Sunday 13 March 2011

Brechin Away 12/03/2011

Nostalgia Ain’t What it Used to be!

A crowd of 3,472 witnessed arguably the most exciting football game since we gained promotion to the SPL. On a pitch which had three separate inspections prior to Steve “card-happy” Conroy declaring the game on; slick, passing football was never gonna be on offer. Rather, the fans were treated to a battle, on a pitch which something which resembled a location from the film, ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Front’. The home fans and board might argue the rights and wrongs of allowing the game to proceed to the detriment of the pitch. What’s beyond argument is that mistakes, not money, make for entertainment. Perhaps the SPL Chairmen would do well to take note.

Both keepers conceded twice, and had plenty of other scary moments, yet both Nelson and Big Pete were pivotal to ensuring both names go into Monday’s draw. The defenders must have wished they were anywhere else when the pitch turned each bounce and pass into a pinball adventure. Every single St Johnstone defender had a moment when the pitch made them look stupid. In reality, the only stupid folk were the moaners in the stand.

Moaning has its place; it can be helpful in the bedroom and it can be entertaining in an office environment. It can even be an understandable reaction at the football, but it was utterly uncalled for at Glebe Park. Even the unflappable, Dave Mackay, looked flat footed on a pitch which was as inconsistent as Wullie Collum’s decision making. Perhaps the boys packed two left boots again....

Whatever, there was no excuse for the boo boys. The players gave their all and to leave the field, at both half and full time, to a chorus of boos was simply wrong. Our fans behaviour has been thoroughly disgraceful since we gained SPL status; key staff being wrongly pilloried by Neanderthals for too long. Too many times, hot-headed people armed with partial facts spout and rant against the good name of our club and this cup tie was crystal clear proof that our support has a majority element of twats.

From the first whistle, we quickly established that passes along the surface were to be avoided at all costs yet the pinnacle of fan based stupidity, WeArePerth’s Mainstand, described our football as Route One. Such is the battle on our hands. What we actually did was play cute little chip passes; brilliantly mixing up the trajectory, length and weight of the passes. This method worked very well, but it did mean that “feel” players came to the fore whilst guys like Muzz and Adams were poor.

Of course Adams wasn’t helped by another idiotic refereeing decision. Yes it was a badly timed tackle, but that’s all it was. The referee should have used it as a line in the sand (geddit?) but instead he booked the midfield enforcer whilst allowing the wee Brechin ned, Rory McAlister, carte blanche to foul our centre backs.  Again, I must clarify that he is not corrupt, merely incompetent. I’ll let him off with the penalty. I thought he called it right but having viewed the TV pictures, Scrabble dived and the contact occurred during his “Peaso”. In fairness, someone obviously talked some sense into him at half time because he did let the game flow a wee bit better. Still, that’s no good for Adams who’s withdrawal was catalysed by Conroy’s faux pas.

On the subject of errors, big Graham Gartland almost cost us a goal when he let a ball go under his foot. Thankfully, a rush of blood meant that an early Brechin goal didn’t materialise. For the rest of the game, Garts took great care to get his whole body behind every ball and put in a very effective shift alongside Ando. 3 goals shipped in two games is proof that statistics never show the full story, Garts and Ando have worked very well since Duberry’s enforced absence from the squad. Neither player got to grips with McAlister, but overall they restricted him to very few shots. His second came about, more through perspiration rather than determination.
Grainger was the player scrapping with the tradesman, when he got his second goal of the game. The full back was on the wrong side of McAlister and knew he had the linesman at his side. He worked and jockeyed as hard as he dared, narrowing the angle brilliantly, yet despite his efforts and Gartland’s positioning, the burly forward hit a sweet shot onto Enckleman’s right hand post and into the net. The keeper, as with the penalty, could have done no more. The images of the aftermath show a mixture of anger, frustration and hurt on the St Johnstone faces, but overall it was the right result in a brilliant game.

For all he was blameless in the goals, Peter Enckleman proved why I don’t rate him with several moments of indecision, directly caused by his reluctance to effectively communicate. Twice in the opening few minutes, our defenders were running towards him, shepherding a ball, yet he failed to take command. Ando, who again led the troops magnificently, let him know the error of his way. When he was asked to deal with crosses, his command was top drawer. The constant sleet/rain and brisk breeze made for tricky catching, yet the youngest keeper in the match made his cross taking look like a training drill on a summer’s day. The man is an enigma, no doubt about it.

