Date:Monday November 26 2007
Sign of the Good times ahead
One of the interesting facts to come out of our recent run is that we may have exceeded expectation even though the performances have not been that convincing. Few would have predicted 7 points from 3 away games, even though they were all against poor opposition, teams we should beat, teams in Boro's case we usually do away.
Thing is after conceding 4 twice in as many weeks the defence albeit against teams with few striking options, has conceded once in 4 games, and whilst in every match we rarely dominated, the right result came our way.
As a seasoned supporter I know how important that is when you are building a basis for the future, winning when you aren't playing well is always good news. To see off teams you should do, teams arguably who might be fighting around you, especially when you can take advantage of your fortuitous position of having few injuries, is nothing but good. 24 points at this time in the season is a virtual surety of Premiership survival and a small hope of European qualification.
The way we have achieved it is another matter, but even here the runes look promising, especially when you account we went to our greatest rivals and did so well their club is on the verge of collapse. On Saturday, few players excelled, Gabby excepted, but they all contributed and contributed well. OK the opposition looked pretty poor as a unit, some decent individuals but no team ethic, no real penetration, no real hope Southgate will survive, even under the best owner in the Premiership.
Its at times like this I appreciate the job O'Neill has done. Its safe to bet now that any team who should be below us will, if we remain clear of injuries, remain below us because we will come away with points.
Additionally, unlike last season we may do it with 3 points not one, mainly thanks to Gabby being played as a striker and not a winger. If Carew can sort himself out physically and mentally, he can as he showed Saturday, score superbly as well as offering some help up front. He like Petrov is still not up to speed, but at last both are starting to contribute, Petrov's strike from deep was the third best highlight of the game, Gabby's 2 runs and 1 goal plus Mellberg's superb strikers control and hit, the others.
I'm more than ever convinced O'Neill is not a tactical manager, but a manager who puts a team out to do its best and that's just about what they are doing at the moment and its good enough to gain us a top half finish.
All that said, there were lots of times on Saturday at Boro, like at Blues and at Bolton, that a team with better strikers may have taken us apart, but and this is the most important point, under O'Neill that seemingly doesn't happen. Well more times than not, we can't forget Spurs away. I could spend hours picking at the poor performance from Young, how Coker, Petrov, and in some degree Barry need to sort out who is doing what in midfield, but for now its working, on the poorer Premiership sides at least, and that's to be applauded, O'Neill has brought some solidarity if little expectation of greatness and that's a start.
I still maintain a better manager would, with Lerner's funding have done far better and achieved it sooner but for now we are a sound mid table team who will injuries aside maintain a top half finish. The next 7 games will provide a much sterner test, up to the transfer window, but to turn into the New Year with 30 points or more will not be bad and with 3 at home in that mix who knows, it should be.
Date:Monday November 26 2007
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