Once again we’ve failed to manifest glimpses of brilliance into consistent form that would allow us to attack the play-offs, consequentially looking likely to fall short once more. Daryl McMahon was dismissed at the end of a make-or-break February which emphatically went the latter, since replaced by Ben Strevens for whom the next few weeks will centre around laying foundations for his reign, hopefully enabling success where his predecessor could not do so.
Ahead of the reverse meeting, I pinpointed Barnet at home and Solihull away as my highlights but those have since dwarfed in comparison by our result against Notts County last month. Ending the then-league leaders’ 25-game unbeaten run by becoming the only side to win at their Meadow Lane home all season brought a feeling of incomprehensible euphoria – the circumstances of McMahon exiting the club the night before, then us producing the ultimate smash-and-grab amid ridiculous pressure at the other end made it the most enjoyable trip for years, one which I will certainly never forget.
Inih Effiong is the main one – our February signing has carried his exceptional form at previous club Aldershot Town into his time here, scoring four more times to take the overall tally to an impressive 18, behind only Macaulay Langstaff and Paul Mullin. Possessing deceptive pace on top of an imposing frame, he’ll be looking to enhance his best ever campaign in front of goal against a leaky Torquay side.
We’ve been very patchy since the new year in all honesty, epitomised perfectly by the three-day period where we triumphed at Notts County before losing against Maidenhead while looking comparatively unrecognisable. The departures of Josh Walker, Paul McCallum and Junior Morias certainly haven’t helped albeit they were all understandable for different reasons.
PLAY OFFS OUT OF REACH?
The season is realistically over from a competitive standpoint unless we can somehow average near enough two points per game to overhaul a substantial deficit beneath the current top seven. We were in a similar situation this time last year and very nearly did it, so maybe in similar fashion one good result can snowball onwards for us, but I just can’t see it.
Ben Strevens ticks many boxes, his managerial capability was demonstrated when leading Eastleigh to the play-offs on a small budget. He also has an existing rapport with the fanbase after being part of the side that won promotion to the Football League, therefore he can hopefully perpetuate a similar culture to get us back there from the dugout. I’m looking forward to seeing how things go.
Can only go off his first game in charge last weekend, when our tactical configuration resembled something similar to a 4-4-2. Sam Ling was interestingly utilised as a defensive midfielder, with Mo Sagaf also out-of-position at wide left. We only have fifteen or so players available due to a couple being on international duty and others injured including long-serving goalie Justham, therefore it will likely be an unchanged side barring any signings in the meantime.
I’d be very surprised if there were any more than seventy, for a long trip being streamed on the National League’s exclusive platform. Torquay is always one I look forward to, hopefully the weather doesn’t let us down on this visit.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
We can beat anyone on our day, and have. However, there have been many unaddressed issues which Strevens will have seen first-hand in his opening game against Oldham, notably sitting back to invite pressure before inevitably conceding, from the recurring scenario of a corner kick no less. Hopefully we begin transcending that fragile characteristic as the new manager puts his own stamp on the team.
Torquay have been our most frustrating opponents all season and will certainly take the game to us in search of vital points. I think we’ll have enough to edge it 2-1 however.
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