One man who delivers every time he crosses the line is wee Chrissy Millar. Restored to the squad, Del inexplicably left him on the bench at kick off meaning Danny Invincible remained in the team. His introduction, at half time, turned the game in our favour. His first touch was a left footed shot which drew us level; almost every other touch was instrumental in creating an attack. The fans that remain to be convinced leave me bewildered. The coaching of Del and Tony has worked wonders for the perma-tanned bundle of energy and we should be thankful for his presence. Easily man of the match.

Sadly, nobody else in centre midfield had a good game. Adams looked uncomfortable with ball at his feet and simply didn’t get going. We’ve seen what he brings to the team though, and he is a must start for Hamilton. Alex Neill will wish he was still on the recovery table. Muzz, who shone so brightly last week was back to his usual form today. Like all the players, he gave 100% effort but the conditions didn’t help him.

Turning to the wide players, one was good and one was bad! Liam Craig, who has mis-fired his way through the season, showing only occasional glimpses of the talent we know he has, really showed what a great footballing brain he has. His shot off the bar typifies his aware and confidence, his decision to cross the ball which led to Millar’s goal showed the benefits of ignoring old men in the crowd and also highlighted his decision making! Whenever he had a decent bit of turf in front of him, he played football, when he didn’t he hoisted the ball and let it travel unhindered.

His vision was superb, he knew when the surface would allow him to pass his man and when that wasn’t an option he showed a wide range of passing, from short and easy balls to curving, stabbed efforts. He is a vital cog in our midfield and must be retained. I don’t condone flashy wages, and I remain perplexed as to why he wasn’t signed up in July, but we must have him at McDiarmid next season.

His fellow flanker, Danny Invincible, scored one of the greatest headers we’ve seen in recent times. Perhaps a touch fortuitous that he got on the end of a ball from Danny Grainger (because the we are perthers tell me he is hopeless at corners!) but his mazy run left the defence speechless and veteran, Nelson, was powerless to stop the ball from bulging the net.

Sadly, that was his sole contribution. Far too many times he was slow to hoist the ball into the box and that meant players having to check their run on a traction-less mud bath. At 31 years of age, he can’t be taught such basic footballing knowledge. He also twice dithered when at the edge of the box with a sight at goal. Again, with the wind and sleet in his favour, he should have been giving old Nelson a workout. Unlike Liam, he didn’t seem to understand that certain parts of the pitch were unplayable and, for a man of his experience, that beggars belief.

Up top was another curious situation. Del, yet again got the frontline wrong, he also got the subby spectacularly wrong. Does anyone seriously believe that Mayzo would have wasted the chance squandered by Reynolds? To quote one of our coaches, “If you’re gonna act like Jack the Lad off the field, you need to be Jack the Lad on the field.” Experience may yet bring humility and tranquillity to the life of Stevie Reynolds, if it does he will surely relax and go onto bigger and better things with Saints and beyond. If it doesn’t, he might forever snatch at chances...

Peaso was excellent at link-up and made the correct runs into the channels. Sammy was brave and strong throughout. There’s a great story about how Sammy and Devon first came to the attention of Tony Docherty when he was doing a homer in the Caribbean. The pitch they played on that day, must have been in better nick than Glebe Park. Story is here:

Sammy ultimately had to come off with a knock. He refused the ice and headed for the dressing room. I wonder if he’ll be fit for Saturday. If not, it should force McInnes to start with correct front two of Peaso and Mayzo. Once they get up to speed again, they’ll be unstoppable. I don’t think they’ve played as a front two since Murray Park in the Martin Hardie comeback game. They were on top form that day, despite Peaso’s long absence. Great times are just around the corner.

Ultimately, Peaso ran out of steam after 70 minutes and should have been replaced with Mayzo. Perhaps Del will explain why he didn’t recognise the change needed to be made, perhaps he was fearful that we’d get an injury and have no subs left. Trouble is, we were effectively playing with 10 men for the last 20 minutes.

In summary, it was an excellent game of football. A game that will live long in our memories, especially if we reach the semi-finals. Brechin played well and it was terrific to hear, read and see the cup fever that gripped the town. If only Perth businesses, schools and media outlets would support our club we might have less sash singers in our towns and squad; more importantly, we might have bigger numbers at McDiarmid Park on Saturdays.

We are all in this together, it’s time for the people of Perth to support the club. The board will shortly announce prices for the replay. I have no qualms in saying that their generosity will not be rewarded. The ship of depression needs to be steered onto a path of optimism. It’s our job to help....

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