PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions

Here is PDW’s excellent report from today’s win ooop north:

A workmanlike, unremarkable performance glided us past Guiseley, who lacked the necessary guile to break down a resolute defensive performance. In truth the longer the match went on, the less likely the Yorkshire side were to score, save from perhaps a set piece. To be fair to our oppo’s, they gave it a good shot (or would have done could they shoot straight).

Typical cup tie away at lower division opponents, who were up for it. Not pretty, but got through to the next round. The highlight of the game, the ball bursting after Keane’s challenge on Boshell. Not seen that for a long time, in a proper game anyway.

After a poor first half performance, when a pass to a man wearing an orange shirt would have been a novelty. It was the introduction of the pregnant one gave the team performance a lift. Making the goal for Barnes-Homer to slot excellently, must have been the magic of the bright orange booties he was wearing. Crow was involved in a number of good moves, playing off Barnes-Homer and with that performance has gone above Jason Walker, once again starved of service, but presently games past the ginger one by.

From that moment on, the result was rarely in doubt. We defended well, if slightly deeply and relied on counter attacks, which resulted in a number of opportunities. Guiseley had plenty of the ball, but their strange reluctance to use the width on a soft surface, meant they went direct, with Kroca and Pilkington in fine form again. With Graham something of a makeshift right back and Murray not exactly Stuart Pearce reincarnated at left back, they may have had some joy down the flanks. Although the hosts were generally too slow and wasteful (as we were) with their passing.

Good that we dug out a result without playing well, which is something we need to do in the League, with THEM from the M23 land winning late AGAIN (They are turning into Plymouth circa 2001/02). Even my basic mathematics can work out to reach the one hundred point mark, means we need to win fourteen out of sixteen remaining matches in just over two months.

Guiseley is a tiny little ground, apparently the crowd was half the capacity, you would have needed a shoe horn to squeeze double that amount in. Nice, friendly club, with Luton fans probably making up about half the attendance although with no segregation, it’s difficult to judge. The ground has a noticeable slope which we defended in the first half, with a low sun in their eyes. That’s Yorkshire’s summer for 2011 gone then. The pitch looked in reasonable nick, when I arrived, although the omens weren’t great as it started to cut up during the warm-up.

Surprised at the strength of the squad selected for the game, with now every midweek having a fixture, with a few injuries and Money’s comments about using the squad, was expecting the toddlers out in force again.

However the starting eleven was – K.Pilkington, back four of Graham, Kroca, G.Pilkington, Murray. Midfield of Morgan-Smith, Keane, Lawless, Howells. With Walker and Mr Marmite himself, MBH up top.

As for Guiseley for the level they are at level. They looked better than Corby and Gloucester from the league which we have played this season. Peyton, the slaphead in midfield, looked to control things in the middle of the park. Needham looked tidy enough on the left. Walshaw, who is meant to be their gun player, was good on the ball, but after a couple of crude challenges on him, faded rather.

First half we were poor. Even allowing for things like the slope, the pitch, the home team coming out quickly, we were desperate on the ball. Giving away the ball when not under pressure. Good job K.Pilkington and his defenders were awake. Against a better side we could have been a goal or two behind at half time after a very lacklustre performance. We looked to play on the break against a side who set up a very high line against us, risky tactic against people with pace like MBH, AMS and Claude, but as we were so bad with the ball in the opening half, shots didn’t rain in on Drench’s goal.

Keane covered a lot of ground, only Howells was up to standard on the ball. An early scare, Walshaw on the left, showing neat footwork, played the low pass into Peyton, good spot by him to see K.Pilkington off his line, but his curling effort just lack accuracy and dipped too late. Our firths attempt came from Lawless helped the ball forward, Pilkington knock down to Barnes-Homer, who produced a weak attempt at goal.

Lawless being withdrawal early after a knock, Claude coming in. Bit of a shuffle around, Claude going to his usual haunt of right wing, AMS swopping to the left, with Howells slotting inside.

As increasing the nature of modern football, long throws were the order of the day. Murray reunited with his two pastel towels, presumably nicked from Habitat – one brown and one white. Toulson their right back used them as well before Guiseley. Personally think they should ban the sodding things. It’s wastes time, if the ball is wet, use your shirt to dry it you mincer. It’s a football top, not Saville Row’s finest. Apart from the fact using a long throw in, is the football equivalent of chatting up your mate’s bird. It’s not done and lacks class.

A couple of fine interceptions by each of our centre halves, Kroca denying Walshaw a run through on goal, after a good run by Rothery, playing a give and go with Boshell. Then G.Pilkington won an important challenge with O’Neill. A fine pass down the right channel gave barnes-Homer an opportunity to cross, his pull back was eventually cleared by Ainge after walker dithered to move.

