On Friday afternoon, with a blank page on my computer screen, I was thinking of what to write for the ITHICS column this week. So I opened up a column I wrote six weeks ago on 17th August. “Solid progression under Grayson”, the headline ran.
“Two draws and a win. No losses. I repeat, no losses.” Well, I’m really, very sorry, but I seem to have put the boot and jinxed us then, didn’t I? Because since then (before Saturday), in the league, we have lost (or “tasted defeat” to quote the lamentable club twitter feed) six and drawn one. We have let in 16 goals and scored five. If it were possible, we’d be relegated to the National League on that form.
That was Friday and this is Sunday. I attended only my second match of the season on Saturday - against my better judgement, I might add. But with a bit of cajoling from the ITHICS crew, I set off to Preston and took my place in the stands, very worried as to what I was about to witness.
Grayson had already rounded on the fans in the post-Ipswich presser and things were not looking good. The team had five changes from the one which performed so humiliatingly on Tuesday night, but no change (inexplicably) in goal. But as Robbie Savage was so fond to remind callers to 606 that night, the manager gets to see the players more often than we do, so we have to trust his judgement. Ahem!
The game started promisingly and I was texting friends that the team looked compact, O’Shea looked in command in the defence and Catts looked to be bossing midfield. I was not so impressed with Vaughan and the forward line, but hey, we ended up scoring two goals, so what do I know? What I do know is that Steele looked to be at fault for the goal which resulted from a dubiously awarded free kick. The ball flashed across the whole of his body - surely he has to be disappointed with that. Preston’s second, which came minutes after their first, was another thunderbolt from the edge of the area. If the scorer had been closed down quicker, he wouldn’t have scored.
So ten minutes or so into the second half 2-1 down after leading 1-0, according to recent events, this is where the team cave and let in a hat-full. Not so yesterday. We dug in, and McGeady placed a ball into bottom of the left-hand post to equalise, two minutes later. What a mad first 15 minutes of the second half!
I then felt we were in control and should have won. We had more shots and corners than Preston. The referee was atrocious. Some ludicrous decisions came from him. Not least when Watmore came scampering down the left wing and the goalie came out of his area to the touchline, took out Watmore and palmed the ball out of play. After treatment to Watmore, all we got was a throw in. No punishment for Maxwell, the Preston keeper, for deliberate handball nor foul play.
So I left the ground, heartened. Thumbing through the match programme, most of Preston’s results have been single-goal victories (except a 3-0 win over leaders, Cardiff) and they were fourth in the table.
This is not a difficult league. If we can shore up the defence, we can get up this league. It’s a big ‘if’.
As a footnote, I heard Grayson on BBC Radio five live defend his midweek comments, saying they were taken out of context. Well I saw the club feed of these comments and it’s difficult to see how these were taken out of context.
I’m persuaded that we should stick with Grayson, but no manager will survive slagging off the fans. Just look at Steve Bruce.