2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – November 2014

Another International Break meant there were relatively few games played in the calendar month of November. Therefore, most sides found themselves jockeying for position ahead of the hectic Christmas period and the mid-way point of the marathon Championship season.

The latest Manager to hit the exit door was The Latics German number One Uwe Rosler, replaced by Scot Malky Mackay who is still fighting allegations of improper conduct a situation compounded by Wigan Chairman Dave Whelan’s explaining his appointment with all the tact of Alf Garnett, landing himself with an FA Charge. At least they can share a taxi to Gloucester Place and a takeaway on the journey home; I suggest neither Thai nor Chinese!

Seven of the bottom ten sides have now terminated the contracts of their chosen leader for the current campaign with Hyypia, Holloway and Evans looking over their shoulder at Brighton, Millwall and Rotherham respectively.

It’s a pleasure to report my own Club (Leeds United) completed a month without change, but then again had the Owner disqualified to ensure no semblance of stability is allowed to take root. This will ensure several more turbulent months and further expensive Legal battles for the benefit of nobody other than Rumpole of the Bailey.

The division is incredibly congested, Blackpool apart, but even they are not without hope and the immediate improvement of Bolton and Birmingham following new appointments will ensure others follow suit and teams in the top half can’t discount relegation approaching the New Year.

If anybody predicted Brentford, Bournemouth and Ipswich to be amongst the top four places in December they are lying! All three have enjoyed a fabulous month and will have designs on staying the distance and local Premier League derbies with QPR and Southampton respectively.

My own outside tip for the top Middlesbrough remain resolute and consistent and if Blackburn continue to have the luck afforded to them for much longer even the East Lancs rivalry could be resurrected in the top flight.

Many of the financial heavyweights in this league sit menacingly a few points and places behind stalking their prey waiting for signs of weakness, circling before likely flexing their muscles in the January transfer window. Wolves have regained that losing feeling they became accustomed to pre Kenny Jackett, Forest are firing again, Cardiff and Norwich are able to draw on their hugely expensive playing squads and will expect an improved second half of the season.

A short interlude from Championship chatter to bemoan the sighting of more hideous half-scarves, the latest is at the Chelsea versus Tottenham game and a worrying trend that needs stamping out of the game. Indeed, I witnessed Leeds and Charlton scarves with my own eyes for a midweek Championship fixture with 150 visiting supporters at best, but presumably all clamouring for a memento of this classic 2 -2 draw.

I’ve started to breathe again so back to the Review and honourable mention for the vast improving Fulham who have reverted to a home grown coach like many other in this division and are reaping the rewards.

I notice that Bolton are considering giving ex-Icelandic Trotter Eidur Gudjohnsen a contract at the ripe old age of 36 which made me wonder why? Surely, the opportunity should be given to an aspiring young British player rather than another foreigner looking for a last pay day. Hang on, if am not careful will be joining Malky, Dave and Massimo at FL Headquarters – then again would be a hell of a Taxi ride!

To sum up November, the Blues beat the Reds who beat the Greens who lose to the Whites who then lose to the Blues who had beaten the Reds and Brentford beat all of them!

As ever, don’t get carried away as a miserable defeat is just round the corner.


 David Goodwill

2014/15: Sky Bet League One – Chesterfield v Yeovil Town

An usually mild and sunny afternoon greeted the first day of November at the Proact Stadium.

Neither side came into the game with any sort of form. Home side Chesterfield were without a win since 04 October with a 3-2 win over Sheffield United, whilst Yeovil Town’s dreadful run of a single point from six games had seen the side from Somerset drop into the relegation zone.

Changes were the order of the day for both camps. Chesterfield boss Paul Cook was without his captain Ian Evatt who was suspended, so Charlie Raglan came into the team, with Ollie Banks coming in for Jimmy Ryan who dropped to the bench. Yeovil manager Gary Johnson brought in a number of players on loan during the week with right-back Jordan Clarke arriving from Coventry City and keeper Jed Steer and defender Stephen Arthurworrey from Aston Villa and Fulham respectively – all three went straight into the starting line-up.

The Spireites kicked-off in a game which began with an open quarter of an hour.

After three minutes, Dan Gardener broke into the Yeovil box, but his cutback was comfortably cleared. The visitors though responded just a minute later, when from a free kick on-loan defender Stephen Arthurworrey headed over the bar.

