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BLOG: WHEN IS A CUP TIE, NOT A CUP TIE?

In the latest of his regular offerings, columnist Hillary Street-Ender takes a look at the nostalgia of cup ties, including this week's Capital One Cup defeat to Crystal Palace, and also considers whether it's time for Dean Smith to be a little more tactically adventurous.

In the latest of his regular offerings, columnist Hillary Street-Ender takes a look at the nostalgia of cup ties, including this week's Capital One Cup defeat to Crystal Palace, and also considers whether it's time for Dean Smith to be a little more tactically adventurous.

Half way through the second half of the Palace game a bloke sitting behind me remarked how there was no cup tie feeling in the ground, a real nail-on-head moment. He was dead right because at no point in the evening had there been a sense of up-and-at-‘em about our performance, seemingly no intent to knock the Premier League lads out of their stride, to give them a bloody nose and to send them back to Croydon knowing we’d pushed them all the way. That may not have been enough to beat the Eagles but it would have been nice to see us at least give it a go. In the end we exited the competition with barely a whimper and that was very, very disappointing. Side-to-side-forward-a-bit-back-a-bit and so on and so forth and Palace held us comfortably at arm’s length for the entire game. We went into the match as underdogs, of course we did, but that’s the position from which we’ve fought so well in the past and from which we’ve emerged victorious on several memorable occasions. Knockout football has seen the very best of us many a time, trouble is that those days are now donkey’s years ago and the younger generations of fans must be wondering why us old farts keep banging on about those days in much the same way as some of our Custard Bowl dwelling ‘friends’ wax lyrical about Stan Cullis and the way a single elderly police constable could control a Molineux crowd of, ooh, at least half-a-million and the year they narrowly pipped the Baggies to the title. There must be times when we bore our younger fans with tales of our cup exploits of the past but the point is that those times really did happen and they don’t happen any more. When’s the last time we really ‘did’ a cup run that got the juices flowing? Back when God’s (whichever one you believe in – don’t want to offend anyone) dog was still a pup, probably.

Yes, Palace were much, much better than us but they were allowed to stroll to their win without ever getting out of first gear to the extent that they may not have needed to have their kit laundered. We never really got in among the Londoners, we didn’t give them a good game and we didn’t do anything that’s likely to attract a few of our many stayaways. A good performance against opponents from two levels higher could only have boosted our confidence and if we’d given them an almighty scare but still been beaten us fans would have accepted that. What we actually witnessed was an insipid, lumpen plodder of a performance, one in which we’d have struggled to break down the back four of a decent non-league side, never mind a team from Millionaire’s Row. Young Bradshaw worked his socks off on his own up front in a performance redolent of Jorge Leitao at his best but, really, what kind of chance did he stand? This was not a performance that boded well for our coming games but things could be about to take a turn down a slightly more adventurous road with the signing of Mathieu Manset. Yes, we’ve only seen him in one game so far but in that game he seemed as though he could be the answer to our attacking deficiencies. Playing a lone striker in home games isn’t working and many of us fans are thoroughly fed up with it but the potential is now there to play 4-4-2 with Manset partnering Bradshaw up front backed up by Sawyers playing as an attack-minded midfielder. It’s surely got to be worth a try. Hasn’t it?

By: Hillary Street-Ender.
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