Another home game where we had most of the play and nearly all of the chances, but which ended in defeat. Today was our game in hand on those around us, an excellent chance to put pressure on those above us, especially in view of the swapping of hats once the Chester points come off. Having three points today would have made a real difference. We fluffed the golden chance.
I was fortunate to get to go to the game especially as it is the last weekend before we move on Tuesday. Im kind of wishing I hadnt bothered. Mrs Mosque said it was okay, but then Mrs Mosque laboured all day boxing up entire rooms whilst I indulged in my favourite hobby, a hobby which unlike airfix kits or stamp collecting contrives to piss you off for days at a time.
Watching the players warm up at the start was the usual dodge-ball lottery behind the goal. Todays winner was MBH who managed to get the ball at the back of the Upper Tier of the Kenny alarming an old gentleman enjoying a pre-match cup of coffee.
It was a peculiar formation Money managed to incorporate all of his in-form midfielders, and played Nico too. It was 4-4-2, but I think it was supposed to be a diamond formation. The danger of a diamond formation is of course that it exposes your full backs too much if the opposition play two banks of four, and it makes a side prone to a counter attack, which we managed to demonstrate quite well. Hall was on the left of the diamond and Jarvis on the right, bizarrely Nico was the front of the four and Keane, (who was outstanding apart from a rubbish pass towards the end) was in the holding role.
Now Hall is no left sided player, and he was made to play the ball with his left or cut inside time and time again. Rossi Jarvis meanwhile is so much better in the middle either holding or behind the front two. Keano plays well in the holding role, but poor Nico was a fish out of water behind the front two today. He started brightly and played an excellent couple of through balls, but it largely went to pot after that, apart from a splendid left footed cross in the second half. Once again poor Nico was slow to close down the Wimbledon players which gave them more room to play it out of defence and to put us into danger quicker.
It seemed so strange when you have two midfielders tailor-made for the role behind the front two (eg Hall and Jarvis) to play neither there.
Hall was often the target man for Tylers restarts, this I think worked quite well, he is good in the air and punches above his weight, and to be fair to Money, because he was playing more in the middle than wide on the left, his knockdowns and nod-ons often found a Luton man.
So, Tyler started in goal. Newton played at right back again, with Pilks and Kovacs in the middle and Murray on the left.
Newton is a curious fellow. Rarely have I seen a Town player at a lower ebb; his early-season cockiness and confidence dissolved by missing sitter at Southampton. He got forward more and more in the second half, he overlapped nicely too good Lord he even got some crosses in, but too often fannied about with the ball on the edge of the box or when defending failed to close his man down. Some put Wimbledon’s second goal down to Kovacs’ inability to turn, which is true enough, but he would never have been put in that position had Newtons saunter down the middle of the field on a promising run, not caught him so wholly out of position when the attack broke down. On one occasion in the second half, Newton overlapped got into the box and had the opportunity to cross the ball to MBH but instead chose to shoot and like so many of these opportunities ended up doing neither.
Up front came the returning Gallen, who replaced Hatch in the line up (Hatch having limped off in the last game) and Craddock played alongside.
Gallen had an excellent first half, linking up play well and holding the ball up well. He featured in every attacking move we had, though he faded when up front in the second half, and ended up playing in the hole which of course he excelled at. But he was tired at the end.
Craddock worked and worked. Tireless effort. Full marks for the effort, not quite so many with the attainment. Yes he did get the goal but in the second half when we were pressing forwards more and more, too often he fannied around on the edge of the box, looking for the clever one-two rather than bearing down on goal. Too many of his passes went to the opposition at the very time we could least afford them not to.
We seemed to revert to the desire to pass the ball into the net, which prevailed for the whole of Micks reign. Too many times today did we get as far as the 18 yard box, only to stop, turn pass the ball across the front of the defence – and then again across further, the ball making its way to the other side of the field, in stages, looking for an opening that inevitably didnt quite appear and the attack would break down.