Shortly after this chance, the first corner of the game came for Chesterfield following good work between, captain for the day, Samy Morsy and Daniel Jones. However, debutant keeper Jed Steer punched clear.

But it was the visitors who had the first real chance of the game after eight minutes, when from a Foley free kick, a flicked header gave Moore a chance at the far post, where Tommy Lee made a superb reaction save.

There was no panic from the home team though as they looked to create an opening opportunity with Darikwa and Clucas combining well, but Yeovil were proving dogged opposition and their second corner came on twelve minutes. Tommy Lee in the Chesterfield goal was equal to the task though, punching clear.

Just a couple of minutes later, he was in action again, as he had to deal with a dangerous in-swinging free kick from Foley, which come about after a foul which earned Darikwa a booking.

After this bright opening, the game hit a five minute spell in which neither side made much impression.

However, Chesterfield were the next team to show, as they tried at every opportunity to get wide through Doyle and Gardener. Nonetheless, Yeovil were proving solid at the back with Steer in goal confident in his handling and kicking game.

There was a moment of controversy on twenty six minutes when from a ball into the Yeovil box the awkwardly bouncing ball seemed to strike the arm of a Glovers player. However, despite huge appeals from the home fans, referee Oliver Langford waved play on. Chesterfield were now dominating and on twenty seven minutes had a free kick in a central position. However, the Yeovil wall did their job and the effort from Doyle was comfortably blocked.

Foley though was continuing to probe for the visitors and Tommy Lee had to be alert to punch clear just before the half hour mark. However, Chesterfield continued to look to work the ball wide with Clucas and Gardener proving dangerous, but ultimately the home side were unable to get anybody on the end of the crosses.

The visitors were forced into a change on thirty four minutes, with Moore being replaced by Hiwula-Mayifuila. Yeovil were struggling as the half entered the last ten minutes with Doyle, Clucas and Gardener looking dangerous for Chesterfield; however as with much of the opening half it was possession that came without an end.

Half-time:  Chesterfield (0) – (0) Yeovil Town

The home team may have finished the first-half on top, but it was the visitors who came out more positively in the second period. Within two minutes of the restart Grant had a shot on target, but it was an easy gather for Tommy Lee. Just a couple of minutes later Chesterfield’s Morsy slipped allowing Yeovil in which resulted in a corner for the visitors. From the kick, Arthurworrey had a free header which forced a save from Lee low down.

It wasn’t until fifty minutes on the clock that the home team provided any threat with Doyle drawing a good save from Steer and instigated the first of three successive corners for Chesterfield. The Spireites were now building some momentum; however, the good approach play was lost through poor crossing on a number of occasions.

On the hour though a great through ball gave Doyle a one-on-one with Steer, but the visiting keeper spread himself well to block the effort.

Chesterfield boss Paul Cook decided that on sixty one minutes it was time for change and carried out a double-change, with Gardener and Banks giving way to O’Shea and Johnson. The Aston Villa loanee Johnson was soon involved bringing a new energy to Chesterfield.

It gave the home side a sustained period of possession and pressure, but they were unable to create a decent chance as the game moved to the last fifteen minutes. Looking to give his side some fresh legs, Yeovil boss Gary Johnson brought on Hayter for Grant.

Chesterfield continued to look for a winner and manager Paul Cook made his final change as Ryan replaced Gobern on eighty one minutes.

However it was the visitors who nearly grabbed a winner as on eighty six minutes Tommy Lee raced outside his area to bring down substitute Jordy Hiwula, earning the keeper a booking.  Despite its promising position, the resulting free kick came to nothing.

The home side though weren’t done and a couple of corners in the dying minutes produced a volley from substitute Ryan, which sailed high over the bar. There were three minutes of time added-on, but neither side could conjure up a winner.

Full-time:  Chesterfield (0) – (0) Yeovil Town

* * * * * * * * *

Post-match interviews:

Question:  A clean sheet today and a point away, so a sign of some progress Gary?

Gary Johnson (Yeovil Town manager): Yes it was important that we came here and looked solid. We’ve seen a couple of games they’ve played, not the last one, but even their last one they started very bright against Swindon and the crowd gets behind them and they get runs of attacks – and we had three new players in the team so we had to blood them in as best we could and so we thought we had a bit of a position of strength and then try and keep the ball and break on them.

