Another Late Late Show

It seems an age since the great win at Northampton such are these international breaks that seem to hit us more than ever and it was with great excitement to be back at the Memorial ground yesterday. Gillingham are renowned for being a tough physical side to play and it was surprising to see that although they were only 1 point behind us they have not won in their last ten games in all competitions. They do however possess a very experienced side guided by the excellent Justin Edinburgh so there was no chance it was going to be an easy three points and so it proved to be. Team selection was its usual unpredictable self with three changes from the Northanpton win and back to the wing backs at home. James Clarke returned in the central three in place of Ollie Clarke in the midfield and Leadbitter replaced the unfortunate Roberts with Taylor regaining his place from a possibly tired Ellis Harrison. It was good to see Montano on the bench but that seemed to be at the expense of Byron Moore although I suppose he could be injured. My real surprise was James Clarke being selected ahead of Jake Salter-Clarke and just how many teams can have as strong a bench as we have with players like McCrystal, Ollie Clarke and Byron Moore not even on the bench.

The first half was totally unmemorable and was as bad as anything we have seen this season with the only consolation being that we didn’t really look like conceding. There was little action in either goalmouth although we should really have been in the lead with a couple of good chances the best which saw Sinclair hitting the ball terribly wide with just the keeper to beat. The wingback system yet again provided us with no quality out wide and far too much of our possession ended with a hastily hit ball forward from the back-chicken feed for the two giant centre halves and our midfield struggled to get their foot on the ball and Colkett struggled to get in the game at all. Sinclair was the busiest of the three but far too often the ball from him went backwards.

It was no surprise that Darren changed things at half time but how often will he continue to seemingly get it wrong with the starting line up- there again perhaps it is part of the plan to just keep it tight in the first half. Anyway we came out with all guns blazing with Bodin replacing James Clarke and the opening quarter was mainly us . It seemed the first chance that Gillingham had they took the lead following a long throw that a flick on had us totally all over the place and Boden, Lockyer and Leadbitter all failed to react and left the Gillingham player with an empty target which he duly despatched. I have to say that at that time it really looked as if we were heading for a rare home defeat. That was until a surging run from Chris Lines was helped on by a deft touch from Taylor and Chris kept his cool and stroked the ball past the keeper with a finish that Messi would have been proud of. The late bringing on of Christian Montano had brought both Lee Brown and the team in general to life and it was fitting that he should provide the cross for Ellis Harrison to hammer in at the far post and send the home fans into raptures. For the god knows how many times we had turned a 1-0 deficit into three valuable points.

Roos 6.5 To be honest even in the first half when we were poor at times he had very little to do but what he had to do he did well. Yet again he had no chance whatsoever with the goal conceded which was down to dreadful defending. A couple of poor kicks but I would say that his distribution overall is good and his kicks go a good deal further than Mildenhalls.

Leadbitter 5.5 Better than some games but there are times when he looks an accident about to happen when he takes a poor first touch. His crossing is erratic at best and he is lucky that he does possess pace which without that I could not see him getting a place in the team. I have only seen one game of Roberts but I would say that defensively he is the better bet but not so sure on the wingback bit and I am still not convinced that we have the players to play this formation successfully at home particularly.

J. Clarke 5.5 Steady if not spectacular display and very surprised that DC did not play Salter Clarke as I thought the whole reason for signing him was to play in a back three. I assume that James was selected based on the good game he had against Yeovil. Substitution at half time was predictable based on the first half performance but I see it defensively as quite dangerous to keep changing formations and it is hardly surprising that we don’t keep many clean sheets but as long as we score one more than the opposition who cares and that seems to be DC’s philosophy and the players certainly haven’t let him down..

Lockyer 6 For me he has not had that good a start to the season and has struggled to contain the better class of opposition he is coming up against but saying that overall he has come out on top of the battles generally and his mistakes whilst costly recently have not been poor overall performances. Personally I would keep him and Hartley together as I understand Jake Salter-Clarke is a left sided player and therefore a partnership of him and Hartley might be too one sided.

Hartley 7 For me this man should Captain the side as he is the most natural leader we have. Yesterday was probably his most commanding in the air and IMO he was the best of the defenders. Overall I felt the first half was very poor but unlike previous games we did not really look like conceding until after the substitutions were made and then we looked a bit suspect at the back and the goal was a very poor one to concede and seemed to be another case of the players getting used to the change from central three to central two.

Brown 6.5 A player who suffers from playing wing back and whose defensive performance suffers because of it and in all honesty so does his attacking performance. He was much better when Montano came on and they in a short time created more than we had created in the rest of the game.

Sinclair 6 Another performance from Sincs that was full of action and running but lacks the quality and for me the midfield looks totally unbalanced with him in there. I could probably count on one hand the number of his passes that went forward and he should certainly of at least got his shot on target when clean through but dragged the shot well wide with just the keeper to beat. I can see why DC likes his style of play because he never stops running but is this to the determent of a midfield where each player can rely on the others position and there was another near catastrophy loss of the ball in the first half which probably should have seen us go one down when he tried to hold onto the ball too long in a tight situation.