Enough of the whinging how about a description of some of the play?
We had a couple of chances within the first two minutes, Jarvis heading close from a Murray cross, and then Hall just shooting over after being played in by Craddock. It was the start by a confident team, and you could tell that the chaps fancied themselves to do well. Wimbledon had started slowly and looked a bit flat.
Shortly after that we had a free kick on the edge of the box. Nico and Craddock stood over the ball, Craddock playing it to Gallen for one of his pile drivers which snuck on the nearside of the wall and would have gone in but for an excellent save by Pullen.
Kovacs then got onto a Nico corner but the ball was cleared without threatening the goal.
Gallen and Craddock linked up really well for Craddock to have an excellent strike, but again another excellent save from Pullen denied him a deserved goal.
After about half an hour Wimbledon did what so many have come and done this year, which is to score against the run of play. Taylor got round Nichols with ease and played a ball which managed to elude Kovacs. Elder (who I think is on loan from Stevenage?) fluffed his first go but poked his leg at it from the 6 yard box at and seemingly in slow motion the ball ran towards the line, Tyler got a hand to it but wasnt quite quick enough to palm the ball out and sort of dragged it over the line with his momentum. The sequence happened in such slow motion that even the away fans were caught out. I think they only sussed that the ball had actually crossed the line when Tyler picked it up and disconsolately punted it back towards them, and then there was a loud, but much delayed roar.
Fortunately my decision not to go for a pee was the correct one Craddock (who I had tipped to score today after we saw a character called Craddock appear in an old Dr Who movie this morning omens are everything) nipped into poach a goal after Pullen palmed away Nico’s mis-kicked shot.
Wimbledon then had a couple more chances, both fell to Elder I think, and fortunately both missed, again poor old Nico was allowing them too much space to pass from the back. Tyler made a good save.
Just before half time Craddock was hacked down two footed by Taylor I think it was. It was at the very least a booking and a free kick. Youve guessed it we got neither.
Again in the second half we started brightly Murray shooting over and Hall mistiming a header and heading it over. Wimbledon wasted time, went down injured, broke up play and put more and more men behind the ball. Whenever they had a substitution the player about to be substituted first ensured he jogged over towards the opposite flank from the benches and thus contrived to waste more than the alleged 30 seconds the ref is supposed to add on.
Banana-boots MBH came on for Nico. Craddock switched to the left in a more conventional 4-4-2, Hall switched into the middle and Jarvis stayed on the right. MBH looked very lively today; in fact he looked the liveliest he has ever done for us. He was a breath of fresh air when he came on and his increased pace immediately paid dividends and Wimbledon had no answer for it at any time. He carved holes in the channels (I hate that word) and for once enabled us to play the ball through for a striker to run onto it. Unfortunately as soon as he would get into a good position inevitably the lay off would break down and so we never really capitalised.
Wimbledon then made us pay for all of the dilly dallying around their box. As I said earlier, after a laudable but out of position charge forward by Newton through the middle, the Dons got the ball out to Kedwell who had run into the inside left channel (argh that word again) and Kovacs who turns like a block of flats was easily passed by Kedwell and he slotted an excellent finish past Tyler into the far post.
Hatch replaced Asa Hall (which was slightly odd when he is a goal-scoring midfielder) and played up front with MBH. Gallen slotted back into the hole and Craddock remained on the left. Cue more chances, more running at goal, but no actual shots on goal. Lots of huffing and puffing and drama, but no one could get into the position to knock one in.
Little Jakey Howells came on for Jarvis and played wide on the left. Craddock moved over to the right for his third position of the day. A bit of genuine width now on both flanks and again it gave us good positions, especially with Murray and Newton regularly overlapping now, as they had almost no defensive work to do. Howells played Gallen in but he couldnt get on the shot, Newton played Hatch in but the centre half denied him with a good defensive header.
