Championship game 13

Town 0-0 Birmingham

Not the most enthralling match ever. Town started brightly though. We dominated the opening 15 minutes moving the ball quickly and looking to get City facing their own goal with balls in behind. As the passes began to go astray and City were closing down the spaces we struggled to create anything. Players began dropping deep and wide to find space in which to operate which then meant that when they lifted their head up there was nobody in the box to find. City obviously came for the point and did their homework well. They slowed the pace down in the first half, taking an age over set-pieces and feigning injuries all over the pitch. Their only avenue of attack was the long ball up to Jutkiewicz then Deeney late on, despite having the enterprising Chong in their side who must have been frustrated watching the ball go over his head all game. A draw always looked likely as we failed to really create much until late on when Campbell hit the woodwork twice. Disappointing when 3 points were there for the taking.

Ratings

Nicholls

Another confident display from the keeper who had very little to deal with. He is consistent and does not make mistakes which gives the whole defence confidence.

Rating 7

Lees

Settled into the side very well and I always expected him to do well in this one as he is strong in the air and in a physical battle. He did stpe out of the defence on a few occassions as well and did not give the ball away, my MOM.

Rating 7

Pearson

Steady game again which was expected. A little slow at times but read things well and coped with what little he had to.

Rating 6

Colwill

Defensively did well and started the game finding space and stepping forward, but after a couple of poor passes straight to their keeper and a run with the ball straight into a see of City players he went quiet and did not offer himself up for the ball as much.

Rating 5

Hogg

Fairly quiet game again. Defensively was sound but struggled to inspire the side offensively and play was too slow and predictable.

Rating 5

O’Brien

A shadow of the player against Hull. O’Brien strugled to get on the ball and affect the game at all one of his quietest games for a long time. Did have a volley on the turn in the second period which flew just wide though.

Rating 5

Holmes

Had a reasonably bright game but did drift too wide to receive the ball which then meant that there were even less bodies in the box when it mattered. Playing with a bit of confidence which is good to see.

Rating 6

Toffolo

Quiet game from Toffolo who was very predictable when on the ball. He cut in from the left most of the time and being left footed the ball was then always played back to the defence. He did get on teh end of a couple of set plays but needs to be a little less predictable.

Rating 6

Sinani

Struggled to influence the game and drifted all over to try and find space but was then not in the key areas where he needed to be. He did in fairness have a good shot on the turn in the first period which was on target and the keeper did well to turn over.

Rating 5

Thomas

Started well but then disappeared in the game as it all became stop/start. He got frustrated in the second period with the shocking refereeing, but did always remain a threat but far too often had nobody to pick out.

Rating 6

Ward

Worked hard and dropped deep to link up play but with nobody running beyond him it was all to no avail. Did have a strong claim for a penalty turned down in the second period, but had little support all game.

Rating 5

Koroma came on for Sinani but was inaffective and Turton for Holmes at the end of the match. Campbell cam on for Ward on 76 minutes and the fresh legs certainly helped as Campbell hit the woodwork twice in his short stint.

Andy Woolmer

The referee deserves a special mention. Really bad and contributed to the dour display. Failed to play advantage on too many occasions, which made it easier for both defences. If someone was tackled and went to ground play was stopped. Too many times a defender would put the ball into touch to halt play and with the other side ready to take the throw Mr Woolmer and his linesman would look at each other and guess which way to give it. The only think that was consistent was how bad the decisions were for both teams.

Carlos

Set up well for a start and took the game to Birmingham, but should have changed it around as the first half progressed. With the personnel on the pitch it was difficult but we needed to move it from back to front quicker. Stretch the opposition with some balls in behind, but we would have needed the quicker players such as Thomas then to play higher up the pitch. The lads needed to be braver on the ball and deliver the quick long range pass to open them up. It was too predictable with the ball always played infront of the City defence. In the second half we should have brought Campbell on sooner and possibly High, who although perhaps lacking the physical presence would have delivered the searching balls. Good to get a clean sheet again and a point in the right direction but could have and should have been so much better.

Rating 5

Champioship game 12

Town 2-0 Hull City

A good performance by Town today. They started on the front foot and had a couple of early opening before the cross was swung in deep. The City keeper flapped and in teh ensuing scramble Lees forced the ball home. There potential shouts for a couple of penalties in the mayhem but Lees converting was the better result. We continued to dominate with O’Brien running the midfield for the next 20 minutes. Hull then though started to get a bit of a foothold in the game and had a lot of possession, but never really threatened. I’ve not seen as much diving since the Olympics and unfortunately the ref often fell for it as Honeyman (the worst culprit) and his colleagues kept going to ground when tackled and adding a few extra rolls as they tumbled.

