.
At the other end, Danjuma was constantly trying to make things happen. He was a long way from always successful but the key here he was trying to mix it up rather than always taking the safe ball. Some of his passes went astray, at times he took on too many and at others he slowed it down at the wrong moment but he was constantly involved and looking to open up space on the pitch through one means or other. The creative intention was there, something we’ve been sorely lacking of late.
In a bizarre moment, for the third game of the trot, we spilt blood from an opponent, although this time Lerma wasn’t on the pitch and it came from a fair challenge that led to a clash of heads with S Cook.
I’m starting to think JT got a medium in to check on our form and was informed the ground had been put under an ancient Scottish curse by the Wee Nac Mac Feegle which can only be lifted by the continual spilling of blood of innocents.
That aside, the game settled into one of those youth football training exercises of attack against defence except the attackers kept fluffing their lines.
I’m genuinely struggling to think of a player in AFCB’s history that crosses or plays the final ball worse than Rico. That fact he continues to take corners from one side is especially baffling. I’m sure I’ll be put right with plenty of worse examples but for a player that was feted for his delivery when he signed it’s a mysterious situation. The only thing I can think is maybe it’s like when England played the World Cup in Mexico and all the talk pre-tournament was how the ball will move differently there. Except he’s Spanish and the ball doesn’t move differently here than in Spain. It’s bizarre.
On 23 minutes Danjuma dropped short into a pocket of space on the left and Billing played it into him. He used that extra time on the ball to find a pass to King in a central position who gave it a deft flick behind him for a now free Wilshere just outside the area. With the ball begging to be hit, Jack obliged sending it into the corner to make it 1-0.
That was pretty much it for the first half. There was a few moments of quality, King looking lively at times, but there was nothing that tore Crawley apart. It was pedestrian domination.
The second half started with Lewis Cook giving seppuku a go, nearly playing in Crawley only for the Cherries to break to the other end and fail to get a telling cross in. From the corner, S Cook flicked the ball on and Wilshere volleyed from close range only to see the ball kept out by the keeper.
We looked to settle into the familiar first half pattern of play when some more crazy play at the back nearly let Crawley back into it. From a goal kick played short, S Cook couldn’t find an option and so knocked it back to Begovic who had an attacker closing in on him. He tried to take a touch and was half tackled with the ball falling loose to the second striker. With only the Bosnian to beat the Crawley players eye’s bulged as the giant keeper made himself look like an octopus, limbs spread everywhere, as he made up for the gaffe and kept out the shot.
This seemed to inject a bit of life into Crawley who’d been mostly vapid up until then. A long ball over the top had their striker Nichols outpacing Kelly only for him to tumble in the box under a challenge. The ref blew and my heart sank only for the official to give a yellow to the attacker for simulation. There’s no doubt he went down easily but it was certainly in the range of seen them given and if refs are going to start booking strikers for that then a certain forward now playing in black and white stripes will likely soon be serving a suspension for ten yellow cards.
Despite their disappointment, Crawley almost immediately won the ball back and spooned it into the area. S Cook watched from his central position as Stacey sounded the oliphant and came charging across the box to challenge for the header only to lose out as the attacker flicked it wide. That would be wide right into the space that Stacey had just vacated and in which stood Nichols who slotted the ball past Begovic with relish to make it 1-1.
Fortunately, nerves didn’t have time to set in as seven minutes later Danjuma dribbled past a couple on the edge of the box, played a neat 1-2 with Brooks and then passed to King who placed it perfectly into the corner of the net to restore the Cherries lead.
A flurry of subs followed without changing the formation as Tindall tried to apply some fitness pressure on a lower league side that have been unable to train as normal for a while due to their issues with the coronavirus.
Truth be told there were more half chances, poor final balls, terrible shots and below-average crosses but their keeper only really had one good save to make.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Kelly and Rico were in a competition to see who could give Crawley the most dangerous set-pieces. I guess they don’t like playing in the FA Cup as I can’t think why else they kept doing the same silly fouls again and again.
In the end, there wasn’t a lot for Begovic to do and we got through. Maybe that’s all that matters in the cup, especially when the prize is such a doozy. An away trip to Burnley where we do ever so well and the manager loves us.
Still, if they do sign King before then at least it will give Tindall the chance to talk about how we can’t be expected to compete with the budget of teams like Burnley.
Man of the match against Crawley
Waz afcb wrote…
These games are hard to judge tbh, the gap in quality was clearly huge. Didn’t learn anything we didn’t already know ie we have some very talented individuals but look pretty disjointed as a team a lot of the time, Danjuma needs to release the ball earlier, we need to stop messing around at the back, we badly need a new left-back, Jeff likes to kick people ect – Join the conversation, click here.