Again we’ve had the first couple of chances that end, Kieffer Moore’s header and a shot or two, so although you’re never happy with just the one point – as there were three points on it – of course as long as you win your next home game, then that’s not a bad point from our position against a team like Chesterfield that have been going quite well up until the last couple of weeks. I was proud of the boys because they worked their socks off, our quality was a little bit lacking at times, but we can build on that now. I was so pleased with the three new lads because they came in and all had an effect on the game.

Question:  Jed Steer – clean sheet on his debut and made some fantastic saves.

GJ: Yes, one with his feet – and some others – I thought was the match-winning saving save. So yes it was a great debut for him. I don’t think he was peppered as such; I don’t think he was the only one that kept us in the game. Although as I said, I thought he had a terrific game along with everybody else.

Question:  Stephen Arthurworrey looks a different type of centre-half. You’ve had some big powerful lads in there, but he seems to read the game, he’s got pace as well and he can come forward.

GJ:  I thought him and Jordan Clarke both showed pace and were decent in the air. They both don’t panic when they are on the ball. So I think as you say it’s a step in the right direction.

There’s a long way to go of course. To win football matches as this level you not just only have to create the chances, like we did, you’ve got to go and score them as well. Even if you only get one or two chances away from home, you have to go and get one goal and walk away with a little bit of a ‘smash and grab’. So we are going to have to work a little bit on our final third play, especially when we are at home.

Question: Still no goal for Jordy Hiwula. What did you make of the challenge on him by Tommy Lee? It looked pretty cynical as he rushed out and Jordy appeared to be clean through on goal.

GJ: Well I mean obviously if the keeper misses him, he is clear in on goal. He was going at a little bit of an angle, but he would still have been able to get on the ball and tuck it in the net. It was a professional foul by their very experienced keeper and he got away with it.

Question:  And Kieffer Moore obviously he had to come off. Is that the same hamstring problem he’s been nursing?

GJ: Yes he’s really disappointed that it’s his hamstring again. It’s just something that keeps recurring. We give him a little bit longer each time, but it still breaks down. We’ll have to investigate even more really or give him a bit of a longer rest, because we can’t keep waiting for him, bringing him in and plays only half an hour or so. We can’t do that.

Question: Of course a break from league action now. A FA Cup tie with Crawley Town next weekend. How important is the FA Cup for Yeovil. I know in previous season, you’ve been ‘Giant-killers’. How important is it this season?

GJ: Well over the years it has been important for Yeovil. Yeovil and the FA Cup will always go together. Maybe it’s just in recent years that it has not worked out that way. But I mean, we want to beat Crawley, they beat us down there, and they are a side in our league.

So as you say if we are going to build on this performance we got to treat it like a league game and although we are not going to get the three points, you do get a chance to go into the next round and that’s what we’re after.

I think we should mention now because the FA Cup we always get a good atmosphere at Huish Park and our supporters here today were great – they were our twelfth man that’s for sure. That must have been a record for the length of time they sung that one song. Unbelievable. They certainly sang more than the home crowd anyway and we certainly appreciate it, and they can claim half a point.

Question:  Just one final question. Your loan players played a key role in the performance here today. Do you know in advance how many of those can play in the FA Cup or have you work to do this week?

GJ: Yes, I do. All of them can play. So that was a god bit of negotiation on our part. Certainly the ones we just brought in we couldn’t afford to pay them and then not play them in the Cup because they’d have had two weeks of doing nothing. They are all allowed to play in the Cup, so we’ve done well and our friends out there have done well for us.

 * * * * * * * * *

Question: After a few bad losses, on days like this a draw can be important?

Paul Cook (Chesterfield manager): Absolutely, it’s a good result. Every substitution becomes a challenge. What I never like is when people start shouting “get him off” from behind you. I don’t understand that and never will in football. Our lads to a man – not one of our players deserve that and I just appeal to supporters, for anyone who shouts behind me to get them off, that’s not the way forward. Have a bit of respect. I have respect as a manager, try and have it as a supporter. That’s an opinion and it’s valid one. You don’t have to shout, especially when a lad gives the ball away or something like that. The majority of our players now have been with us for a period of time through very successful times and its times like this when you find more out about people and that includes us all, me as a manager, supporters.

Question: Some great performances out there today. Georg Margreitter for example was superb.

