Sunday 21 August 2022

Disappointment Justified, But Nothing More

The question ahead of yesterday’s game was for me ‘will Plymouth prove an exceptional night, helped by their defending and other uncontrollable variables, or can we now confidently expect more of the same (ie effective, attacking football, plenty of goals, plus a win)?’ Have to say debate has still been raging in our group of Addicks over whether we should have had 12 points from our first four games (OK, perhaps 10) and be sitting pretty at the top, or whether the total could just as easily have been 3 (even less if on the back of three defeats the performance against Plymouth was rather different), with us then staring at a repeat of last season’s dire start. I’d say that either scenario was equally plausible, given the swings in each of the games, at least the first three, so in that context Cambridge – opponents likely to be less open and accommodating than Plymouth – would prove an indicative test.

In the event we came away disappointed, but not distraught. Disappointment is justified as having dominated the first half, albeit without creating many real goalscoring opportunities, we took the lead at a very good time. At the break it was hard to see anything other than a win, even if Cambridge adjusted having gone behind. A second would surely have killed off the game. Instead Cambridge upped their intensity and we slackened off, became rather sloppy, conceded an equaliser, then saw plans on the pitch undermined as injury followed substitutions and the game became rather tetchy and disjointed. There was a rally at the end as Cambridge clearly settled for a point, but that didn’t count for much.

The team showed just one change from Tuesday night, with Inniss returning to the starting line-up and Lavelle back on the bench (presumably down to Inniss’ capacity to play three in a week, perhaps in response to Cambridge’s likely approach, rather than anything Lavelle did against Plymouth), while the subs did show some surprising changes as neither Sessegnon nor McGrandles were named. Turns out the former has a hamstring problem, the latter has broken his hand. Henry and Chin were named instead. The fact that Henry was named rather than Gilbey or Forster-Caskey surely suggests that those two are out of the reckoning unless the window closes and they are still here.

The first half saw us enjoy 72% possession. There was no early goal to settle things down, but with Rak-Sakyi looking threatening again it appeared we could afford to be patient. Morgan drew a decent save from Mitov to turn a free-kick around the post but the real opportunity came after 23 minutes when Morgan managed to find Stockley in the box only for him to shoot just wide. There were plenty of bodies in the way but really should have hit the target. Starved of possession Cambridge rarely threatened, but kept their shape and discipline. They did have one moment of danger when a poor Inniss header was intercepted and their guy did Clare on their left side. His squared ball in from the byline was put behind for a corner.

Just after that we took the lead, a few minutes before the break. Kirk was picked out on the left and his ball into the box eluded their defenders and found Stockley. Proved a difficult one to control and convert, but he jabbed at it and the keeper knocked it up in the air, leaving Fraser in the clear to head into an empty net. It was our third goal (out of eight) to come from a player tapping in after a keeper’s save/block. First reaction was at least a suspicion of Fraser being offside, and the half-time TV footage didn’t really clear up the issue. But a fellow Addick did as it was clear that when Stockley prodded it goalward Fraser was behind him.

So more of the same in the second half would be fine, resulting in a rather routine, low-key, but very valuable win. Didn’t turn out that way as we rather lost the initiative.

There was a curious incident as one of their guys went down off the ball, with the replays showing Inniss did something rather naughty, which VAR would surely have punished. We did nearly extend the lead before the hour as Inniss headed a corner back from the far post and Stockley couldn’t quite get on the end of it. But by now Cambridge were enjoying more of the play and asking us some questions. It wasn’t completely out of the blue when they equalised, just on the hour. A move down their left and the cross in, like others this season, managed to fall between Inniss and O’Connell. Their guy’s header was blocked by Wollacott but the ball ran loose to another, who smartly squared rather than shot for what proved a tap-in.

