Smyth, Smithies, Sinton and another four goal haul - Knee Jerks
Wednesday, 11th Apr 2018 13:43 by Antti Heinola
A set of results as bizarre and surreal as the whole bizarre, surreal game last night, topped off, incredibly, by a piledriving long-range scorcher (by his standards) from Sylla for his second goal - Antti Heinola writes.
In a season that was fairly dull for large portions, bright spots have emerged. Two in particular in the last three months or so - Eze, of course, but also Paul Smyth, who with each passing game looks more and more like a proper player and not, as can happen, an adrenaline-fuelled youngster impacting games through energy alone.
I thought he was very good in this game, the only disappointment was that we failed to get the ball to his feet more often, particularly in the second half. To describe his goal in a match report, it would sound pretty ordinary: goalie flaps cross out to him, he scores. But it was so much better than that. It was a beautiful first touch and then his second was an accurate strike into the corner - nicely placed, and he didn't try to hit it too hard. Really skilful.
Obviously his work rate is fantastic, he has good pace, and he does what you want him to do: if he can go for goal, he will. If he can shoot, he doesn't hesitate. If he gets it wide, he wants to beat his man and cross the bloody thing from the byline. None of it is complex, but that very simplicity is what makes him so dangerous. As with Eze, I don't want to get too excited, but from nowhere it looks like we've found two players who could cause some serious damage next season.
Nothing he could do about the two goals, and you have to feel for the blighter, having shipped four including that unfortunate own goal on Saturday, plus having some fans ludicrously claiming he was at fault for Aluko's goal the other week, plus his little aberration against Norwich in the first half when he did his best Rob Green impression. All of that added together doesn't make a hugely pretty picture, but last night he was, in the end, one of the main differences between the sides. While at one end Wildsmith flapped at one cross, fumbled a tame shot from Bidwell, didn't command his box for Sylla's first and playfully rolled over so he could tickle the ball past him for the fourth, Smithies pulled off a breath-taking save just before the break to keep it at 3-0, and another very good one near the end to keep it at 4-2 to head-off what could have been an immensely embarrassing collapse reminiscent of England's first innings in New Zealand the other week. Lucky to have him.
Another one I'm becoming more optimistic about. Was involved in two goals, looked ready to receive the ball, showed strength and pace and a willingness to try and beat his man. It was probably his best game for the club and you do wonder just why he hasn't had a few more opportunities in the team -particularly as we're light on players who can play left wing. There's lots to like here and he clearly bothered the Wednesday defence for the whole night - I felt he was unlucky to get hooked, although Pav did give us that extra bit of experience as we ran the game down. We shouldn't get too down by 0-4 reverses at rampant Hull, and neither should we get too excited by 4-2 wins against Sheff Wed, but this is what we wanted, wasn't it? Young, hungry players with pace and desire? Eze, Smyth, Bos, possibly Oteh and Chair in the wings too. Really encouraging.
Feels unfair to have a moan after a good win and final confirmation we won't be shitting it at our last home game like we were last season (although, as Clive has been saying for ages, relegation has never looked like a genuine possibility except to the most pessimistic or jaded of fans) but I'm starting to tilt the other way with Cousins, as I have with Washington.
Just the other week, I thought he was excellent when he came on at Fulham, but you have to take your chances when they come, and I don't think Cousins is doing it when he gets starts. I feel for him because it's been a wretched two years - he's had injuries, he's been shoved in at right back and right wing, he's been stuck behind three immovable objects in the centre of our midfield... it's such a shame, because still the bes game I've seen him play was for Charlton against us. I was convinced he was a great signing: young, yet experienced, full of energy and drive and skill and power. and it hasn't happened and last night, despite one or two good moments, particularly a lovely passing triangle in the second half, he was one of our weaker players. The thing is he needs games and I wonder whether it would benefit us long term if he went on loan for six months next season just to play every week and find himself again.
Now, yes, we did come a little too close to somehow chucking away a four-goal lead. And even when we were four-up it felt weird. We've played better in some games and been 1-0 down thank to our propensity to miss four million chances. But, stop for a moment and look at the team. Two youngsters and Sylla, who's been out injured for ages, up front. No Luongo, no Onuoha, no Lynch. Three leaders all gone from the side. A converted left back and a clearly struggling Baptiste at centre half. And we won. And we didn't collapse.
Now, Wednesday were awful at times, admittedly, but it was greatly encouraging to me that even with an under-strength side we put them to the sword. Onuoha and Luongo are vital to us - captain, and the captain's understudy, and yet we still went out and won. Amazing, really, after Saturday's debacle. I also liked that Ollie took off Scowen, even if I thought it was too early. His message to his players was: I trust you. You can do this without four or five of the players we've relied on this season. And that's important. Chris Ramsey talks about challenging his U23s - putting them in unfamiliar positions or putting them against players he knows could tear them a new one, because that helps you learn. There was similar thinking from Ollie last night when Manning went on, where he was asking him to make sure we don't miss Scowen, one of our most important players. That'll help the squad grow, and also help if and when we do have to sell our better players.
It was easy to think, when the club brought in Andy Sinton as ambassador, that it was jobs for the boys, it was a ceremonial role, we'd probably never see him, he'd just shake hands in executive boxes each week. But it hasn't turned out that way and with each passing month the wisdom of having someone like Sinton at the club in this role looks more and more, er, wise. Your reaction is to think 'we don't need this sort of role', but actually we really do. He provides a face for the club, someone people relate to, someone people like and respect, someone who can perform numerous roles.
Last night was truly moving. His speech, delivered eloquently from the heart and bravely without notes, about Ray Wilkins I'm sure brought tears to the eyes of many and was clearly appreciated by Ray's family. The stadium went silent as he spoke and although you couldn't see him, it was clear he was choked up - it was a wonderful eulogy. And you wonder who would do that at other clubs? It was perfect that we had Sinton there - fitting. Les deserves credit for spotting that the role was needed - and Sinton has been key to the club finally being welcoming of ex-players when it wasn't in the past (Forever Rs is easily the best half time entertainment since round the pole's turn of the century heyday) too. If Les is now the club's patriarch, a sort of Don, then Sinton is his approachable brother, like a smarter Fredo, and Hoos is the consiglieri, and Birch is Michael, Ollie is Sonny... sorry. Lost the thread there. You know what I mean. Well done Sints.
Pictures – Action Images
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