The oddest thing will the slope, is that rather the ball run away from the player, it would stop by the by-line, a tactic which took a while for our defence to cotton onto. On one such occasion Walshaw galloped after the ball, played it back into Rothery, smashing his low cross beyond the stretching figure of O’Neill, failing to get a touch.

A venture forward by Kroca and a lovely flick out to the left for Morgan-Smith to whizz past Toulson, his strike was parried out by diving Drench and Claude was on hand to turn the ball goalwards but the keeper managed to regain his footing and block the ball on the line.

Pilkington had commanded his box positively, but wasn’t exactly over worked, was called in action after Keane mistook O’Neill for a settee, an ambitious effort from Walshaw was straight at the keeper. Pilkington shortly after had to deny Walshaw after his snap shot from the right wing after being played in by O’Neill. The last couple of Trophy games, he looks like the steady Eddie who filled in last season when Tyler was injured, than the gormless tit who handed Tamworth the game up there in August.

The second half had to improve and it did. Crow on for Walker. Far more open with both teams fixture congestion a draw was far from ideal. A much needed block tackle from Graham, who is developing into a solid and reliable defender, after Walshaw had fed O’Neill with a low forward pass. Header from Eliis from another Toulson’s long throw was grabbed by K.Pilkington.

Whilst a set play looked the most likely chance for Guiseley, it was the break away with us, Crow and MBH exchanging passes, before Toulson conceded the corner, after Crow had tried to roll in MBH.

The same two combined for the winner. They shot themselves in the foot, Boshell playing Ellis in trouble with a backward pass on half way, Crow nipped in, then found Barnes-Homer cutting in from the right and confidently finishing beyond Drench into the far corner.

MBH is always a far better player when we play on the counter break, seems far happier to be able to run behind defences than play in front of the goal( to my know nothing eye) . Crow looked to have a better attitude today, was involved in most of our better play (not there was much of it you understand). The key to him is similar to that of Owusu, you must get the ball into him, they aren’t going to run, but both have good football brains.

Crow again involved poking the ball to Murray, to hit the ball wide, it worth a pop. Graham’s throw in, was hooked forwards by Keane, Barnes-Homer chasing the ball, Drench came out, cleared with a karate kick and once again Crow, just missed the target with a lob.

far more lively than the opening half, not difficult. More enterprising give and go between AMS and MBH, Howells the recipient, blasting a shot which deflected off Ellis and behind.

Our final sub saw the arrival of Mr Godfrey Poku for Morgan-Smith, who at least saw a couple of fleeting glimpses that his form maybe returning. So shutting up shop was the order of the day. After Poku’s first involvement resulted in him giving away a free kick for a barge on O’Neill. Peyton, their set piece specialist, saw K.Pilkington drift towards the centre of the goal, and tried to curl one in from the free kick where Pilkington had edged away from, just wide. Good idea.

The game was opening up, with the game played on a heavy pitch, Kroca’s headed from Keane’s free kick hardly troubled Drench. Howells being found by a fine crossfield pass from MBH, hit the ball cleanly buit Drench got down and held it well.

Guiseley kept toiling, but a classic case of the more a team has the ball the less they know what to do with it. After a patient build up from the right, Toulson fed Boshell turning the going wide to Rothery, Toulson on the over lap centred, Murray made a mess of his attempted kick away and luckily George P was first on the scene to tidy up.

Peyton warmed Kevin P’s hands with a firm strike from a free kick following Kroca catching Rothery, it was straight but the keeper just tipped it over. Howells looped a header into Drench, following Pilkington’s dug out long ball.

An attack down the right, ended up with Graham diving in riskily on Walshaw, he didn’t get a load heap of the ball, and seen them given, but Kroca blocked the newly arrived Sharry’s shot – not easy to say if you have a lisp.

Sharry looked to have a bit of pace, so was odd they didn’t put him on earlier, all their subs were used with less than a quarter of an hour remaining. He had the beating of Murray, whipped in a cross towards the centre, Pilkington managed to get enough on the ball to divert it away from Walshaw.

Kevin Pilkington 7, Luke Graham 7, Zdenek Kroca 8.5, George Pilkington 7.5 , Freddie Murray 6 , Amari Morgan – Smith 6 ( Godfrey Poku 5.5), Keith Keane 7 , Alex Lawless ( Claude Gnakpa 6),Jake Howells 8, Matthew Barnes-Homer 7.5, Jason Walker 5 ( Danny Crow 8) .

Subs not used – Mark Tyler, J.J. O’Donnell.

