Sunday, 30 December 2007
When Steve Evans went into attack against Rochdale we did make the ball stick a bit more up front; there were flicks an alert striker could latch onto (let me know if you find one!)
It was good in a way to see someone up front who might actually win some of the long stuff we've resorted to pumping up the pitch for the last couple of years, and there might be mileage in the tactic, but it's merely a sticking plaster rather than a solution to the problem of our total lack of creativity. I'd like to see how Proctor and Roberts would fare with a bit of decent service.
A couple of weeks ago I speculated about whether the type of raw, aggressive target man we had in Jim Steel in the Eighties was extinct. I don't think they are, on reflection, and I'd love to see Brian Little find one. There was speculation in the summer that we were after John Murphy, who went to Chester. He'd do the job, I reckon, but then anyone who can discomfort centre backs and keep the ball in the other side's box a bit more would be a big step in the right direction.
He doesn't have to be six foot three, although I think that would help! We only have to remember Andy Morrell to realise that a striker can get under defenders' skin to great effect without being huge. While we naturally remember his goalscoring exploits in the 2002-3 season most clearly; don't forget that he established himself in the side as a willing lieutenant for apparently more potent finishers.
When Lee Trundle was tearing it up during his spectacular opening spell as a Wrexham player, it was Morrell's enthusiastic running which distracted the defenders and helped to make him look good, while Lee Jones was quick to credit Morrell after his record-equalling five goal salvo against Cambridge United.
In term of style the closest we have to Morrell is Marc Williams, but I'm not sure I want to see him over-used this season. That's no comment on his ability as I suspect he has the potential to be a very good player for us. However, I feel he's at the stage of his career where he'd be best served by getting carefully-regulated exposure to senior football rather than being lobbed in at the deep end and charged with saving our bacon. We have no right to demand so much from him when more experienced players have failed to do the job, and putting pressure on him after every goalless game, replacing him in desperation if he can't swiftly come up with the goods, or subjecting him to the fans' frustrations could damage his development.
No, we need the new Jim Steel, and we need him now!
Brian Little would be entitled to ask his defenders what U.E.F.A. coaching courses call "The Carpenters Question", namely "why do butterflies suddenly appear every time the ball's near?"
While there are clearly problems all over the pitch, there's a pressing need to address defensive matters: no team leaks goals regularly and gets results. Our defence is made up of players who have achieved plenty at this level of the game; not only do we have a current international, a member of the Wales squad from last season and the current player with the most appearances for us to choose from, but we also have the captain of a side that got into the play-offs last May. Clearly the issue is a matter of confidence, not experience or ability.
So how can this be sorted? New blood's the obvious answer, but there are possible solutions in the existing squad which might make a difference.
The most attractive one's off the agenda for a while, sadly. Danny Williams plays with authority and heart, and though I prefer him in the centre of the pitch under normal circumstances, there are anything but normal circumstances! Surely he'd make a difference at the back with a bit of no-nonsense defending, but that's not going to happen any time soon.
I'm loathe to see Mike Williams or Gareth Evans throw in with the instruction to save our season, as I think that would be asking too much of either youngster, but another neglected defender at our disposal might be able to make an impact.
Remember that the back four which held firm at the end of last season and dug up out of trouble was Spender, Pejic, Evans and Valentine. Simon Spender has only featured under Brian Little as a late substitute in his first game in charge, and he deserves the chance to show what he can do. After all, you'll never complain about a lack of fight from the full back, and spirit seems to be the attribute we need at the back these days.
Spender's tenacious, enthusiastic and able to get up and down the line too. I accept he has his limitations, but who doesn't in League Two? More importantly, he has not been part of the huge loss of confidence we've suffered of late. When the first team squad is struggling with a collective fear of failure, what better point to throw in a player who is champing at the bit to get back on the pitch and show what he can do?
Mike Carvill's another player who might be given more of a whirl too. He certainly isn't tainted by failure, having had little chance to impress this season. Where his best position is in this circumstance is a problem; when we're unable to get proper service to the strikers another little attacking player is in danger of being by-passed. However, he clearly has the scrap in him to compete, plus pace and a neat turn of foot. At the very least it's worth having him on the bench, from where he made a couple of decent little vignettes at the start of the season.
Likewise, when Conall Murtagh is fit he is worth giving a go to. The midfield has hardly covered itself with glory this season, and while his premature exposure to Nigel Reo-Coker against Aston Villa and subsequent injury have left him looking like The Racecourse's forgotten man, anyone who saw his contribution to the victory at Port Vale, not just in terms of his performance, but also the coolest debut penalty you could hope to see, will have had their appetities whetted.
Oops, did I say “ The Racecourse's forgotten man”? Don't even get me started on Levi Mackin!
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Monday, 24 December 2007
Sunday, 23 December 2007
It's a very welcoming club, Rotherham. Everyone very friendly (well they should be when we're in town-I'll bet they were rubbing their hands together with glee as we arrived!)
The ground's a bit odd though! It was always basic, but since we've last been there there's a snazzy new stand-at least that's how it seems at first. It's not finished though, and apparently never will be! Halfway through finishing it they decided to move to a new ground down the road, so they've stopped building it! Half the seats are in place, and in use, but that's it. And we thought the old Mold Road Stand was an eyesore!
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Saturday, 8 December 2007
Wednesday, 5 December 2007
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Monday, 3 December 2007
We play Bury tomorrow and who's the referee? Scott Mathieson. That would be the Scott Mathieson who, last March, was in charge the last time we played Bury. You might think that fact alone is a good enough reason not to appoint him-familiarity breeds contempt and all that. Factor in the fact that he sent two of our players off in that match as well, and I think you have a pretty clearcut case not to give him this match. Cheers Football League.
Saturday, 1 December 2007
But the upshot was a third league game unbeaten, our best run of the season for what it's worth, and a very dogged defensive performance with both Richard Hope and Steve Evans putting in their best games of the season.
Crucially, the new manager bubble is still intact. That belief amongst the players that under Little they can flourish still exists, and if we can get through the Bury and Dagenham games in the same state we should look a lot healthier than we did a week ago.
Little hit the nail on the head after the game in identifying a lack of attacking threat. He'd wanted the side to be more progressive than it had been, getting at Rochdale down the flanks, but it hadn't really happened. It'll be interesting to see if the performance at Bury will address this-I suspect that, with three away games coming in quick succession and not much time to tweak things at Colliers Park, we'll stick to the same shape as it worked quite well at Spotland.
The lack of creativity is something that has been an issue for a year, and I'm glad Little is aware of it. Clearly we will have to resolve this if we are to pull away from the danger zone. The key thing is that if he can continue to boost the side's confidence and make us solid at the back, hopefully we'll start to believe in ourselves more at the other end of the pitch.