Another Saturday, another 90 minutes filled with initial promise and a positive energy, but finishing with exasperation and frustration. I’m sure people were saying that 2021 was going to be better? Well not if you’re a Gulls fan! The season still has plenty of legs in it and a few chapters remaining to be written, but it’s becoming more difficult to stay optimistic as United stretch and struggle to regain the vim and vigour of early season (or what’s unofficially called ‘pre-Danny Wright injury’). I’ll try my best though…let’s do this.
1 – Season Defining Moments
All seasons have defining moments that spur a team onto the promised land or leave a disappointing mark that just does not fade. I hope Asa Hall’s first half penalty miss doesn’t end up fitting in the latter category. In truth I feared the worst as the skipper stepped up. Once you’ve missed one as Hall did at Woking, then the next one suddenly becomes mentally that little bit more difficult. And let’s face it, the goal looked quite small with that sizeable and very pink goalkeeper stood in the middle of it! It’s all ifs and buts, however United really needed that big chance converted and the rather tame effort summed up our displays in recent weeks. No finishing touch.
We’ve all shouted this in recent weeks haven’t we? The scene is all too familiar. The ball is smartly cajoled to the edge of the box, no problems there. The ball is then passed sideways to a team mate. The ball is then passed again sideways to another team mate. The ball is lost to the opposition defence, who start a counter attack. Who is taking responsibility for testing the goalkeeper and making themselves the hero; winning the match and keeping this title dream alive and kicking? Stop shilly-shallying around as my dad used to say (in fact he probably still does) and have a pop. It’s simple I know and extra passes have contrived to find us some lovely goals this season, but we need less intricacy and more direct authority. The best teams score goals in all kinds of manners. At the moment that knack is lost and it’s increasingly infuriating to watch. Touch and hit son!
3 – Midfield Runners
Ex-captain courageous Chris Hargreaves mentioned in his analysis that nether team were throwing enough men into the box, and I’d have to agree with him. With Sutton continuing to win now is not the time to be too cautious and I think we have to try and create more chaos and confusion in the opposition’s penalty area. Sir Alex was a master of this at Man U years ago, furiously exerting his charges to get in there where it counts and somehow force a winner. It doesn’t feel like we’ll turn this form around by being careful and eeking out tactically defensive wins. Time for more adventure and attacking bravado from the Gulls (and I don’t mean bringing Matt Buse on after 60 minutes..no offence Matt), starting against Maidenhead on Tuesday night.
4 – Lack Of Faith In The B-Team
There’s no doubting that we’ve improved this season. We’re in contention, we haven’t suffered losing runs comparable to late 2019 and at worst the play-offs surely beckon. But a factor that is repeating uncomfortably from 2019-20 is the lack of faith Gary Johnson seems to have with a number of his squad players. Just as in 2019 the injuries have been painfully abundant and the replacements have either not been up to the task, or barely given the opportunity by the gaffer. The likes of Max Sheaf and Rob Street looked like they could be suitable impact signings, but after some non-descript appearances neither made the bench at Boreham. Josh Umerah did come on, but so late it didn’t have any affect – ditto for Olaf Koszela who must wonder when his chance will come. With the likes of Whits and CLE struggling, we’ve needed others to step up. At the moment it feels like we’re just clinging on for injured players to return, and who knows when that will be.
5 – No Deadly Duos
Something else repeating itself from season 2019-20? Strike partnerships not working. On Saturday as GJ switched to a 3-5-2, it was Boden and Waters combining, and the two just didn’t click. Billy Waters was certainly getting the majority of the stick on social media, but in Billy’s defence he was busy and involved outside the box. The problem is that just isn’t his game (he can’t pass is what I really mean…). Billy is a player who thrives inside the penalty area rather than out of it. Meanwhile Boden looked like a man still trying to find sharpness after a few months out, not a lot fell his way and much like the team, he faded as the game went on. Danny Wright may not be far off fitness, but in the meantime Gary Johnson must find an harmonious attack that can win us games – at the moment I just don’t know what that looks like.
6 – Getter Better
Non League football pre-Gary Johnson – Mid-table, Great Escape, Great Escape, Relegation. Non League Football post-Gary Johnson – Promotion, Mid-Table, Promotion Challenge. It is hard to keep positive at the moment as the Gulls flounder, but just keep in mind what we dealt with before GJ came along. Dark days of struggle, toxic atmospheres, agonising defeats and Gary Owers! Boreham Wood have a good team and a highly rated manager, but they languish in the middle of the National League and would love to swap places with us. Hang tight, I’m not saying there won’t be more struggles ahead, but we’ve got the right man in charge to still make this season successful.