The four games over Christmas really seemed to sum up our performances over the season so far. Firstly there was the Bristol City game on Boxing Day. A great result after a slow start and you could feel the optimism coming back. We had finally converted chances and looked threatening every time we went forward.
Then came the usual crash back to earth, this time away at Hull. Only this season’s special, the late goal, salvaged a point in a game that we seemed to struggle to retain possession for large periods. This form continued into the Swansea game, and all optimism seemed to have ebbed away. Yet again a failure to convert chances and a lack of concentration saw us lose the game and drop back down the table.
Finally the game against Burnley was a battling performance that saw us just about deserve to take all the points. Again what we created chances but defensive frailties nearly cost us. If Marney had actually been able to hit the target the result may have been quite different (a change from us being unable to hit the target). It’s a little concerning that we had to come from behind in all the games, but whilst we are scoring (or at least Shane Long is scoring) it isn’t too much of a problem. happens when the goals dry up is another thing.
All things considered the seven points we obtained from these four games is a pretty good return. One thing this spell of fixtures highlighted was the apparent depth we have in our squad. Before the season started many fans questioned the strength of the squad, and whilst we may not be completely there, we do have cover in every position. This will really help as we enter the second half of the season, especially if playoffs (or an auto place) is our aim.
The cherry on the icing on the cake was the return of Chris Armstrong. After more than 15 months out injured it seemed like retirement was more likely than a return to the first team. It’s a testament to his character that he has managed to overcome such a serious injury. Alex Pearce has looked like a new player in the past few games and he really seems to be benefiting from having the previous managers expectation lifted from his shoulders. It really is good to see him back playing like a future captain.
Now all we have to do is hope we keep the squad together. Already there are rumours circulating, showing what we have to look forward to for the rest of the month. Whilst McDermott has said no one is leaving (and he would like to keep Leigertwood), football nowadays is a money business, and desperate clubs have been known to make stupid bids. All fans can do is Hammond keeps his phone off till February.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.