Matt Roberts – @MatthewVA438
Matt blogs about the game at Plainmoor
A FAMILIAR FOE RETURNS
Yep, after a bit of a lull last season, the customary injury crisis has come early this year. Jarvis, Donnellan, Martin and Lapslie were all absent from the squad before the start of the game, but our incoming physio would find another couple of additions to his list of patients upon taking up the job this week. Corie Andrews went off after less than 20 minutes with a hip injury following a crunching tackle, whilst a clash of heads ended a dazed Ali Omar’s game in the second half (not to mention Evans going off at half time). Worrying times already, particularly upfront where, unfortunately, we looked toothless with Olaf the only striking option on the bench to replace Andrews. Depending on the severity, Gary may need to dip his toe into the loan market again.
WELCOME TO THE NATIONAL LEAGUE!
Oldham’s healthy away following (although not quite as high as predicted) will have been curious to see how their team would match in their first encounter with non-league opposition. To me there was little difference between the two sides. Both were capable of building play nicely from the back but neither could find the final ball. In Oldham’s case they should have scored on at least a couple of occasions but unfortunately for them they had left their shooting boots in Greater Manchester. They didn’t particularly distinguish themselves from the rest of the ex-league opposition we’ve seen at Plainmoor in recent years.
HALSTEAD ANSWERS CRITICS?
Maybe. As mentioned, Oldham’s shots on target tally was low and they failed to make Halstead work much during the 90 minutes. However, this was my first time seeing him between the sticks since early last season, and I noticed a difference. He was confident coming for balls and didn’t spill anything all afternoon. His best moment came in the dying minutes as Oldham were through on goal and he came charging out to execute an inch perfect tackle in the penalty area. Mistimed by a second and it would have been a spot kick. No way would the Halstead of last season have done that. Let’s just hope that his first mistake doesn’t result in the crowd getting on his back and his confidence falling through the floor.
Getting 70 plus minutes on the pitch was a fantastic opportunity for Olaf to really stake a claim in the squad after sporadic appearances since getting his first (and to date only) United goal three years ago at Chippenham. Unfortunately, the game passed him by. Himself and Goodwin as a pairing looked disjointed and lacking in co-ordination, a clear example being that they were way too far apart for much of the game.
I’m also still unsure of what Olaf’s role as a striker is. He’s not small and is well-built but lacks the physicality of someone like Danny Wright and struggles to hold the ball up. On the flipside he’s not particularly quick so can’t exploit gaps in behind and charge through on goal. Much of his time was spent having the ball booted up to him and trying to lay it off to Goodwin, with less than stellar results. When Jarvis and Andrews are fit, you’d imagine Olaf will be shipped out to Dorchester again.
LET’S TAKE A BREATH
From some of the comments on the forums, Facebook groups and on Twitter yesterday, you’d think this was an apocalyptic performance with no redeeming aspects. I’m not sure what some people are expecting but this was the first game of the season with an almost entirely new squad who are still getting to know each other and gel as a team. Compare this opening day with that of last season and the difference is night and day.
I don’t think it’s unfair to say that we were on top for the majority of the game, other than the 20 minutes before half time. We grew into the game and once we started passing it around and using the width afforded us by Crowe and Wyatt, things started to look a bit more positive. Granted there were few clear-cut opportunities but considering the key players we had missing by the end; I’m not displeased by the result. We matched Oldham fairly well and if we can get our injured players back, I’m excited to see what we can do.