OK, we have to go again, plenty of time left. The goal prompted our first change, with Blackett-Taylor coming on for Rak-Sakyi. Clayden picked up a yellow for pulling back their guy, who only received the same punishment for clearly kicking out. Then Clare followed him into the book, losing possession close to goal and being forced to pull their guy back. The resulting free-kick flashed across the box. The game was getting testy as the ref let go some challenges (on Clayden and Morgan in quick succession), presumably feeling we were going down rather too easily.

With around 20 minutes to go we made more changes, with Leaburn and Payne on for Kirk and Fraser, with CBT switching to the left. And there followed what proved to be our last good chance as Morgan found him and the cross resulted in a shot from Stockley which flashed just wide of the post. Instead of reclaiming the lead we were then thrown into some confusion as first CBT was caught by a follow-through, then Morgan was clattered into. The ref seemed unsure what to do but the end-result was CBT down injured and looking in trouble. He did continue but couldn’t run it off and was replaced by Henry with around 10 minutes left on the clock.

That left us with none of our three available natural wide men on the pitch, so we seemed to switch to a 4-4-2 with Leaburn more central. And we did press through to the end, with six minutes of stoppage time including a couple of free-kick opportunities to just stick the ball in the box (perhaps Garner missed a trick, especially with one in the final seconds, not sending Lavelle on for someone smaller). But to no avail. The final stats showed us having 66% possession over the full game, which sounds good but suggests that after 72% in the first half we were down to around 60% in the second.

The positives from the game are not losing and the point making it eight from the first five games, a return we would probably have happily taken given the changes (to personnel and formation) and the fixtures. I’d have given Man of the Match to Dobson as his work ensured we enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. The negatives are first, the worrying injury to Blackett-Taylor; we could be staring at being without him, Egbo, Sessegnon, McGrandles, and Aneke, which amounts to a real injury list, one which may hasten further activity before the transfer window closes. Second, the fact that we were unable to reproduce the performance against Plymouth suggesting we are perhaps not as far down the line as we hoped, even though Cambridge take some credit for that. We now have the unwanted distraction of a Carabao Cup trip to Walsall on Tuesday night, for which surely the priority is picking up no more injuries, before the serious stuff resumes at Wycombe on Saturday.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Not Hard To Take Positives This Time

The tough start to the season continued with the visit to The Valley of Plymouth. Our home win over them last season in November at the time fuelled thoughts of a glorious, sustained run under JJ to make the play-offs despite our dire start, hopes which were pretty much dashed by Christmas. Last night was rather more about whether following Saturday’s reverse (in terms of points) we could deliver another home win and a bounce back in the table (for what it’s worth at this stage of the season), with things still very much up in the air after mixed performances (and results) from our first three games. Plymouth, having already seen off Barnsley and Peterborough (but lost to Fleetwood), would be looking to cement a position in the top six.

In the event we turned on the style, delivered our best, sustained performance to date, pulling Plymouth apart pretty much from the start. We did wobble after taking the lead, with Plymouth also looking dangerous going forward forward and enjoying decent spells of possession. They also had a shout for a penalty which merited looking at again. But helped by a penalty to extend our lead, plus a perhaps technically correct but very harsh red card, and then a piledriver into the net, the game was effectively over by half-time. We take the points and the plaudits, Plymouth will just want to forget this one and move on.

The team news ahead of the match was that there would be no return yet for Aneke, which seemed to leave the door wide open for Rak-Sakyi to at least make the squad, with one unnamed injury doubt from Saturday. In the event Garner opted for a bit of a shuffle, presumably with freshness in mind. Inniss and Sessegnon (either perhaps the one with the knock) moved to the bench, replaced by Lavelle and Clayden, while perhaps surprisingly it was Blackett-Taylor eased out of the starting XI to make way for Rak-Sakyi, with Jaiyesimi not making the squad.

Fair to say Rak-Sakyi’s impact was immediate. He’d already caught the eye with penetrating runs forward and intelligent use of the ball when after 10 minutes Morgan played a delightful chipped ball into the box for Stockley to run onto. His header was well saved by their keeper who thrust out an arm; but, like against Derby, the ball dropped kindly to an incoming wide man, this time Rak-Sakyi, who like CBT before him turned it into an empty net.

