A feisty opener to the season sees us battle hard against a promotion chasing Tranmere team, but fail to capitalise on two second half red cards for Rovers. There isn’t many chances over the 90 minutes, with the away team hitting the woodwork twice and Klukowski going close near the end. All in all an entertaining game in front of a noisy crowd that the ref struggles to control, and one which ends in a deserved point for either side.
Higgins 7 Gowling 8 McGinty 7 Chaney 7
Young 7 Klukowski 6 Lathrope 6 Gosling 7
Pittman 6 Keating 6
Subs: Gray 6 Reid 7 Lee 6
Man of the Match:
As wanted lists go, an experienced centre back to boss the defence has been top of mine for a while. Josh fits the bill and has an excellent game today. He takes up the right positions, helps out Sean where possible and simply gets the job done in unfussy manner. The big man is also a threat on set pieces, and I expect he’ll notch a few as the season progresses. More than solid stuff, and the whole defence has a sound game against tricky opposition.
The Tactics Board:
Dare I say it but width is going to be a talking point again! Nico plays a diamond in midfield to start with – Luke is charged with covering the right hand side (I would always rather he was central), whilst Gosling floats behind the strikers showing his skills. Meanwhile Ruairi and JP charge back to help out the full backs when necessary. Later on the formation changes to 4-4-2 with the arrival of Reid and Lee on the wings. Work in progress!
Tranmere Rovers are a similar team to last season’s game at Plainmoor, and take away the same result! Upfront Alabi is strong on the ball and has plenty of help around him from the likes of Norwood. Meanwhile their full backs motor up the flanks at every opportunity. At times they look like they will beat us comfortably, but we are up for the fight and hold our ground. Credit to Rovers they actually threaten more after going down to 10 men, and are clearly going to be force again in the National League (as well they should be!).
Well what can I say about todays Ref! He has a bit of a nightmare at times today, missing clear fouls in the first half and booking Damon for very little. Then Buxton crunches Sam in the second and he doesn’t even intend to give a foul – unbelievable! Thankfully the linesman is more alert, but still no yellow for him. That challenge means the game boils over and so do some of the Rovers and United players. He gets rid of McNulty soon after; then at least catches Norwood out for a nasty challenge on Josh. Overall a poor refereeing performance, he better hope the referee assessor wasn’t watching!
The main moment in the game has to be a minute of madness at the start of the second half, where their right back lunges at Chaney and then McNulty gets into a dispute with Ruairi about the tackle and gets his marching orders. Sam is lucky not to be injured, and the defender’s tackle would have surely received at least a yellow card (if not a red) from many other officials. In the end the red card doesn’t benefit United as we hope it will, but it’s definitely the main talking point!
The words Sam Chaney and left back have been muttered quizzically my many United supporters this season. However hold on, Sam is actually doing a pretty good job! He is doing well positionally, tidying up where necessary, winning the ball and also distributing quite well. I don’t think it’ll be enough to keep Davis out of the team (once he gets fit), but Sam deserves some plaudits for doing the job admirably.
The game hasn’t changed my pre-season thinking much, in fact it’s reinforced it – we are going to be tougher to play against and tougher to beat. But…can we score the goals necessary to pull up trees in this league? Time will tell I guess, maybe we’ll be more potent away from home on the counter attack – the Aldershot and Gateshead games will be a good test of that.
Aldershot Away 8th August 7.45 KO