Sunday, 30 December 2007

Big Spender

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!

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