The following 30 minutes were pretty even. We created more chances, with Stockley ending another fine move with a header straight at their keeper followed by Rak-Sakyi intercepting a pass and moving into their box, turning their guy inside out, only to shoot over the bar. Plymouth had their moments too, less in the way of clear-cut chances but good possession and plenty of menace, including the shout for a penalty as their guy appeared to be tripped in the box.

The game changed for good in the final five minutes of the half. Plymouth again paid the price for sloppy play out of defence as Stockley read the situation and intercepted with his head. His chip to the far post was deflected by the keeper but landed for Kirk. He connected well enough but the ball into the net was met by a defender’s outstretched arm. Then it was just down to the letter of the law. A penalty for sure. Now the guy’s arm was held out, but he’d just tried to intercept a cross and then swivel around, only to face a shot from a yard or two away. Perhaps the rules now say straight red, but there was nothing deliberate about the handball and it’s hard to see how their guy could stay on his feet without using his arms for balance. So be it. Stockley scored from the spot to open his account for the season.

Very nice we all thought for the cup of tea at half-time. But there was more. In stoppage time the ball ended up with Kirk, who played it across the box to Clare. He decided to have a strike – and it couldn’t have gone better. Screamed into the net off the far post, all reminiscent of Steve Brown’s daisy-cutter some years back (against Bradford if memory serves correct).

3-0 up against 10 men. Not surprisingly the second half was mostly a subdued affair. Changes were made (for us McGrandles came on early for Clare, with Morgan kind of going into the right-back space, Leaburn and Payne came on for Rak-Saki and Fraser, and later Inniss for O’Connell), chances came and went. Plymouth did get one back as we rather casually allowed their guy to run past a couple of challenges and put in a shot just inside the post. But there was no real prospect of an unlikely comeback and instead Kirk finally got on the scoresheet at the far post, then the evening was rounded off by a Payne cross being blocked but falling nicely for Leaburn to fire home. Cue many celebrations (which were to be rounded off for those of us watching on Charlton TV as proud dad Carl was on the mobile with Ronnie Mauge after the game).

Now stats don’t mean a great deal at this stage of the season. But it’s well worth taking a look at those for League One’s leading scorers. Leaburn may not (yet) have scored the most, but he has by a distance the best goals per minute ratio (he is scoring every 42 minutes on the pitch) and has a 100% rating for both goal conversion and shot accuracy. No wonder Dad is proud (and Mum).

It was a night when most things clicked for us. Rak-Saki made the debut that we all hoped for and made a huge difference in terms of goalscoring threat, while Kirk had his best game in a Charlton shirt. Along with Blackett-Taylor, we carry a major threat, even if we are still over-reliant on Stockley while Aneke is sidelined (as asking Leaburn to start as a No.9 is a big ask at this stage). Clayden impressed on his first start, Clare continues to make a much better fist of filling in at right-back than most of us thought possible, and Morgan’s emergence is continuing. Fraser adds intelligent movement and passing, hopefully also more goals.

Perhaps the danger in the wake of a match like that is over-confidence when it comes to Cambridge visiting us on Saturday. They are unlikely to be as open as Plymouth were last night, or to offer up so many opportunities from their play out of defence. It may be an altogether different challenge. But that’s for BG and his staff to worry about.

Saturday 13 August 2022

Mirror Image Of Derby Game

A week ago you could say that the Derby game was one that nobody could confidently predict the outcome of. Today we were sure be a stiff test at the least. The approach to any game may be to win it, but this was one where a point would have been taken in advance. After all, the two league games so far could easily have left us with no points – and easily six. We’d outplayed the opposition in two of the four halves – and vice versa. What seemed certain is that if we had a repeat of the first half against Derby we would most likely be beaten by the break. In the event we did have such a repeat, just that we were Derby this time around, dominating play, possession and chances – but not scoring. And like last Saturday we ended up paying the price for that as Sheff Wed got stronger as the game went on and scored. Like Derby we ended up looking very tired and unlikely to get back on level terms – and like Derby we can have no complaints about the result.

