Saturday's win over Wycombe, having had a few days to reflect, was a good result and, in part, a great performance.
The passing play in the first half made us look in a different league to Wycombe. At the point when Llera went off to have his stitches we hadn't looked in any trouble, and could well have been out of sight.
I had no complaints at that stage, and we even managed to pass the ball around and slow the game down when we were a player short and I thought we would cruise to half time and come out with eleven men (Llera back or a substitution) and carry on where we'd left off.
I am normally worried about the decision to play with one short while a player has treatment that takes more than a minute or two. Had we more than two centre halves at the club the decision would have been less academic. However, as half time closed in I didn't feel that Wycombe had even attempted to raise their game. The goal was a little worrying (it reduced our lead) but I was still very confident that we would win the game at a canter.
The second half was only five minutes old when our superiority re-established our two goal cushion. As I don't know the player well enough I cannot really know for sure, but Llera seemed reluctant to put his head in after his knock. I can hardly blame the player, again, I doubt we would have left him on had we a decent (or any) replacement on the bench.
Their second goal came at just the right time to cause the panic that you would expect from a team that had thrown away leads late in games so many times last season. I was not terribly disappointed that we were hanging on. I remarked to my Dad at 3-1 when he was suggesting that 4-1 would be a lot more comfortable than 3-2, that we need to build up some experience of hanging on to one goal leads to increase the confidence.
I would have taken 4-1, of course I would have, but in the end the scramble that kept out the equaliser may well lead to better attitude and performances than a 4-1 'easy' game would have.
There were a couple of major managerial decisions in the game and they all turned out to be wrong, but I have to say that I was more than happy with them at the time. We need more cover for our central defenders. Llera should not have had to finish the game. I doubt that anyone disagrees with me, but the summer has meant that we couldn't re stock the centre half shelves. We are where we are, Llera was literally irreplaceable.
The change from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 that was, I believe, responsible for us losing control of the game was a brave decision, and had Gray scored when he under hit his shot, or McLeod's shot just under the bar gone in Parkinson would have been hailed as a major tactician. In fact, it looked like a mistake, but I was pleased to see that McLeod and Gray looked like they will have more to offer in the coming months as and when required.
However, the major cause of the panic in the last ten minutes was probably caused by the memories of last season. That was why I was pooping myself up in the East Stand. We lost leads in games we deserved to win last season, and if I was genuinely worried about it happening again it's no surprise that the players were. They dropped deeper and deeper and the inevitable happened.
A win is a win, and we have three points more and a substantially better goal difference than Norwich, and I'd have taken that before kick off.
So, a really dominating game (if only in part) and a very respectable crowd that seemed more vocally supportive than I've seen for a while. Not much to complain about really, so I won't.
Tonight's game is less than an irrelevance. It would be nice to win a couple of League Cup games and draw a money spinner against a team that I've only just learned not to take for granted. Even a half full Old Trafford or Emirates Stadium would constitute a big pay day for a third division side. However the league is much more important, and when a club has only two central defenders you are going to struggle if two of them are injured at the same time.
Thus I am going to give Parkinson a bye for tonight. If we win then well done, if we lose then never mind. I don't normally take this attitude, but let's face, even when we were an established Premier League side we could get past the quarter finals, even with a draw at home to a forth division side. We are not going to win the competition, we are not even going to have a decent cup run, so let's save our necessary players and give us the best chance at Hartlepool on Saturday.
I was wrong about the result on Saturday suggesting a 3-0 win, but I feel vindicated as at times we looked like we were going to walk it. Either way, however, my confidence in us finishing second was strengthened, and I have more enthusiasm for watching us play than I can remember.
Up the Addicks!