TV companies probably need to stop looking quite so hard for the ‘magic of the Cup’. There are investments to repay and advertisers to satisfy, but constantly chasing the magic doesn’t really work.
I hadn’t realised before the Hayes and Yeading game that the tie represented the biggest gap between two sides in the draw. It’s almost as if it were selected on the basis that it was where the most magic was likely to be. Had there been an upset, it might have been but it was also the tie most likely to return a predictable result; which is ultimately what it did.
In reality, with five divisions between us, we would have had to drop our performance quite considerably, while they played at their very best to make it remotely competitive. The application of anything approaching a par performance on either side and the result was a foregone conclusion.
There was a degree of snottiness that we put out a strong team. There was concern about potential injuries and fatigue; as if fielding a strong team against weak opposition is belittling of your status.
Although Karl Robinson talked about respecting the competition; his selection was made easier with next week’s international break. With no game next Saturday; and a meaningless EFL Trophy game against Crawley in midweek, we could play a strong team in the cup with fringe players getting a leg stretcher on Tuesday. That still leaves time for players to rest and recover before things get meaningful again in a couple of weeks. It doesn’t happen often, but the fixtures are falling our way at the moment.
The first 45 minutes couldn’t have been more straight forward though we were a bit sloppy with the chances we had. The main culprits were those we have probably enjoyed most this season; with Henry, Fosu and Taylor all missing chances they should have put away.
The second-half was more competitive; we were a bit slow out of the blocks and they seemed to realise that they’d nothing to lose by taking some risks. But, despite Simon Eastwood doing some decent Simon Eastwood things, the biggest concern was just about the relative embarrassment of conceding, rather than the result going the wrong way.
In the end it was perhaps fitting that the goals came from Sam Long and Rob Hall. Both have had to keep things professional and play percentages in recent years; Rob Hall has to manage his effort carefully because of his injury record while Sam Long has learned his core value is his consistent reliability. In simple terms, it keeps him in a job.
It’s the Halls and Longs of the world that get you through these games. The ones who will always deliver a near par performance. In this great search for the magic of the cup; sometimes simple professionalism will do.