Team selection was always going to involve some issues. The defence might be picking itself at present, but if McGrandles was fully fit would he start, or would Dobson - who replaced him against Derby to good effect - get the nod in an away game against promotion candidates? For the front three would Aneke be available – and if so feature in the squad – and would incoming Rak-Sakyi also get a place? If they did, who would miss out? In the event, Dobson was retained to start, with McGrandles on the bench, and with no sign of Chucks or the new guy it was everything else as you were.

After an initial scare from a dangerous ball into our box we took over the game and dominated the first 10 minutes, to the extent that Wednesday were starting to look shell-shocked and clueless. Good passing and movement, just a question of the end-result. After 25 minutes Kirk won the ball on the left and ended up squaring it for Fraser in a good position on the edge of the box. But his shot was well over the bar. Shortly after Kirk found Sessegnon and his powerful drive was closer but also too high.

The real opportunity of the half came not long before the break. Morgan latched onto the ball, rode a challenge and brought it forward. The idea was good, to slide a pass in between their centre-backs for Blackett-Taylor to run on to, with a good chance he would outstrip them. The execution was, however, poor and it was easily covered, only for one of their guys to prod it back to an unsuspecting keeper, who palmed it away (raising the possibility of a back-pass free kick). That pushed it back into the path of CBT, who sent it goalward but without much conviction and one of their two guys was able to block.

By the break it was starting to look more even, but the stats were heavily in our favour, if that counts for anything. 56% possession, six shots, two on target, against one and none for Wednesday respectively. But you just knew they wouldn’t be as disjointed and ineffective in the second half.

We actually had a couple more decent opportunities to take the lead in an even start to the second half, both crafted by CBT. First time he went outside his marker only to pull the shot across goal just wide; second time he chose inside but the shot was comfortably saved. At the same time Wednesday were putting some dangerous balls into our box, while our passing around at the back offered another opportunity as a Clare ball back was left by Inniss for Wollacott only for their guy to nip in, only to lead to nothing.

Just before the hour Wednesday made a triple substitution. It smacked of desperation at the time, reflecting the state of play, but now appears to have turned the game as on a hot day as players tired it was their bench which made the difference. We responded by withdrawing Stockley for Leaburn – with Garner saying after the game that the former had not been well and was struggling – and Payne for Kirk.

There was another potential turning point not long after as Sessegnon played a long ball down our left for Payne to run on to, in a contest with their guy. Their guy fell over, handled in the area, only for the ref to take the easy way out and give him the free kick. Might have gone the other way. As it is that was probably our last opportunity to break the deadlock and possibly go on and win the game, at least get a share of the spoils.

With about 20 minutes left a tiring CBT was replaced by Jaiyesimi. But we were getting progressively pushed back and with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining they got the goal. It was a good one to the extent that the ball played in from their right was just about perfect, clearing O’Connell but not making it as far as Inniss, instead dropping just right for the well-time run between the two by their guy, who headed home powerfully from close range.

That prompted further changes, with McGrandles and Clayden on for Fraser and Sessegnon. But the game was up. Indeed, Wednesday might easily have scored again as weary players made mistakes. We had nothing left to give by the end, despite the desperate act of sending Inniss up front.

What did we learn from the game? No doubt the good news was the way we played for perhaps an hour against tough opposition on a hot day. Plenty to build on. The other side of the coin is that we had a clear reminder that if we start with Kirk and Blackett-Taylor, two wingers neither of whom are natural goalscorers, we need more midfielders getting into the box to support the central striker. Leaburn has done well so far coming on to play on the right side, but asking him to cope single-handed against big centre-backs was another matter. We badly needed a fit Aneke to provide the power and physical presence when Stockley was below par, while the door would seem to be wide open for Rak-Sakyi to offer a greater goalscoring threat in a front three.

