First off welcome back to the blog. Things have been pretty busy. I do have 2 more entries lined up around a trip to Vegas and a trip to Dubai but time has conspired against me. If there is any interest in the comments, I’ll fire them up.
So onto the show. The longer the summer went on the more concerned I was about our new home. Would there be atmosphere? Is my seat any good? Will it feel like home? Well after a sample size of one, I can say Yes, Fantastic, This will take time.
The ground itself is well laid out and as it was nearly full last night (53K), the atmosphere took a bit of knock early on as everyone is sitting with new neighbours, etc and was feeling things out, so after a rousing chorus of bubbles to begin with (slight lump in throat) things were a little flat (with the exception of both Kouyate goals) . However once people were settled things got going, and for most of the second half you could be in Upton Park, same songs, same sounds. Bearing in mind there were more than a few day trippers yesterday, we need to witness a league game to really compare.
The game. We were 2 -1 down from the first leg, which was a poor show. We still don’t have our Euro participants except for Randolph, so last night we lined up with Reece Oxford pairing with Winston Reid and Nordveit playing in the midfield. The bug bear of nearly all WHU social media “commentators” was also apparent, with Antonio playing right back, and Byram playing left back. This has to stop. Obviously losing Cresswell at LB was not planned, but come on, a professional football team playing a RB at LB, and Right Winger at RB. Especially one who has made it clear he doesn’t want to play there. Needs must, but we will get torn apart in the PL with this strategy. Antonio, for all his talents, is not a defender, and if this carries on I can see him leaving this window.
Seeing Oxford back was great and I hope not temporary. He obviously is not 100% on staying as some seriously big boys are sniffing around, and he hasn’t signed his new contract. 18 years old and £18mn quid could turn anyone’s head. It’s a worry if I’m honest, not just for us, but for him. At this stage Ogbonna and Reid are better, but we cannot let him go to City or United and become the next Scott Sinclair or Wilfried Zaha. This kid is being touted as the future of England, and surely we are in a position to now keep someone like that. It’s Rio Ferdinand all over again.
We started very patiently, very happy to keep the ball and not waste chances. Valencia as is his want, went off and lost the ball from innocuous positions once or twice but we are used to that now (10mn from Swansea? I’ll drive him there myself). One of our other new signings Feghouli looked lively, as did Kouyate. Oxford looked composed with Reid but in reality they were not under pressure. As is the pattern in these types of game, our opposition were all behind then ball and not bothered about throwing a lively tackle in. This makes getting real chance a challenge. However just after the quarter hour, a ball came out to Byram on the corner of the box. He took a shot, which was mishit and it went past Kouyate, who stuck out one of his Inspector Gadget legs to poke it home and put himself in the history books. From then in it was more of the same, and Antonio made a fantastic run down the line to rescue a ball destined for a thrown on. He got it under control and chucked it in the box and Kouyate got his second from again picking up the second ball. Maybe if Antonio was a winger he could get assists like this every week !
Randolf had little to do all half, and the extra week of training and fitness looked to be paying off, as this WHU were about 50% quicker to everything than the pale imitation of last week.
Second half was pretty boring to be honest. NK had a couple of long range shots and we tried some route 1, down the wings to Valencia and Feghouli. After a couple of misfires, Feghouli finally realised diving wasn’t getting him anywhere and latched onto a great pass from Noble to pop in the 3rd. Game over.
We are now one round away from the group stag so it will be interesting what team he puts out for those games. Last year Slav was pretty clear about priorities and let the fans know before tickets were sold. It’s also against the team that knocked us out last time, Astra Giurgiu.
So stage fright didn’t happen and we probably don’t need the Juventus friendly, but hey it wouldn’t be us without some element of poor planning. New place is nice for now, let’s see once the novelty wears off and I didn’t have to Q up the side of Queens Market for an hour to get the tube.