Guiseley – Drench, Toulson( Sharry), Ellis, Ainge, Merris, Rothery( Stamp), Boshell, Needham, O’Neill( Forrest), Walsham. Booked – Toulson

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Cod Almighty

A triple slap in the face this afternoon: the first home defeat since Crawley in October, Crawley winning after being behind against Wrexham and Jake Howell’s knee looking particularly unpleasant after a brutal challenge by Pond.

It had all started so well – an Owusu goal after seven minutes put us in a deserved lead, but in the same way that Liverpool did against us in the famous 3-5 defeat all those years ago, I think we immediately thought that it was going to be all-too-easy and Fleetwood were only too happy to put us back in our place, within a minute.

It wasn’t the worst performance by a long chalk – had Lawless’ shot gone in, had two of the three penalties been awarded and MBH’s shot been slotted in it could have been different, however, I always got the feeling that Fleetwood always had another gear whilst we were flat out – or rather just flat.

Fleetwood played well and so we didn’t. They were more often first to the second ball and their front players were quick and incisive. They weren’t angels though – plenty of late challenges, niggles, handbags and, oh, knee stamping.

The first half I thought we edged and it was a very good half of football. For the fifteen minutes before the half time whistle we were dominating and half time came at exactly the wrong time. Unfortunately by ten minutes of the second half the match was all over.

After seven minutes Barnes-Homer, England superstar, was played in down the right and eased his way around Gregan, and put in a lovely cross for Lloyd to ease in. Before you could retake your seat Seddon was played in by Viera through a defence squarer than a dungeons and dragon nerd slotted the ball home as easy as you like.

It was only Tyler’s outstretched arm which kept it to one moments later from Viera’s shot. Another easy move strolling past our static defenders.

Lawless whose touches, vision and passing were standing out by this point crossed for Claude who mistimed his header which went over. Claude had a disappointing game today. Actually he had a very disappointing game. I got the impression today that he felt that it didn’t matter how much effort he put in – he could just drift in and out of the game as much as he liked because he backed himself to provide a sparkle, a bit of magic to turn the game. He didn’t. His positional play was poorer than usual. Neither getting into a wide enough position to receive, nor pushing far enough forward when attacking nor tracking back at all when defending. He was all over the shop, he gave us a couple of good runs and crosses all afternoon. His opposing left back today was the veteran dwarf Alan Wright. I just don’t think the penny dropped that he was the weak link in their defence. Our first goal came down their left when Wright was pushed forward and was diddled out of the ball by Claude and Owusu and passed with ease leaving a big hole behind him. Another trick that was missed was that at restarts and goal kicks we had two choices to aim the ball at. Owusu – who was marked by Gregan, equal in height and jumping ability, or Claude, supposedly out on the right, with only Tom Thumb marking him. What would you do? We chose to pump the ball down the middle to Gregan who joyfully nodded the ball away all afternoon. He’s paid to do that you know.

Dan Gleeson had a great chance (he’s going to get a goal one day soon) where he cut inside and ran with the ball before driving a shot at goal which was deflected wide for a corner.

Tyler had to be at his best shortly after when touching over a free header by McGuire (I think it was). McGuire was later carried off – couldn’t see what for – but I think it may have been the legacy of a hard clonk from Owusu, which was payback from an earlier niggle.

Just before half time, caught up in a period of dominance the ball rolled out to Lawless about 22 yards out, he caught the shot perfectly and beat the keeper but unluckily cannoned back off the bar. Goal of the season if it went in – unfortunately it didn’t.

Shortly after Lawless put in a nice ball to Owusu whose nod on found MBH who shot just wide.
And so at half time I felt good. It was a good game of football with two attacking sides who had had plenty of chances. I was thinking it might be a 3-3.

How wrong I was. Tyler, defending the Kenny End in the second half was soon called into action with a full length, but slow motion save from Clancy. A fantastic goal from Barry a couple of minutes later put us on the back foot. After AMS was felled on the left the ref played the advantage, but although no advantage accrued too much time had passed for the ref to pull it back. Fleetwood worked the ball around unchallenged by the Hatters and Barry’s clipped shot flew into the inside of the goal giving Tyler no chance at all. There was no closing down – they passed the ball as if it was a one touch training game, making our defenders and midfielders look like clumsy mugs, including I’m sad to say our normally wholly reliable captain who was off the pace today.

1-2 down at home – goodness, it’s not allowed is it? Cue the Oxygen Thieves in the Kenny starting to boo and the calls of “Money out” started. Amazing. Fortunately for once the boo boys were drowned out by a couple of choruses of “Come on Luton”. There was more grist to the moaners mill 120 seconds later when Barry played in a lovely ball for Seddon to run onto, he danced past Kroca and easily rounded Tyler. They were taking the piss at this stage and our defenders had just switched off.

