Part 1: Last Night and Players
**ESSAY ALERT KLAXON**
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.
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.
A few things struck me;
We only seemed to discover a real sense of on-field leadership, when Scott McGleish came on for his cameo. I would seriously consider starting him in the home game v Walton (can't see him being able to play Truro and then again on Tue). With all these young players, we need some nous, if even just for an hour.
Individually our defenders did some good things but collectively their shape often looked skewed. A lot of hard work needs to be done on defending as a back four...especially as we have two new players in there.
Our midfield didn't seem to function as a unit and there were some pretty big gaps for Hayes to pass through. In the two Hayes games, it's been far too easy for the opposition to work the ball into central positions and take easy shots. In fairness, it's probably not just the midfield.....the whole team would benefit from being more compact and less open. Maybe a simple 4-4-1-1, with McGleish playing behind Amartey and Valentine to replace McGleish in the 2nd half.
Our superb forward, Amartey, cannot be expected to score 3 or 4 in games like this. He's scored 4 in two away games at Hayes and it still hasn't been enough for us to get a draw. Keep some clean sheets and he's bound to get us a few winners (like he did at Walton). We need to make the most him while we've got him because I'd be amazed (and very pleased) if Slough let him stay for another month after this spell.
The boys need to keep their heads up. It's one thing looking the part when things are going well (EG the 1st half) but real players still look good and up for it even when they go behind.
Re: Part 1: Last Night and Players
Insightful night. It's falling into place. Based on half a side. Interesting switch of Corks into the No 8 shirt. Lovely. Right, here I go. I've been crying out, to the amusement of some, for a centre-half. We've just got the lad in. Pivotal. This enables Corks to go Lee O'Leary on us. Last night, first half hour, crosses in the box, combinations falling into place Nos 3 & 7 looked in harmony. Equally, I maintain this is not Corks best position, but we require someone whom can pull the strings in-front of the forward(s). We forced corners, lads in the box (in numbers), and better delivery. We could have been 3 up. I maintain the addition of the centre-half would allow Corks to play that role as and when required. Luke or A.N.Other can protect the defence. I still maintain you require both in the side. I think we have the personnel, (once fit). Of whom would play alongside Corks in the advanced role is optional - but we have the options in place. Regarding Dan. I thought we would evolve this way and was dismayed somewhat to lose the lad. I saw him in an Anthony Thomas type regard. Looking at the lads we have recruited, (what a job by James by the way - I was expecting season churn of historic proportions), we no longer need that option and I would advocate given what I've seen of the youngsters look stronger for recent adversities. The injuries have given us an opportunity to access the peripheral problems. I think we have real potential once players are best suited. At least a month away, so remain patient. The strong central third that the likes of the top sides could be replicated. I would advocate we can now clearly see how the width is going to pan out. Quite constructive. I'm really quite impressed. Get it bedded in and get the lads playing a style which gets the best out of them. I think we can adopt a style which takes the best components of all sides and become dominating. For me last night, (defending aside, we look hesitant, that will blow over), we look, knowing where we are, bang on track. Just get over the next phase and we can really start to evaluate and push on.
I slated James and the lads last visit to Hayes. Vary rare. I thought we lacked 'cup tempo' Last night, a different curtailment with regards making progress. That, I think we are starting to deliver. Patience required.
I'll dish out a rollicking when I think it's appropriate. Generally, I try to remain upbeat. I genuinely am. Well played James, your hard work will pay off. Well done.
Edited by rwakeley at 18:10:52 on 16th October 2019
Re: Part 1: Last Night and Players
Like you say, we have been crying out for a proper no nonsense centre half. We haven't had one for over a year now since Guri got injured and the rapid decline in the team's fortunes began. What concerns me is that the Manager has taken so long to rectify this situation (if rectify it he has). It should have been his main priority during the close season. The lack of stability at the centre of defense and the resulting soft goals conceded adversely affects the confidence of the whole squad. It is similar to 2016/2017 when Gary Mac almost got us relegated despite our strong squad, when he took far too long to recognise that our goalkeeper was suffering a massive crisis of confidence. Thankfully just in time he signed Tom Lovelock (what a signing that was!) and we managed to avoid relegation on the last day of the season (it would have been embarrassing to have a stand at SJP named after the only manager in Hendon's history to have got us relegated).
Re: Part 1: Last Night and Players
I really should proof-read stuff I post....I just bash stuff out as it comes it my head. I've corrected my the above message, from centre forward to centre-half. Makes a difference. To be fair, I'm usually drunk!
Whilst in amending mode. Just to say thanks for the ex-gaffer for the offer of a brew at half-time. Being a Chelsea fan, you would think he would know where the biscuits are kept! Custard Cream man myself. And to the fellow Hendonites for the lift back to Finchley, really appreciated.
Edited by rwakeley at 18:16:31 on 16th October 2019