The second half continued in much of the same vein as the first with Hull having more of teh possession but creating little with it. When Town had possession we looked a little more threateing although we did not commit many men forward. Hull continued with their theatrics and a couple of late dirty challenges in either half could have brought them a red card with a stronger referee. On 73 minutes we got our deserved reward when Hull failed to clear well from a corner and the impressive Holmes cleverly finished from the edge of the area. Town worked well and saw out the game without too many nerves and were deserving of the result. Hull could play in spells but showed a lack of cohesion, they will pick up points as they worked hard but may struggle to stay up.

Ratings

Nicholls

Good performance again from Nicholls. A couple fo comfortable efforts on target which were well dealt with and distribution was good and varied. Very composed performance and managed not to pick up a yellow card.

Rating 7

Lees

Good performance again from Lees, he was strong at the back, in the air particularly. A few stray passes but put himself in the middle for the early goal which he forced over the line.

Rating 7

Pearson

Read the game really well today. Stopped a lot of potential attacks with his interceptions and led the back three well.

Rating 7

Colwill

Picked up a yellow card in the first minute when the Hull player dived with no contact but did not let that get to him. Wilks often pitted himself againt Colwill but he did well and managed the situations well throughout.

Rating 6

Hogg

Good steady performance from Hoggy. He kept the ball moving and did not slow pace down. Retained posession and won the ball high up the pitch. Looked comfortable today.

Rating 7

O’Brien

For me was MOM. He dictated the play in the opening half hour and Hull could not stop him. As the game progressed he was targetted for abuse, being kicked all over the park but kept on going and kept coursing Hull problems. At times City were concentrating more on Lewis then they were going forward.

Rating 8

Sinani

A bit of a quiet game today. Helped to create space for O’Brien & Holmes and did get a good shot away in the first half which Ingram did well to turn behind. Came off for High in the second period.

Rating 6

Holmes

Good game today from Holmes reminiscent of the Swansea game last season. He found space on the ball today and caused Hull all sorts of problems particularly in the second half as they focused on O’Brien. Took his goal well which was well deserved.

Rating 8

Toffolo

Good game from Toffolo again keeping things going down the left particularly in the first half.

Rating 7

Thomas

Hull struggled to cope with him and Thomas enjoyed the battle. Came off in the second half after his exploits for Wales in the last week. He was a constant threat and did a good job.

Rating 7

Ward

Linked up play well again, dropping deep to move the side up the pitch. Again we tended to play to his strengths and battled well to win the corner which we scored the second from.

Rating 7

High, Turton & Sarr came on in the second half.

Carlos

The line up and tactics were good today. We played to our strengths and contained Hull well. The players appear to have learned that you can win games without having loads of posession, it is what you do with the ball that counts.

Rating 7

Champioship game 10

Town 3-2 Blackburn

Quality game from the off. Blackburn were fresh from a 5-1 win over Cardiff and attacked with confidence but Town played with no fear as well. We had a couple of early half chances before the game settled into a good game of few chances before Thomas crossed for Vallejo outside the area and his measured finish found the bottom corner. That took us into half time 1-0 up in a close match which we had probably just adged at that stage.

Second half started more open than the first as Blackburn had to press this provided more space for Town to break and link up with Ward in attack. Just before the hour the ball broke for Rothwell outside the area and he drove unchallenged beyond O’Brien and past Pearson to square for Brereton-Diaz who slotted home. With the game still played at a frenzied pace Ward dropped deep to help build a Town attack, Thomas drove down the right and crossed for a advancing Ward to get up well and head beyond the Blackburn keeper. Having got back in front wuickly it was important to remain calm and not let Blackburn back in but the dangerous Brereton-Diaz found space and his first touch took him beyond Pearson and as he realesed the ball an outstretched Sarr brought him down. The ref waited initially to see if Blackburn scored and then gave the penalty. Brereton-Diaz stepped up and although Nicholls got his hand to the ball the pace took it into the net. Both team scontinued to look for the winner and Turton who had come on for Thomas crossed deep for Toffolo to rise well and head back across the 6 yard box for Ward to finish. The last 12 minutes including 6 minutes of added time were nervy but Town were deserving of the win.

Ratings

Nicholls

Another confident display. Positioning and handling good. Commanded his area and can’t be blamed for the goals.

Rating 7

Pearson

Looked ok but Brereton did get at Pearson a number of times. He won’t always come up against a stricker in such form though.

Rating 6

Lees

Strong at the back and looked good in the middle of the 3. Better with a quick ball out of defence through Vallejo.

Rating 7

Sarr

Looked ok at the back. Occasionally caught in posession but overall looked better than recent games.

