Soft Centre

I must admit that despite the huge win last week I travelled up to Fleetwood with thoughts that a point would be a great result but in all honesty was pretty unlikely having witnessed our recent away performances. The truth is that weaknesses in the centre of defence and in goal are not going to go away unless we spend a bit of dosh to get in the quality signings needed to halt the slide in away games. It is OK signing a Conference player who may prove to be a gem but there is only so far you can go if you are continually going to sign Conference players. Over the periods of time it has been proven that you need to be very lucky to get one gem a season from the Lower reaches and there comes a time when only ventures higher up can bring the difference and we are getting closer to the league where only well spent big money will bring success.

I have no criticism of the Team selection that was made yesterday other than it was a bit strange that we left out the only player (Gaffney) who can actually change the frontline. I agree he is not great but he is the only slightly physically built striker we have who could possibly compete with the Nathan Pond/Bolger combination if the playing of shorter quicker strikers was not working. In truth it did not make a great deal of difference because it is clear to see that any opponent we face now will pressurise our keeper and central defenders at every opportunity and most teams in this division do have the heavy artillery to do this. Our problem is that however well you play over the rest of the pitch it is very difficult especially away from home to reduce the number of opportunities you give a team to 1 0r 2 over 90 minutes.

In truth we were not that bad yesterday and haven’t been that bad other than Shrewsbury away but it seems that every shot that goes in on our goal is going in! In truth the second goal yesterday showed the main part of our problem as Puddy not only came out but failed to even get off the ground for a straightforward catch leaving his goal totally exposed to whatever strike came in on it. Failure to have a physically imposing centre half only alleviated the problem. Sorry DC but I don’t care if the keeper can kick a ball well or distribute it well from his hands -yes these qualities help but the main quality is stopping the ball from going into the onion net and at the moment our keeper is not capable of doing that. IMO we have been left with the worst of the three keepers we had and heaven help us if the poor kid who we had on the bench had to come on as he is neither tall or strong physically. Many said that the poor defensive errors were down to the defence not having confidence in Roos howedver I defy anyone to tell me that having Puddy behind them is a better experience but I would add that IMO Roos was a better keeper than the defenders were in front of him.

I fear we will not see another victory away from home until we answer the goalkeeper problem and the tall commanding centre half would not go amiss. This is a great shame because the football we are playing is nowhere near as bad as the scoreline suggests and yesterday we should have had a stonewall penalty but yet again two goals scored away would not have been enough to even get a point. Anyway on to the individual performances.

Puddy 3 Not his fault but he should be nowhere near a League 1 goalmouth. Only at fault with the second goal but the trouble is his positioning is very questionable and you are always feeling “Will he” or “won’t he” every time the ball is anywhere near our goal. I said on the first goal that whilst it was down to poor defending by Lee Brown and the central defenders a good goalkeeper might still stop the shot. It is a case of 5 or 6 inches extra can make a difference!!

J Clarke 4 Caught out too many times particularly first half and all the huff and puff in the world cannot make up for a lack of pace.

Lockyer 3 Unfortunately his loss of form this season is not helping things at the back at all but at the moment his selection is the best of two evils because we just don’t have good enough competition available. Maybe Partington can replace him but then we still have the full back position to correct. The answer is outside of the club at the present time but maybe the short term answer is to play Tom at right back where any mistake is not quite as dangerous and play Partington in the middle. Whilst the third Fleetwood goal was a great finish the defending by Tom and the way he was turned inside out was woeful. Certainly again yesterday his distribution was poor to say the ledast.

McCrystal 5 The best option we have at the moment but certainly not the answer. Lack of pace is the problem but at least you know exactly what you get and he will give his all and clear the ball and for his height is reasonable in the air but I always feel; that he needs a tall defender alongside him.

Brown 4 First half gave his opponent too much space and poor marking on the first goal. He too; for me; has not been at his best this season and this is exposed far more in away games. That said I was not convinced by the substitution and then playing three at the back because why should three be able to do what four couldn’t. His passing from the back was too ponderous and Moore on severall occasions could and should have been given the ball far earlier.

