Writer: Mike Field
Date:Sunday March 1 2009
Martin O'Neill has admitted he is devestated at conceeding two goals in the final minutes of todays prioritised Stoke City match.
It's a good job he's devestated to be honest, after the previous week most fans are apopolectic at the result.
Speaking on the official site after the match O'Neill has stated he believes that we should have had more than enough about us to see out the final minutes of the game without conceeding two childish and amateurish equilisers in short succession.
Ok he didn't childish or amateurish himself, that was me.
He also doesn't criticise the forward players for being unable to cross today or shoot accurately, which is more ironic considering we scored two goals but frankly should've walked away with at least four.
'We were devastated in the dressing room. We were in total control of the game - 2-0 up - with not many minutes left.
'We should have been able to see it through. It didn't materialise and we dropped two points.'
So they should be aswell, I thought the whole idea of the CSKA debacle was to rest players, yet we played 3 of the 4 current first choice defenders, but we ran out of steam in the final 10 minutes did we?
Oh well, this can be another blip and we'll no doubt bounce back like we hear after every stupid result we manage to contrive for ourselves.
'We were absolutely brilliant in that first half and thoroughly deserved the goal. Stoke came and sat in - which isn't a problem - and we had to face that and find ways around it.
'I thought we were terrific and some of the movement was excellent. We thoroughly deserved the half-time lead - for a 45 minutes it's probably as good as we have done in my time here.'
Yes we did, we also deserved a lead far greater than we carved out but how many chances do you want to miss and wonder why you fail to take all 3 points, or how many rested crosses were a waste of rested space, going nowhere near one of our players.
'I thought we started sloppily in the second half. We didn't really get into a rhythm and Stoke probably took a bit of heart from that, although they didn't really press us.
'Then we got the second and we were in complete control of the game.
'Obviously at that stage with nothing to lose Stoke put the ball in the box - which is absolutely fine - but we haven't been able to deal with it. It's as simple as that. The truth is we didn't deal with it.'
Sometimes when your team is under the cosh as a manager you do something to break up their rhythm. Plenty of sides do it to us with a succession of substitutions, some teams even play the ball into the corners when they have an opportunity. We still don't seem capable of, or have learnt this simple schoolboy tactic to protect leads.
How many leads to we need to throw before this particular nugget seems a sensible option to take?
'It was galling because for most parts of the game we were excellent. At 2-0 up we should have seen it through.'
But we didn't. With results going our way the dropping of 2 points isn't as major as it could've been. That said it was the perfect opportunity to increase the gap between ourselves and Arsenal, and close the gap on Liverpool and Chelsea.
We have by no means an easy 11 matches coming up, especially as we can't hold onto a two goal lead against Stoke so how much will these 2 dropped points come back to bite us on our Arsenals over the course of the next few weeks?
Date:Sunday March 1 2009
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