Rating 6

Vallejo

Alex cam ein for Hogg and again he added something in an attacking sense. Alex moves the ball quickly from back to front. He knows what he wants to do before he receives the ball which makes every around him better as well. Very good awareness but, yes occassionally it doesn’t come off. Took his goal well and I hope he shakes off his knock which saw him come off to line up against Luton.

Rating 8

O’Brien

Looked back to himself. He drove forward and did play further forward rather than drifting to the left. Came close to an early goal and put in a captains performance. For me MOM.

Rating 8

Sinani

Looked better than the last couiple of games and linked up play better today. Just nees more end product.

Rating 6

Toffolo

Good performance. Gets everywhere and did well to get the nod down for Wards winner.

Rating 7

Thomas

Two assist and a constant threat on the attack. A much better performance than the recent games.

Rating 7

Koroma

Put himself about and won the ball back well. He is slowly adding more to his game, buy needs consistancy.

Rating 6

Ward

Best performance he has put in since his return. Worked hard in the first half for little return but in the second with Blackburn pushing on he had space to exploit. He has rarely been on the pitch for many minutes with us leading and therefore has not had the luxury of space to play in. This allowed him to drop deep build up play and then get into the box. Two goals a return that will do his confidence a world of good.

Rating 8

High came off teh bench and his passing looked good again. Turton supplied the cross for the winner after coming on. Holmes and Ruffles came on too.

Carlos

He got it right today. We attacked from the off and could have scored more. We are always susceptible to conceding goals playing open attacking football but we do look a better outfit. I felt that bringing Turton on for Thomas was to protect what we had but in fairness it was Turtons cross that created the winner. The real turning point for the season would be turning a defeat into a win as we struggle against a defensive unit.

Rating 8

Championship game 8

Town 0-2 Forest

Struggling Forest came and deservedly took all three points. The sacking of Hughton during the week meant that the players had something to prove and right from the off they were on the front foot. Town struggled to get hold of the ball for the first 10 minutes then as we were coming back into the game the impressive Brennan Johnson raced down the Forest right and crossed on the run for Grabban to head home whilst on the move. Town picked up again and looked for openings, Toffolo racing through for a one on one which Samba dealt with well.

For the second half Pearson made way for Turton as we looked to change formation and be competitive in the middle. It didn’t have time to work as we lost the ball for Forest to get away a decent strike just after the restart. Nicholls parried it into the path of Lolly who’s shot bounced around Town players before nestling in the back of the net. Forest then dropped deep and allowed Town possession. With no space behind the back line and a real lack of invention we offered very little to get back into the game. Holmes had a long distance strike which went wide and Lees headed just wide form a corner but we never looked likely to get back into the game.

We have performed much worse over the last few seasons but thsi was a huge disappointment after recent form for both sides. Forest were up for the game and played on the front foot. They were the first into any 50/50s and wanted it so much more than us. We had an air about us such as we would win easily and were made to pay. Closing down was poor, as was the passing and once going behind we lacked and belief or invention. We got what we deserved from a game which got away from us before we really got going today.

Ratings

Nicholls

Handling and positioning was again good. Can’t be faulted for the first goal but I do feel that he could have done better with the second. Goal kicks in the first half were wasted and he could have taken more ownership of these to vary the distribution.

Rating 6

Lees

Good in the air but passing out of the back was slow and predictable. He’s a good consistant performer but needs to be given more options when he is on the ball.

Rating 5

Pearson

Was slow and predictable on the ball and did nit have the drive and control that we have seen in some matches.

Rating 5

Colwill

Looked nervy at times when closed down and his delivery from the back was not as good as we have seen in previous games.

Rating 5

Hogg

Looked a little slow at times. Was second to too many challanges and his passing was not of the standard you would expect. He lost posession for us too often.

Rating 5

O’Brien

Was the better of the Town players. He was very busy trying to retain possession but there were too few options for him when on the ball. Showed drive and enthusiasm but thsi was nit mirrored by the others.

Rating 6

Sinani

Passing was poor today and he failed to find space or spot the man who was in space. Too much head down. Needed to close down teh opposition more as well and the game really got away from him.

Rating 4

Toffolo

Struggled a little today. Spence and Johnson were too much for him to handle and he had little support. Going forward he failed to brake the lines of the Forest defence.

Rating 5

Thomas

Found a lot of space in the first half in good positions but his teamates either failed to deliver well or overlooked him. His head didn’t go and in teh second half he delivered plenty of crosses into the box but we did not have anyone up top to win the ball in the air.

Rating 5

Koroma

Operating out on the left hand side he was well shackled by Forest and rarely threatened. At times guilty of taking too many touches when there were better options around.

