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Part 1: Last Night and Players

By John Rogers16/10/2019 14:59Wed Oct 16 14:59:10 2019

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I’m not a huge believer in luck and fortune in football, it always feels like a convenient excuse when things aren’t going well. That said, last night pretty much every crucial roll of the ball went in the home side’s favour. When things don’t go your way, they really decide to kick you in the knackers on their way through.

The ball hits the inside of the post, runs across the goal-line and the floored (and very flawed) home goalkeeper is able to paw the rebound away. The ball hits the underside of the crossbar and bounces inside the six-yard box and not the other side of the line. On another day, that’s 3-0.

At 1-1, Francis shows excellent awareness to seize upon another poor piece of defending, nutmegs the goalkeeper who, just, manages to get enough of a right heel on the ball to send it just wide of the post instead of seeing it rolling into the net.

Second half I thought Hayes looked much the better side. Their numbers 8 and 10 really began to impose themselves on the game and we were left to hang on in there.

There were suggestions that their first goal took a deflection, I couldn’t tell from where I was sat, their second certainly did. Then, with fifteen minutes to go another lazy and needless challenge inside the box with the player running away from goal (and danger) sees a third soft penalty conceded against Hayes in 10 days. Criticise the manager all you want, but he can’t prevent a player from needlessly dangling out a leg like that.

There were 8 players unavailable, six of whom if they’d have been available would probably have started:

Hamblin – injured
Hope – injured
English – injured
Smith – injured
Noel-McLeod – international duty
Calcutt – on holiday
Harriott – apparently AWOL
Jonas - ???

It’s all too tempting to be flippant about the commitment of one or two on that list above but that really wouldn’t serve any positive end, so I’ll leave it to others to join up the dots (shouldn’t be too hard if you’ve spoken to me in person in the last week or so). The wider point is that any manager at any level would struggle with that number of players unavailable. Four of them are contracted so would have been paid this week regardless of their injury / availability issues.

Right. So, with that in mind, there can’t be much wriggle room in the budget to bring in high quality replacements at short notice and so we’re now reliant on youngsters to do the work of more experienced players. That inexperience is understandably showing itself in terms of game awareness at times.

Last night:

Toby Byron – turned 18 in August
Ed Cook – 19
Obinna Obgonna – just turned 18
Francis Amartey – 20
Luca Valentine – 21

Add in Luke Tingey who’s still only 22 and Ash who’s 24, but in his first season of football at this level.

I think it’s fair to say that Jimmy’s strongest XI with everyone available would have had Hamblin (32) for Cook, Hope (23) for Ogbonna, English (24) for Valentine, Smith (24) for Byron, Harriott (27) for Ash and long-term, Caluctt (26) for Amartey. That adds three years onto the average age of the side. One of those is probably a busted flush with regards his future at the club if rumours are to be believed.

I thought the application and effort was largely there yesterday. The quality might not have been in some areas, but I came away not able to critique the work rate or attitude of the vast majority. Ash, a case in point. Criticised, quite rightly, for his performance on Saturday, I thought showed a lot of heart last night. He never stopped running, tracking back, working. Okay, he might not have achieved much (lovely cross for the Ogbonna disallowed goal), but he put the efforts of some other, more lauded players this season, to shame.

I thought Byron and Cook did well, I thought they both did on Saturday too.

Let’s end on a real positive, albeit a temporary one. Francis Amartey. He’s a very good player indeed and carried a real threat all night. His second goal was reminiscent of Niko in his pomp with the way he burned up three or four home defenders before showing the poise to slip the ball home. Six goals in six games in a struggling side is no mean effort. Hats off, young man. Hats off.

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