Money tried to change things around – on came Luke Graham for the disappointing and leggy AMS, who added a degree of sharpness to the back. Gleeson and Howells pushed up as wing backs to partner Lawless and Keano in the middle with MBH, Lloyd and Gnapka up front. Since his injury AMS has been half the player he was when he first started for us, I don’t know if his confidence has been affected, whether he is still playing with an injury or if his initial buzz has worn off because he is being played out of position the whole time, but he’s not the player he was.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see how much impact the new formation would have because Howells was stretched off with his leg in a brace after a karate kick challenge by Pond. How he stayed on I will never know – but I do know that whenever the ref was called on to make a proper decision he didn’t have the balls. He flunked at least two penalties and should have sent off Pond.

More head tennis and little shape followed. Poku replaced Howells, and as we didn’t have any left sided players on the bench (or fit?) we reverted to 4-4-2 with Gleeson at left back Pilks at right back, Claude on the left Lawless on the right. By this stage it was an unwitting buggers-muddle and I don’t think we troubled their keeper, Davies, in the second half. That’s not to say we didn’t have any chances – Luke Graham’s header was cleared off the line and Pilks headed over. But we lacked purpose, spirit and the personnel to take the game by the scruff of the neck and to make something happen. We sold the player who could do that to Ipswich.

The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough. Well done Fleetwood, they knew how to play against us and did us like kippers. Hardly a crisis, our record in the league since the Crawley loss is P15 W10 D3 L2 F30 A8 Pts 33. Unless the wheels come off completely in the next three months we will be in the mix for the play offs at the end of the season. However, whilst I’d be happy getting Wimbledon, I don’t want to be playing Fleetwood again if we can help it.

Scores on the doors:
Tyler: 6
Gleeson: 6.5
Howells: 4.5
Pilks: 4
Krocha: 4
Gnapka: 3
Lawless: 7
Keane: 6
AMS: 4
MBH: 5.5
Owusu: 5.5

Subs: Graham: 7
Poku: 5.5
Walker – not on long enough.

Money correctly pointed out in his post match conference that a number of the players seemed to have an off day at once. Fair enough – get that defeat out of the way – unbeaten from now on until the end of May. Fair exchange is no robbery.

Do we change things? We’d kept 7 clean sheets in 8 games this year. I suspect Howells will be out now for a while, Freddie Murray will be back. Is it time to rest Kroca for Graham too? Though MBH has been setting up goals a plenty he hasn’t scored in seven games. Time for a start for Jason Walker before he loses the goal-touch he had at Barrow? Though Owusu has got four goals in five starts we need a player alongside him to find his touch in the way that Tommy Craddock (remember him?) did this time last year. We desperately need some pace when attacking. Hopefully Willmott will be back soon – and Dan Walker has a good turn of pace. Claude wants his arse kicking for his lack of effort today, but from having a plethora of wing options a few weeks ago, suddenly the cupboard looks a little bare if the first choices are out of form.

Anyway – one defeat doesn’t a season ruin. Let’s get back on track on Friday in Wales.

Thanks for reading – all comments welcome, as ever.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions

Before I post my own report – here are PDW’s excellent Kneejerk Reactions for you to enjoy…

An abysmal, clueless surrender without much fight. From an early stage we were all at sea against the Cod army. The majority of team threw in a collective stinker, playing like Bell ends against Mellon’s lemons. Credit to Fleetwood for a fully merited and deserved win, their fleet footed attackers far too much for our defence, who once again showed against any side with any attacking flair look dreadful. The sort of day, the lack of leadership on the pitch was fully exposed.

The team selection was fair enough, maybe there should have been a place on the bench for O’Donnell, whose recent form easily eclipses that of the out of sorts Morgan-Smith. But that apart, no complaints. However, we lacked the fight, nous and quality to trouble Fleetwood. On that display we would have failed to trouble Fleetwood Mac.

Nasty shock, after the team had been progressing well in the recent weeks. But we can’t afford to put up many more substandard performances like that otherwise Crawley and even Wimbledon will fly away. Hopefully, we can get back on track at Newport on Friday, Willmott being fit again will give the team a lift.

For whatever reason, the team look knackered both physically and mentally, which is bizarre as about half of them haven’t played for eleven days. Fleetwood quicker to the ball, wanted it more. Defended stoutly and used the counter attack tactic very well. The pitch resembled a paddy field, but the Lancastrians played some decent stuff on it.

