Don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to agree with the ‘promising signs’ noted by Ben Garner following the Swansea game. Equally, I’d suggest that each of them had a flip side too.
I didn’t watch the Welling game, but no question that the two players from the Swansea match who most enhanced their credentials were Wollacott and Morgan. It’s worth adding that the key threat from us was that Blackett-Taylor was able to go past his marker at will. A little improvement with the end-product and he will be a major force this season, especially as it would appear that he and Sessegnon look as though they will enjoy being paired up. Also, I’d say that Clare is looking more comfortable and effective in the right-back slot, even though we hope he won’t have to continue to fill in for too much longer.
Now the other side of the coin. Wollacott did indeed pull off some excellent saves, especially when bailing out his defenders for their misplaced passes gifting Swansea openings in our final third. Perhaps they just felt obliged to balance things up after their two guys had handed us the lead in very similar fashion to Sarr/Phillips at Wembley. He looks a very accomplished shot-stopper, seemingly able to read well the likely shape of the attempt on goal from the way the guy shapes up. What we found out nothing about on Saturday, however, was his ability to deal with balls in the air and the related skill of commanding his box, organising the defence. Swansea didn’t test him on that front, but pound to a penny if he starts next Saturday Accrington will.
Then Morgan. He had an outstanding first half, directing the play from a deepish position. If one of our weapons is going to be finding CBT early in some space he is perhaps the best we have for spraying the ball around (although I’d say Forster-Caskey comes into the reckoning). But in the second half Swansea changed their shape, made changes to personnel, and we found ourselves under the cosh, especially as the bench was, to put it mildly, lightweight and experimental. In that situation the crying need was for Dobson (or a younger Pratley) to do the dirty work and help us get the ball back and relieve pressure. In other words Morgan has yet to show that he has all the attributes needed to be effective playing in front of the back four – and the recent speculation that Garner might not rate Dobson and he could move on (adding to similar rumours about JFC, Gilbey and indeed Morgan) may need to be tempered by a better appreciation of that side of the game if we are to be competitive.
What else? In addition to the goal given away to Kilmarnock, on Saturday playing out from the back almost cost us twice, once when Inniss made a mess of turning back towards goal and the pass to Wollacott, then an awful pass out of a tight spot from O’Connell. I don’t buy the ‘these mistakes happen, part of playing that way’ line of argument. If playing that way costs us one or two goals a game it has to produce two or three a game to be justified. And that remains to be seen.
Having opted for two separate, strong teams to start against Welling and Swansea it was hardly surprising that the subs for both games were for the most part just out of nappies (Chin and Kanu did get to feature in both games). It will of course be different on Saturday, when we will be playing the 18-man squad game.
So, who starts? I think the only names you’d say are pretty much nailed on are Clare, Sessegnon, Stockley and Blackett-Taylor. That leaves the choice of keeper (MacGillivray or Wollacott), the two central defenders (from Inniss, O’Connell, Lavelle, and Elerewe), the three central midfielders (from Dobson, Morgan, Forster-Caskey, Gilbey, McGrandles, Fraser, and Payne), and the third widish forward (Leaburn, Kirk, Jaiyesimi, Kanu). So essentially there are 17 competing for seven available starting places, with seven of them to be on the bench – ie just three of the contenders do not make the squad, perhaps four if Garner feels he needs another full-back option in the mix for the bench (Clayden, Chin, Ness), as without Egbo we are stretched in that area.
The actual choices for centre-back and midfield are really down to combinations as at this stage you would not say anyone is nailed on. For what it’s worth - and this is personal opinion for a game way at Accrington rather than any attempt to predict who BG will go for – this is my choice:
MacGillivray, Clare, Sessegnon, Inniss, O’Connell, Dobson, Forster-Caskey, Fraser, Blackett-Taylor, Stockley, Leaburn.
Subs: Wollacott, Clayden, Lavelle, Watson, Gilbey, Jaiyesimi, Aneke (if fit – and how many times will we add that this season? – and if not Payne).