Sho Far, Sho Good
Despite the article title sounding like a Sean Connery soundbite, the start to our Championship campaign hasn`t been the nightmare many were expecting. There`s been the considerable hurdle of player departures to contend with, manifesting itself in the fact that last week`s goalscorer Duff was yanked from the squad on matchday to trot down to Fulham. However the team has looked united, rather than last season`s untied, and we`ve got a quick four points on the board, all of which have come against teams expected to be at the top end of the table.
The Reading game was a perfect example of how possession football on a large pitch can grind down the opposition at this level. For long stretches the Royals barely got a sniff and had to content themselves with launching long kick and chases at our defenders from their own penalty box. Their gaffer, Brendan Rogers, quite rightly pointed out that his team would gain a lot of experience from the game - essentially they were still playing a Premier League team.
However the crux for us starts when the likes of Taylor, Coloccini, Gutierrez and Enrique go. The Spaniard had a great game at full back and his cross for Shola`s first was positively sumptuous. Once we start replacing these with lower leaguers or PL cast offs then that fear factor starts to disappear, our technical advantage goes and teams can come to SJP and have a go, as opposed to standing off.
Credit must go to the much maligned Smith, Nolan and Ameobi. All three took a right kicking in the PL but have dropped a level and look far more capable. I`ve been well impressed with Smith, who seems to have got his tackling back in time now the pace is half a yard slower. Nolan`s workrate for the second goal was impressive and Shola proved he could be a real flat track bully at this level.
All around it was a really positive performance. However just what team is left by Sheffield Wednesday then Palace then Leicester should performances continue remains the real bone of contention. Lets hope Shearer is at the helm and actively recruiting replacements by at least the second of that trio of games.