I said goals/fun OR end of season boredom! After a somewhat promising start it faded into the latter, a shame but when there’s nothing to play for apart from pride then perhaps it’s inevitable. I think we all had hopes and dreams of 29th May being THE day when captain fantastic Asa Hall got hold of the National League trophy. Instead he ended up playing 45 minutes of footie before being rested for the play offs. Let’s hope the skipper gets another chance to pick up silverware.
Anyway let’s discuss some talking points from the exhilarating…I mean dull scoreless draw at Moss Lane…
1 – PLAN B
The main talking point when the line-up was released was the positioning of Kyle Cameron upfront. We’ve seen glimpses of the Geordie in this position at Stockport and at home versus Barnet, but whilst that was emergency ‘kitchen sink’ mode, this was something different. Without Danny Wright available, Waters, Boden and Umerah were ignored for a centre back who’d previously played upfront in his youth career. Boden may be ruled out of a semi-final if Chesterfield are the opposition, but there’s no such reasoning for the rest, and they will disappointed at apparently falling down the pecking order to a defender. To be fair to Kyle he did his upmost to influence the game; fighting hard for every long ball, providing some neat link-up play and almost scoring in the second half – so the experiment was not a failure as such. I’d rather see him shouting from the back though! GJ explained later he wanted a physical presence and Cam has certainly got that. Could he start there in the play-off semi-final? Perhaps.
2 – ARMANI LITTLE
In recent weeks we’ve needed a bit more from all the players, but especially Armani Little. Whenever Armani has been fit this season he has played, with Gary Johnson stoic in his loyalty for the midfielder and always fitting him into this Gulls team. Unfortunately the results overall have just not been good enough. Not for want of trying I may add, Little’s work rate is fine and he never shies from the action, but alongside Asa Hall in central midfield he just doesn’t seem physically strong or confidence enough to help us dominate. He’d probably prefer to take a role just behind the striker, but with CLE excelling there the spot is taken, whilst a couple of appearances on the wing were only notable for how uncomfortable he looked. There’s been moments and minutes in games where Armani has pressed and passed with aplomb (that assist versus Barnet was a beauty), but it’s been too fleeting. The stats show only 1 goal and 2 assists this season, with his quality this should be more. Against Altrincham he didn’t make much of an impression – more is required in the play-offs. Time for GJ’s loyalty to be rewarded.
3 – THE PLAY-OFF SCENARIO
I can’t lie, the format of these NL play offs do not fill me with confidence. Sure the 4th to 7th placed teams have another game, and they may pick up injuries or suspensions, but the winners will also pick up momentum and proper match sharpness that we won’t. It would be preferable if these first games were mid-week and then we played next weekend I’d say, but we’ll just have to deal with the cards as they’ve been dealt. Gary Johnson’s experience will be vital during these two weeks. He’ll have to find the right mix between rest and training intensity for the lads and I’m sure they’ll be a practice match thrown in. No switching off, this is a massive game coming up and we’ll need to come out of the blocks flying.
4 – THE SEASON
Whatever happens now, we have had a very good season and the squad should be proud of their efforts. Of course, anything else other than promotion will be disappointing, but the National League is a tough one to get out of…just ask Wrexham! It’s been a hectic 8 months of Saturday/Tuesday double headers galore, no supporters for the main and our smallish squad has been stretched to the limit by numerous injuries. An emotionally draining season all round. At one point it looked like we could end up a few places lower, but the lads rolled up their sleeves and showed heart to turn things around. Can we finish the job at Plainmoor and then on 20th June at Ashton Gate? I think so (especially if Wright and Whits return), but one-off play-off games can also throw up anything. We shall see…