Is It Just Sweet FA?

Andy Munro gives us a Blues-eye view of Saturday’s local derby in the FA Cup.

Years ago, a home FA Cup tie against the Wonky Wonky Wanderers would have been something to savour. Unfortunately, an almost pathetic crowd of 14,000 witnessed two understrength sides cancel each other out to end up with a draw that nobody wanted.

To be fair to Mad Mick, his side was slightly less under-strength than the Blues but it was fairly obviously the FA Cup meant just that. Despite my annoyance of shelling out money to watch a match lacking in any real atmosphere, I still partly understand Chris Hughton wanting to give some of his other senior players a game and therefore a chance to keep the squad happy. However, playing Rooney up front on his own is not always effective, never mind young Adam. Furthermore, the not particularly tall Rooney had to rely on the support of a Jordan Mutch who has yet to decide, as does Chris H, whether he’s a deep lying forward, a box to box midfielder, or somebody in the holding role.

This disjointed attacking force wasn’t helped by the absence of Burke and Beausejour with young Redmond, yet again, rather fitful in his performance. Mind you, the defence were magnificently solid, Carr-less though they were, they certainly weren’t pedestrian in thwarting any opposition attacks. Curtis Davies and Ridgewell (then Caldwell) were ably supported by the dependable pair of Spector and Murphy. In front of them, the central combo was solid with Gomes neat, tidy and rarely wasting a ball while man of the match N’Daw was his usual massive presence in both the tackle and  spraying the ball around when he wasn’t foraging forward. When he was subbed, he was rightly given a real Africa Nations’ Cup send off.

In fairness, Wolves were equally impressive at the back even when the much maligned Roger Johnson went off injured following a robust Rooney challenge. In fact, Roger J certainly polarises opinions….there was even an altercation on the Tilton Road between those who fondly remembered the Johnson who would die for the Blues on the pitch and those who less fondly remembered that Johnson did anything but die for the Blues off it.

Blues probably had the edge in the first half but Wolves came into the ascendancy in the second period until Beausejour came on, giving the diminutive Redmond an unusually more central role. Strangely he thrived on this, seemingly getting on the ball much more and becoming a veritable thorn in the Wolves side.

Yet it was Colin Doyle who ended up with the plaudits in making a fabulous double save to prevent a late Wolves’ winner which would have been, to say the least, a bit unjust.

Incidentally, it was good to see both sets of fans joining in the one minute applause for the late, lamented Gary Ablett who was also poignantly featured on the big screen at the time of the tribute. As a twice-decorated FA Cup winner, maybe he was already turning in his grave at the lack of respect now shown to this most historic of football trophies.