With Claude being given a free role (or took it on himself to play further infield), the team had a very narrow approach. MBH far too deep. With AMS currently a shadow of the player who started his career at Luton very well, Howells being given the run around by Mullan, our only tactic was lumping the ball to Owusu. He has very well marshalled/man handled by Messers Haining and Gregan.

Apart from Lawless, who was incredibly unlucky to see his superbly struck strike smack against the bar, no one else really had much of a clue of how to break down a stubborn defence. With the addition of several league players, they seemed more street wise than was the case up there in August, when we breezed to a comfortable 3-0 win. Although it was an unusual game, us cantering to an early 2-0 lead against ten men.

We weren’t help much by a referee who chose to see what he wanted to see. To say he lost control of the match was a lie, for he never any to begin with. Only booking Pond for a nasty stamp on Howells’ knee was a disgrace. Mistimed tackles happen, but when a bloke looks down and stamps on an opponent is well out of order. Beeley, the full back had the gaul to complain about the free kick. Do hope Howells’ injury isn’t as serious as it looks and he has a speedy recovery.

Money selected what now has become the regular side. Tyler, Gleeson, Kroca, Pilkington, Howells, Gnakpa, Keane, Lawless, Morgan-Smith, Barnes-Homer, Owusu.

The game started slowly in the sunshine, although Fleetwood looked a handful up front, whether it be the aerial ability of Seddon, the clever prompts of Vieira and Mullan carving up through our left flank. A ball in by Beeley, Pilkington forced under pressure by Seddon, could only play the ball to McGuire (on a free from Shameless ?) to volley over.

Unusually for us, we took the lead with our first attempt. A well crafted and taken goal it was. Owusu and Claude involved in the build, ball played down the line to MBH, shrugging aside the not inconsiderable bulk of Gregan, with ease, looking up spotted Owusu in plenty of space, Owusu finishing confidently past the despairing dive of Davies into the far post.

Before we had time to finishing celebrating, Fleetwood levelled matters. The defence very square, simple prod forward by Vieira, Seddon ran through, and finished across Tyler. Following this goal, Fleetwood looked to break up the play. Davies in goal couldn’t kick the ball straight, but more than made up with his ability to time waste.

Quiet why they did this as they were created the better opportunities in a very open goal. The lack of help the team gave Howells, when he was struggling to live with the pace of Mullan. Mullan waltzed through from the right, a low strike, which Tyler dropped, but recovered to grab the ball from Vieira. Vieira ‘s forward pass, Mullan turned Pilkington far too easily , near the goal line, Pilkington managed to win the ball and put it behind.

We managed to get a foot hold in the game and create some chances. Owusu awarded a free kick for a foul by Clancey. Claude’s glanced a header off target from Lawless’ free kick. Gleeson, had a dip after Keane’s square pass, he hit it well, striking Gregan, and looping just wide of Davies’ right upright. For the resulting corner, we had what looked like a clear cut penalty, initially Owusu mistimed his leap, McGuire half cleared, the ball dropped to Morgan-smith, who looked to have been tripped by Beeley in the corner of the box.

Wasn’t a game played in the best of spirits, often at set pieces, there was plenty of grabbing shirts, one incident MBH and McGuire had to be pulled part from squaring up to each other.

We continued to look shaky at the back, Barry’s attempted through ball was cut out at first by Kroca, but turned into trouble as Seddon picked his pocket, but Kroca recovered his error seeing the ball out without any harm done. Fleetwood were a big, physical side, a threat at corners. They went close twice from Barry set pieces from the right flank. An episode of head tennis, almost saw McGuire force the ball in with a header which Tyler flicked over, them a free header from the same player whizzed over.

That was his last piece of action, for McGuire exited stage left in a crumbled heap, didn’t see what happened (had an Arse Wenger moment). His replacement Pond(life) hooked over following up from Gregan’s knockdown. Gleeson had to clear off the line, with Gregan ready to tap in.

Lawless run through their midfield (which is one thing we lacked today, someone trying to commit defenders, most of our play was in front of them and we rarely looked like breaking through), Lawless smashed the bar with a thirty yarder. then after a decent move involving B and Owusu, Gleeson eased past Wright, laid the ball off to Gnakpa, delaying his shot, allowing Clancey to block, the ball went across to the left side of the area, with MBH missing a decent chance lashing his effort across goal.

In truth, we were lucky to go in all square, as we struggled for large parts of the gam. The performance needing upping, but it simply fell apart.

Tyler was alert to push away Seddon’s header away from Mullan’s centre. We were slow to close down the ball, when Barry received it from Clancey, he produced a powerful, swerving strike from thirty yards, left of centre (not unlike Lawless’ attempt), but nestled into the net past Tyler’s left hand post. Tyler, Pilkington and Kidd could have been in goal at the time, and none of them would have laid a finger on it.

