Matty Hayward puts the Yellow world to rights
Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
This week, the National League released a statement about the future of the season, containing a series of (sometimes weighted, sometimes democratically equal) votes, resolutions, and thresholds. Not only did this statement make little-to-no sense, it was also tedious in the extreme. To my mind, nothing could be more mind-numbingly dull than trying to pick over the possible consequences of what a man in a suit in King’s Lynn and a man in a suit in Woking and a man in a suit in Chesterfield and a man in a suit in Chester think about football administration.
I know it’s important, and I care about it because I want football to continue, but don’t expect me to try to predict the outcome of a board meeting in Weymouth. I’ll let them get on with it, then either be sad that football is stopping or happy that it’s continuing. So here I am again, peering over the shoulder of the elephant in the room, to bring you the talking points from our last two games.
Swatting The Bees Aside
We start with a focus on Saturday. It was important that, off the back of two goalless draws against two good teams, United turned up and stamped their authority on basement-dwellers Barnet. Barnet were in a dreadful run of form, having just been beaten 3-1 by fellow-dreadful-football-team Dover. This was not a potential banana skin, this was a potential banana skin that had been doused in baby oil and chucked on an icy pavement. Every fibre of my being was telling me we’d balls this up, because we’re Torquay United.
But we didn’t. We probably didn’t play at our best, but were comfortably the better team throughout. MacDonald had no saves to make, we scored two superb goals (could/should have had two more), and the last twenty minutes were a joyous carnival of possession football with more passes than a bad contestant on The Chase. More importantly, we’d gone into a game that we should win, and won!
Four Central Midfielders, Gary? Four? That’s Insane
Alternative subheading: Oh, Gary, Where’s The Striker?
The headline is, we didn’t pick a striker for Tuesday’s defeat to Altrincham. Connor Lemonheigh-Evans was the furthest forward of our midfield six, with Rob Street “rested”, Billy Waters keeping his bench berth, and Josh Umerah missing out completely. It’s fair to say this didn’t work. Without a physical focal point, the Gulls looked lost and unthreatening in possession, while Alty’s defenders seemed more than content to beat us in the air or shrug us off the ball.
The big tactical flaw, for me, was the misuse of The Lemon. This season he has demonstrated that his best position is as a number 10. It allows him room to dribble directly at defenders, create chances for teammates, and get on the end of things. He is everything you want in that role. Last night, he played there for a total of 30 seconds – the gap between Billy Waters coming on and Rob Street coming on. I think that is an error.
That said, I’m not sure how much blame you can give Johnson for this performance. Everyone in the team was poor. He brought on two strikers after an hour (arguably too late) but they also had no impact. The Yellow midfield created zilch all evening, and were seemingly indiscriminate as to who received their passes. Players who we know are great technicians at this level – Nemane, Whitfield, Little, Lemon, Randell, Andrews – all regularly gave possession away with either a poor touch or a wayward ball. The goal aside, the set-piece delivery was gallingly bad. At the back, too, we had so little to do yet we still contrived to give away a needless penalty, give their winger more Plainmoor real estate than Clarke Osborne would know what to do with, let them hit the bar, and have two goals (somewhat fortunately) ruled out. Most of this came after their best player had left the field. I’m not so sure what difference picking a different striker from the start would’ve made.
I’m tempted to suggest that if that performance happens five times, it’s the manager’s fault. If it happens once, it can be put down to a collective stinker.
No Wright Answer
As I say, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if Robert Lewandowski or Robert Peston had played up front for us on Tuesday because the whole team was so poor and no chances were created. That said, we are of course missing Danny Wright. Apart from giving his son a middle name of “9”, Wright is basically perfect. He’s certainly perfect for the forward role in Gary’s current system, and it’s a role that few are good enough to perform. In the five games since Wright got injured against Yeovil, we’ve started four different players up front (Street, Umerah, Waters, Lemon).
You can broadly categorise those players into two groups: those who do the same job as Wright but not as well (Street; Umerah), and those who do a different job to Wright which isn’t the job we need doing in this team (Waters; Lemon). I don’t know what the solution is. If we’re to rule out signings for the minute, the answer that most appeals to me is to just give one of the target men a proper run in the team. We’ve seen that this system clearly works, so let’s give someone a chance to get settled into the system rather than changing our striker every week.
It’s All Fine
There’s always more to say when we lose, so a blog called “talking points” is always going to sound more critical than it needs to. It’s important to have a reality check.
Football teams sometimes lose games. That will happen. We’ve lost four of our 21 (19%); last season Barrow lost 9 out of 37 (24%) and pissed the league. There is no need to panic.
There’s also a strange impulse of all football fans (myself included) to look at a table, see a game in hand, and automatically add three points to that team’s total. It doesn’t work like that in any season, but especially in a season where fixture lists will become increasingly congested and squads will be stripped to their bare bones, points on the board are even more valuable.
There is (hopefully) a long way to go in this season and we’ve got the best manager in the league: it’s all going to be fine!
COYY – Matty