Two positives to take from yesterday’s game – three if we include Dean Holden signing his contract (in the wake of Maynard-Brewer extending his). First, a point at home against Accrington Stanley at least means the gap to the relegation zone is not narrowed; second, another round is ticked off, another step closer to the end of this bloody awful season. As for the game, either side could have nicked it, neither deserved to, we deserved to less than they did. That our point came curtesy of a stupendous strike from long range if anything only served to underline our inability to create and score in a more normal fashion. I suppose we should include as another positive the simple fact that we scored, after four previous blanks.
With the series of games against teams at the top over and Inniss seemingly unavailable (due to the effect of a dental operation), we switched back to a 4-3-3, with Blackett-Taylor returning and Leaburn given the central forward slot rather than Bonne, who was back on the bench, while no return for Fraser meant Kilkenny and Payne accompanying Dobson in midfield.
The opening spell boiled down to whether CBT’s ability to skin his opposite number would be translated into a goal or two for us. It didn’t, although Accrington almost obliged as a cross from him was headed by a defender against his own bar. Accrington looked workmanlike but limited. Nevertheless, they took the lead before the half-hour with a truly awful goal (from our perspective). Clare did well to keep the ball in play but emerging on our left side played a poor pass out of defence which was latched onto. A cross to the far post – where Clare was not to be found – still seemed to carry no danger, being too high for their guy to do much with. He managed to get enough on it for the ball to look back across goal. Inexplicably none of ours went to meet the ball, or their player standing and waiting for it to eventually come down. He was left to plant a header into the net, unchallenged and without having to jump for it, in a central position just a few yards from our goalline. Truly dire defending.
A sour mood could have turned decidedly ugly as Accrington came close to doubling their advantage, nobody managing to connect with a whipped cross from the right. We were getting increasingly frustrated, looking at a cacophony of boos at the break and surely some harsh words from Holden. Just to show how difficult it was becoming, when Sessegnon got the ball on the left and cut inside, some distance from goal, he appeared to shape to shoot. Like everyone else I thought for crying out loud don’t shoot from there, we aren’t (yet) that desperate. But he did. And as it left his boot we started to get interested. Their keeper, like the rest of us, was taken by surprise and reacted far too late to be able to influence the outcome. With a late bend inside it found the far top corner of the net. As pointed out by others, our two goal of the season contenders so far have been super strikes from full-backs.
The goal changed a great deal going into the break. Another game where you felt we could and should play better and that by kicking on we would take the points. Instead in a very mixed second half Accrington had more and better chances than us to win the game. That neither team converted one said a great deal about the quality on display.
We were grateful for a double save from Maynard-Brewer, turning a shot aside then the follow-up effort over the bar, a goalline clearance from Dobson (whose performance perhaps summed up the game, a great interception and other good work, some wayward passes, and a yellow card which was followed by a couple of fouls which might have produced another), and their forward’s failure to convert a one-on-one, allowing Sessegnon to get back to block. For us Payne fizzed in a couple of set pieces which somehow eluded everyone, Kanu (on for Payne just after the hour, which with Morgan replacing Kilkenny at roughly the same time involved some rejigging) was unable to make much of a long ball which found him outside the box but with only the keeper between him and the goal, and before seven minutes of stoppage time were up a low cross from the left from Campbell (who had replaced a tired and injured Rak-Sakyi) which nobody could get a touch on.
Next up we travel to Morecambe then on Saturday the somewhat shorter trip to Cambridge. Morecambe haven’t won in their last four, Cambridge in at least their last five. But then neither have we.