Saturday, 14 May 2011

Yamagata Preview

Hey! Saturday lunchtime, Omiya are playing. A trip to the north this time, up to Montedio Yamagata, who as Agent Orange was observing have not got off to the brightest of starts to the season and currently lie just a point outside the relegation places. They also have the joint-worst defensive record in the division. An impressive-sounding 2-1 win over league leaders Kashiwa Reysol ten days ago was in fact pretty lucky on balance of play - big striker Yu Hasegawa scrambled in the late winner after the goalkeeper could only parry a shot - and last weekend Montedio suffered the indignity of a 4-0 drubbing by Jubilo Iwata. Tempting fate it may be but I don't anticipate many teams are going to be saying that this year.

Even so, Yamagata will no doubt be looking at Omiya at home as being the sort of fixture they need to win if they're going to stand a chance of staying up this year. In other words the Squirrels will be up against an opponent that looks on the game as a real chance to pick up maximum points. And Ardija have rarely been in anything more than lacklustre form since the restart. Unbeaten in three matches Jun Suzuki's men may be, but while Montedio were beating high-flying Kashiwa the Squirrels let slip an opportunity for a victory at Ventforet Kofu and followed that up with a distinctly mediocre 0-0 draw in the rain at home to Albirex Niigata.

The old Omiya problem of a failure to create decent chances was particularly prevalent against Albirex, wide players like first-time starter Daigo Watanabe and especially wingback Daisuke Watabe offering notably poor service. Watabe had a brilliant opportunity to win the game in the last couple of minutes after breaking into the Niigata penalty area, but from a very dangerous position somehow could neither shoot nor cross for a team-mate, instead ballooning the ball wildly over the bar. There's little doubt he has the ability but without a cooler head the ex-Omiya youth player will not make much of an impact. Ardija in the meantime continue to look for that spark of inspiration.

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