I watched this one in my local. To say the Wembley Cup had captured the imagination of an excited Sunday afternoon East End multitude would be a lie. I arrived 15 minutes in and was able to squeeze past the trio of drinkers to a seat in the front row.
Oh dear. One nil down already to a Celtic team that had apparently made ten changes from their 5-0 win on Friday afternoon. Once Iâ€™d worked out the side it didnâ€™t take long to deduce why we were chasing the game so early. Harry had gone for the French Gambit at the back with Dervite partnering Chimbonda in the middle. Dervite look composed on the ball but pretty green apart from that. He appeared to be getting no help from his fellow musketeer with the gloves on and the malfunctioning GPS though as the senior partner was popping up all over the right hand side but very rarely in the middle. Goal number two arrived after half an hour when the surprisingly effective Samaras collected a clearance in his own half. Dervite sold himself like Russell Brand in a B&Q offering discount drainpipes and the Greek was off to the races. Not normally known for his pace he ran half the length of the field completely unchallenged before thumping the ball past a too close to his near post Gomes.
Half time came and went with the summarisers proving that they are on surely the touch of all touches when it comes to earning a easy few bob. Ray Clemence â€“ â€œHarry will be very unhappyâ€. Brilliant. From the â€˜highlightsâ€™ I was able to glean that the Hoops opener was almost as soft as their second, a free header from a cross from the right that Assou-Ekotto might have closed down quicker. Killen nutted it past a flat footed Gomes after the ball had dropped invitingly over Dervite and in front of Chimbonda. Iâ€™d also missed a couple of Darren Bent close calls, the first a trademark one on one the like of which he was putting away nonchalantly this time last year, the other a header that he slightly mistimed. Our other chances in the half were a Bent volley he didnâ€™t get on top of, a low Huddlestone shot after a quick free kick and, from the same player, a free kick floated wide from an excellent position just before half time. Mizuno couldâ€™ve made it two before Samarasâ€™s effort, taking one touch too many before having the ball whipped from his toes 10 yards out.
Eight changes for us at half time and a couple for them and we couldâ€™ve been three down almost immediately as McCourt (I think) waltzed through the right hand side of our defence before bottling it at the last and scooping wide with only Cudicini in front of him. For the next 15 minutes a proper game nearly fought its way through the dross as we upped the tempo and stuck in a few stiff challenges. Livermore and Rose certainly arenâ€™t backwards in coming forwards when it comes to fifty-fifty challenges, or even forty-sixty in Roseâ€™s case. We nearly pulled one back from a goalmouth scramble and then Livermore had a shot saved. That was the peak of the excitement though as the normal preseason friendly atmosphere smothered everything and the game drifted unremarkably to a conclusion with only a couple of flashes of skill from Bostock disturbing the conversation around me about the traffic problems of Waltham Abbey.
We never played our first XI together but even so overall we were surprisingly flat and disorganised, looking very much like a doomed experiment a lot of the time. Iâ€™d say that Bostockâ€™s cameo and Corlukaâ€™s forty five at centre half were the two major positives to come out of the game, though if someone said Livermore played his part I could be persuaded. Many of the team we are expecting to go forth and smite the Scousers in, a still distant to be fair, three weeks time looked well out of touch. Celtic have an important (and tough) game on Wednesday when they take on Dinamo Moscow in a Moneybags League qualifier so presumably theyâ€™re ahead of us fitness-wise. Combine this with our centre half shortage (Ledley was watching from the stands today by the way whilst bouncing his lad on his knee, hopefully not the dodgy one) and thatâ€™s a couple of reasonable enough excuses should you encounter any cocky Celtic fans in the next few days.
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