Select Page

Some thoughts from the Portsmouth game

Hodgson’s substitution in the early stages of the second half was absolutely key to last night’s result.

Kelly was very poor, and had to be taken off. I couldn’t hear any of the reported booing, just a silent air of relief. Think it’s pretty disgraceful to boo a player unless he’s obviously not trying. Kelly did try, but whatever he did went wrong. I felt sorry for the guy, but he had to be taken off – his confidence is clearly shot at the moment. Hughes was fantastic; Hangeland still looks a bit shakey (I think his recent back injury is still hampering his movement); and Schwarzer put his recent dodgy performances to one side and was outstanding – his first half saves prevented us from being out of the game, and made an excellent one in the second half, which he made look so easy.

The Baird-Murphy a partnership is simply no longer working as effectively as it once did. Baird makes a good combination with Greening, because they are both hasslers, who like to get stuck in. With Murphy, I really am starting to think that we need an “enforcer” next to him. Whilst Baird has had a superb season at CM, Murphy is the one that pulls the strings, so I would bring in Dikgacoi or Etuhu when fit, just to give Murphy that extra little bit of licence and freedom. Murphy started to take control more after the change, and we have to make sure that continues. I’m still not convinced by Dikgacoi quite yet, but we do need some more presence in the middle of the park, and a run of games for the South African could be beneficial for his development and for the team.

In addition, I thought Baird moving to right-back also made Duff a much more potent threat. Kelly didn’t seem too willing to make overlapping runs – Baird made them time and time again. When you have wingers who like/need to cut in, it is essential to have the full-backs overlapping – the opposing full-backs have little idea who to mark, and the wingers have more space with which to work with and run at the opposition defence. Barcelona are a prime example of this – whilst Messi is a fantastic player, it is Dani Alves who dominates the right hand flank. The result of this is that Messi can wander inside onto his stronger left foot, and the option to switch the play back out right for a cross remains. Both the advancing full-back has increased space to get a cross in (as Baird did for Zamora’s header), and the winger can cut inside and get a shot on goal with his stronger foot.

Shorey was excellent, little more needs to be said about him. He is absolutely tiny though – Kevin Davies targeted Konchesky in the air and dominated him in the home fixture this season, and doubtless will be licking his lips at the thought of doing the same to Shorey. Greening too worked his socks off – I was very disappointed to hear his name booed when read out at the start. He’s not a natural wide player, but he did a good job for us, and added that little bit of extra grit that we have perhaps been missing in recent weeks, and was essential in last night’s game. It would have been interesting to see whether he would have been played, had there not been an attacking full-back making his debut. Greening gave Shorey just that little bit of solidity with which to work with.

One final thought – I really felt that we missed AJ last night. Whilst Okaka looks promising, it was really evident how we missed a striker who a) defends from the front; and b) makes runs into the channels. The former makes it so much more difficult for teams to dictate play, as Pompey did for much of the first half. The latter is one of the side’s main ways of getting the ball into advanced and dangerous positions. Duff was livid at Okaka at one stage for not making such a run – instead he just stood there, being marked by a centre-back. We immediately looked more dangerous going forward when Nevland came on – his movement really helped us open up Pompey more frequently.

Okaka should learn this in time – he’s only been here a couple of days – but we really lacked that extra bit of movement up front which is so essential to our attacking play. Even the relatively pedestrian Elm, who impressed me last night, made these runs – no doubt a result of spending so much of the season so far training with the side and knowing exactly what is expected of him. If Okaka can learn and adapt to this aspect of our game, he should do well for us. He seems to have all the raw attributes to be a success in English football. Let’s just hope that he can put that (dreadful) miss behind him – we’re going to need him if Zamora is out injured.

It wasn’t the best game we’ve played – the first half in particular was beyond abysmal. Mentally though, this was a massive result. Get a point at Bolton, and bring on Burnley at the Cottage. Our fortunes won’t seem so bad then.

Shorey settles in nicely

I normally caution against going overboard after a debut, but Nicky Shorey doesn’t half look promising on the evidence of last night. My Forest friend might be right when he talks about a deep-lying playmaker as I’ve not seen a left back influence proceedings so effectively for a long, long time.

Our new arrival slotted into the defence like he’d had been there all season. Plenty of people were expecting Bjorn Helge Riise to start out wide, but Shorey and Greening actually dovetailed pretty effectively – and the full-back didn’t look perturbed when Damien Duff popped up on his flank either. In fact, he was probably our most prominent outlet down the left, continually bombing forward and not afraid to take players on.

It seems unfair to compare him to an out-of-position Stephen Kelly but look how high up the pitch Shorey got in comparison:

by Guardian Chalkboards

He reminded me of a slightly younger Rufus Brevett, strong in the tackle but eager to supplement our attacks. Like Paul Konchesky, Shorey seems to be able to whip in a decent cross too. With English qualified left backs thin on the ground, you can see why a few writers have been talking up his chances of making the plane to South Africa should a few more injuries crop up or if the luckless Wayne Bridge becomes the fall guy for the sordid Terry affair.

Roy: Okaka will play against Portsmouth

Tucked in at the bottom of the Pompey preview on the offal is the confirmation that Stefano Okaka will make his Fulham debut tomorrow night. Nicky Shorey will start at left back too by the sounds of it.

Both of them will play tomorrow. He’s [Okaka] a great talent and has potential because he’s an Italian U21 international. He hasn’t played that many games for the Roma team but he has played some important matches for them and made a very important contribution as a substitute.

He’s a strong player and has an eye for goal. He’s a determined type of goalscorer and we hope in our current situation, with Andy Johnson out for a further considerable time, he will help us up front to score some goals.

We’ve been struggling at left back since Paul Konchesky got injured because we’ve not had that player that can cover on the left hand side. We’ve not had a natural left footer and we’ve tried to play right backs there and they’ve struggled.

Toni Kallio has been injured for a long while and has now been allowed to leave for Shefffield United. The reason I let Toni leave is because we were able to bring in Nicky Shorey who is a very similar player to Paul Konchesky who I am hoping will do a similar great job to the one Paul has done.

The Forest view on Nicky Shorey

Just had this through from a Forest fan on Nicky Shorey:

Livid that you’ve nicked him from us. He’s a class act and should do really well at Fulham. The only reason he wasn’t in the Villa team is because of Stephen Warnock – he’s been capped twice by England and played in the Prem with Reading.

He is a composed player and very clever. His great footballing brain meant he was a playmaker for us from left back! He’ll definitely do well for you.

Very encouraging.

Gera adds to Fulham’s injury woes

Zoltan Gera is out of Fulham’s game with Portsmouth tomorrow night after picking up a knee injury in training.

The Hungarian only returned to the first team picture against Aston Villa on Saturday as an early substitute for Simon Davies, who will also miss the Craven Cottage fixture with an ankle problem. With Clint Dempsey still nursing a knee liagement injury, it looks like Bjorn Helge Riise will get a chance to impress on the right of midfield, having been disappointing at Tottenham last week.

Andy Johnson is still a doubt – having injured his knee just before our trip to Accrington – and full backs Paul Konchesky and John Pantsil will both be out of action for a while. Loan signings Nicky Shorey and Stefano Okaka are both in line to make their debuts.