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Academy Match: Crystal Palace v Portsmouth

Unfortunately we couldn’t make it 5 wins out of 5 when we entertained Pompey at home two weeks ago.

As I said in the previous blog, going into the game we were really confident that we could get all 3 points and go into the break with 5 great consecutive wins under our belts. We prepared really well, and worked in the week on how we would break Portsmouth down.

As we expected, they came to sit back and try and frustrate us. They played with 1 up front and played with a tight 3 in midfield which cut off our options from the back.

Gary [Issot] said beforehand that we really couldn’t afford to give them a lead as they would then sit back even further which would make it even harder to break them down.

And sods law, that’s exactly what happened. They scored after about 10 minutes through a goal which we could and should have dealt with better. They didn’t deserve to be in front as we had been on the front foot for most of the opening play, but just like in recent weeks we haven’t been ruthless in front of goal and haven’t taken our chances when we’ve applied pressure.

I think we reacted quite well to going behind in that we had quite a few more chances before half time. We knew we had it in us to beat them, but we just couldn’t find that bit of luck in front of goal. Half time came and went, and we knew what we had to do in the second half – take our chances!

Talking about it and then actually doing it are two very different things, and this was perfectly illustrated in the second half. We had to up the tempo, get Pompey on the back foot, and then take our chances when they came. Like I said, saying and doing are two different things and on this occasion we weren’t able to put in to practice what we wanted.

We conceded again about 10 minutes after the break through some poor play and with not long left to play we conceded a 3rd which was a total fluke and summed up our morning. The guy cut in from the left, shanked his cross and it ended up going in the top corner. It was disappointing as we have beaten much better teams already this season, and knew that we had it in us to get the three points.

From an outside view it may seem like we underestimated Pompey and turned up expecting to win. I don’t think this was the case at all, as the feeling in the changing room beforehand was very much the same as in previous weeks – we weren’t over relaxed or expecting an easy game.

The reason we lost the game was simple. We defended poorly and didn’t take our chances. If you can’t do those two things then it doesn’t matter who you play, you simply won’t win.

Afterwards the mood in the changing room was really low as we knew we had a great chance to go joint top and go into the break on a little unbeaten streak. As I said, I think it hurt even more as we have played so much better than that against better teams and come away with all the points.

We had no scheduled game the weekend after, and Gary gave us the Saturday and Sunday off to recharge ourselves mentally and physically. It was a mental break I think we needed more than anything as we haven’t had any time since pre-season to switch off completely and relax.

Being a footballer is a fantastic job to have and one that we are all grateful to be able to do. But it is also a very highly pressured industry and one that can be just as tiring in the mind as with your legs. Being able to have a small break from it can do the world of good, and I think our result against Chelsea the week after proved it was the right thing to do.

Academy Match: Chelsea v Crystal Palace

We came away with a very creditable 2-2 draw in a game which really was a game of two halves. In the first half we showed good glimpses of what we can do and what we have been like in previous weeks, but we still weren’t completely ourselves. We conceded a goal mid-way through the opening half and to be fair to them, they deserved it. They played a lot of football in our half and put us under some good pressure.

We had some half chances before the end of the 45, and thankfully we managed to take one of them. Wynts popped up at the back post to score a good header from Jake Caprice’s deep cross and we went in at one a-piece.

I don’t think Chelsea quite knew what hit them in the second half. We upped the tempo a good 30% and looked much more comfortable playing at a higher pace. We got at them and created numerous chances before a great cross by Akuruka was finished well by Sekajja. We had more chances to increase our lead, but with 5 minutes to go we conceded from a great strike from their right back.

It felt like a defeat afterwards as their equaliser came so late in the game and so against the run of play. We dominated the second half and should have been more clinical when we had them under pressure. Still, a point away from home at Chelsea is no disgrace, and after the previous league result against Portsmouth, it was important to get something out of the game to give us something to build on.

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