Rating 5

Ward

Put himself about dropping deep to link up play in the first half but this meant that he was not up top to spearhead the attack. He miss-controlled a ball early on and dived into the tackle which rightly earned him a yellow card.

Rating 5

Turton came on at half time for Pearson but failed to get into the game struggling to find any space and link up the play.

Rating 5

Carlos

Looking back on the game, starting with Ward and bringing on Mipo, it did nothing. Mipo is quick and needs the ball in behind. After going behind there was no space behind their defence as they defended deep. Ward has been struggling for some time to impose himself and therefore we should have started with Mipo. Passing was poor and predictable, at no time did we deliver long balls or play it through the lines all the play was infront of the opposition and therefore easy to defend against. As the second half progressed play was either sideways in midfield or the ball launched into the box where we had little height. We lacked any inventiveness to brake Forest down and were reluctant to take shots from distance that may have created something.

Rating 5

Champioship game 7

Blackpool 0-3 Town

A great result in what could have been a tricky match. Blackpool came into the game fresh from a victory agaonst Fulham and we slipped at Stoke. There wasn’t much to choose between the 2 in the first half. Toffolo had a decent opportunity and Sinani had a deflected shot on the stroke of half time that nearly deflected in. Equally though Blackpool had a couple of decent openings of which Nicholls saved well with a well struck effort. Defensively though we looked solid, but our play going forward was slow and support for Ward was not very quick to appear.

The second half was entirely different. No shots on target in the first half but we corrected that from the off. Koroma and Sinani operated closer to Ward and Koroma found a bit of space 25 yards out and unleashed a shot into the top corner. Blackpool came straight back at us like Stoke did on Saturday but we held firm and 6 minutes later Sinani delivered a corner which Pearson headed home for his third of the season. With Blackpool then there for the taking O’Brien closed down the defence high up the pitch and the ball broke for Koroma. His effort rebounded to Hogg, who from outside the area volleyed expertly home. To be fair to Blackpool they did not give up and Josh Bowler continued to cause us problems but we coped well and could have added more.

Ratings

Nicholls

Again Nicholls was solid. Controlled the area well and when he was required he saved well. Very dependable and you can see that the defence has complete trust in him.

Rating 7

Lees

Solid again and whilst play was slow in the first half he did everything he needed to do.

Rating 7

Pearson

Solid at the back both in the air and on the ground. Got on the end of the corner for our second.

Rating 8

Colwill

Very reliable throughout and offers a good base for Toffolo to be able to attack down the left. Good to have him back in the starting line up.

Rating 7

Hogg

Solid and reliable performance. Was everywhere winning the ball and looking to move the side forward. Took his goal well when there was still plenty to do to convert his chance.

Rating 8

O’Brien

Closed down well and won the ball all over the pitch. A lot better performance than Saturday and earned the opening for our third.

Rating 7

Thomas

Struggled to find space in the first half but did his defensive duties well. In the second half he was afforded space as Blackpool pressed forward and caused them a lot more problems.

Rating 7

Toffolo

Played with a reall freedom. He was everywhere winning the ball and building attacks. A lively performance and you can tell that he is really enjoying his football. For me the MOM.

Rating 8

Koroma

Struggled to get into the game in the first half but showed what he is capable of with his secind half finish. Was a little guilty at times of being greedy and not spotting a player in a better position but a good performance in the end.

Rating 7

Sinani

Struggled to get into the game in the first half as the ball was coming to slowly into the front line but so much better in the second half when there was more space. Likes to come infield which affords Thomas more space on the right. Delivered a good corner for the Pearson goal.

Rating 7

Ward

Put himself about in the first half defending from the front but his team mates were never close to him and his movement was too predictable.

Rating 5

Carlos

As much as I would like to see us dominate for 90 minutes on the front foot you cannot fault that we got a good result based largely on a strong 45 minutes. We have a pattern of play of keep ourselves in the game and then try and play on the front foot in the second period and it appears to suit us. When working as a team it is very affective so long may it continue.

Rating 8

Championship game 6

Stoke 2-1TOWN

The international break appeared to go against us as we were playing with real vim and vigour beforehand but today was a little slow and predictable. We weren’t bad and deserved to get something from the game but play was too slow with little risk taken in the final third to open up the opposition. Stoke were not much better one mistake cost us from some good play by Stokes Vrancic.

In the first half there were no clear openings at either end. Town having the better of the early exchanges before City came back into the game. We had plenty set plays around the area but failed to make them count. In the second half a free kick from Thomas was well saved but then after a scramble the ball fell to Toffolo who made no mistake from close range. Just 3 minutes later and Jacob Brown rose to head home a corner to level things. Town then began to make most of the drive to open up opportunities but often wanted too many touches and not releasing the ball at the right time. We were made to pay when Vrancic crossed and Pearson failed to control the ball turning it into his own net. We still continued to press forward but the final ball was never good enough and nobody really looked likely to score the equaliser. Against the run of play Stoke had a chance to seal it but blazed over and then Thomas drove a free kick inches wide with the keeper well beaten.

