Dom Roman – @DomRoman
The momentum continues, even if not many people were there to see it! Travel club coach cancelled, train strike, destination arduous – it all added up to a meagre 470 in attendance last Saturday, as the boys took care of business with a professional performance up at Brightlingsea. This season is like an ongoing geography lesson at times, where each away trip is viewed with a “Where exactly is that?” and the Yellow Army speculate on just how early they’ll have to leave the house for their journey. A low turn-out is a shame for the home team, who would have hoped for a bumper gate to boost the remainder of their season.
I set ourselves a target to cover every TUFC game this season and we’re still on track…just! Regular travel club passenger Harry Lovering kindly stepped in to cover proceedings and reported back for us on Sunday…after he had dried off. The young lad has not missed a United fixture for 2 and a half years! A quite remarkable record considering our depressingly poor record during that time. Full respect to the lad for making the effort time and time again; you can question his sanity but not his total loyalty to his club. People like Harry are the life-blood of our football club.
Let’s delve into the tactics board this week. Gary Johnson decided to shift back to a 3-5-2 in Essex and it paid dividends. As I had hoped, Niate was reinstated back into the defence and once again became the focal point of the centre back three. I think every defence needs a dominating centre back who will literally attack and win everything in the air that comes his way – Niate is one of those players. He’s not the fastest on the deck, but in the middle of that unit he should have protection from both sides against nippy strikers.
On Saturday he was surrounded by Sendles-White and Cameron. Kyle is a starting ever-present this season (along with Asa and Liam) and one of the main reasons for the team keeping 9 clean sheets in only 13 matches. That is a very good record when you think about it, even if it’s against NLS opposition (and worse). JSW is trying to rebuild confidence here after a tough couple of years, and looked shaky against Woking a couple of weeks ago. A 3-5-2 works for him as well, a player who likes to get on the ball and ease forward into midfield.
No disrespect to Jamie, but my preference would be to move Big George Essuman back into the line-up. I think the defensive balance between Jean/George/Kyle has been our best in 2018/19 so far and defender/midfielder Sendles will be a handy option to have on the bench. Behind them Shaun MacDonald gets a chance to shine and it’ll be a decent test for him against Eastbourne, a team who have started the season solidly.
Into the midfield and the word balance comes into play again (it’s one of my favourite footballing terms!). Jake Andrews looked uneasy on the wing versus Woking, by my reckoning he will influence play much more in the centre and that’s how he was lined up in the Cup. I’d like to see him get close to the strikers and look to link up around the box, plus boost numbers in the danger zone and notch some goals – the talent is there to do all that and more. In six appearances so far for United, the Bristol City man has six assists and two goals to his name (thanks to Torquay Stats for that!), quite a start to life at Plainmoor I think you’ll agree!
Behind Jake on Saturday was Lemonheigh-Evans and Asa Hall. CLE was brought on against Woking and quickly instilled a new level of calmness and authority to a previously flustered midfield. Hall has really struggled with distribution, but Connor will take that weight off his shoulders and allow the skipper to concentrate on his own game rather than making passes his skill-levels do not allow. He’s also a constant danger on set pieces, seemingly always dodging his marker to get a run on goal. Asa has three goals already this season and there’s no reason he can’t get at least 10 before the end of April. The three of CLE/Asa/Andrews gives us a nice balance of commitment, energy, skill and goals – it looks a winner to me.
Upfront something sparked when Saikou Janneh arrived on the scene at Plainmoor the other week. Ok we had scored seven to pummel Lymington, but for all of Keating and Reidy’s first half toil – we looked desperately blunt against a confident Woking FC team. Saikou’s movement gave the Cards different problems. Pacey and full of enthusiasm – the front two were an instant hit and there should really have been more than 2 goals to show for it. You could tell Reidy appreciated the unselfish work from his partner and profited with goals. I’d still love a target man to add to the mix, but this combination could tear it up in the weeks to come.
I doubt it will be much longer before the squad is revamped further, who knows we might even sign someone who isn’t a Bristol City U-23! GJ is getting to grips with who is up for the battle ahead and who isn’t. Bobson Bawling has been shipped out to Bath (not a bad move for him), whilst the HE reports that Chris Regis will be allowed to leave. Is Chris related to the late great Cyril Regis? Going by his lame performances it doesn’t look like it. Another player who could face the exit door is Jason Banton. I asked a Woking FC fan to comment before the big game and they said “Just don’t ask me about Banton” – clearly the guy made a bad impression there and he’s so far done no better at Plainmoor.
Why did these guys get signed in the first place? You’d have to ask Gary Owers. I get the feeling Gary was more interested in their footballing CV, than they’re actual state of mind in joining our club. We need players who are focussed and motivated, what will talent achieve if they don’t care. We had the same problem last season with the likes of Josh McQuoid and Rhys Murphy – three goals between the two of them and two total recruitment duds when we needed results.
My only issue at the moment is the lack of home games, and the home draw against Winchester was more than welcome. We simply don’t seem to have played much and now Johnson is in charge, the demand will be there to see our boys in action. Eastbourne away will be a test this weekend. Borough fan David Bauckham is answering qs on ‘The Sports’ this week for TT and even he is surprised by how well they are doing! Look out for his interview later in the week, as the site keeps busy. It’s another 90 minutes where Gary will ask the guys to put a shift in and hope the full-time quality of the squad will shine through. I’m quietly optimistic another three points will be in the bag come 5pm to keep the momentum flowing.
FINAL WORD: It’s not only been a positive period on the pitch for the GJ’s men, but also the Youth and Ladies teams. The Under-18s progressed in the FA Youth Cup and now face Yate Town in the next round, well done to the guys for getting the job done again. The ladies meanwhile got a much-needed victory with a 7-1 win over Downend Flyers (see below), they’ve had some bad set-backs already this season – but hopefully this a turning point for Jamie McInnes and the team. I’ll be heading to Plainmoor this Friday for the TUST legends event. With the likes of TUFC legends Kevin Hill, Mark Loram and Colin Lee turning up (plus TT’s Sam Druiff helping to organise) it’s sure to be a terrific evening, and I hope to see plenty of the wonderful Yellow Army in attendance.