If that was a bad enough start, it was curtains moments later. Barry’s ball forward, Seddon got past Kroca with embarrassingly ease, rounded Tyler and tapped in. The game had gone after that quick brace of Fleetwood goals. The visitors simply than shut up shop, two banks of four. We never got the ball behind them, apart from a decent delivery from Claude, plucked out of the air by Davies. Very little of note occurred, except for a brief cameo from george Donnelly, who still isn’t six foot two.

The more we had the ball, the worse we looked. Confidence drained very quickly. Rather alarming, considering it was our first league defeat since November. The manager tried to switch formation, Graham replaced AMS. We went three at the back. Graham had a solid game, admittedly Fleetwood were looking to protect their lead than extend it, but the Kettering loanee has looked decent so far. A reliable deputy, maybe more regular if Kroca or Pilkington replicate their performances today on a regular basis.

Gnakpa’s shot was deflected wide, from Lawless’s pass, but Davies was hardly called upon. That part we made little impact in Fleetwood’s third. Some pretty shoddy passing, square, backwards made no impression.

Howells was than stretched off following Pond’s awful challenge (it was more of an assault). On come Poku, not really the type of man required at 3-1 down. We went 4-3-3, Gleeson left back, Pilkington on the right, Graham in the middle but Claude appeared not to know his role and loitered around to no effect. MBH played too deep, leaving Owusu exposed on his own and was comfortably out played by his marker Haining. Owusu has been very efficient, but needs bodies around him.

Walker replaced Claude, apart from a header and bundling Gregan to the deck, didn’t have the opportunity to get involved in the match. A match and performance best forgotten.

Mark Tyler 6, Dan Gleeson 7, Zdenek Kroca 3.5, George Pilkington 4, Jake Howells 4, Claude Gnakpa 4.5, Keith Keane 5, Alex Lawless 7.5, Amari Morgan-Smith 4(Luke Graham 7), Mathew Barnes-Homer 6, Lloyd Owusu 5.

Subs not used – Danny Crow, Kevin Pilkington. Booked – Barnes-Homer, Pilkington.

Fleetwood – Davies, Beeley, Gregan, Haining, Wright, Clancy, McGuire (Pond ), Barry, Mullan, Vieira, Seddon (Donnelly ).

Booked: McGuire, Clancy, Pond.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions

Some Kneejerk reactions from the excellent PDW:

An uninspiring game devoid of incident, interest or indeed much football, was decided by some comedy gold by Gloucester, like lemmings off a cliff, pushed forward as one from a Jake Howells’ free kick, fortunately one of their defenders left it a touch late, the ball dropped to Luke Graham, one of three Luton players, on the edge of the box. Credit to him, his chest trap and finish beyond the pink shirted portly gentleman Mr Sawyer in goal to decide the tie, weren’t that of a centre half. Buried in a style, Fred and Rose West, the nation’s favourite patio specialists would have approved of it.

A win is a win, but on the balance of play, Gloucester put a good enough hard working shift to merit a replay in Cheltenham, only mercifully for the sake of my sanity they didn’t get it. We were frankly dismal, only two or three decent saves from Kevin Pilkington kept the visitors at bay. Out of the fringe players, only Graham and in particular O’Donnell pressed their claims. O’Donnell was excellent throughout, the only player to run at the opposition.

An eerie almost deserted Kenilworth Road and those who found the pub far too enticing a prospect on a Friday night, should be congratulated for their foresight. The pitch is now a Maijurana growers nightmare, no grass and plenty of rolled mud. The only grass on the pitch now is down by the corners. With a swirling strong wind, the game was never going to be a classic. To describe it as a fest of abject mediocrity would be praising it far too highly.

Richard Money was true to his word, picking an older group of players than the kids who played against Welling and Uxbridge in previous games. personally would have preferred to continue with the youngsters and if we got knocked out, it’s no big deal.

The team lined up with Pilkington in goal, back four of Ed,Kroca,Graham, O’Donnell. Midfield four of Claude (bizarre selection playing him, it’s not his kind of game. He barely managed a wave at his fan club in the Enclosure), Poku, Howells, AMS (his form looks to have gone for the timing being, which is a shame), with Barrow Walker and Crow up top. On the bench were Tyler, George Pilkington, Watkins, Bedford Walker and Woodrow. So a night off for Messers Gleeson, Keane, Barnes-Homer, Lawless and Owusu.

