So is this officially a crisis? Four matches without a win might not seem the worst run in the history of the game, but the manner in which Omiya Ardija have sunk to recent defeats, interspersed only with a home draw against lowly Avispa Fukuoka, suggests that at the very least this is a team that is lacking in direction and confidence. The strikers and midfielders can't retain possession, which puts the pressure on the defensive midfielders, which means that the defence have more to do, which means that they are moe likely to make mistakes. Ardija concede in part BECAUSE they don't score.
The Kofu match saw Yukio Tsuchiya return to the starting line-up alongside Toninho in defence, although Daigo Kobayashi was not felt to be sufficiently recovered from his leg injury to warrant more than a place on the bench. More surprising than all this, however, was the fact that Koji Ezumi picked up a rare start in place of the increasingly shaky Hiroki Aratani in goal, while Hayato Hashimoto was rewarded for his impressive performances as a substitute as a replacement for Tatsunori Hisanaga on the left.
Despite these changes, however, it quickly became clear that the downturn in the Squirrels' form is becoming longer term. Kofu harried and hustled, refusing to let the Omiya midfield have any impact on play, whilst Bare inevitably was champing at the bit up front, causing problems for Toninho with his pace and directness.
Ardija were grateful for Ezumi's alertness on a number of occasions but offeredalmost nothing as an attacking threat, Naoto Sakurai's off-target shot following good work from Hashimoto being almost their only attempt on goal in the opening period. It was therefore no more than the home side deserved when they went ahead with six minutes remaining before the interval, as Bare chased a long through ball and took advantage of a mix-up between Ezumi and Daisuke Tomita to nip in between them and score.
It was Jun Marques Davidson and Yosuke Kataoka who appeared to take the blame for Omiya's poor display, as Masato Saito and Daigo Kobayashi came on at half-time in what amounted to a total re-shuffle of the midfield. Even this, however, seemed to make little difference to the pattern of play and to Omiya's ability to get any kind of a grip on the match, for it was Ventforet who again started out with more aggression and commitment. On 51 minutes, keeper Ezumi was again involved in a costly eror of communication as he rolled the ball out to Toninho while the Brazilian defender had his back to goal. Bare again reacted like lightning to punish this sloppiness and make it 2-0.
The Squirrels then managed to push forward a little more than had been the case, with Yukio Tsuchiya often making up the spare man, but his and Yoshihara's efforts never truly looked like troubling the home defence. Hiroshi Morita was brought on for the unfortunate Hashimoto with 21 minutes remaining, but almost immediately the match disappeared out of sight as Omiya were caught on the break by Ken Fujita, whose crossfield ball reached Jun Uruno. With the Squirrels defence committed, the former Honda FC midfield man then had plenty of time to pick his spot and beat Ezumi for a decisive third goal.
A glimmer of hope appeared in 79th minute as Toninho's powerful header despatched a Daigo corner and with Kofu wilting after an all-action performance, the possession was suddenly nearly all Omiya's. Agonisingly, however, it was only with the last kick of the match that Kota Yoshihara could get on the scoresheet after being fed by Sakurai and by then, of course, it was too late. So what did Toshiya Miura make of the performance?
"Well, we expected a tough fight - that's Kofu's style. At first we looked solid enough in defence, but our two strikers were isolated and that allowed Ventforet to have control of possession." The same kind of remark, then, that the increasingly beleaguered coach has been forced to make on too many occasions recently. Has Miura taken this Omiya side as far as he can? Is it time for a change at the top? It's beginning to look like it.