Harry Lovering – @HLovering1999
Harry discusses some of the talking points from the draw against Havant and Waterlooville
Well, it is FA Cup time again and the time of the year where United fans up and down the country dream of a big FA cup run that would bring some unexpected excitement to Plainmoor. United haven’t had much success in the competition over the past decade as we all well know. A loss at home to Harrogate back in 2012 when they were in the Conference North and United were in League 2 was probably a lowlight: how times change, with Harrogate now a league above United! A series of defeats to our close neighbours Boreham Wood and Aldershot followed. The Gulls have reached the first round for the past three seasons under GJ but have bowed out at that stage on all three occasions, losing to Crawley 5-6 in last seasons behind closed doors thriller, to Maidstone 1-0 the year before, and at home to Woking 0-1 in 2019.
However, it’s not all been bad! United have experienced some not too recent success in the FA Cup, reaching the 4th round proper in 2011, when a tough, then conference, Crawley side beat us 0-1 thanks to a Matt Tubbs half-volley to progress on to play Man United in round 5. We aren’t the luckiest with draws either in the competition. Both Exeter and Argyle, albeit bigger sides themselves, have experienced the likes of Liverpool on their playing surfaces over recent years. United, however, have not been so lucky. So, this season is a new one and brings with it a fresh opportunity for another potential FA Cup run for United. A little run to round 3 and a big prem side would do….
New additions not a replacement for summer departures
I hate to start on a negative point but after yesterday’s performance it is hard not to! Something that has become even more evident to many United fans over recent weeks has been the gaps left by the likes of Whitfield, Nemane, Sherring, Randell, Cameron and Covolan. These gaps have not been filled by some of our new recruits this summer. It has certainly not been the case of like for like swaps in the transfer period and United are paying the price for some of the recruitment. The biggest gaps that haven’t been filled are a solid centre half and wingers. We lack any sort of creativity out wide this season and often don’t have an outlet on the pitch to pass it out wide and put in dangerous crosses when required. The same can be said for the centre half position: we lack any sort of composure to keep the ball and fail to put in a tackle when required, often simply standing off our men. Lewis is a good defender, but without Cameron or Sherring appears more ‘on edge’. It is that communication we miss and any sort of direction.
Our new strikers, Holman and Lolos, have also failed to hit the ground running. I would largely put this down to the ‘one upfront’ formation not working and the style of play (mainly hoofball) not helping them. However, another primary reason for their failure to hit the net has been our lack of ability and confidence to get the ball into dangerous areas. This lies mainly with our attacking midfielders and wingers who have failed to provide what is required this season in terms of good balls forward and quality deliveries. United seem to always be on the back foot in games and sit far too deep for most of the match, often meaning there is never more than one striker up at any one time, thus having no one to pass it off to once the ball has been held up.
Another important sub-point to make is our more experienced players this season seem to have gone missing. The likes of Asa, Danny and Moxey who were crucial to large parts of United’s success last season have really struggled this season to get the team going. Moxey has had to play out of position and has had some decent games here and there. Danny, obviously currently injured, doesn’t seem to have had much involvement so far even when he is on the pitch. But does this beg the question, like Holman, of a lack of creativity and chance deprivation? And as much as I like and respect Asa, most of the season he’s looked to be ‘running in treacle’. This lack of quality from our more experienced men has been a major concern for me this season. I keep asking myself if they’ve been dragged down by the quality (or lack of) from some of the new recruits in training. But, then again, it shouldn’t mean all their experience is thrown out the window…
Too slow on the ball…
This season United have been caught out several times for being too slow on the ball. This was clear in yesterday’s performance again. It hinders United’s ability to counter-attack as we don’t get the ball out wide or into space quick enough. Instead, we either get caught out and tackled or pass it into a bunched area of the pitch where there is no chance of ‘escape’. We are also too slow at passing it out from the back, catching us out or with our attempts getting intercepted. Our quick, passing and moving game, from last season is no more and we have returned to the dreaded ‘hoofball’ of the Owers era. This is not the GJ way to play but I don’t believe the players we have can play quick pass and move football on the deck.
A key role for Lolos
Amongst all the doom and gloom mentioned so far, there was some glimpses of hope for us yesterday. When Lolos emerged onto the field of play, he brought energy and determination to take the ball forward and attack the space. He might be a bit ‘rabbit in headlights’ at the current time but if that energy is channelled in the right way, then he could be a real attacking asset for United this season. I would like to see Lolos playing alongside either Danny (when he’s back) or Holman with a two-up front. This might give Holman the back-up he needs and can allow for a man to run on to the flick ons. The look of disappointment when clapping the fans on the pop at the end was clear to see: he certainly gives his all and cares for the club which can go a long way sometimes!
The return of Jake Andrews!
What was clearly promising and put a smile on many United fans faces yesterday was the return of Jake Andrews. Not only did he score what should have been a crucial goal, but he also knows how to strike a dead ball from a set piece- something which has been lacking in United’s ranks over recent months. Welcome back Jake!
United’s lack of ability to hold onto a lead
I think we all witnessed this again yesterday. United simply cannot hold what they have! A major concern was the narrow 3-4 win at Maidenhead, after being 0-4 up at half time. This season we appear to switch off after scoring one or two goals and it’s not only our inconsistency between games that’s the main concern, its our inconsistency within games as well. We really didn’t deserve to lead 2-1 with a matter of minutes remaining, but especially in the cup you take it and move on. What a nightmare for United to now travel to Havant on a wet and potentially cold Wednesday night. United will certainly not be looking forward to the thought of a disappointing evening there and it will have certainly been thrown away if they do lose.
So, a trip to Havant it is on Wednesday evening. United must forget the events of Saturday and go out to win the game. After all a trip to Charlton awaits in round 1! What a trip that could be…