Dom Roman – @DomRoman
Well it might have been flipping freezing last Saturday at the Bob Lucas Stadium, but that performance from the Gulls warmed our cockles – not to mention the fabulous support from the travelling Yellow Army. For me it was just sweet to get a change of scenery, catch up with some familiar faces and enjoy a rare away day. Job done on all fronts, and a must-win game…won, no wonder that Gary Johnson looked equal parts relieved and delighted afterwards. Onwards we go, back to Plainmoor and with the Hatters visiting. Pre-match Talking Points – Stockport County (h):
BEATING A GOOD TEAM
Six wins this season for the Gulls, but all six gained against teams in the lower reaches of the National League (and going by Weymouth’s 90 minutes last Saturday, they’ll do well to avoid the drop back to the National League South). United haven’t been able to outmuscle any of the better teams, and we need that to change quickly – with Stockport, Yeovil and Eastleigh fixtures coming very soon. Last Saturday’s shape and positivity in our play gives cause for optimism for this game. County will be much more aggressive than Weymouth, encroach on the space around Armani Little and move our defence around far more frequently, so it’s up to the team to show they can respond to adversity and push back, gaining territorial advantage in the trenches of midfield and imposing themselves. Rolling our sleeves up and showing that a good team still resides at Plainmoor, a challenge awaits.
TUFC DEFENCE V STOCKPORT ATTACK
Stockport’s squad is on paper at least, one of the best in the league, and has been assembled with a budget that Gary Johnson can only dream of down at Plainmoor. Dave Challinor has brought a fresh attacking approach to County since his controversial arrival, and that was especially noticeable in the end-to-end FA Cup matches versus Bolton Wanderers. At the focal point of their attack is wily ex-Barrow striker Scott Quigley who has bagged 7 goals this season, whilst other options include lively partners in Paddy Madden and Alex Reid. United themselves moved to 3 at the back last Saturday and whether GJ sticks to that or reverts back to a 4, the likes of Joe Lewis, Ben Wynter and Dean Moxey will have to be on top form to keep County out. A fantastic battle ahead that hopefully brings the best out of United’s rear-guard.
THE LINE UP
Is it a matter of sticking with the line-up that finished last Saturday, with Armstrong and O’Connell replacing Holman and Moore? The line-up this season has been almost impossible to predict, with injuries occurring out of nowhere and players suddenly returning without warning. The 3-5-2 worked well at Weymouth, gave us a suitable balance in midfield (see TP4!) and also width with Dan Martin a willing runner on the left. With Connor Lemonheigh-Evans back and Jack Sparkes arriving on loan, plus Harry Perritt and Danny Wright perhaps fit to feature, the gaffer has options to shuffle things if he wants to. Even allowing for unpredictable line-ups, Sinclair Armstrong will surely start upfront, his pace on the counter attack could be a trump card for us as Stockport push to dominate possession, whilst on the other side of the coin winger Byron Moore still looked well short of fitness. CLE normally walks into a Gulls line-up if fit but I’m not sure that’ll be the case this time. Decisions, decisions!
The midfield has chopped and changed all season (like the rest of the team to be honest). At Weymouth there was a stronger balance, as Asa Hall held his position in the centre and dictated things, whilst Tom Lapslie dashed around and pressurised the opposition, and Armani Little buzzed merrily forward and found holes in the Terras’ defence. Without Asa Hall, Lapslie and Little’s strongpoints were not weighed out by midfield security, but suddenly with the skipper fit, more structure and shape ruled, making the team look better all-round. Three good players complimenting each other. Now Connor Lemonheigh-Evans will be pushing for a recall, but can Armani and Connor compliment each other in the midfield or will that balance be lost? If CLE only finds a place in the bench I’m sure he’ll be raring to get on, and more quality on the bench will be a bonus.
WRIGHT ON TIME
It sounds like Danny Wright could well return to the squad this Saturday, which is excellent news. The striker had a frustrating start to the season, scoring a memorable goal away at Notts County, but finding little joy otherwise. The veteran will bring his leadership back to the dressing room and real presence upfront if required. It’ll be interesting to see how Gary Johnson uses Wrighty. A partnership with Sinclair Armstrong could be tempting for the gaffer, but the Gulls have to be wary of going route one with the football, as our best stuff is played on the deck. Anyway the more the merrier for this squad, and I wouldn’t bet against Danny making some kind of big impact against Stockport – he’s that sort of player.
If we could bottle the Yellow Army’s noise and positivity from last weekend, then we’d be in business! At Plainmoor it would be great if we found more atmosphere to spur the team on, as we’ve seen how that can help. Let’s try our best to generate what we can, this is a tough fixture but with some momentum gathered and the likes of Joe Lewis, Armani Little and Sinclair Armstrong finding form, who knows. See you there.
COYY – Dom
A CLASSIC ENCOUNTER – STOCKPORT COUNTY (H) 2006 by Danny Burnell
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