Lines 8 MOM Thankful that he was on our side today because had he been playing for the opposition we would have lost the game His running at the opposition is becoming more and more regular now and when he does that there is not a better midfielder in the division and he took his goal like an accomplished striker. In fact I would go as far as to say that no other player could have taken the chance with so much poise. He was unlucky not to score with a great low shot from a free kick that the keeper did well to get down to. I would rate his goal as the best we have scored this season.

Colkett 6.5 Not the level of his performance at Northampton but I would best describe it as “got better as the game went on”. He really needs to be in the centre and get on the ball more but does not seem to be able to do this whilst Sinclair is on the pitch and he struggles to get into the game when Sinclair passes the ball back so much and the defenders then receive the ball and miss out the midfield completely.

Taylor 5.5 Had a very poor game by his standards but worth keeping on when we are chasing game just for the classy lay off back to Lines that created the equalizer. Seems to be in one of his non scoring spells at the moment after a scintillating start that promised much. I am sure his next goal will come and like the buses when one comes so does the others.

Gaffney 6 Battled hard up front but he is not a good header of the ball and is far better when the ball is played in to his feet or his chest. He was up against two strong central defenders and the way our defendesr kept hitting the ball long and high played into Gillinghams strengths and our weaknesses . The introduction of the substitutes suddenly meant that we had the aerial strength of Harrison with the worry for the defenders that he also possessed the pace to beat them. I still think that the Taylor / Gaffney is the best partnership but the ball must be played more on the ground to them.
Subs:

Bodin 5 Did very little after coming on at half time and was probably at fault for the goal with Leadbitter and Lockyer. He is just not the same player as last season and probably needs a break from the squad or a place on the bench where he is not used. He is obviously on the pitch to produce the quality on the ball in the final third but even when he does that this season he has left his shooting boots behind in the summer break. It has to be said that he is certainly not a defensive player and we certainly looked more susceptible down his side in the second half.

Harrison 6.5 Did what he was brought on to do and scored the winning goal but also added an aerial strength which we had been missing. Didn’t do a lot really but at least the defenders suddenly knew that they were up against a player who does possess both pace and aerial power and that can be enough to disrupt the tiring defenders.

Montano 7 For me he is the unluckiest player in the squad and it is a great shame that DC does not show enough faith in him as he has the ability to excite and whilst his final ball is inconsistent in the short time he was on he showed that he does have that ability to unlock the defence. He put over an excellent low cross that should have been put away and also possesses the ability to get in shots himself and surprisingly for his limited use this season he has a good understanding with Lee Brown. His most telling and important contribution was a great cross that led to Harrisons winning goal. Personally I would start him in every home game at least and have Byron Moore on the bench and maybe in away games do it vice versa. Certainly Christian has more to offer than Billy Bodin at the present time.

Crowd 8 A very good 9500 crowd and a good atmosphere when the game livened up. The 78th minute applause was a fitting tribute to two of our family sadly lost recently and perhaps each of the goals scored after were dedicated to them.

Gillingham 5.5 A strong physical side full of experience but in all honesty just an ugly no nonsence side that lack the understanding and cutting edge to be in the Play offs this season. Visibly tired at the death and not the first side this season that we have looked stronger than in the final quarter. Lucky to have 11 players on the pitch at the end.

Referee 5 Probably the main cause of it being such a poor game as he failed to allow the game to flow at all and was far too whistle happy and never really had the game under his control. This was summed up when he warned the keeper for time wasting and the keepers response was to take the ball to the other side for a goal kick and then bring it back and then continue to time waste until he finally received the justified booking.

DC It is clear to see that his ability to get the right result is not down to luck but is more down to the general fitness of his squad. Personally I hate the wing back formation at home and the constant changing of players but cannot deny the success it has brought us. I think that we are unlikely to keep many clean sheets with the constant changing of personnel and formations. One week it is a central three,then a central two and one week it is Leadbitter and the next Roberts and the player missing out disappears from the squad completely. Then there is Ollie Clarke – not in the squad yesterday but wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him back in the team on Tuesday night. It’s a strange old set up that I have never seen before but at the end of the day it bloody works with amazing consistency so for that you have to give the Manager a 10.

So we move on to a tough away fixture at MK Dons which is probably tougher because despite having a good away record they have not won a home game this season which is pretty unusual as I remember them as a pretty formidable home side and they certainly have the players to trouble us and we will have to be at our best to come back with at least a point before another away game at Oldham. Where we stand this time next week will be a good indication of how we are faring because we will then have two home games in hand. I would certainly settle for 3 points from these two games which for me has always been silly because surely two draws should be worth more than a defeat and a win ie two points for a draw. There again I suppose the 3 point win does make teams go for the win! At least we enter Tuesday on the back of another home win so if we do lose it is not the end of the world whereas had we not won yesterday there would be more pressure on getting three points on Tuesday. UTG

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