Chelsea moved into Monday’s 5th-round draw after a performance that did nothing to lift the pessimism gathering around this team.
After an opening 15 minutes in which we could have been three or even four goals up, we tried to stroll through the rest of the game, spurning chance after chance before riding our luck near the end.
For all the chatter about the millions spent in the summer, only Bridge and Cole were new boys and it was basically our team from last season that played with Nicolas and later Oliveira filling out the lineup. Perhaps some stars such as Makelele and Mutu were spared the rigours of a Conference ground by diplomatic illnesses.
The only player in blue to emerge with any great credit was John Terry, not for his goal, but for his willingness to play hard while his colleagues tip-toed around delicately on a bumpy pitch with a bog for a centre circle.
For once, the digs about multi-millionaires getting their come-uppance will have a ring of truth, although in truth we should have had five or six goals if it wasn’t for pathetic finishing.
Gudjohnsen chipped the ball wide when clean through on the goalie, Gronkjaer shot at the goalie with a similar chance and Frank Lampard was guilty of a hatful of misses. However, Frank had opened the match with a Roberto Carlos-type bullet from miles out that swerved onto the post with the goalie well beaten.
The misses will mean a controversial incident near the end where Gallas clearly played the ball with his hand in the area will be replayed constantly. Gallas has a case for arguing that a Scarborough player bumped him into the ball, but we’ve all seen referees give penalties in such incidents.
That near-miss came minutes after Scarborough carved their only true opening of the match, a nod-on giving a striker a clear header with only Cudicini to beat. But it was weak and comfortably held by the goalie.
It wouldn’t have been undeserved by the Conference side because we seemed to feel we had the game won after the early goal and could stroll the rest of the way. Instead, we struggled to win midfield with Lampard having one of his worst games, Gronkjaer having his now customary nightmare and Joe Cole doing nothing to suggest his ball skills will translate into an effective top-class player.
The goal came from a short corner with Gudjohnsen returning the ball to Hasselbaink and Melchiot heading the cross back across the keeper to Terry who nodded in from point-blank range.
What of Scarborough? Unlike the old days when non-league teams were part-timers, these were full-timers who rarely lost 50-50 challenges, even though they got away with some brutal tackles early on that were let go by the consistently awful referee. With one lone striker up front against Gallas and Terry, they were never likely to threaten and they didn’t for 80 minutes. However, when they ran at the back four they did cause problems and Terry was booked for one tackle that prevented Scarborough from getting through the middle.
In the second half, despite Petit replacing Gronkjaer at half time, we failed to put them under consistent pressure. The movement up front that had so confused their defenders at the beginning wasn’t happening and Hasselbaink was reduced to feuding with Scarborough’s Kelly. Gudjohnsen disappeared.
After an hour, there was an amazing scramble in the Scarborough area where Lampard missed three clear chances. Sometimes he wants to stroke the ball when he should just hammer it — he’s got the power — and it cost him here.
Then, as if this was a Premier League game, we seemed to decide to hold what we had, which was only one goal. Scarborough poured forward without unduly troubling us, but you always knew one bad bounce could undo us. It nearly happened.
Graham Parley – 24/01/2004 15:38:23