Brian Neil Gay is a member of the ClaretandHugh Facebook Group and a long time Iron. Here – in his first blog for the site – he talks of his excitement at last night’s performance against Saints and his hopes for the season in our new series of Fans’ blogs. Send your blogs to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been an Iron since the late 60s so I’ve see many of our greats, enjoyed our highs and endured the numerous disappointments too but I can’t remember the last time I have enjoyed a season as much as the one we are experiencing now.
I get to games when I can but always make a point of watching live streams because I don’t think one can really judge a result unless you see the match and that game yesterday under the Boleyn lights was a massive result for us and will I believe seriously effect where we end up.
Had the Saints held on to win it would have been hard to accept that we still had a realistic chance of the Champions’ League places but some match results are more significant than others and I think that the final 49 minutes at the Boleyn on Monday will have a much bigger influence on our season outcome than being just a home win against Southampton.
The comeback to win was thrilling, but as a result it’s importance should not be underestimated. Lose it and we start the second half of season in the bottom half of the table as the result of a continuing slide down the table (despite not losing in six). Win it and we put ourselves right back in contention for the top half a dozen and I believe those Champions league places.
I suspect that like many I was apprehensive about just how our makeshift first eleven could overcome a buoyant Saints fresh from thumping the Arsenal.
I hoped the Saints would have expended too much energy in that game but the first 45 at the Boleyn dispelled that completely. It was us who looked the more fatigued, the slower, the unsure. Players starting out of position only added to our uncomfortable play.
Whatever Slaven Billic had seen to suggest that playing Alex Song in an advanced role of Cheikou Kouyate clearly was not working and we were lucky not to go in 3-0 down rather than the somewhat unfortunate Jenkinson own goal. I am not so sure Tadic’s touch would have netted without Jenk’s contact.
The groans were there for all to hear as the Boleyn faithful wanted endeavour and attack but were largely served up slow and lethargic, unimaginative football with no credible creativity on show.
I knew something had to change after half-time and I was pleased to see the manager had made the call to switch it round with a double substitution that was about to change the game. The confidence lift in the rest of the team was evident as we went after the equaliser inspired by Manuel Lanzini’s calm and confident ball work and Andy Carroll’s running and endeavour.
Andy Carroll attracts a lot of column inches but yesterday’s second half performance for me saw him back to very near his best. He has scored the winner against Chelsea and now against Saints. In fact AC is now only three goals away from being our joint top scorer!
On the evidence of yesterday’s second half I think he could work well with Enner Valencia and Michail Antonio. There were the first real signs of an understanding of between these three. Given the service we know that AC will win headers and score.
He won two or three headers in the box that I recall, was fouled in the penalty area on one occasion which should have been a penaltyand missed one chance he perhaps should have buried but he looked a lot sharper to me. If he stays fit and keeps his confidence up who knows 2016 could be a good year for him and us.
The swashbuckling attack minded second half display had the Boleyn rocking in the way that we all want to see in this her final season.
I know we have all perhaps been a tad frustrated during this period of missing first teamers but let’s be honest Slaven Billic and the fit players have weathered a storm without losing and there is every reason to think with the Payet / Lanzini act about to resume we could well push on for that top six and maybe even the top four.
I mean the league is there for the taking for someone this year and so too are the Champions League places. All the established top teams have slipped up more than once this season, it is no longer a foregone conclusion that City, Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool and that other North London team will have it all their own way.
It is time for real belief, belief in our manager, our players and their abilities. So I am convinced that we could given an injury free 2016 be in with a shout of come May.