Gloucester belied their lowly league position of 18th in the Novvern Monkeys League. A big physical side, who went route one, but as most teams are these days at any level, they can set up a decent defensive base. Their work rate, energy and ability to foul was second to none. Playing in yellow and black, they were indeed busy bees.

The best way to describe was going through the motions, listless and out of sorts. We rarely got the ball down and played in a tempo which has characterised the performances at home (a much changed team doesn’t help against a side up for it). We were pretty poor on the ball, lacked width, denying either Claude or AMS much of a look in. The service was equally poor to both Walker and Crow, who looked like strangers, their movement was pretty poor. Two small strikers so there was little point banging the ball airily, so Coupe could have heading practise. Neither Howells or Poku got their foot on the ball and controlled proceedings. Both are still very young players, but they should have enough about them to boss a game against a team of Gloucester’s standing.

Generally we were slow to the second ball, lots of basics weren’t great, controlling, passing or movement.

Backed by a small (but far better than other clubs in our division) but noisy gathering from the West Country, the first thing to observe was the size of their goalkeeper Sawyer. Hardly pretty in pink, but he had the left foot like a sledge hammer, aiming at Symons, an awkward centre half. Although defensively considering the changes, we defended alright. Graham looks a reasonable stopper. Reliable enough to bring in when Pilkington or Kroca pick up an injury or a ban.

Gloucester looked sharp to begin with, forcing a couple of corners, an intelligently corner played out by left back Parrinello to Mullings who skewed his shot horribly wide, then after we couldn’t clear a corner, another wild volley wide by Coupe.

O’Donnell, as I mentioned before, run at the opposition (was the sort of game crying out for Dan Walker ), exchanging passes with Walker before getting past Morford, but than belong tripped by Webb. Webb’s backpass almost put Gloucester in a tangle, Crow closed down the backpass but Sawyer wellied it away.

A better move, quick throw in by O’Donnell on the left, found Walker, reverse pass into Crow, an early strike drifted wide of the near post. maybe a loan spell could be the order of the day for Crow. He is struggling still with his weight, form. Maybe a regular run of games and a couple of goals will help his confidence. He isn’t going to get much of a chance with us at the minute unless we got a bad run of injuries, as is fourth in queue.

Finally we created some chances to test Sawyer, Howells popping up on the right, looked up, saw Walker make a run at the back post, found him, the ball sat up, Walker got enough on the ball but was denied by an acrobatic save by the keeper. He denied AMS soon after, yet another poorly judged header by Parinello, Sawyer spread himself well (by jove there was enough of him to do so) to stop the shot with his legs.

The nearest to a goal came our visitors, a huge punt by Sawyer, headed down to his left by Symons to mann on the left, whether it was meant as a cross or shot, it caught the wing, Pilkington stood watching it and was relieved to see the ball come off the bar.

The scarppy nature of the game continued which suited Gloucester. Poku rightly booked for his second foul arriving late on Mann, but as play broke up, AMS was caught on the half way line by Green, yet no card, for similar offences.

AMS won the ball from Webb, Walker waited and delayed his shot, quite why he shot into a crowd of three yellow shirts from point blank range is a mystery, the ball cannoning off Hamblin.

The pedestrian nature of our play was evident, after some decent build up by Crow and Walker, fed AMS on the left, delayed his chance to shoot and was eventually blocked by Hamblin. As half time ticked closer, a challenge so late by Asafu-Adjaye it was in another time zone on Mann. Edwards tamely flicked wide from Parrinello’s centre from the left.

It needed improving. If anything thing it got worse in the second half. Watkins on for Poku, not one of the great man’s better displays. Gloucester settled the better. Symons allowed to saunter through our square back line, from Webb’s straight pass, good parry by Pilkington. Which was a decent save, but performed a great block to deny Mullings from close range, following Edwards’ centre. Then soon after Webb shot over from Mullins’ pass.

Asafu-Adjaye caught for a high foot, Symons’ lucky not to be decapitated. Another ball into the box from Parinello, Kroca just got enough of the ball from Coupe’s drove to deflect it behind for a corner.

We had very little of the play at the Gloucester end, except for Watkins’ drilling a shot wide, from Crow’s link up play. Crow soon departed in favour of Dan Walker. AMS played in the hole, behind a front three of the ‘Walker Brothers” and Claude. We just became more and more narrow, the only width came from Edward, whose crossing is erratic a couple of decent balls in than a couple of lousy efforts. Sawyer was a mere spectator.

Mann who spent most of his evening on the floor, finally was withdrawn and his replacement Tambling almost scored with his first touch, a flick at goal after Symons had got down the left wing far too easily.

