In isolation, that wasn’t a bad 0-0 to watch. In the context of three consecutive goalless draws at Blundell Park, during which time we’ve suddenly made scoring look about as difficult as the EFL co-ordinating a live broadcast of a simple cup draw, it’s naturally irked the supporters who pay hard-earned money in return for the promise of some goals.
Let’s be fair to the players, though. That wind today was an absolute bitch. While we could quite easily groan at the lumpy nature of their distribution, the defence did well. McKeown, who hasn’t always shone in aerial battles, had a very solid afternoon and made a couple of crucial saves. And he absolutely nailed the art of kicking the ball straight into the dugouts despite having plenty of time to work out which way the wind was blowing.
And Cambridge’s former international goalkeeper David Forde showed in the first half that at the tender age of 37 he was able to move much quicker than he could take goal kicks to tip Scott Vernon’s header wide of the post and kept the game locked at 0-0.
He could do nothing about Sam Jones’s early effort, though, which rebounded squarely off the foot of the far post.
The thing I didn’t get about Cambridge was their attitude. They showed in short spells that they had the capacity to win the game, but it appeared right from the first minute that they’d come for a point.
Their lack of ambition was probably what stopped them from winning the game today, and you could probably level the same accusation at us, too.
As our top scorer and only genuine goal threat, Sam Jones was taken off in the second half and replaced by JJ Hooper, who barely touched the ball for the remaining 15 minutes.
Our next best attacking threat and second top goalscorer, Siriki Dembele, was then withdrawn for the guy from Norwich whose name no one seems to know how to pronounce, and he too got fuck all service in the remaining minutes as our tactic appeared to go from ‘kick it right hard’ to ‘kick it right high’ and those substitutions absolutely killed any chance of us nicking all three points.
On a day when the wind was driving the ball towards the corner between the Osmond and main stands, it would’ve been interesting to watch us at least try and pass it along the ground to see if that would negate the conditions to some degree. But why bother trying when you’ve got central defenders who are so good at punting it into the channels, irrespective of whether our strikers are making those runs.
And that’s the problem the fans have with this team at the minute. We might be seven unbeaten; we might have only lost once in our last 10 games – but our approach to games and our tactics within them are so bloody obvious it almost makes me want to cry. You could hang a bloody neon arrow with the words ‘coming this way’ above the heads of Vernon and Jones for about two minutes before Nathan Clarke and Danny Collins actually lump it that way. Cambridge’s two centre backs won almost everything in the air all afternoon.
We became a far more interesting team when we had the ball on the ground in the final third. Luke Summerfield had another effective game in the engine room. He might lack finesse but he at least looks to keep the ball on the ground and retain possession by keeping it simple.
James Berrett also put in a tigerish performance, but he constantly looks like he’s on the brink of getting a yellow card. Martyn Woolford showed his experience down the left but there just seems to be a lack of a partnership with him and Paul Dixon that inhibits our progression down that wing.
Only Morecambe and Crawley have scored fewer goals at home this season than us. However, I’m a fair man and I accept the point Slade made in his post-match interview that had we won our recent away games at home and drawn those boring home games away we might be feeling a bit more positive about our progress this season.
Our defence will keep us away from danger but it’s our attack that will prevent us from getting a sniff of the play-offs. It may have occurred in the league below us, but after signing him in January last year, scoring two goals in his first two games for us and looking sharp in pre-season, Adi Yussuf today scored a hat-trick for Barrow in their win over Aldershot.