Bad Weekend For: Boo-boys, fall guys and certain days

Another weekend's woe-waddlers lined up by Simon Carter

It was a bad weekend for:

Roy Hodgson’s detractors
There are some who remain to be convinced that Roy Hodgson is the right man to lead England to glory, or at least respectability, at the next World Cup. Moreover, there are some so sure of his inevitable failure that they hope for him to do so as soon as possible so that a more suitable replacement can be found in time for Brazil. Members of that second group will have had something of a disappointing start to their weekend with England’s 5-0 thumping of Moldova.

While it’s true that hammering a team ranked 141st in the world won't necessarily silence the critics, there were several plus points from Friday night’s performance for Hodgson and his team.

Firstly, the decision to play Jermain Defoe as a lone striker transformed the way that England performed. In the absence of a club partnership like Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, or a big-man little-man combination, the presence of the diminutive Defoe and a deep-lying Moldova defence meant that players such as Joe Hart, John Terry and Steven Gerrard were forced to look for options other than hitting long balls or looking for space behind the defence.

This made England's approach a slower, more progressive and evidently less ruthless. An unhurried methodology gave time, space and encouragement to full-backs Leighton Baines and Glen Johnson, which they exploited time and again – most impressively for Frank Lampard’s second goal. With eight men on the attack, and Moldova defending so close to their own goal, England repeatedly found themselves with an embarrassment of attacking options, something they gleefully took advantage of for James Milner’s superb team goal.

The performance and mere presence of Tom Cleverley was another major plus. Ostensibly playing in the hole behind the striker, his role as the spearhead of a three-man central midfield meant that both Lampard and Gerrard chose their attacking forays more carefully than they have in the past, during a first half where England enjoyed near total control. Though 45 minutes may prove to be another false dawn, England’s formation against Moldova may finally display how Lampard and Gerrard can play together.

It is arguable, perhaps, that the line-up on Friday wasn't future-proof and that many of the positives from the game were down to dumb luck. Baines and Cleverly were in because of injuries to Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole; England’s third-minute penalty was very debatable; Lampard’s age and Gerrard’s club instructions possibly account for their more studied approach; and Baines’ goal had a Paul Parker-esque helping head. By the final whistle of Tuesday’s game against Ukraine, praise may look foolish but from a Monday morning perspective this was a very bad weekend for the anti-Hodgson brigade.

Whoever was to blame for Swindon’s defeat
If Swindon Town were a Manchester City, United or a Chelsea, their run of three defeats in six days would have been marked as a crisis and Paolo Di Canio’s eccentric behaviour would have led to loud calls for his head. But this is League One, so there has been a more restrained reaction to Swindon’s 1-0 home defeat (their first at the County Ground in 28 games) to the previously pointless Leyton Orient.

An unexpected 4-1 defeat to Preston North End last Sunday was followed by a listless 1-0 defeat to bitter rivals Oxford in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Wednesday night, and a performance that Di Canio described as “empty” against Orient will have rounded off an awful week for the Italian. But one person in this tale will suffer a worse weekend: whoever Di Canio chooses to blame for this most recent loss.

Just over a fortnight ago, Wes Foderingham was receiving plaudits as the solid custodian who had gone over 1,000 minutes of football without conceding a goal for Swindon but things began to change after he conceded three to Premier League Stoke City in a 4-3 League Cup win. Following that game Di Canio claimed that the rest of the Swindon side carried the keeper and that they had won in spite of him.

Matters came to a head at Deepdale last Sunday where Foderingham, who Di Canio would later say was “one of the worst players I have ever seen in a football match” and “the worst professional: arrogant, ignorant in some way”, was hauled off midway through the first half after conceding two goals in 20 minutes.

With Foderingham clearly blameless for the midweek defeat to Oxford, Di Canio set his sights on young centre-back Aden Flint, who played “as if he was on holiday” after coming on as a late substitute and making a mistake that led Di Canio to encourage Flint to admit that “we lost because of him.”

At the time of writing, it’s unknown who Di Canio blames for the defeat to Orient (though it seems unlikely he will blame himself) but whoever it is could do with taking damage limitation advice from Foderingham and Flint before training this Monday morning.

Saturday and Sunday
Like an over-excited tourist on an all-inclusive holiday, most of the weekend’s action was crammed into the first night, leaving Saturday and Sunday looking decidedly hungover. While the international footballing calendar did serve up its usual smorgasbord of goalfests (Spain, England and Hungary all scored five, with Bosnia and Herzegovina hitting an astonishing eight) and talking points (France’s lacklustre victory against Finland, Germany’s subdued win over the Faroe Islands and Ireland’s lucky triumph), UEFA’s decision to move these fixtures to a Friday night continues to leave Saturday with a lot of work on its hands.

Some would argue that the lack of Saturday internationals, Premier League and Championship action gives Leagues One and Two a valuable platform to show themselves off (and Sky, to their credit, did an excellent job of promoting the leagues), but a fixture card with only 21 league meetings does give the day something of an empty feeling. Notts County’s hard-fought win over Shrewsbury sent them top of League One, and Fleetwood and Port Vale performed fabulously in League Two, but for many, Saturday struggled to grab the limelight.

As for Sunday? With only two professional fixtures to its name, there’s no doubt Sunday will have been feeling a little bit sorry for itself but with Liverpool v Manchester United and Manchester City v Arsenal to come in a couple of weeks, Sunday definitely has better weekends on the horizon...