What made it worse, despite all of the booing and the chants to “sort it out Harford” and “what a load of rubbish”, Mick actually thought we deserved to win.
I do wonder sometimes if he watches the same game as the rest of us. According to him “Tyler didn’t have a shot to save” – well Mick, what about the two fingertip saves he made in the first half to keep them out? Why was Tyler the only one applauded and not booed off the pitch? Missing something? It worries me that if he is that poor a reader of a game how is he able to watch what is happening and to make changes? Or is it just spin?
So, to the team…Donnelly didn’t start, Mick started with the successful (irony) Craddock-Gallen axis which has just been scoring for fun. Craddock looked as if his dog had died all game. He missed a sitter at one point when Roper (remember him?) and their keeper got mixed up and he nipped between them got the ball and with an open goal in front of him 3 feet away managed to slice it past the post.
The back four was Murray, Pilks, White and Keet’ (ah – he managed to squeeze him in somehow, at the expense of the guy who has been picked for England’s C team this week) in the middle was Nico holding, which he did well, passing he did not, and Jarvis who was in Hall’s position of behind the front two (Rossi’s favourite position) or he would have been if he ventured out of his own half occasionally.
What was apparent to me from about the 5th minute was that under pressure at the back they would panic and make mistakes. Each time we harried them or chased them or even just closed them down they made errors which we could and should have pounced on. Did we close them down? No. We sat back and let them play. So Jarvis was anonymous.
The wingers were Burgess (on the left for a change) and Newton, returning after injury.
Burgess was mostly invisible before being substituted for a hamstring tweak (got a lot of booing from the anti-Rushden crowd) amazingly – an inspired piece of tactical substitution meant that Mick brought on Blackett at left back and pushed Freddie Murray into left midfield. Rarely has a player looked more out of position and hopeless there since Robbie Winters. I presumed that Howells was not on the bench – but no, Mick brought him on later on in the game in the 92nd minute to make that big difference in the remaining minute left.
I kid you not. You couldn’t make it up.
So – we played the majority of the match with a left back looking woeful in left midfield whilst we had a decent nippy left winger on the bench. Okay, enough said. Anyone going to their first game today would have bellowed “What are you playing at Harford?”
In the second half we had a few more chances as Kettering sat back. None of them clear cut and most of them (most? both of them) coming from shots outside the box, one of them a blisterer from Nico.
Donnelly came on and looked lively in the 17 minutes he was given. Not just a big man to hoof it to (if any of the players were accurate enough to find him) but showed a decent turn of pace too – well quicker than Craddock and poor old Gallen. Donnelly looked keen anyway which is more than most.
The daft thing is, we are bobbing along playing utter tripe and still not losing. In this division we can play as bad as we ever have and still sides aren’t beating us. Perhaps, and I hate to say this, we have found our level under Harford.
Roper was their main threat at set pieces and so we ensured that on more than one occasion he was left with a free header. Conversely, when we had corners, we ensured that Ropes had a free header on several occasions.
At one point I counted seven successive hoofs forward, all of which went unchallanged to Ropes. Now we know how to play against him, because we know he loves to head it away all day, but can be turned really easily and left for dead. Unfortunately this would require tactical nous and a midfield capable of threading a through ball (on the ground) for someone to run on to. We had neither.
Mercifully, after 93 minutes the ref put us out of our misery. We wouldn’t have scored in 930 minutes.
At the end the players and manager (sans Tyler) were jeered and booed. Nico came to the fans as he always does, in order to applaud us, and got another boo for his trouble. People were shouting “rubbish” at him and he made a gesture that looked like a shrug of the shoulders or a “what can I do?” sort of gesture.
If there is a repeat performance on Tuesday night I predict a riot.
P6 W3 D3 L0 Pts 12 Pos 3rd (amazingly)