Exceeded expectations, we have John Still as head of recruitment and the majority of our signings since he came in January 2022 have been outstanding. Boss Kevin Maher and his coaching team have moulded a side of younger, hungry players into a team we can, at last, be proud of.
A CLUB ON THE BRINK
The game with Torquay could very genuinely be our last ever match after 117 years of history. On March 1st we face an umpteenth winding up order under the current owner, but its much more serious this time. He must pay a reported £1.4m to HMRC on that day or that’s it we are done. He has been “securing” a bridging loan based on the new stadium project since October to sort the mess out, but it, as yet, has not materialised. As a result players and coaches haven’t been paid since the end of December and many other staff since November. Our current debt is said to be £40m and losing £2m a year although these are estimated as the owner has not submitted accounts since 2019.
We are down to the bare bones at the moment as we have been under transfer embargo for many months but somehow Maher has coaxed four straight league wins lately although this came to a jarring halt on Tuesday, perhaps unsurprisingly, at Notts County who are a fantastic side.
Youth team product Jack Bridge rejoined the club after being dumped by Phil Brown, and he has just been a joy to watch, your right back is in for some afternoon I can tell you! What is great is having a squad with their best years ahead of them rather than tired injury prone has beens that were just here to pick up a pay cheque.
Jack Bridge already mentioned has been mesmeric, and signings from lower down the non league pyramid like Ollie Kensdale, Harry Cardwell, Callum Powell, and particularly Gus Scott-Morriss dig in and play like their lives depend on it.
Kevin Maher is a Blues legend after 454 appearances as a player he lives and breathes the club, hard working and switched on he goes 5-3-2 with a high press and plenty of pace, goals have been spread amongst the team rather than one prolific scorer.
Two contracted keepers have been out for a while both injured so we have Blondy Nna Noukeu on loan from Stoke, and while a great shot stopper his mistakes have cost us vital points. Two key defensive regulars Kacper Lopata and skipper Nathan Ralph are likely to miss the game but other regulars Shaun Hobson and Ollie Kensdale form a pretty mean defence. Cav Miley, Bridge and Noor Husin are an outstanding midfield. Our problems currently lie upfront with Cardwell, Rhys Muprhy and Chris Wreh are all injured so Jake Hyde is likely to start although youth team player Henry Sandat scored within five minutes of his first start recently.
Clearly Notts County and Wrexham have the resources that set them apart from the rest of the field and you cannot look past the phenomenal scoring record of Macauley Langstaff at Notts. Would be quite amusing to see both of those sides exceed 100 points but one of them miss out in the play offs! A lot of sides resort to time wasting and feigning injuries which is frustrating, but there are some very good footballing sides in this division.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
We do lack a prolific scorer although Cardwell has found the net regularly when fit. The defence was the divisions meanest until the game on Tuesday when we shipped four at Notts County. The strengths are the togetherness and willingness to fight despite all the off field crap that have had to endure.
Our away support has been truly outstanding this season and many are genuinely fearful this will be out last ever game, mainly due to the lack of information coming from the owner. I would expect in excess of 500 making the trip to Plainmoor.
If Torquay are not on their game it could be a tough afternoon for the Gulls. I think we will win with a one or two goal margin.
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