All in all not a bad performance, a draw would have been fair but n those situations there is always a chance that one side will come out on top. We looked a little rusty and need to put things right against Blackpool on Tuesday.

Ratings

Nicholls

Looked good again, positioning and handling was good. Beaten twice but not at fault for either goal. Could take more control at goal kicks which were at times predictabke and easy for the opposition to manage.

Rating 6

Lees

Was slow at times but good in the air. Passing was not delivered as quickly as it could have been.

Rating 6

Pearson

Good in the air for the most part, passing needed to be quicker and miss controlled the ball for the own goal which can happen to anyone.

Rating 5

Sarr

Looked nervy at times and wanted too many touches on the ball allowing himself to be closed down too easily.

Rating 4

Hogg

Looked to drive the side forward and tried some longer range passing but not to great affect. Busied himself about and for small spells looked like the Hogg of several seasons ago. Still room for improvement.

Rating 6

O’Brien

Did not see him push to support the front line, look to play any quick balls behind the defensive line and his control was poor at times with the ball bouncing off him. Needs to be at it on Tuesday or start from the bench.

Rating 4

Toffolo

Threatened down the left in both halves and pleased to see him get his goal. Looks better in a advanced role but also offered the side protection. Looked to be back to full fitness.

Rating 7

Thomas

Received a lot of attention from stoke which is now to be expected but we never got the best out of him. Too many balls behind him rather than infront for him to run onto or drive forward with. He needs the ball delivering quicker than it was. Despite this he was a constant threat.

Rating 7

Holmes

Kept disappearing in the game and when Toffolo or Thomas escaped on the flanks was far too behind the play giving the wide men little to aim at. Wanted too many touches on the ball which slowed any rhythm down.

Rating 4

Koroma

For large parts of the game he too disappeared. With the score at 2-1 he did get on the ball more but again wanted too many touches and appeared to lack a little confidence. Last season he showed he can curl teh ball in with his right foot but was hesitant to let fly.

Rating 5

Campbell

Worked hard for the team defending from the front and in creating space but needed support to get near him. Holmes and Koroma were playing too deep and so Campbell was isolated up front which helped Stoke defend.

Rating 5

Carlos

We played well but there were too many individuals below par and we did not move the ball quickly enough. Sinani and Colwill had been on international duty but Colwill in for Sarr and Sinani for Holmes would have given us better shape and asked more questions of Stoke. Mipo should perhaps have been introduced earlier for Campbell who had picked up a silly yellow card so had to reign in some of his play.

Rating 5

Champioship match 5`

Town 4-0 Reading

The last time Town beat Reading in 90 minutes was 2017. A 1-0 at The John Smiths Stadium with a certain Philip Billing scoring. After the 2 recent league wins, the cup match this week and Readings’ current form it was a strange feeling of confidence heading to the game today.

The line up was – Nicholls, Lees, Pearson, Colwill, Hogg, O’Brien, Sinani, Toffolo, Thomas, Koroma, Ward. A little surprised to see Ward in the starting line up rather than Campbell but pleased to see Sinani starting.

Town started strongly dominating play, although it was a little pedestrian at times. We kept things tight and allowed Reading no time on the ball closing down well and winning the 50/50s. The Royals rarely ventured into our box in the first half and our dominance eventually paid off when the impressive Thomas crossed beyond Ward for O’Brien to show his composure and slot beyond the keeper. Previously Sinani on his debut had fired a free kick in that beat everyone and thumped the inside of the post before coming back out.

The second half continued where the first finished off but there was a little more drive in the final third. On 51 minutes we won a free kick which Thomas expertly delivered and Pearson beat the off side trap to slot home. Turton came on for Sinani after 62 minutes which appeared like a strange decision at the time but he moved onto the right with Thomas coming more central. Within 5 minutes Thomas then drove at the heart of the Reading defence and with 3 players around him he danced into the area placing his finish beyond the keeper. With fans still celebrating the ball broke to Koroma on the half way line and he drove down the left taking on the full back and unselfishly squaring for Danny Ward who took his time to ensure that he scored his first of the season. Town continued to dominate and Campbell who came on for Ward should have made it 5 when he was put through but lifted the ball into the keeper rather than over him. A good solid performance where in the end 4-0 was a fair reflection on the game.

Ratings

Nicholls

Was not really tested today but he dominated his area taking pressue off the back line and his delivery on the ball was good.

