After three positive results, this game was a test of our ‘great escape’ credentials, and it was a test we failed miserably. United are second best from the start, lethargic and sloppy both on and off the ball, allowing the Daggers an embarrassing amount of time to attack at will. All in all a bitterly disappointing return to Plainmoor, as three second half goals are deserved reward for the away team’s superiority. Back down to earth with a bump for the Yellow Army.
The first half instantly sees Daggers take the upper hand and Okenaberhie should score with a header. TU are slower to the ball than Daggers, invite pressure onto themselves and in possession either under or overhit numerous passes; amateurish stuff. Frustrating for our players, who quickly lose their composure, whilst Daggers come close to breaking the deadlock. Two chances do fall late in the half to Reid and Williams; both lack the composure to take them. We hobble off at half time lucky to be level, as that man Okenabirhie has a goal disallowed after more poor defending.
The second starts with a brief flurry of United pressure, but after that Daggers regain complete control. Okenabirhie gets his goal with a banging shot past Dorel in the area, and then a Sparkes free-kick is flicked home by Robson – game over. No amount of Owers rejigging improves matters, and it could easily be 4 or 5 nil before Okenabirhie seals it near the end (shocking defending for that one). Losing Romain’s hold-up play and work-rate, plus Gowling’s leadership and organisation clearly weakens the team, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of fight and intensity from United – too many below-par performances and outclassed in all areas.
Balatoni 3 Sokalik 4 McGinty 3
Efete 3 Young 5.5 Barnes 3 Dowling 3 Davis 3
Reid 4 Williams 3
Subs: Keating 2 Evans 2 Gosling 4
Man of the Match:
It’s become a recurring theme at Plainmoor that when we play badly, Luke gets the motm vote. Luke is the only one who looks mentally prepared for the match and has very little assistance from Barnes and Dowling – two young lads who have bad off days. It feels like we’ve let the midfielder down over the last few years, not surrounding him with enough allies who have the same energy and enthusiasm for match days.
No other Gulls deserve one, as performance levels dip back down to January lows. My HM goes to the Yellow Army as the crowd increases to over 1900 and the Popside desperately tries to spur on McGinty et al in the second half.
The 3-5-2 is more like 5-3-2 for a large of proportion of the match. John Still tactically out-manoeuvres Owers, matching up with three in midfield, pushing on the full backs and using Bloomfield and Sparkes in attack to constantly trouble the defence.
There is gaps for United to exploit, but without Romain the combo of Reid and Williams makes little impact. Meanwhile on the wings there is occasionally space, but Efete and Davis both have very poor games. Owers moves to a 4-4-2 in the second half, but it’s too late by then to make a difference and the manager needs to re-motivate his team quickly for Tuesday’s match.
50 mins – McGinty almost scores with a header from a corner, as United rally a little after the break. Two minutes later, the Daggers have woken up. Okenaberhie finds space on the right of the penalty area and blasts the ball past Vincent, a very well-taken goal that quickly takes the wind out of our sails.
On paper it looked like a very good time to play Daggers, with the financial uncertainty hanging over them and several players leaving. So credit to them for ignoring those off field issues and going for our throat right from kick-off.
The squad may be depleted after recent outgoings, but in Okenabirhie and Bloomfield they still have dangerous threats in attack. Sparkes is his usual busy bee off the ball, and Howell is always overlapping him at full back. We are very poor no doubt, but the away team play attractive football and are definitely one the better outfits to arrive at Plainmoor this season.
Some early ref decisions annoy the Popside and Brett Williams, which only adds to the frustration as Daggers seize the initiative. He clearly won’t stand for any backchat! After that there is little refereeing to do, and very little to debate.
One of last week’s heroes, Barnes is not at the races this weekend. Along with the rest of the midfield, he just cannot get any control of the game. Failing to win challenges, too sluggish to get to loose balls and misplacing passes. The young lad will have better days again I’m sure, unfortunately in our position we just cannot afford them. Both him and George (actually all of the team!) will have to step it up a notch this Tuesday.
I was optimistic that our recent up-turn in form could continue, boy was I wrong. Daggers showed no signs of a club who desperately need to sell players to remain sustainable, instead manager John Still showed all his experience and was far too good for Owers/Kuhl. United were maybe nervy about another big game at home, or they were too complacent about beating Daggers – either way the lack of appetite for the match was alarming, as second ball after second ball was lost through lack of aggression. No time to sulk on matters, another game awaits in mid-week – and after wins for the teams around us, it goes into the ‘must-win’ category again. Best get Elliott signed up by then, assuming he still wants to come!