Sunday, 20 March 2011

M&M key for the run in

So here we are. The international break is upon us. Slightly worryingly fans and players alike seem to have been looking forward to this two-week breather for rather too long now. I think I heard Billy talk about 'just getting to the break' four games ago and I worried then about what that must mean for our physical state. Perhaps unsurprisingly we haven't won any of the games that followed.

There's no denying that we are limping along at the moment, and have been ever since a scintillating win against Cardiff on Trentside.

It seems a long time since we had our destiny in our own hands. We're seven points behind a Norwich side that just keeps pulling superb wins out of the bag, with no games in hand and a mountain to climb.

So how can we arrest the slide? To me the key is with two midfield 'Ms'.

Firstly, Moussi. Guy was in imperious form before the Coventry away game - and heroically even managed to set up a goal after he picked up his injury in that game.

He's previously been a frustrating figure - doing two/three amazing bits of skill before mislaying a five yard pass. However, he finally seemed to have settled into Billy's first 11 - cutting out those costly errors and giving us a physical presence and energy in the middle of the park that ground opposition sides down.

Some fans have gone too far to declare the decline of McKenna. True, his legs struggle to last 90 minutes these days but he does still cajole, organise and lead the side well. That said, there's no doubting that a midfield with him in instead of Moussi has lacked a bite and energy that has seen us struggle to dominate the crucial centre ground.

With a bit of luck the giant Frenchman will be able to return to action after the break and, if he can pick up his post-injury form straight away, it will give the side a massive lift.

Secondly, we're in need of a bit of magic from McGugan. At one point in the season Lewis' spectacular strikes were the only thing keeping us going, but he's faded badly as the grind of two games a week has taken its toll.

Some label him lazy, and it's true that sometimes he doesn't seem to have his head in the game, but the simple fact is we will not go anywhere this season if McGugan does not rediscover his form. He still sits at the top of our goalscoring charts and, if I remember rightly, has had the most shots on/off target.

With tight games to come against Leeds, Reading, Burnley, Leicester and Norwich we need his talent to come to the fore whether it be through a long-range blockbuster goals or a defence splitting passes. We're badly missing a bit of vision and class in the middle of the park. He's shown he can fulfill that role and if he can come back strong and do it again the season could still be salvaged.

Of course there's no guarantee that even with those two firing we'll be lining up in the top division next season. But their return from injury and poor form respectively would help arrest the alarming slide that, if allowed to continue, would soon see us drop away from the play off picture completely.

Depending on how you look at it the fixtures I mentioned above they either offer a massive obstacle to our promotion goal or give us the chance to take precious points off the teams around us. I guess that depends on whether your glass is half full or empty.

In the wake of our recent slump we are all searching for a positive. I suppose for me it's that we're always better chasing a position/team than we are holding on to it, and better when the expectation is off. Given the unpredicatability of this division nothing can be ruled out just yet.

Still, it must be said that our form needs a drastic change for the season to end on a happy note and I remain convinced that we need Moussi and McGugan fit and on form for that to happen...