Earlier in the season I described the current squad as a rebel alliance; a ramshackle band of brothers with a good heart, but one that was likely to take heavy losses. The Oxford machine, as much as it existed, was rocked by the losses of Michael Appleton, John Lundstram, Chris Maguire and Marvin Johnson, what it was replace by was no less worthy, just less reliable.
Ricardinho is likely to win player of the season, not so much because of his performances week in week out (he hasn’t played week in week out), but because he’s offered rare moments of joy. Those calling for him to play every week are forgetting the insane two-footed tackle which got him sent off against MK Dons, or worse, the times when his positional sense has been so wanting he’s left us exposed at the back. He’s not perfect, but it’s not been a perfect season.
But, aside from joie de vivre, what Ricardinho has offered is the willingness to take a risk. His goal on Saturday was the perfect example of that. The highlights don’t really show where he picked the ball up from, but the coaching manual doesn’t say that you should abandon your defensive duties to go on a potentially suicidal attack when you pick the ball up on the edge of your own box. Nobody would have complained had he played the ball inside for it to be worked into midfield, but that’s what Southend were expecting. He did the same against Oldham, which didn’t end with a goal but did, at least, animate the crowd.
James Henry similarly has these moments; whether that’s delaying a run into the box or driving through the defence like he did on Saturday. Henry’s limitation this season seems to have been what he’s been played in the wrong position, whether that’s by design or necessity, who know? Karl Robinson does seem to have found a system which allows him to be effective.
We have been lacking unpredictability which, coupled with a solid defensive unit, makes the difference between a good and bad team.
The frustrating, and scary thing about the win on Saturday is that everyone around us won, meaning we remain 5 points ahead of the drop-zone. But, it did pull Walsall into trouble, meaning we now needs three out of six teams below us to pass the 50 points mark. Not quite there yet, but very very close.