Michael Appleton has been subject to a lot of criticism in the season as a whole but a select few fans maintained faith in the United boss. Tuesday’s demise to Hartlepool changed this, however. The performance lacked emotion, passion, tactical deployment and desire. There was a real anxiousness and tentativeness about the way the U’s played even when they were matched up against the worst side in the entire Football League. It was dire.
First of all, I am unsure to why Appleton persists with the central midfield pairing of Collins and Ruffels particularly against lower-league sides. In their own regard they are two extremely valuable players in the fourth tier; Collins brings composure and an ilk of class when on his game and Ruffels is neat and precise – mostly doing the unnoticed. But one thing that really bugs me is when they play together. They are too similar. They both lack creativity and drive, so what we get is a very motionless midfield, with most passes heading horizontal or backwards. The game needed an injection of pace, particularly against a Hartlepool defence which looked very nervous. We would have been able to get this through out-of-favour Danny Rose. He is not afraid to pick the ball up and do something positive with it; whether it is driving forward ten yards or feeding a centre forward through, these are his capabilities. This raises the question to why Danny Rose is out-of-favour? Has he done anything wrong? This would have immediately brought another dimension to the game. A dimension which perhaps could have had a very positive effect. But then again Appleton doesn’t believe in a ‘Plan B’.
The wide midfielders were ultimately ineffectual. Callum O’Dowda was brought off early, with Appleton admitting that he was tired – If this was the case then it seems nonsensical to start him. That would have enabled Kemar Roofe to play in his more favoured position on the wing and the likes of James Roberts to come into the fray up-front. Roberts also brings that cutting edge, an instinct in front of goal which has seriously been lacking since top-scorer Danny Hylton picked up a suspension due to an accumulation of yellow cards.
Ultimately the U’s looked very despondent and the naivety shown by Appleton was bewildering. In his post match interview the comments he made dismissing the fans as “white-noise” was probably the worst thing he could possibly have done. Our fans have consistently turned up week after week, despite only seeing 5 home wins in 19 so it hurts badly when labelled as white-noise. Then to add insult to injury, he openly said that he would not have changed the starting XI if he was to play the same game again, nor change anything tactically. Never have I witnessed such a delusional statement, particularly after such an abysmal display of ‘football’. Is he this naive that he can’t see through his own sides flaws. If thats the case then we’re in trouble.
It’s not entertaining. It’s not pretty football. It is boring and lethargic. I’m not sure how Appleton will turn this around and now he has lost the fans I can’t see him staying long. Lets just hope Eales sees through Appleton’s various ploys and sees sense in the matter. Only time will tell…