I could see Money thinking ah width perhaps thats the way…why didnt I think of that first?
The last counter attack from Wimbledon saw Kovacs a bit lucky to stay on the field, Taylor (who if you recall was himself quite fortunate still to be on the pitch) was in on goal only to be barged to the ground by Kovacs who was the last man. He got a yellow.
So a roundly disappointing afternoon which promised so much but delivered so little. Wimbledon werent the hoofing, cheating thugs of the crazy gang days, but they werent no angels either. And their fans have to be the ugliest in the league. What is it about that part of London?
We didn’t have the boos or the jeers of the Ebbsfleet defeat, because we had played well and some of our players had excellent games but there werent enough clear cut chances.
Mind you listening to Money afterwards you would have thought it was our best game of the season. His comments about our performance were as peculiar as the Ebbsfleet ones were. Whilst Ebbsfleet was the worst performance ever, he had nothing but praise for the team for this afternoons defeat. To be fair to them, it wasnt a clueless, spineless performance like some of the defeats were, earlier in the season it was just all too inevitable that we would get caught on the break, against the run of play whilst doing our best not to score at the other end.
Our strikers are a funny bunch.
Craddock has good technique and a good eye for goal, but no real pace. He has spent too much of his career at Luton on the wing, I am sure if we looked at his goal scoring ratio for when he does actually start in the middle as part of a front two, it is not too bad.
Gallen isnt tall enough to be a proper target man, but his skills and touch, experience and strength enable him to almost play like one. Again he doesnt have the pace to outrun defenders.
Hatch has shown that he is a proper nuisance and a good target man. We are always a different side when we have a proper threat at set pieces or indeed there is a chance of winning a header from a long kick by the keeper.
MBH has more pace than any of the strikers other than Nwokeji, and is tall and seemingly strong but doesnt play as a target man. He strikes me as less of a natural in front of goal than say Gallen, Rio or Craddock, but he must have something as he got all of those goals for Kiddy.
Nwokeji has real pace and showed in the cup game that he is a good finisher.
Rio Charles knows where the goal is and is goal hungry, but again doesnt have real pace to trouble defences. I have made it clear in these pages that I think Rio has been quite hard done by the present regime and I would think it unlikely that he plays for us too many times again (notwithstanding his present injury). Which is a shame – he will get a hatful for some lucky team.
Therefore, unless we play Hatch and Nwokeji together, maximising two key attributes: a header-winning target man with a lightning fast striker – we dont have the pace or the edge to make the most of Hatchs holding up or nods on.
Or, if Hatch doesnt play, then we dont have anyone to aim for and either end up losing possession from long kicks played towards a 5 10 striker trying to out jump a 6 3 defender, or we have to try threading the ball through the defence onto two strikers who dont have the pace to turn the defenders around.
What I think I am saying is that we have too many forward men who are too alike. Good finishers, but without real pace. It means we cant play on the counter attack effectively, and it means we have to play a fairly slow build up to get enough midfielders forward to look to get in enough positions to get the front two in. If you have strikers who can get on the end of crosses then you must have two wing men to get the ball into the box for them to pounce on today, we played a narrow formation which was the worst of both worlds, two slowish strikers without any wingers.
It is hardly surprising then that none of our strikers will ever be in contention for the golden boot award, especially with the styles we have been playing at home and the tactics we use away ie playing 4-5-1 and pressing the opposition forcing them to go long and making it easy for our centre halves to pick up the pieces.
So, a frustrating day really. Again, I hope it is only a blip, rather than a trend. To use a cliché there is a lot of football still to be played this season we have still got a third of the season to go.
Another home game on Tuesday and the instant opportunity to make amends. I definitely wont get to go to that one as I will be in the new Mosque home that night, running around like a mad thing trying to decipher what Mrs Mosque has written on the boxes and finding a box of jumpers instead of the kettle. Sods law of course we will win 6-0 and itll be the performance of the season. Lets hope…lets just hope…