Monday verdict: Better is required now the bar has been raised
12:43 28 September 2015
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Mick McCarthy’s honest, pragmatic, level-headed approach is what makes him one of the best managers in the Championship.
But the Blues boss can sometimes get the balance between praising the opposition and critiquing his own side slightly wrong.
Supporters wanted to hear their manager demand more from his players following Saturday’s 2-2 home draw with Bristol City. Instead, he failed to highlight any deficiencies and talked up the rock-bottom visitors’ display.
First of all, a prelude to the criticism. Beating the Robins was never going to be an easy task and those who expected a comfortable walk in the park at the weekend were naive. As the old cliche goes, anyone can beat anyone in the Championship and there is no divine right to three points.
And yet, if Town have serious ambitions of getting to the Premier League this season then these are the sort of games they should be bitterly disappointed not to win.
Yes, Steve Cotterill’s men made life difficult with their disciplined wing-back system. And yes, towering duo Aden Flint and Aaron Wilbraham were physically imposing at both ends of the field.
But Town could have also have done more at the end of a week that should have whetted everyone’s appetites and left them raring to burst out of the blocks.
Instead, the players who travelled to Old Trafford to watch on from the sidelines on Wednesday night – and swap shirts in the tunnel – produced a laboured display full of possession, but with little creative spark.
Keeper Dean Gerken and midfielder Jonathan Douglas have seemingly become scapegoats among some supporters in recent weeks, but the former made a super early save and the latter played a crucial role in Ryan Fraser’s late leveller.
Just as Chelsea have found this season, when several of your key players are below-par then the results dry up.
Summer signings such as Ryan Fraser, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jonas Knudsen have all added something to the squad, but stalwarts such as Christophe Berra, Luke Chambers, Cole Skuse and Daryl Murphy – all of whom you could hang your hat on last season – have failed to hit those same heights of late.
Harsh? Perhaps, given City’s leveller involved a huge slice of luck and Town showed spirit to equalise themselves late on.
But the bar was raised last season and then set another notch higher following a flying start to this campaign.