Old Boys Bite Back
Did you hear that? That was the sound of Alex fans across the country returning to earth.
What a very infuriating night it has been. Expectations were high after four wins on the trot, Radio Stoke were bigging the game up, the mood around Gresty Road was excellent and Gudjon looks certain to collect the manager of the month award on Thursday but this proved one win too far.
To put it blunt, we were beaten by the better side. We never really got going and it can probably be put down to Carlisle coming and knowing how to shake us. It was clear from the onset that Graham Kavanagh, the former Stokie, was one of the better players we'll face this season and we had no answer to it. In fact the only possibly answer is Michael O'Connor, but Gudjon confirmed post-match that he has been told to find a new club.
Kavanagh was free to not only run the midfield but run the game. Woodards either couldn't or refused to keep tabs on him as whenever the 35 year old received the ball he has a good 10 yard radius around him in which to move into.
The midfield was lost and with no-one on the bench to counter Carlisle it was an up hill task to keep the ball, never mind making something with it.
I suppose we can count ourselves lucky that Carlisle were a team still lacking 'something'. I think a play-off contender would have smelt blood tonight and taking us apart limb by limb, thankfully I would say we were always in the game to some degree.
At no point did the game ever run away from us, though you feared it when Gareth Taylor volleyed home a long ball around 12 yards out. Typical that a player who had not scored for 11 months returns to a former club to break his duck.
We managed to find a good spell in the game after the goal and from a corner we took advantage of Ben Williams' 'football' phobia. A cross pinged into the six yard area was headed down for Clayton Donaldson to scramble home.
Unfortunately it never really helped us kick on in the game. Basic errors were being made; passes were rarely finding their man, defenders were slipping at vital moments, Ruddy was struggling with the wind.... nothing was really falling for us whilst every ball Carlisle hit seemed to be perfect. You could just put it down as 'one of those nights'.
Mid way through the second half I think most Alex fans would have been delighted with a draw. The game continued to go Carlisle's way despite Gudjon's attempts to re-jig things; Sigurdsson, who had started up front, dropped to midfield after a completely ineffective first half whilst Steven Schumacher made way for Shaun Miller, who play on the right wing.
Carlisle pressed on however and eventually found a winner. Another former Alex loanee, Joe Anyinsah, sending a header beyond John Ruddy.
We tried to battle back, and there was effort from every player, but it just wasn't with us tonight. Players missing through injury, poor performances and an almighty impressive few weeks certainly took it's toll!
There were a couple of things that clearly need addressing before Saturday. One is the lack of target man, without Pope or Zola we really have trouble getting it to 'stick' up front. Gudjon tried new boy Sigurdsson up there in the first half which was a complete disaster, when Donaldson took that role in the second half we were a bit more effective but we were still missing a 'big man' up there. It was something Gudjon also suggested in his post match interview.
We are also looking rather bare defensively. Abbey didn't have the best of days and Broomes had his worst match since signing, but frankly I wouldn't put faith in McCready or O'Donnell to help keep us up.
It would be good to see Woodards have a go at the back, maybe something Gudjon could try with Schumacher & Sigurdsson in midfield?
Really though, the sooner Lawrence is back playing the better.
In the league, we have dropped down a place in the tonight due to Swindon's goal difference but we are no nearer to the relegation zone in terms of points (but we still remain only 1 point off). Brighton, Hereford and Yeovil games were postponed, leaving the league a little out of shape down there at the moment.
Saturday is a massive game now. Hereford at home. A defeat wouldn't be a complete disaster but a win would be huge. Gudjon needs to get the players to forget about tonight now; the winning streak is over and the season goes on. We are still in a better position than we have been all season so let's not [m]uck it up.
In Gudjon we trust.
John Ruddy - Battled with the wind and poor kicking throughout the night, but still managed to save us a couple of times. 6/10
Billy Jones - A steady enough game from Billy. Didn't get forward as much as he'd have liked but that was the flow of the game. 6/10
George Abbey - Clearly not comfortable at centre back and played the headless chicken act at times. The defence needs another re-jig after this. 5/10
Marlon Broomes - Shaky all evening. Some of the balls he gave away were atrocious and at one point in the second half gave Carlisle a corner from a routine pass of his on the half way line! 4/10
Julien Baudet - Steadier of the 'back three' in that I can't remember him making a mistake worth mentioning. 6/10
John Brayford - At times he was our only form of attack in the first half. And he's our right back. He's a classy player, another assured performance from him. 7/10
Steven Schumacher - Not a great game from him. Played 45 minutes and offered very little. 4/10
Danny Woodards - He was up and down the pitch and involved but his passing was poor and allowed Kavanagh far too much time and space to work in. 4/10
Byron Moore - He got rave reviews on Saturday but Byron wasn't with it tonight. Did nothing, offered nothing. 5/10
Clayton Donaldson - He runs his socks off and got a goal but he spent the first half trying to make up for Sigurdsson and the second half in a role that doesn't suit him at all. 6/10
Gylfi Sigurdsson - He looked completely lost up front in the first half and it's not surprising given he's a midfielder. He improved back in midfield in the second half but didn't set the world alight. 6/10
Shaun Miller - Probably showed more than most in just 45 minutes. He was a little handful for Carlisle. 7/10
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