Royal Antwerp 3 Blue Twerps 1

Andy Munro on Blues’ pre-season.

Well, it’s typically Blues when we’ve been scoring goals for fun, we’re playing Bruges 2nd XI (we’d already beaten the first team) and we only need to turn up to win. Of course things fell apart at the seams but I keep repeating to myself over and over again that “It’s only a friendly.”

Now I don’t want to start criticising a brand new manager and I can see why he didn’t risk the full first team but where was the sense in playing 4-3-3 leaving Ziggy (no pace and no close control) up front on his own? Even worse than this was playing Rooney and Lovengrans as wingers, when they are neither pacy nor have the skill to take fullbacks on.

Having said that we could have been 2-0 up in the first ten minutes and we also hit the bar before impressive new boy Ravel Morrison headed home following a great cross. Unfortunately the Antwerp team were getting around the back of our defence down our left and one such move led to a mishandle by Jack Butland and the equaliser being bundled home. Two needless penalties then settled the affair with firstly Ibanez handling near the edge of the area and then a Belgium attacker being pulled down despite being forced well wide. We could have got back into it especially when Nathan Redmond came on but Rooney wasted a couple of decent chances.

So how did the starting team rate as individuals? In defence, Butland was at fault for one of the goals, very average kicking-wise and didn’t sniff the penalties but will still be a great asset while his flaws should keep the ‘wolves’ away. Mitch Hancox was Grainger-like in his commitment, good going forward, more than decent in his tackling but showed inexperience in his positioning. Caldwell gave a real captain’s performance before he was substituted despite playing alongside the unconvincing Ibanez whose undoubted class is undermined by his lack of mobility. After Carr was subbed (hopefully not a long term injury?),Packwood produced an impressively solid and classy display although I felt he lacked a bit of confidence going forward.

In midfield Gomes was disappointing and would have made the much maligned Nafti look positively box to box. Alongside Wade Elliot looked a bit lost and should have done better a couple of times when he got into the box. The real bright light was Ravel Morrison who was eager, quick and skilful in addition to the goal he scored. Up front Ziggy had one of his eminently forgettable performances whilst Lovengrans’ ability in the box was wasted due to his wide role. Rooney battled hard and with energy but was a bit agricultural in his wingplay.

What would be my first choice team if everybody was fit? Butland; Carr, Caldwell, Davies, Murphy; Burke, Mullins, Ambrose, Redmond; King, Lovengrans. Possibly I would try and fit Ravel Morrison in and if Carr’s not fit I would give the Chelsea loanee a go although Packwood showed that despite his youth, he is still a serious option.

As a footnote, Royal Antwerp can be proud of their support for a fairly ordinary team and they amusingly went through the full songbook of retro footie tunes from Hey Jude to Yellow Submarine to name a couple. I think all that was missing were Daisy, Daisy and Alive, Alive Oh!