Over 1000 United fans travelled to Alloa yesterday and the most noticeable thing about the crowd was the malaise amongst the support. There were no songs, there were no groups of boisterous fans, it was a strange atmosphere. What worries me most about that is the air of acceptance. It’s not that people are not angry or not unhappy but there is definitely a different feeling amongst our support and maybe it is that we just kind of know what is coming before each game begins. I myself didn’t get as animated as I maybe might have been in the past and I think there is definitely a feeling that we are going through the motions at the moment.
Talking about going through the motions that was something very apparent in the way United went about their business against a very organised Alloa side. Despite good wins against Queen of the South and Partick Thistle the fact is we are playing very ‘functional’ football under Laszlo and that will lead to results like yesterday more often than not. If we continue in this manner we will probably pick up wins here and there but the fact is we must be challenging for the title and playing like this we will not be in a position to do that. We create very little, we very rarely overload teams and we also have a manager whose philosophy is to focus on not losing rather than going all out for victories. I’m not suggesting Laszlo doesn’t want to win football matches but he is definitely of the mindset that the way to victory is through pragmatic and structured football. Now I’m not a football manager and I don’t have any coaching badges so I am just an amateur onlooker but it was apparent very early on yesterday that our shape and style of football was not working. Alloa had narrowed the pitch by 5 or so yards on each side yet we insisted on playing out wide and, even worse, we had two very defensive, slow and poor ball playing midfielders in the middle of the park meaning we had absolutely no presence in such a key area.
Make no mistake, Alloa deserved to win yesterday. The first-half was reasonably even (although Alloa maybe had more clear chances) but when the second-half kicked off it became Alloa’s game. We had maybe 6 or 7 minutes of pretty good pressing and possession but after that Alloa spurned a number of good opportunities and if they had a half-decent finisher it would have been a different result in the end.
In the context of the season there are those that might argue a point away from home at a venue with a bizarre pitch and a well-organised side is maybe not a total disaster but let’s be honest, we should be doing much, much better and as a stand-alone match it was an awful performance that sets us back. The only slight positive is that we are not yet at a big numerical disadvantage in terms of the league table but we can’t afford to continually fall short on the road. If you are going to drop points then in some ways the early part of the season isn’t the worst time to do it (especially if you are waiting on three or four major players to return) but yesterday was a huge punch to the gut for the fans and for the club.
At the end of the match Frederic Frans dragged his teammates across to the supporters to thank them for travelling. Despite a few claps of recognition it was evident that the players were told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t good enough. In fact one fan that I passed was repeatedly saying “it’s just not f****ng good enough” over and over. To be honest that succinctly sums up everything I have just spent 700 odd words trying to explain. It’s just not good enough.
Player Ratings –
1 – Matej Rakovan – Despite being under huge pressure Rakovan actually didn’t have too many saves to make but he did put in a solid enough display. 6
2 – Stewart Murdoch – Not up to it, especially in the second-half. He was caught badly out of position on a number of occasions and did a poor job of marking at throw-ins and corners. 2
44 – Paul Watson – A solid display from the defender who grabbed another goal from a set-piece. He and Frans have a decent partnership. 6
4 – Frederic Frans – The central defenders were not the problem yesterday and Frans played pretty well alongside Watson. 6
17 – Jamie Robson – To give Robson credit he was much more aggressive yesterday and he was always looking for the ball going forward. Still not someone who should be our first choice but an improvement from him. 5
33 – Fraser Aird – Tried to get involved and probably our most dangerous midfielder (although that isn’t saying much). 6
5 – Adam Barton – In terms of yesterday’s performance he was a waste of a jersey. Couldn’t be bothered doing anything other than playing at walking pace and trying to take too much time on the ball. He also snapped at some United fans in the gazebo late in the game. 2
20 – Christopher Rabitsch – After playing pretty well last week this was a huge step backwards. It was the sort of performance by someone who underestimates the aggression and pace in this division. Totally off the pace. 3
90 – Yannick Loemba – Poor. Slipped and fell about 6 or 7 times in the first half and was only marginally better in the second 45. Drifts all over the park which can work in certain games but not yesterday. 4
14 – Pavol Šafranko – Works hard and can challenge in the air but had so little to work with that he never had a sniff at goal. 6
9 – Craig Curran – Similar to Safranko but ended up out on the wing and sometimes even deeper due to the systems we used. Ineffective. 5
Subs – 32. Declan Glass – The right change at the time but hardly got a touch of the ball when he came on. He did at least try to drive forward with it through the middle of the park but had no joy (4). 3. Callum Booth – Another short cameo and again out on the left-wing. Couldn’t make an impact. (3). 7. Paul McMullan – Very late change and didn’t get any time on the ball. Could have come on earlier and played through the middle which might have helped. (2)
Man of the Match – Realistically nobody deserves this honour given the standard of performance. It was a poor, poor day for three or four players. Some were just plain rubbish and some were a big let down. In a strange way the only players who maybe came out of the game with any credit were the two central defenders and Safranko.
Up Next – Another two-week break for the first team as we once again play Alloa but this time in the Irn-Bru Cup. I can safely say that there is a distinct possibility that Craig Easton’s side will lose very comfortably against Alloa’s first team. Of course if they do manage to beat Jim Goodwin’s side, what does that say about our first team squad? After that we have Greenock Morton visiting Tannadice and hopefully we will finally see players like Fyvie and King in a United squad on match day.
Championship Results –
Queen of the South 5 – 0 Ayr United
Partick Thistle 1 – 0 Greenock Morton
Dunfermline Athletic 0 – 3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Alloa Athletic 1 – 1 Dundee United
Ross County 2 – 0 Falkirk