Rating 7

Lees

Solid at the back. passing was good and dominant in the air.

Rating 7

Pearson

Solid in the air and good passing. Took his goal well.

Rating 7

Colwill

Good passing and tracking of runners. Developing very well.

Rating 7

Hogg

Sat a little deep at times but looked a lot more comfortable than other games this season. In the second half he began to look for forward balls but still too much about retaining possession in defensive areas and misses so many opening to advance down the pitch.

Rating 6

O’Brien

Was busy in midfield. Early on Reading where channelling him down his left and Liam continued to be shepherded too easily with play drifting into touch. He needed to release the ball earlier rather than carrying it for as long as he did. He kept up his work rate though and got himself into a good position for the opener which he took well.

Rating 7

Toffolo

Was busy down the left in a very advanced position. We were slow to find him in the first half at times although he did find space very well.

Rating 7

Thomas

Cannot argue with him being the MOM. Sorba was a constant threat for the appositiona nd they could not cope with his movement off and on the ball. When he switched centrally his running caused even more problems. Delivery of the dead balls was again top quality providing the free kick for Pearsons’ goal.

Rating 9

Sinani

Was lively and a threat centrally before going off. Unlucky not to score in the first half and I expect to see a lot more of him this season.

Rating 7

Koroma

Found more space as the game went on and used his pace and physicality to create te goal for Ward. Anotehr threat the Reading failed to cope with.

Rating 7

Ward

Dropped deep and for the first time this season we provided balls into his feet. Ward held up play well and fed other players into the game as teammates got closer to him than previous games. It is amazing how much better a player is when the players around him play to his strengths.

Rating 7

Campbell, Turton & Holmes all came off the bench and did well.

Carlos.

I was not suer what tactics Carlos was going to use today but hats’ off to him it worked. Keep things tight. No mistakes and grind down the opposition and then hit them with movement and pace. Reading could not live with us, it is a shame that we have the international break now. Going to Stoke in September will be a really good test and measure of where we are at. After the first couple of games this season it was doom and gloom and then 3 wins on the trot give it a completely different complexion.

Rating 8

Elsewhere West Brom produced a 94th minute winner against Peterborough in a game which The Posh worked hard to stay in. Heartbreak for Peterborough but WBA were the better team and deserved the points. Karlan Grant was operating in attack and failed to really influence the game. It was a shame to see him going to ground very easily in the penalty area late on.

League Cup Round 2

Huddersfield 1-2 Everton

Wow! Not what I or any of us fans expected. We played with no fear and had a real go at a strong Everton side. Yes they made 8 changes but all of their selection are not out of place in the Premier League side. We made several changes too and the incoming players made a real statement for a place this weekend.

Town side – Nicholls, Lees, Pearson, Sarr, Toffolo, Vallejo, High, Holmes, Thomas, Sinani, Campbell. Bench – O’Brien, Koroma, Aarons, Turton, Colwill, Schofield, Russell.

Both sides showed attacking intent from the start. The first clear opening was when Thomas made a dreadful back pass straight to the Moise Kean who drove forward before firing wide. On 26 minuted Tom Davied cut through the middle easily and fed Iwobi who made no mistake slotting in Everton for the opener in what had been an even start. A few minutes later Moise Kean fired in for Everton but a tight off-side had been called. In fairness to Everton it could have been given, although the flag was up early enough for some players to react and stop. Everton followed with a spell of keep ball but then the last 10 minutes was all Town. Winning 50/50s driving forward with pace and letting fly without hesitation. It was no surprise when Tom Lees connected to Thomas’ corner to level things for half-time.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first with all Town pressing and after Holmes had seen his shot on the turn tipped over by Begovic Thomas fired in the corner which Pearson headed home. With the Town players then celebrating the linesman then put his very late flag up. Nobody was sure why but Campbell was stood off-side when Pearson headed in. The official deemed that he was interfering with play. He was stood in front of Begovic by a couple of paces and off to one side slightly. I would say he was there intentionally to distract Begovic but there was no contact with the keeper or the ball and Begovic was not unsighted. If that was not a goal then a lot of what we conceded last season should not have stood either. Town though were not downhearted and continued to press. Moise Kean then had a rash moment in reacting to Thomas on the half way line and pushing his head forward into the Town man. It was soft but naive of him and the ref showed a straight red. This appeared to galvanise Everton though and they played with a little more drive. The game now flowed up and down and there was a winner there for someone so no surprise that Everton crafted an opening which Townsend did well to lift over Nicholls to seal things late on. There did remain some nervy moments for Everton but they saw it through running the clock down.

Off teh back of this performance there is a renewed optimism. The points tally this season has been good by our standards and now we have had a performance to match roll on Saturday.

