It's been a while since I've blogged about Wednesday as I've been out of the country. I did not get to see the games against West Brom and Bristol, and had to settle for text updates on my mobile. As such, I can't really comment on the performance in either game. However, if you're 2-0 up at home with 85 minutes played and you come out of the game with just one-point, you have failed. Game management is such a vital part of professional football. We really should have seen the game out against West Brom.
One decision I do question is the that to bring Kirby on for Onomah. This substitution took place on 82 minutes. When you are at home and defending a lead against high quality opposition who are putting pressure on for a goal, I don't think it's the best time to give experience to a fairly raw prospect. Whether or not Kirby was at fault for either goal, I don't know. What I suspect is that an experienced West Brom side would have seen Onomah go off to be replaced with a player that they have probably never heard of until their own pre-match briefing, which I would also be surprised if it lingered too much on Kirby as a threat.
If you are a West Brom player and you see a young player come on in that situation, I can easily see how it would give you that extra boost to keep plugging away for a goal as the game time ran out. None of this is a knock against Kirby; I sincerely hope he goes on to have a good career. My point is that it was the wrong player, at the wrong time, in the wrong situation. Had we been 2-0 up at home to Preston or Ipswich, then I could perhaps see the logic. Anyway, what's done is done. Prior to the game I would have taken a point, but the circumstances surrounding the draw means it feels like two-points dropped rather than one gained.
The win against Bristol City was unexpected but very welcome. The live updates seemed to suggest we were getting hammered. When the goal went in, I had a little smirk at how we seem to be making a habit of soaking up pressure and hitting teams against the run of play. When the second went in, I had just arrived back home from the airport. After a clusterf**k of a journey home, my mood had turned with the two-goal lead. When Bristol scored I did have a little doubt about the "nightmare lead" but thankfully this time we were able to see the game out.
Four-points from our first two games of the month is a very healthy return. Looking ahead we have some great opportunities to put more points on the board. The remaining October fixtures are as follows:
19/10/2018 - Middlesbrough (h)
23/10/2018 - QPR (a)
27/10/2018 - Birmingham (a)
The Middlesbrough game will be difficult and, as I've stated before, I would take a point from that game. QPR and Birmingham are teams we should be looking to beat. I don't think we will beat QPR and Birmingham though; I think four-points is more realistic and probable. Five-points from those three games, in addition to the four-points from the October games already played would see us on nine-points from those five games and 24 points from our first fifteen games overall. That would see us on track for 74 points over the course of the season. In the last three seasons that would see us making the play-offs only once. For a top-six finish we need an extra edge. At home we have now had three draws that we, arguably, should have taken more points from; Hull, Stoke and West Brom.
A huge amount of credit needs to go to Adam Reach for winning the September PFA Fans' Championship Player of the Month. I have at times been critical of Reach but he has stepped up his performances in recent weeks. He has also scored two fantastic goals against Leeds and West Brom. If he continues with his current level of performance we will be fighting off offers for him in January. It may be that in January we have to wheel and deal to raise funds to strengthen other areas of the squad. I think we are a little heavy in the attacking department (once everyone is fit) and we could probably lose a striker without too much impact to our success. I fully expect at least one player to move on in January to allow Jos to strengthen the defence and midfield.
Thank you for reading. If you have enjoyed exploring Now We Live, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you would like to contribute to Now We Live, please refer to our submissions page.
Critic. Writer. Thinker. Observer. Creator of nowwelive.com.