“I don’t measure a man success by how high he climbs, but by how high he bounces when he his bottom.”
Last season we mastered the art of bouncing back and surviving. Now we need to master the art of not needing to recover from a bad start.
September begins with Chelsea’s visit, a tough game as expected but we should have taken the lead on the hour mark, Vokes shooting wide with the goal at his mercy. Five minutes later and a shove in the box gifts Hazard the chance to score from the penalty spot, which he takes. Two more goals are added in the final 10 minutes, and when Kante scores against you, you know it’s not going to be your day. Chelsea go top. Aside from the defeat there was a bigger loss, Tom Heaton would miss the next 3 weeks through injury. A home game to Palace next gave us the opportunity to get our season going and after Aiden O’Neil put us ahead in the 21st minute it looked positive. We then had a shot cleared from the line before Connor Wickham equalised in added time to the first half. A minute after the break Gray cannoned a shot off the bar. We did retake the lead after 4 corners, the final resulting in O’Neil taking his second of the game. Palace made changes and threw Benteke on and he drew them level five minutes after coming on. We were under pressure and this was enhanced by our conduct, Phil Bardsley picking up his second yellow and hitting the showers early. Our defence finally gave way and Palace took a 3-2 lead in the final minute and we couldn’t come back from that. Game saved, laptop closed, screams heard from far and wide. As is the way though, addiction takes over and I cannot stay off for long and load the game up again after the rage has subsided. We need a win, and I can’t rest until we do.
For as bad as we defended against Palace, we turned it around in front of the TV cameras as we made a trip to Southampton. Gray took a knock in the first minute and although flagged as injured, he appeared to run it off. I gave him some time and he seemed fine as he latched onto O’Neils through ball to slot home after 20 minutes. After the game his injury would be confirmed and we would be without him for the next few games. We held out as Southampton didn’t offer much and Ben Mee picked up the man of the match award. We stay bottom but our season has now started. It was the next round of the EFL cup and our visit to the King Power stadium. Leicester took the lead as we over committed to a corner in the second minute and they countered at speed. It would be 3-0 to the home side at half time, and they would add one more in the second period. We had 3-4 very good chances to score, so perhaps the 4-0 win flattered Leicester a little, but ultimately we did not deserve to progress.
It is league form we need however, and next we travel to Sunderland who lie 16th in the table. We are still without Gray and Heaton and it shows, we are totally outclassed and I am devastated as we suffer our second consecutive 4-0 loss. Game saved, laptop closed but this time I won’t return for some days.
It is just a slump, every team has bad form throughout the season and we are getting ours in early ahead of our late push for survival. This is what I say to convince myself over the next few days to get back into the game and turn it around. It wouldn’t be an easy task though. We host last year’s champions, Manchester United. Lineing up 4141, Dean Marney is given the task of sitting on creative man Juan Mata. It works to a point and he is neutralised. We do however lose to a Phil Jones header from a corner, and although we do not create much ourselves, it is not a drubbing as I may have expected. Next is Leicester again, but this time at home in the league. It starts in a similar vein as the earlier cup game and Vardy rattles the bar after 10 minutes. We survive that one though and build into the game. A Ben Mee long pass to the on rushing Hennings gives us the lead as he calmly dispatches it into the bottom corner. Leicester have the chance to level on half time but a fantastic save from the returning Tom Heaton keeps our lead. 10 minutes into the second half and Ashley Barnes lashes home his first of the season from the edge of the area. We could be forgiven a wobble after Vardy pulls one back, but it will turn out to be just a consolation. After we let Palace back into the game earlier in the season by being too negative, we change to Control and play a higher line to close the space in the pitch. It works and as Leicester seek an equaliser, it is our counter attack which gives Barnes his second. Leicester were second coming into the game, but after our win we are off the bottom and up to 18th
We look to move clear of the relegation zone and secure our second home win running as we host West Brom. At half time it’s Jonny Evans who gave West Brom the lead from a corner. We should have been level but Ashley Barnes missed a sitter right on half time. Improvement is needed Gray is on the bench having recovered from his injury, so I bring him on to give him some minutes. In the 50th minute the Baggies have a golden chance and it is our luck that it falls to Darren Fletcher, not known for his scoring rate, who drags the shot wide. With 20 minutes to go Gray pulls up short and has to come off again with another injury. I switch to 4411 and direct the play to the wide men. A few minutes later and fullback Phil Bardsley crosses for Rouwen Hennings to level. The roles are reversed as Hennings turns provider for Bardsley to score from close range following a corner. 10 minutes to go and we have the lead. Its Prosseco football from Burnley, nothing too lavish but a little more fancy than usual, as we add our third following a flowing 21 pass move. Three wins from five and we move up to 17th in the league. After 10 games Aiden O’Neil is the top rated player in the league. With 4 goals in 2 games Rouwen Hennings, along with O’Neil is becoming the find of the season. Out on loan last season, he is taking his chance so far in this year.
After a difficult start we have begun to pick up the results and are now in the position we were last season. We have had very winnable games already so far and I do not want that to cost us in the end. The next few months will take us away to Arsenal and Liverpool but home games against newly promoted pair QPR and Huddersfield should keep us on track.
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