PC: I thought Georg was excellent today, I really did. Looks like he’s done his hamstring, so we’ve got another blow there. But that’s part and parcel of the game.

We’ve got to look at what we are doing now. We keep working away; we keep trying to maybe sign a player or two that might help the situation. I think it’s apparent there’s an area of two on the pitch we might need that bit of help. That’s for me, the Chief Executive and the Chairman to try and sort out.

Question: How far along are you?

PC: You know you’ve got to have, if you can, a brighter outlook. I look at Liverpool as a club today, my own club that I love. Three or four months ago they are the best thing in the world and in the space of a blink it changes. I’m not saying that Chesterfield are the best, I’m just saying we are trying to go forward. Now and again we get little hurdles and obstacles to jump and sometimes they are not as easy as people think. My job is to manage the team to the best of my ability and I’ll always do that until the day somebody tells me different.

Question: And sometimes games like this and little periods like this can strengthen players can’t it?

PC: Imagine the mood if we’ve got beat 1-0. When Tommy Lee comes flying out the box late on, we all think the 1-0’s coming don’t we. That’s what football does to you. I’m honest enough to know and I keep telling everyone, I’m a lucky man me. I feel the pressure of all the world like you wouldn’t believe between three and five o’clock, but you can see by mood now I don’t feel it now.

This clubs been here for x amount of years and by the time we’ve all gone – it’ll still be going strong and that Kop will still be singing, but they won’t be singing “Cookie give us a wave” !

Question: A wonderful reception for Daniels Johnson when he walked off. I appreciate he’s going back to Aston Villa today, but how good has he been for you?

PC: He’s been outstanding. It’s a tough league and you’ve got to have good players. Our own players – Gary Roberts – Ollie Banks today, comes back in the team – people forget Ollie got 9 goals in twenty odd games last year. And then the fella behind me shouts “get him off” and I think to myself, I don’t grasp that – you know I really struggle to grasp that. Listen, makes no bones about it, any fan who pays money – I’m the most respectful person towards supporters you’ll ever get – but come on that’s just not right.

So let’s finish the interview on a positive – we got a point.

Question: And a nice positive at the end of the game, Gary Johnson coming out and thanking the ground staff.

PC: Gary’s a good man. Football is about the media nowadays building pressure on managers, and they get sacked and someone else gets the job. That’s football today and we’ve all got to love it, because when it’s going well there’s no better job in the world – it’s the best job – you go and get bought a pint and you’re a genius. When it’s not going so well, you don’t get bought a pint and you have to buy your own and you’re not such a genius. I’ll just keep enjoying it.

2013/14: Sky Bet League One – Sheffield United v Walsall

Kick-off was delayed ten minutes at Bramall Lane due to a fire-alarm problem, although after a game low on quality and incident, fans might have wished it had been postponed indefinitely.

Walsall played five in midfield and Sheffield United seemed content to allow the visitors possession, indeed it was difficult to fathom at times who the home team was.

The two talking points of the first-half centred on a penalty that wasn’t awarded and one that was.

On forty minutes United defender Aidy White broke into the box and went down after a clumsy challenge from Lalkovic. However, referee Sarginson waved away appeals indicating the Walsall winger played the ball.

A minute into time added-on, United did get a penalty when James Chambers was adjudged to have handled the ball. Chris Porter fired home to put The Blades 1-0 up at the break.

Walsall manager Dean Smith’s said he felt ‘hard done by about the penalty decision. That certainly wasn’t deliberate handball. The first one was, for the foul by Milan Lalkovic, but two wrongs don’t make a right’.

United manager Nigel Clough believed, ‘one penalty was the least we should have had this evening’.

The highlight of the second-half came within two minutes of the restart. Walsall levelled when. Baxendale went down the right and his cross was powerfully headed home by Craig Westcarr.

That was as good as it got, as the game returned to the mediocrity of the first-half and at the whistle the frustrated reaction of home fans told you everything you needed to know.

Both managers acknowledged that reaction, with United boss Clough saying ‘it was a hard-earned point, but I’m disappointed with the goal we conceded again’, adding, ‘I was disappointed with our final delivery at times – we got into some good, positive positions and set-plays but weren’t quite on it’.

His counterpart Dean Smith reflected, ‘we were average tonight. We know we can play a lot better and it was probably a fair result. But it shows how far we’ve come that we can go away from Bramall Lane disappointed with only a point’.