Given the fixtures, a win, a draw, and a defeat in the first three games is no disaster, for a team still finding its way under a new manager and system. Just that it is a setback in terms of points per game and a sobering reminder that we are a work in progress – and that not every week we will get the breaks.


Monday 8 August 2022

We Put The Ball In The Net

A game which I suspect in advance nobody had a good idea what to expect from. A win and it became a good start to the campaign – and vice versa – while a draw would be, like last Saturday, no disaster but not inspiring either. In the event nobody could have quibbled whatever the outcome had been as Derby played us off the park for the first 40 minutes - and but for imprecise finishing and excellent saves from Wollacott could have been at least a couple of goals to the good, perhaps out of sight – only for us to get stronger as they tired, go ahead, then look more likely to add to our tally than them to equalise. Much like last weekend if we had lost or drawn we could have had no complaints; equally we almost stole all three points at Accrington and can lay claim to deserving the win yesterday as, unlike Derby, we put the ball in the net.

It's easy to talk of it being a game of two halves. But it was really one about chances. Derby had two or three excellent openings in the first half during the time we struggled to keep the ball (and did nothing with it when we had it) only for us almost to take the lead just before the break, when Stockley really should have converted Kirk’s inviting cross. Even then there was time for us to gift Derby a one-against-one, only for their guy to strike the post. In the second half, although it was a different story in terms of possession and chances, Derby had a gilt-edged chance to equalise only for their guy to head wide. So just who deserved what is perhaps irrelevant, especially at this stage of the season.

The team showed a couple of changes, potentially significant ones. Wollacott kept the keeper’s jersey in front of an unchanged back four of Clare, Inniss, O’Connell and Sessegnon, with Lavelle joined by Clayden on the bench, which at least - unlike last weekend - gave us an option in the event of injury to a full-back. To the surprise of many Dobson was dropped to the bench, replaced by McGrandles, to partner Morgan and Fraser in midfield. The suggestion here seemed to be that Garner believes – or rather believed as the first half might have changed his mind – that with a central midfield three you don’t need an outright defensive option. Neither Gilbey nor Forster-Caskey made the squad, let alone the starting X1, which suggested Payne is being viewed as the replacement for Fraser rather than Gilbey, while reinforcing speculation that JFC will indeed be leaving. For the front three Jaiyesimi was replaced by Kirk, with Blackett-Taylor the other side of Stockley and goalscoring machine Leaburn kept in reserve. It all looked like an opportunity for McGrandles and Kirk to grab.

Again, the first 40 minutes were all Derby. Inside the first 10 Wollacott dived to his left to block a sharp effort after a good move down the left, then from the resulting corner he saved a backheel after a scramble. In the second O’Connell tried to turn and was robbed, the resulting shot being blocked, then Inniss was outmuscled after a poor Clare pass, drawing another excellent Wollacott save. After 21 minutes we got a corner!  More significant, just before the half-hour McGrandles found himself unable to continue after a clash of heads, with Dobson entering the fray. So he was denied his opportunity to shine – and whether or not the game changed at that moment there is no question that Dobson helped materially in our upturn through the game.

Nothing changed immediately as Wollacott was called on to pluck out of the air a dangerous cross, then from a Derby corner their guy put a free header wide. But in the final minutes of the first half we finally gave some indication that we might be able to score too. First Kirk intercepted a square pass and tried an audacious lob over their keeper from close to the halfway line. It went harmlessly over the bar but was worth a try. And just after Kirk featured again in a more traditional role, delivering a terrific cross which curled perfectly for an onrushing Stockley. A header either side of their keeper would surely have meant us – somehow – taking the lead, but it ended up too close to him and was saved. Seemed like at least we would head into the break in better spirits (albeit with concerns over Inniss, who appeared to be struggling with his back), but there was still time for O’Connell to make a mess of an admittedly awkward high ball. His weak header back was easily intercepted and their guy this time beat Wollacott only for the effort to bounce back off the far post.