Bodin 6 Not at his very best but did what Billy is always capable of and scored a great goal as he nipped in on a defensive error and hammered the ball into the top corner. Showed his skill when in possession but too much of the time was starved of the ball.

Ollie Clarke 7.5 MOM Whatever has happened to Ollie? It is as if he has suddenly realised that he does have the ability to actually do things with the ball other than win it. Confident in possession and capable of holding it in tight situations and running at players. For me he has played in three of the last four games and has either been Man of the Match or close to it in each game and IMO should have started the Charlton game as well. I really hope he has turned the corner in his career and completely proved me wrong as he looks every inch a League 1 player at the moment.

Lines 6.5 Not always at his best but does not hide away and is always wanting the ball and probing. His partnership with Ollie has been one of the high points recently for me but I just wish he would get more shots on goal. The fact we had more possession than the home side shows that we are competing in the middle of the park but our problem is we are always chasing games following poor defensive errors.

Moore 5 Didn’t stop running but is he any better than Montano? Not convinced myself but certainly Montano provides better defensive cover for Lee Brown. He did a lot of good running but his final ball was mainly poor. Far to ften we seem to make space for ourselves out wide but then fail to beat the first player with the croiss.

Harrison 6 Struggled with poor service against tall imposing defenders. Tried his hardest but I can’t recall him having a real chance all game despite us having a lot of the ball in midfield.

Taylor 5 Not at his best but unless he was injured why take off your top scorer when you are so much in need of a goal? Brought a great save from the keeper with a header just before half time but probably he should have scored. A couple of good runs but I just wish he would play closer to Ellis rather than spending his time out wide. When he did get a chance breaking in from the right he failed to pick out a player.

Subs

Easter 5.5 Doesn’t waste the ball and gets involved but too often he moves away from goal or passes the ball back. Definitely has the quality and class but like to see him nearer goal

James 5.5 Should have won us a penalty but just don’t see him as a natural replacement for Matty in any form. Still think that keeping matty on if he wasn’t injured would have been a better bet to scoring a goal.

Partington 5.5 Difficult to judge him and wouldn’t even try to on a short period on the pitch. What was clear was he was very nervous on his debut and was so keen to do well that he couldn’t do much right. I am sure we will see a good footballer but to bring him on as part of a back three was not the easiest of starts he could have experienced and was out of position on the third goal.

Referee 3 Poor. Missed a stone wall penalty and seemed willing to give Fleetwood free kicks for every little touch. A difficult task was not helped at all by his finicky refereeing.

Crowd 7 Another great turn out let down by one supporter. Spitting is IMO the lowest form of aggression and if this is what he did at Puddy then a ban should be put in place. None of our players or even opponents players deserve that filth but a huge plus to the reaction of our fans to the event.

DC Five away defeats on the trot is relegation form but thankfully our home form is Champions form so the position of just above midtable is just about right however this is a very important time for the Managerbecause if he signs the right players we could push for a Play Off spot because we are not far behind these teams who are beating us. A goalkeeper before next Saturday is essential and a tall commanding centre half would not go amiss but of course we do not know just what funds he has available. I an ideal world we would bring in three more players who are capable of going straight into the team and performing at the top end of this division but of course IMO this would involve signing and paying for players who are playing well for a club in this division or maybe near the top of the division below. My main criticism yesterday would be that he knew that Fleetwood would be tall at the back yet didn’t even have Gaffney on the bench and also changing a back four that were struggling to a back three was hardly going to prevent a further goal conceded and so it turned out to be.

After yesterdays great home win against Sheffield United I would think Walsall are rubbing their hands and waiting for one of the worst defensive sides in the league. IMO much will depend on the transfer activity in the next five days and ideally we will see two big signings this week. It cannot wait for the summer Darrell and how we are playing the sooner the better before we are drained of confidence and in a rut. Thankfully it is only an away rut at the moment but looking at the fixture list in February we are going to need to improve defensively. I think the sort of team I would hope to see next Saturday would be.

NEW GOALKEEPER

Partington NEW CENTRE HALF McCrystal (Capt) Brown

Bodin Lines O Clarke Montano

Harrison Taylor

UTG

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