Huddersfield Town 2 Blues 1 .. Match Report

Last updated : 05 January 2008 By Richard Barker
A very early strike from Luke Beckett and a late Chris Brandon (I think his Christian name is Chris?) winner sandwiched a Garry O'Connor goal for Blues, and meant that Blues were giantkilled. Or something.

Fair play to Huddersfield who played in an "up and at 'em" way and set about Blues, and posed them a few problems, but really and truly, Blues should not be losing games against teams like this. The Blues players are all internationals (apart from the ones who aren't) and were first team players - not squad players - and were up against a load of school teachers and plasterers getting paid tuppence ha'penny a month to play for Huddersfield. Ok, that's a slight exageration, but they're not very good.

As I say, Blues fielded a strong side (on paper, at least), with Maik Taylor in goal, a back four of Stephen Kelly, Radhi Jaidi, Liam Ridgewell and Franck Queudrue. Daniel de Ridder, Seb Larsson, Fabrice Muamba and Gary McSheffrey made up a midfield supporting O'Connor and Mikael Forssell up front.

I'm not going to go into tremendous detail about the game itself, because it wasn't very good, to be honest. Instead I'm going to talk about two things that make me feel sick at the moment, and it's not sambuca and the out-of-date selection box I got for Christmas. It's Maik Taylor and Gary McSheffrey.

Taylor is doing my head in. Today, surely it was a decent opportunity for Alex McLeish to have a look at Colin Doyle, but no, Taylor got the nod after some less than convincing recent performances. McLeish has praised him quite a bit lately, and he's made some decent saves that for those of you who watch us on Match Of The Day, might make it seem like I'm being overly critical. The modern day goalkeeper, however, needs plenty of aspects to his game, and Taylor is sadly lacking when you watch him over 90 minutes.

For Huddersfield's first, sure, the Blues defence was poor and gave the various little tinpot players whose names I don't care to learn or look up too much room, but the first shot that came in was weak. And I mean very weak. Yet Taylor fumbled it and Beckett (whose name I know because he played for Stockport and one of my mates supports them and he used to bang on about him) tapped in. Now yes, you can blame the defence for exposing Taylor, but had it been Taylor on his own up against Huddersfield, I'd still expect him to hold on to a tame shot that's straight at him. It was another error.

The rest of the game, there were no handling errors, as such (I say that as if one is acceptable!?), but as I say, a goalkeeper needs more to his game than just his handling (which was exposed after 3 minutes anyway). Like, distribution, for example. Taylor's distribution of late has been woeful, particularly at Old Trafford on Tuesday. His kicking was appalling. Well, if possible, it was worse today. I am not lying when I say that his last three kicks, when Blues were chasing the game late on, and when he was under pressure from approximately zero Huddersfield players, ALL went straight into touch. I'm not exagerating or lying or anything - ask anyone who was there. Before that, plenty had gone the same way, but for the last three, without fail, to go straight into touch when the team is chasing a goal is criminal.

Back to this "modern day goalkeeper" malarkey, and nowadays, with the backpass rule and all that, a goalkeeper isn't a "plus one" to a team of ten - he's very much one footballer in a team of eleven. A goalkeeper's distribution of ability to retain possession is as crucial as a defender's. You cannot afford to carry a goalkeeper who can literally not kick a football in the general direction he wants it to go.

It wasn't just balls going straight into touch either. When he looks for a forward, he slices or pulls his kicks so much, that it rarely - if ever - goes where he wants it to, and invariably finds the opposition full back, and not even the centre half. He can't even kick straight down the middle, where you have a chance of it being near a striker. I lost count of the number of times he found Patrice Evra at Old Trafford, and he was never challenged (Why would he be? No one was near him as Taylor should have been kicking elsewhere). If you're stood at one end of the pitch, very central, and you can't kick the ball 60 or 70 yards and keep it fairly central, you need to work on that.

I remember saying a couple of years ago in one of these reports, in a full week at training, why not sacrifice about six hours of handling work, and do six hours of kicking work - surely it will have some sort of impact? Unfortunately, I think I'd rather sacrifice Taylor for Doyle, at the minute. When you look at the three 'keepers we've used this season, all have made mistakes, but Doyle's are by some distance the least blatant/obvious.

Sorry if that seemed a bit of a personal attack on Taylor - I'd like to say it wasn't intended, but it was. A goalkeeper needs to be able to do a bit more than just stop the odd shot (without fumbling it) and I don't think Taylor's good enough, and haven't for 18 months or so.

So, to the second thing that makes me feel sick, Mr Gary McSheffrey. Can't we sell him? Please? Today was another example (Example Number 87 over the past 12 months) of why he's not good enough. Where do I start???

1) He offers no outlet, and when people behind him have the ball, he will cut inside and hide. It happens too often for it to be "the wrong choice" - he deliberately hides.

2) His finishing is rubbish. One left foot shot he hit today barely made it for a goal-kick, and when it did, it was close to the corner flag.

3) He offers nothing defensively. Huddersfield's winner came down their right/Blues' left, and came about after McSheffrey nonchalantly neglected to make two challenges that he should have made. I would say they were weak challenges, but he never even bothered with them.

4) He's not very quick. What's happened to the little bursts of pace he had when we first signed him? He can't beat a man now.

5) His set pieces have gone to pot. Late on, moreorless the last kick of the game, Blues had a corner and he looped it up about 3 yards from goal, rather than hitting it with pace and keeping it away from the goalkeeper. As a result, the Huddersfield 'keeper (Matt Glennon... damn, another name I know - ex-Scunthorpe too, I think...) came and caught the cross (Taylor fainted at the sight at the other end) and took the pressure off and saw home their win.

6) And finally, for now, because I'm nearly throwing up just typing this, he's selfish, greedy and contributes nothing to the team. There was one example today that summed him up - and I know full well that all of those who were at the Galpharm Stadium (why's it called that?) today and are reading this now will be nodding their head already, because they know EXACTLY what I'm about to describe - when he actually beat his man by the left byline and cut inside and was heading towards goal. He had about three or four Blues players well positioned for him to either drive the ball across the six yard box or pull it back to the penatly spot, and instead he opted to try and shoot with his right foot. See 2) above - his finishing is rubbish, and his shot was about 3 yards wide from about 8 yards out and barely even found the very back of the side netting. If the stewards had let me take my gun into the ground with me, I'd have shot him. Six times. I might have missed with five of my shots, just to emphasise the point.

At present I can quite honestly say that I hate Gary McSheffrey's presence in the Blues team, and hope I never see him playing for us again. Honestly. He's awful.

And that's it - a match report that descended into abuse, but that's how I feel. Want something positive? Well, Fabrice Muamba was the only Blues player who earned his money today. That's about it. Oh, and we can concentrate on the league.

One last thing, as Blues chased the game, all they had left on the bench after using Cameron Jerome was Colin Doyle, Stuart Parnaby, Mat Sadler and Jordon Mutch (poor lad who was probably hoping his senior colleagues would be 3-0 up so he could get a 15 minute run-out) - proof, as if it were required, that we're desperate for bodies in the squad to bolster it, otherwise we'll be concentrating on a losing battle in the league too.

The magic of the Cup, eh?