Jim Levack looks back at a memorable night at Griffin Park, a night when our proud old stadium played its part in a famous win over our fierce local rivals.
“Just another three points”, the management teams always say. While statistically that might be the case, anyone lucky enough to have been squeezed in to our incredible ground last night will testify otherwise.
After getting home and watching the whole glorious spectacle again, the weekend is now a wide open vista of loveliness where nothing else really matters apart from beating the so called ‘super’ hoops.
And as their supporters slipped away into the night, tails between their legs I started contemplating perhaps the longest 90 minutes I have ever watched in my lifetime.
I don’t know if it was just me but the electronic scoreboard seemed to stick on 81 minutes for about seven minutes, as if trying to eek out every last drop of emotion from the night.
But if we are to treat it as just another game then I have a few observations that give us even more cause for optimism, laced with just a smidgeon of doubt at the end.
1. The defence were imperious last night and under Carsley have a ‘none shall pass’ attitude with bodies hurled in the line of danger and the same no panic approach we as we last season when building from the back.
2. Ryan Woods is fast establishing himself as one of my favourite players in this new-look side. Neat and tidy, rarely wasteful and just like the Shrewsbury medical team said just like a sand lizard covering every inch of the pitch seemingly effortlessly.
3. Nico Yennaris has clearly been told to make the shirt his own – although Maxime Colin may have something to say about that – and has rarely put a foot wrong in his response. Great man management from Carsley to understand the player’s psyche.
4. Jake Bidwell is rapidly cementing his position as the team’s most consistent player. At times last night I had this vision of him playing for us well into his late 20s in the top flight and becoming one of those one-club stalwarts. Fanciful maybe, but we can dream.
5. Toumani Diagouraga, again under Carsley, is back to his efficient best. His outside of the foot pass to Alan Judge epitomised his game.
6. Alan Judge. Nothing to say really, except “what are you waiting for Martin O’Neill?”
7. John Swift. The Rotherham faithful said he was lightweight on loan for them but his performances of guile, trickery, hard running and skill could make them eat their words come May. He is the perfect foil to Alan McCormack, who is growing into the season and establishing himself as the steel of the side.
8. Have we replaced Andre? I’d say Mr Benham’s stats-led approach has unearthed a gem in Marco Djuricin whose strength, movement and willingness to chase everything down has made him a firm favourite with the fans.
His goal, regardless of the fact it was against the dreaded enemy, was a text book example of getting across your man, staying there and getting something on an exquisitely delivered cross. He will only get better.
9. One of the biggest highlights of the night for me was the way Philipp Hofmann made an instant impact in the game and at last looked more in tune with the physical demands of the Championship.
He got his huge frame between man and ball, held it up well and showed he has the quick feet to cause plenty of problems as the season progresses.
10. Here’s my only concern.
I will watch and watch again with a smile the bloke in the Paddock offering the ball to a very reluctant Rangers player in a show of gentle hostility that Lee Carsley was calling for pre-match.
It’s that kind of intimidation which, I am sure, makes a trip to Griffin Park something of a Halloween horror show for many visiting sides.
So what happens when we lose that proximity between fans and pitch at the new stadium? I haven’t examined the line drawings in detail, but if Lionel Road loses that Griffin Park-ness it could cost us a few points. Safe standing would help, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Not wishing to end on a downer, I’m sure I speak for anyone who’s bothered to read this far when I say thank you to all the players for giving us one of those special nights we’ll never ever forget.
Now let’s give Moses a ‘warm’ welcome on Tuesday night.