Where are we gonna start with this then? We can go on about the lack of midfield, the lack of goals, the lack of signings until the cows come home, and it’s already been discussed for the best part of four months now, so we’ll spare going over old ground.
Let’s look at the goals individually I guess, and see if we can see what’s going wrong
33 Minutes. 1-0
A simple cross from Pennington into the box takes out both Worman & Brophy. The same player recieves the layoff having outsprinted the pair of them, and after crossing the ball once more, gets taken out by Paul Digby. A soft penalty, nonetheless, but Diggers should know you can’t tackle like that in the box. Mannion dives the wrong way, but the damage had been done.
45 (+5) Minutes. 2-0
A corner comes in, Smith heads clear to a player on the edge of the box. A simple pass to his right finds their #26 Shipley who is unmarked. Digby reacts to close him down, but too late – he’s already lashed one in, past Mannion who doesn’t even attempt to stop it as it goes right past him.
57 Minutes. 3-0
Another corner, Pennington (who won the penalty earlier) gets goal side of Ryan Bennett and heads home. Nothing much you can say about this, only would Taylor have let him win that header (probably)?
69 Minutes. 3-1
That’s more like it. A lovely cross from Okedina right on the head of Ironside who nods in his first goal in months. Could a comeback be on the cards?
71 Minutes. 4-1
Of course not, a long ball out of defence goes over our non-existent midfield, and only Okedina is back. He keeps up with his man, and for a minute looks like he’s done enough to knock him off the ball, but he recovers, shrugs off Okedina, dribbles past a slipping Mannion and finishes well.
90 (+1) Minutes. 5-1
Humiliation confirmed. Bodies all over the shop here, each and every one of them out of position as United’s defence is sliced like a hot knife through butter. Nice finish, Mannion could have done better with it perhaps, but today was one of those days for him.
You can take the odd thrashing each season. We’re realistic, you’ve come to expect it that once or twice one of the big teams will turn up, on great form and hammer you. No disrespect to Shrewsbury, but they’re not one of the big clubs in this division. They’re the kind of club we should be looking to emulate really. Last season we did. This season it’s all gone wrong.
Where do you lay the blame? Bonner? That would be the easiest place to start. Does he deserve the sack? Judged purely on results it’s hard to argue against it – we’re in terrible form and look like going down. But we’ve also been unlucky with injuries. Fair enough, but it was Bonner’s choice to have a small squad, and now we’re paying the price for it. We’ve been slow in the transfer market. Seddon came in and was unlucky, Ryan Bennett is clearly not match sharp, Michael Morrison – if he signs – will be a good addition, but he’s 34 years old and was never blessed with much pace even as a youngster. Also, you might have noticed – none of those players play in central midfield. Worman and Simper are both decent but struggle to impose themselves on a game due to their inexperience. We all know Digby’s class, but he’s doing the job of 2/3 people right now, and is suffering because of it. He looks knackered. Adam May got injured ages ago, but we’ve not moved to bring anyone in.
Do you lay the blame with the players? They’re playing out of their skins, and have been for the last two or three seasons. If you’ve followed United for long enough you’ll have seen plenty of shit players who can’t be bothered to play for the club – I don’t think that’s the case here. None of the players are performing that well, but their effort levels are still there – they’ve not given up yet. Many of them are legends for what they acheived in 2020/21, and the majority of them cemented that status last season with results at Newcastle, Ipswich, Wigan and others. Some of those players will leave at the end of the season, and need to make sure they do so with their heads held high. Some of them will still be here next season and look to play a part in our future.
Can we lay the blame with the board? We’ve not added significantly to the squad but they’ve still made funds available for signings even after shelling out a large sum of money purchasing the ground back and ensuring we will still have a United to watch for a long time yet. For once, it’s not them at fault for our current woes.
So it looks like Bonner then? Right? There’s arguments for and against: We’ve gone through why he should probably take the blame above, but let’s look to defend him for a minute. He knows the club. He’s shown loyalty. He understands what it is to be a United fan – and I’m sure no-one is hurting as much as him. That’s not necessarily a good enough reason to keep him in the job, but who comes in? Another aged pro like Derry or Calderwood? Promote Corr? It didn’t work with Dunne. Go all out and use some of the transfer budget to sign an established manager? The Cowley brothers? Undoubtably successful but they’ll be looking for a bigger job than us surely? Grant McCann? Don’t make me laugh. Also, what’s a new manager going to get out of the same 13/14 players? Adam May suddenly isn’t going to get fit just when a new manager turns up. He might get an extra couple of percent out of the players, the ‘new manager bounce’ effect, but that doesn’t always last. Maybe we go down anyway, and then what?
If you ask me, (and this may be an unpopular opinion, and not wholly representative of UTAS or the wider fanbase), we stick with Bonner. If we go down, so be it, but we know he can pull results out of the bag, and there’s a chance we can turn this round. It’s not resigning ourselves to relegation if we don’t change him now, but unless it becomes clear he’s lost the dressing room (which doesn’t seem to be the case) I think he deserves the season – deserves the new signings he’s hoping to make – to give it his best shot to keep us up. Playing the game long-term has worked out for clubs like Wycombe and Rotherham in the past, and it might work out for us yet. I don’t think any of us are so naive to expect constant success at United, but if Mark Bonner can help mould this club into a functioning, appealing club regardless of what division we’re in that can only be a good thing. Relegation would be terrible, and I don’t think we’ll bounce straight back after it, but I also don’t think it will be the disaster it would have been a few years ago. The clubs in a good place now, with solid foundations regardless of what success on the pitch looks like, and that’s as much down to Mark Bonner as it is Paul Barry and the board.
Man of the Match: No-one today.
Soundtrack of the Match: Oasis – I Hope, I Think, I Know