Battle of the bilge

It’s a point.

After the entertainment and thrills and spills of Stoke on Saturday, Town went toe to toe with a battling, awkward and rudimentary Wycombe side who play to their strengths and bridge the money gap with an ugly style for which they should never apologise.

Town rarely got to grips with the energetic, physical approach of the home side and simply failed to take any sort of control of a game which would have been derided in the nether regions of League 2.

It is difficult to imagine what Corberán learned on a night of unremitting drudgery other than it is high past time that Dhiakaby was put out of his misery, and ours. The languid French youngster barely put a foot right, looked entirely out of place in a contest only defined by rugged effort and has so little to offer that even the smallest glimpse of competence can be dismissed on the basis that the bar is so low for him it would defeat even his skinny frame.

In contrast, Mbenza should now be separated from his, previously reasonable, association with Dhiakaby as the embodiment of Town’s disastrous summer 2018 transfer market dealings.

Easily the most threatening and progressive of Town’s misfiring, confused and ineffective display, the Belgian is proving to be well suited to Corberán’s vision and was just about the only player to come out of this mess with some credit and the portmanteau Dhiabenza (and variants) so beloved of the fan base should now be retired.

Schofield’s performance between the sticks, bar one ill advised foray which nearly ended in disaster, was competent if not particularly busy, but the positives end here.

Nothing the hosts did was unpredictable. Long balls in the general direction of Akinfenwa and hoping to profit from the chaos the iconic and likeable striker creates pretty much covers the game plan. In and amongst this single strategy is hard work, disruption and denying space to the opposition; Town aren’t the first and won’t be the last to succumb to a system which jolts teams out of their fancy Dan complacency.

It is, however, impossible for Wycombe to sustain the plan over 90 minutes and the key is to take advantage when space appears and Town simply failed to execute their own style when opportunity knocked.

Possession was slow, often retrograde, and movement stilted. Neither O’Brien nor Eiting were able to spark creativity in to the middle which could have exploited space when it appeared; the latter was particularly disappointing and never got over the huge culture shock which this game must have represented.

An exceptionally poor first half, where only Mbenza looked like providing a breakthrough with good deliveries in to the box, was notable only for resilient, if frantic, defending and the departure of Schindler who came out much the worse for an aerial lunge above Akinfenwa resulting in a heavy fall.

For a short time in the second half, Town threatened to gain the ascendancy with more meaningful possession, Mbenza the main protagonist again, but were soon undone by some strategic injury breaks. Being thwarted by a cunning plan worthy of Baldrick really isn’t a reasonable excuse, however.

Although a visit to Wycombe is an outlier in a long season, and gaining a point is a better achievement than The Chairboys’ horrendous start to the season suggests, there are grounds for concern arising from the contest.

Persisting with Dhiakaby as the natural wide replacement despite all the evidence laid before our eyes time and time again defies rationality. 

Town continue to struggle against teams who refuse to accommodate the way they want to play and largely fail to find alternative solutions. The evolution may overcome this tendency, either through general improvement or recruitment, but for now, increasing their ability to impose our own style on games should be a priority. 

Overall, this game should be consigned to the dustbin of history (just a day later it is a struggle to recall anything of note)- never were iFollow’s interminable replays and lingering cut always from play more welcome.




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