Bold decisions make little impact on worst display
BOLD decisions and an abject display dominated a dismal weekend for Yeovil Town as their season lurched to an unfamiliar low. But how much did changes at Middlesbrough effect the outcome?
The Glovers have become accustomed to spirited defeats that have still encouraged the club's loyal support, but the 4-1 drubbing at the Riverside Stadium evoked new emotions.
Heading south on the longest return journey in our calendar empty-handed would not have been that unsurprising when we left at the crack of dawn.
However, the nature of the loss left a particularly sour taste, Gary Johnson's men punished for their worst display of the season to date and with only goal difference preventing them from propping up the Sky Bet Championship ahead of the international break.
We all knew it was going to be tough, we all knew the second tier would be a huge challenge. But the 236 fans who made the epic 660-mile round trip expected much better from those in green and white.
It was all going so well, Liam Davis coolly opening the scoring against their fellow strugglers on four minutes before Grant Leadbitter was left unoccupied to level four minutes later to start the visitors' capitulation.
But ripping the display to shreds comes later. First we must analyse personnel issues that have dominated the heated discussion since Saturday.
We all know Johnson isn't afraid to shuffle his pack if he deems change necessary, regardless of the players' standing amongst supporters.
For most of the season, Luke Ayling had been singled out as one of those that has stepped up to the second tier with confidence. His absence from the starting XI raised eyebrows, with his boss wanting to rest him after he had come in for heavier-than-expected opposition scrutiny.
As a result, Albert Adomah came up against Joe Edwards, still posing a threat but not in the traditional sense. Both home wingers were happiest at old-fashioned inside right and left roles, giving Yeovil another headache on an already confused afternoon.
Could Ayling have made a difference? Probably not. Too many visitors were below par and, in all honesty, Ayling and fellow defender Dan Seaborne avoided being tarred by the same critical brush by sitting on the bench.
Time and again, talk returns to Yeovil's strikeforce – and Saturday was no different. Andy Williams lasted just 33 minutes before being hauled off, Paddy Madden barely reaching half time.
Opinion was split, with some lamenting Williams' outing and others enraged by the decision to again remove last season's League One top scorer with half the game remaining.
The Glovers were left with inexperienced duo Kieffer Moore and Sam Hoskins leading the line. People bemoaned their youth but when other combinations are not working and your side is rapidly slipping from a game they led, can you blame the boss for trying his only two other striking options?
Both Moore and Hoskins spurned chances they should have converted, adding to the fury at the double substitution, the relative qualities of those they replaced regularly referenced.
But on a day when Johnson was irked by one forward netting a tap-in when annoyingly offside and another too readily showing his frustration, at least the young pair were in the right place at the right time.
Regardless of how bold the selection and changes were, its influence on the most dissatisfying game this season was minimal.
It was a particularly bad day at the office, arguably only keeper Wayne Hennessey leaving the clash with any sort of credit.
His defence were too often chasing shadows against opposition you would expect to be devoid of confidence, the midfield were bystanders and the forwards ineffective.
Leadbitter enjoyed space, Joel Grant's tackle for the penalty was sloppy and Yeovil failed to react to the spot kick save. Jacob Butterfield burst through a lifeless Glovers' line-up for the third and Kei Kamara netted a fourth at a near post corner.
Middlesbrough looked impressive, but were allowed to be. Social networking sites were buzzing with questions asking why Kevin Dawson and Sam Foley were overlooked.
Dawson looked lively after his introduction, whilst we wonder just what more is needed for Foley to get a look in, regardless of how brief.
We all know the Glovers have Championship quality – they have proved that against the likes of Reading and QPR already this season.
But it is time to turn performances into points and earn the results we know they can achieve. A gap is slowly widening at the wrong end of the table and the Glovers must keep their composure in order not to get cast away.