As time ticked, it was getting to the stage, where you hope someone, anyone would score. The arrival of Cauley Woodrow, made it happen. In a little cameo he put a decent little performance which would shame his supposed betters. He won the free kick on the right, clearly baulked by Mullings. From a similar position, the Gloucester back line had successfully caught us offside, pushing forward rather like Arsenal (that’s Arsenal not The Arsenal, please note Bob Wilson) did under Graham. The donkey charge of Dixon, Adams, Bould, Winterburn, arms aloft, Owzat? This time Gloucester were bowled over. Howells’ inswinger near the right touchline to the far post, they were slow to clear the box, two or three Luton players were left onside, fine finish by Graham, chest trap, cool finish past Sawyer’s right.

Oddly Gloucester weren’t time wasting now. Put up under pressure in the dying moments, Pilkington gathering Hamblin’s effort from Webb’s corner. A ball from the right by green, Fawke flicked on to Preece, but a combination of Watkins and Howells blocked the shot. From the corner, even the keeper came up, merely man handled everyone in his way, Gnakpa’s header was poor but Graham stuck a leg out to block Sawyer’s shot.

After the narrow escapes at Welling and now Gloucester, we have used two get of jail free cards in the competition. They way the draw has opened up with only four Conference left in it, we could almost win it without even trying…which we did tonight.

Kevin Pilkington 8, Ed Asafu-Adjaye 6, , Zdenek Kroca 7, Luke Graham 7.5, JJ O’Donnell 8, ,Claude Gnakpa 5.5, Godfrey Poku 4( Adam Watkins 6) , Jake Howells 6.5, Amari Morgan-Smith 5.5 , Jason Walker 5.5( Cauley Woodrow), Danny Crow 3 ( Dan Walker 6.5).

Subs not used – Mark Tyler, George Pilkington . Booked – Poku, Asafu-Adjaye.

Gloucester – Sawyer, Green, Parrinello, Coupe, Hamblin, Mann(Tambling), Mullings, Webb( Preece), Edwards, Symons, Morford ( Fawke).

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All Change

A day of transfer turmoil at the Kenny yesterday. As expected Mr Drury departed the scene after only six months with us. Hats off to his agent. To move to us in the summer instead of staying with hoofy Stevenage was a master stroke on his part. In the shop window on a number of occasions and lighting up national telly with goals like the one against Charlton meant that Drury had a much better chance of a much better league club than if he had stayed with the cloggers from Herts. Shame he couldn’t have got us up into the division above. I would gladly have let him go after celebrating at Maine Road in May. But business is business and I think he had a clause allowing him to go if a club came in with the right amount. All the best AD.

But out the door too went Messrs Atieno, Besta, Gallen and Taylor Nathaniel. Each one of these highlights some confused thinking at some stage by the management.

Atieno was a target man who wasn’t. If we hadn’t seen how he played why did we sign him? I must admit his radar was a bit wonky at times. At least those of us out of the way at the Kenny End can now breath a sigh of relief because we will be ducking for cover on fewer occasions. He was a strange signing – neither one thing nor t’other.

Besta had one good game – on his debut in the summer warm up game – but that was it. I wish him well, wherever he goes – I think he has a young family too so I hope he gets fixed up with another club soon.

Gallen is a strange one. On the transfer list this time last year. Galvanised in the second half of the season and was dangerous up front in partnership with Craddock. Earned a new one year contract this year, but a plethora of striker purchases rendered him redundant. Went out on loan to Barnet, who didn’t want to keep him and came back. And now let go. Why give him another year’s wages if we had no plans to play him? Confused.com if you ask me.

Taylor Nathaniel. I feel sorriest of all for Taylor. Made a promising debut last year, with an assist within minutes of being on the pitch. But not given a chance to push on. This is largely because of Money’s predilection for signing wingers. At some point these youngsters have to be given a chance. If you can’t give them a run in non-league for goodness sake – how are they going to break into the team if we get promoted? Let’s remember the lessons from the past – when we were in administration (the second time) we had no choice but to blood youngsters like Foley, Brill, Keano, Davies etc etc. If you give them a chance in the first team you will find out. You will discover. You may get a few stinkers, but you may unearth a few players who really come into their own in the first team.

I worry – we have a great crop of players coming through – yet the only chance they have is if we keep progressing in the FA Trophy. There is a widening gap between the youth team and reserves and the first team. It should almost be a seamless divide, instead it is turning into a chasm. If we keep turning to other clubs’ young players rather than our own then it is a bad sign for the future. Especially when one of the essential tenets of 2020 was youth development. But if they can only go so far within the hierarchy, what is the point? How did Cambridge discover how good young Robbie Wilmott was? By playing him.

Rant over!

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