The half-time stats showed Derby had 62% possession and managed eight shots, two on target, against four and one for us. A week ago we’d bossed the first half playing away and had a lead; Derby had commanded the play but failed to score.

And just like a week ago the second half was a different story. Early on Blackett-Taylor gave notice of what he could do by making the space for a good cross in, only for Stockley to head straight at their keeper. And with play now much more even, on the hour we took the lead. On the counter-attack with the ball played to Kirk down the left. He immediately played it on into space for Morgan to run on to. Whether he put in a cross or a shot wasn’t clear but their keeper parried the ball, only to leave it for an isolated CBT to stab it into an empty net from a yard or two out. The end may have been a little fortuitous but the build-up was excellent.

Now we were able to play more comfortably on the break as Derby were obliged to chase the game. You’d say that having lost the initiative, never to regain it, Derby’s chance of getting something from the game had gone. But on 67 minutes, after a couple of half-chances for us, they outnumbered us down their left and as defenders went towards the ball it was curled in to the far post, to their guy on his own. He surely had to score – but didn’t, heading wide. Again, all else paled into insignificance compared to missing chances like that.

With hindsight, in the final 25 minutes (including five minutes of stoppage time) we were relatively comfortable. We were able to make more changes to bring on fresh legs – first Leaburn, Payne and Jaiyesimi for CBT, Fraser and Kirk in a triple-substitution, then late in the day Clayden and Lavelle for a tiring (and yellow-carded) Sessignon and Stockley – whereas if the commentators are to be believed Derby were light in that department and ended up looking weaker by the minute. We might have added a second but ended up not needing one.

So a very welcome victory. The final stats indicated we had 12 efforts on goal, seven on target, against 13 and just two for Derby. That last number told the story and why, despite the first 40 minutes, they can have no complaints about going home pointless.

What lessons for us? In addition to his saves, I thought Wollacott was much more in command of his area than previously, which is very positive. A MoM performance was only blotted by one failed attempt to claim a cross in the second half. O’Connell was for me a concern in that he made two howlers either of which could have resulted in a goal. Surely has to cut them out or Lavelle will get a chance. Inniss wasn’t perfect and for a while wasn’t moving easily, but did his job. Up front we know we are short of numbers/options, with really two centre-forwards and three wingers available for the three places. Hopefully Aneke will be available soon, plus a signing. Leaburn has begun the season very well but can’t be expected to play week in-week out. Kirk provided two moments of quality but the drawback is he doesn’t look likely to score himself. Equally if he starts, Blackett-Taylor moves to the right, which breaks up the partnership with Sessignon, which to me looks full of promise.

The real conundrum is the central midfield three. We learnt nothing about McGrandles on Saturday; we did learn that leaving Dobson out of the side comes with risks, at least against decent teams able to dominate possession. Morgan again flourished when not under pressure, but like the other two who started was not to be seen for most of the first half. In Dobson, Gilbey and Forster-Caskey we have players who at certain times and for certain roles can be the best options available to us. The same can be said of Morgan and Fraser, perhaps Payne too. We have seven players competing for three starting spots, probably five squad ones. Getting the right balance and combinations in this area would have been my homework instruction for BG over the weekend – especially as he got rather lucky with Dobson being introduced to the game because of injury.

Monday 1 August 2022

Saturday Takeaways

Now we’ve got past the mixed emotions of Saturday’s stoppage time, what can we learn from the game?

First, I think Garner was slow to make changes in the second half. Of course there’s hindsight involved here, but I thought the big change from being able to make five substitutions was that you adapt to an 18-man squad game (OK, 17, assuming you don’t change the keeper voluntarily). Accrington had upped their game after the break and the balance of the game shifted back, after we had been in control after taking the lead (I’d say it was pretty even before then). They were creating chances and our central midfield trio were flagging. But BG waited until after they had equalised and until the 71st minute before making a change (he ended up making four, but two of them were in the final minutes).