Ratings

Nicholls

Handling again and command of his area was good. He is turning out to be a shrewd signing.

Rating 7

Lees

Tom did well again, I surprised to see him come off for Turton. Was solid at the back and a strong presence in the attacking area scoring our goal.

Rating 7

Pearson

Again strong and solid at the back. Took his goal well wlthough it was ruled out.

Rating 7

Sarr

Had a decent game again. Everton did not pressure him much but he moved the ball a lot quicker than previous games. A few stray passes.

Rating 6

Vallejo

Looked very comfortable in front of the defence and for me should be in for Hogg on Saturday. His distribution whilst not perfect was with a lot more attacking intent and with pace. He was intelligent on the pitch in finding space and working the angles for his team mates. Well worth starting with him.

Rating 7

Toffolo

Not a massive attacking threat but was consistently good at either end. Gives us a good balance opposite Thomas.

Rating 6

High

His best game for Town so far. Was quick into the tackle, passing was snappy and accurate and drove forward into more advanced areas to help the support up front.

Rating 7

Sinani

For me he was MOM. Picked up the ball centrally and drove at Everton, linking up with Holmes and Campbell and really connected the side which we have not seen yet this season. Unlucky nit to score in the first half and was disappointed to see him subbed in teh second half but hopefully that means he starts against Reading.

Rating 8

Holmes

Got the ball and linked up well with Sinani. Still fell that Koroma would be a better option and he does lack the physicallity but had a good game and nearly scored in the second half with a curling right foot shot.

Rating 6

Thomas

Yet again was a constant threat. Everton doubled up on him at times, but we had threats all over the pitch that they struggled. Thomas’ has a dead ball delivery that we have yearned for for some time, delivering both corners that caused Everton problems.

Rating 8

Campbell

Knitted things together well and by droping deeper with runners around him they struggled to know who to pick up. He played with a freedon we have not seen for some time. Cam eclose in the first half.

Rating 7

O’Brien, Koroma and Turton all came off the bench but were unable to really influence the game.

Premier League game 2

Brighton 2-0 Watford

Brighton surprised me with their fluid movement throughout the game. They could have and perhaps should have won by a more comfortable margin but tended to overplay it a little at times. I enjoyed watching their movement both off an on the ball. Against better opposition though they may not have as many chances and so the concern is that they failed to capitalise on a lot of opportunities and that might cause a problem when playing the better sides.

Watford were the complete opposite, I expected Watford to be strong physically and then attacking with pace and drive. They never got into their stride and found that they were chasing shadows with the game passing them by. Watford should have been looking at this game as a chance to pick up some points but they now need to learn quickly from the result or they could be in difficulties this season.

West Ham 4 -1 Leicester

West Ham were impressive, yes in fairness Leicester helped them get a foothold in this game but they did the basics well, held a good shape and broke with purpose. They play to the strengths of Antonio with balls into his body and Soyuncu could not compete. If West Ham can build some consistancy then they can go on and have another good season.

Leicester were not at the races before Perez picked up his red card whcih then compounded the situation. They did pick a goal against the run of play and for a couple of minutes the belief returned but it soon dissipated. I’m not sure if Vardy had a touch of the ball before going off after 81 minutes. In all honesty he is the type of player who can go missing in games, but he is just as likely to be the main man for Leicester. Soyuncu played into Antonios’ hands by trying to be physical against him, perhaps he never fully recovered from the poor backpass that presented United with their second goal. All in all Leicester were second best all over the park but they are too good for that form to continue.

Championship Game 4

Sheffield United 1-2 Town

Well I said after the Preston game that it is a long time since Town had won a game which they had not thoroughly deserved to win and yet twice in a week it has happened. A truly fantastic result on our travels, the season has well and truly begun, with back to back wins home and away.

In the opening minutes we settled quickly trying to build through Thomas on the left but United soon took control of the match dominating possession in midfield and camping out in our half. We rarely got on the ball and again Ward and Koroma were isolated upfront and we were overrun in midfield. Having said that United failed to create much, The only save of note in the first half was from Mcburnies’ overhead kick which Nicholls had to get down sharply to his right to turn away. The start of the second half and United continued where they left off, dominating and creating chances, but all were from distance and nothing penetrating the Town defensive line. After 60 minutes Town made 2 changes bringing Ward and High off for Campbell and Toffolo, this prompted a change of formation. With Toffolo on the left wing/wing back Koroma moved to the left in front of him with Thomas moving to the right and Campbell upfront alone. Having one man upfront meant that United did not know who was picking Campbell up and he had more freedom to find space. Koroma is more natural on the left and likes to come inside which brought him closer to Campbell. Toffolo could then use his pace to get down the outside. We finally posed a threat in attack and had options for the man on the ball to hit. Town started to create and Thomas found Koroma in space and after his first effort was turned away he slotted in the rebound. The ref found 5 minutes of added time and Billy Sharp who had earlier volleyed straight into a well placed Nicholls arms miss hit a lose ball which found the back of net in teh 92 minutes. Pandemonium set in 2 minutes later when United failed to clear properly from a corner and Toffolo got was fedon the left in space and squared for Colwill to have a tap in for his first professional goal.