Second, the player I think would have made a positive difference to us in the second half, Forster-Caskey, wasn’t even on the bench (considering we had both Gilbey and Payne among the subs that I found mystifying as surely we wouldn’t end up using both of them). We needed someone to command the central area, impose ourselves on them, and put us back on the offensive. They had played their part in getting us ahead in the game, but bringing on JFC and Gilbey (or Payne) for Morgan and Fraser around the hour mark seemed to me to make sense. Does JFC’s non-appearance mean he is on his way? I’ve no idea but if he does go we will lose the best player we have to deal with certain situations (assuming of course he is fit and mentally right) and will be weaker as a result.

Third, as Steve Brown was stressing after the match, if we are going to fanny around at the back we quite simply have to get better at it. We coughed up another couple of good openings by poor control or passes around our own area. It didn’t cost us on Saturday but it will do if not corrected. And we found out enough times last season that if you consistently give away soft goals it has a draining effect on confidence, in turn feeding into results.

Fourth, obviously we had some insights into team selection and who BG considers to be first-choice. I thought before the game that Clare (given the absence of Egbo), Sessegnon, Blackett-Taylor and Stockley were the shoo-ins. Wollacott did indeed get the nod over MacGillivray and provided more evidence of the pros and cons. Couple of excellent second-half saves kept us ahead, no chance with either of their goals. Equally, he came for two balls into the box in the air and didn’t get near either. One resulted in a header over the bar; if it had been a little lower and into an unguarded net it would have been down to him.

The central defence pairing of Inniss and O’Connell was what most would have predicted, with Lavelle in reserve. Both ended up playing well enough, but both were involved in Accrington’s goals. O’Connell was turned inside out down their right side and when the cross came in Inniss was in no-man’s land, requiring Clare to get central to compete with their guy. When the ball went over both it went to their guy on his own at the far post (who did finish well). For the heart-breaking second the ball into our box was excellent and the fact was their guy beat Inniss to it. What looks worrying now, however, given that surprisingly Elerewe has been sent out on loan, is the lack of numbers. Clare was injured during the game and you wondered how we would have adjusted if he had been forced off (either Lavelle would have been obliged to play right-back or DJ or CBT brought into the back four). We now have only three centre-backs (four if you include Clare, but he is currently required elsewhere) and only two fit full-backs (one of which is we assume playing out of position). It is, quite simply, not enough, and I’m inclined to assume that Elerewe being sent out on loan will herald a signing or two.

The midfield trio of Dobson, Morgan and Fraser was also if not predictable not especially surprising. And we saw the fluidity at is best for our first goal, when Sessegnon did well and found Clare, who moved it on to Morgan. Accrington allowed him both to run a long way with it and to be able to time to perfection the pass to Jaiyesimi on the right. As Stockley took their defender with him, creating space, the low ball back was just right for Fraser to run on to. It was an excellent goal, hope to see many more like it. Again, my surprise was that when we were coming under the cosh more in the second half changes were not made.

Up front, my feeling is that if Aneke isn’t available, as on Saturday, it works against starting with Leaburn as one of the three. Basically from the bench he can either be needed to replace Stockley or to alter the options either side of him, but if he started there would be nobody available for such a change (presumably if he started Leaburn could move central if something happened to Stockley but there would be no real goal threat from the bench). That gave Jaiyesimi an opportunity. His played his part in our first, he also put over the bar a delightful first-half cross – and as was pointed out after the game by Brown would simply not have been an option for the lofted ball in for Leaburn to score our second. So a mixed bag. CBT was a massive threat once more, able to turn on the gas and breeze past his opposite number, without turning this into goals.

So overall I’d say plenty still to work on, still obvious areas we need to strengthen. Still concerns over the overall abilities of those selected and the mix, still a need to get better at the style of play BG wants. For me it all adds up to a team/squad which has the potential to compete for promotion but isn’t hitting the ground running.


Plenty To Be Pleased About

Time for us to be the underdog yesterday, despite the record of recent years. Portsmouth, having done what every club says it intends/wants ...