United struggled mid week against WBA where they were overrun and showed a obvious weakness in defence. West Brom got into them all game and thoroughly deserved their comfortable win, today United needed to turn it around and although they dominated play they failed to create much. Brewster will be a good player but at present he lacks goals he has pace and needs to hit the space behind defenders with through balls. We played deep so there was no space for him. McBurnie got a few knock downs but we generally tidied them up. There are elements of United that are reminiscent of when we came down. Playing good football in patches but ineffective and having a losing feeling.

For 60/70 minutes I was frustrated as we did not show what we were capable of but when we changed things around we showed what we can do. Defensively we were strong but I fear will get taken apart by the better teams with how we set up at present. There does appear to be more togetherness unless I am getting carried away. The formation in the last half hour is how we need to progress if we want to do well this season and certainly this week has put a different complexion on things. By operating with Koroma on the left and Thomas on the right we play narrower and therefore afford less space to the opposition to attack from deep.

Nicholls

Although not voted MOM for me he was. He collected all crosses, took the pressue off the defence, kept organising the men infront of him and pulled off the saves when he was needed. He reminds me of Steve Francis with his positioning which makes his job look easier.

Rating 8

Pearson

Pearson was strong at the back winning plenty in the air and in the tackle when needed. He was unbalanced when Sharp scored but again he was solid at the back

Rating 6

Sarr

Sarr looked settled at the heart of the defence, more so than last season when he was on the left. He won a lot of ball in the air and cleared up loose balls in the area. I was glad to see that there was less playing around with the ball in the area and Sarr therefore was uder less pressure.

Rating 7

Colwill

Had a good game. In the first half he was very busy as he was not afforded much protection and Basham & Baldock caused him problems which he handled well. In the second half he was provided some protection which helped. It was good a to see him showing good anticipation in the area in the 94th minute to slot in his first goal.

Rating 8

Hogg

Hogg had a decent game breaking up play and tidying things up. He did what he appeared to be asked to do and was more vocal. Needs to show more composure but did well.

Rating 6

Turton

Made a mistake early in the first half which cost him a yellow card as he tried to recover. I feel that he is better as a right back than in a more advanced position which he is being asked to cover. Was steady and calmed down afterwards.

Rating 5

Thomas

Showed all his pace again early on causing problems and being positive. He did dissappear a little as the game progressed. Delivered some good balls into the box from set plays and although he offers lots from the left I feel that for the good of the team it is better that he plays on the right.

Rating 6

O’Brien

Was breaking up attacks and in the last half hour got himself up the pitch causing problems and trying to set up opportunities. An improvement from what we saw on Tuesday and good to get 90 minutes under his belt.

Rating 6

High

Drifted wide on teh right in the first half which offered Turton protection but gae United too much space in central areas which caused us problems. High, like the rest of the team struggled to get on the ball much, put in a shift but will have better matches.

Rating 5

Koroma

For 60 minutes he struggled to get into the game finding very little space and the quality of the balls forward were poor. For the last 30 minutes he caused problems with his movement finding pockets of space and picking up the ball. Took his goal well and will hopefully take confidence from this match into the next.

Rating 6

Ward

Again Danny put in a shift for the side but with the ball forward being hopeful punts for most of the time that he was on the pitch he struggled to impact the game. Operating as a 2 man attack does not really suit Ward.

Rating 3

Campbell came on for Ward on 60 minutes and has movement caused United problems as they could not pick him up creating space for Koroma to run into.

Rating 6

Toffolo

Came on for High on 60 minutes. Toffolo probed down the left with an attacking intent and found space late on to supply the assist for the winner.

Rating 7

Vallajo came on for Koroma late on.

Rating N/A

Carlos

You have to be fair and appluad him for masterminding 6 points from 6. Yes it was not pretty but the points and consistency is what is important now. I would prefer for us to open up more and play to our strengths and hope that that is on the agenda when all first team players are back fully fit. For 60 minutes our only threat was through Thomas but when we change dthe formation suddenly we had lots of avenues we could use. I am trusting that Carlos played to keep it tight for 60 minutes and then upped the tempo intentionally. Following games will show whether that is the case or not, roll on Tuesday night and the toffees.