A Day the Poppies Would Rather Forget

An entertaining win – our fifth five-goal haul at home this season this time against a beleaguered Kettering team. What a peculiar season it is proving to be. The results lurch from a collection of thrashings to the disappointing draws and embarrassing losses.

It was a good performance – I’m not one to complain – realistically it could have been three more. This week it was O’Connor’s turn to miss the penalty, and but for some excellent keeping and some comedy shooting eight would not have been unrealistic. We dominated enough for 8-0 not to have felt uncomfortably flattering. But there you go: 5-0 is 5-0 is 5-0.

There were glimpses of real progress today, though Kettering at home on Boxing Day was a generous gift from the football fixtures Father Christmas. Hopefully the return game next Saturday will be a New Year’s gift too.

I felt sorry for poor Kettering. A proper non-league club with a long history and a reasonable fan base. Boy, they’ve been messed around by the idiot incumbent there now. Just goes to show how one man’s personal folly can shake a hundred year’s history to the ground a relatively short period of time (ring any bells?). They’ve lost their ground. They now play at their local rivals former ground. Shelling players left right and centre. Left with a core squad of 10 signed up players and some youngsters and today bore the ignominy of turning up at our ground in their own cars and were unable to field the full complement of subs. In those circumstances it would have taken a miracle for them to win today against a Luton side whose confidence is now in the ascendancy following the Tamworth game, after a poor November and early December.

Kettering played with one up front supported by two wide men. Even if things had been going well for them it would have been a struggle to link much up, such was the distance between their attacking players. As it was, when they did occasionally press forward we always had a spare man at the back as the lone striker was picked up by Pilks or Kovacs (a Hungarian girl at work last week told me that it is the equivalent of ‘Smith’ in Hungarian and is pronounced Kovatch) and the wide men were readily in the pockets of Gleeson and Taylor. However, such was the midfield dominance by Luton, what it meant in practice is that both our full backs could wander up the field, largely unhindered. Taylor himself was in the box three times and had a couple of chances, one of which brought out an excellent save just before half time from the keeper.

I think that whilst you could count the number of attacks they had on one hand, such was our dominance that you could count the number of shots they had on one finger. Whilst the result wasn’t in doubt, the performance warranted further scrutiny. I wanted to see genuine improvement, because coasting to an easy win against a weak team down on its uppers would enable us to paper over the cracks that had appeared during the Autumn.

The most worrying aspects of our play this year have been an inability to a) go on and score plenty of goals having taken the lead against poorer teams and b) an unwillingness to go onto the front foot and attack as a means of killing a game off and of course c) losing to the stronger teams at home.

Today gave us the opportunity to go attack on the front foot once we had taken the lead, in the way that we tried to do against Tamworth.

What struck me was how many chances we are still spurning per goal scored. I swear other teams in our division would have scored twice as many with the same set of chances. Whilst we can be wasteful against the Ketterings of the world, the next big test is away at Southport (last year’s nadir), where we won’t get many chances, and so we must take the ones we do get.

O’Connor was the only change today from the Tamworth win. The Shadow, James Dance, was injured.

O’Connor sizzled again and was a permanent threat, his work rate is high and swapped sides with Howells in the first half and never swapped back.

The front three did play reasonably narrow – which is good – it so easy when playing playing 4-5-1/4-3-3 to isolate the central striker. It was good to see, more often than not, the third player to drift into the box to join Big Hips Danny Crow when an attack was on. It is still something that needs to be worked on though.

The wider players Howells, initially, followed by Willmott didn’t press on quite as much as I would like and I watched this very closely. Even though we were way on top and perpetually attacking, we weren’t quite full on. By that I mean a genuine 4-3-3 is the three front men all pushing forward in a virtual line as one, rather than the central man being the furthest forward. Generally today Crow was still the furthest forward, though the fact that we were always in possession and moving forwards masked this to a certain extent. Again, subsequently playing against a stronger team will highlight this more.

Back to the point I made earlier – if you, like me, wish to see the Hatters playing a fast-paced high tempo game, it is important to play up the field to put opposing defenders and midfielders under pressure deep in their half to ensure they make errors and cannot easily distribute the ball to their own players, making the long ball hopeful ball forward the only option. As I said, we started to do that against Tamworth, and there were glimpses again today. Crow, Howells(Willmott) and O’Connor worked so very hard up front and we had so much possession it wasn’t really as important – because we invariably had the ball!

Our midfielders worked hard today and were dynamos. Lawless again played the deepest of the three and mopped up loose balls really well and started moves off. He deserved his goal and showed that he still has the knack of hitting the target from the edge of the box. Watkins is a pocket rocket. I’d love to see the distance he ran today; clichéd it might be, but he did cover every inch of the turf today – well – every inch in their half.

Keano seemed to revel in the non-holding role and it was actually good to have a steely tackler so far up the pitch to win the ball back when Kettering did manage to get it. Christ, he even went on a couple of runs into the opposing box, for goodness sake. Who does he think he is? Bryan Robson? In the second half we were treated to a couple of left footed crosses from Keano, both of which were deep and curly enough but alas were so deep that their Keeper Walker plucked them out of the air with ease. I suspect only the boldest and bravest of centre forwards would or could have got near them or onto the end of them. What is Steve Howard doing these days anyone?

Speaking of Walker. Poor sod. I felt for him as he took his place at the Kenny End for the second half. He received a louder than normal ovation from the Kenny End (a strange practise, always observed though) which I think was largely ironic after some comedy kicking in the first half (Bury Lane residents please can we have our bal back?) but also I think out of complete sympathy for the plight he found himself in. He made some good saves, but couldn’t do too much about the ones he let in. As you can imagine, he seemed to get more and more demonstrably morose as each goal went in. But rarely has a keeper’s body language unwittingly invited and encouraged greater sympathy in a Kenny End crowd.

With the game in the bag and over and done with by half time (I know we are never safe until we have four, but really, today that was never going to be the case) we could enjoy the dominance without fear or worry about the outcome.

The build up to the fourth goal was pure Keystone cops. Kettering contrived new ways to keep giving us the ball, and we contrived new ways not to score. Eventually, thankfully Fleetwood, who had just come on for Danny Crow stuck the ball in the roof of the net . Thankfully, though the lino spent most of the afternoon flagging for offside like a semaphore man with Tourettes, fortunately he didn’t even twitch when Fleetwood intercepted Watkins’ through ball.

Of course the scoring-fun had started after 20 mins in the first half. Shortly after dear Sol Davis headed off the line Jake Howells was hacked down just outside the box, the hack being enough to warrant Howells being replaced about a quarter of an hour later. However Jake was well enough to thrash in the free kick. Surely only our first (or perhaps second?) directly scored free kick since Gallen cannoned in some for us, whilst he was here. It makes a chance from blasting them at the wall or lifting them into Oak Road.

O’Connor got our second about five minutes after Howells with a nice straightforward header from a Keith Keane cross. I’m chuffed for him, because his work rate definitely deserved a goal, especially as he was sawn off by the lino for being offside later on, and of course the penalty.

Ah – the penalty miss. How many is that now this year? 5 or 6? It’s like a comedy thing. How many other clubs can afford to miss so many? Today Aaron decided to rattle the cross bar. It’s probably still shuddering. I didn’t even get up to watch it, such was my confidence that somehow we’d manage to mess it up. GB maintains that we practise them like mad all the time but that when the pressure is on they ***k it up. I think it says how vulnerable mentally our penalty takers are – how fragile their confidence is. It shows how much they feel the pressure and expectation, even when the pressure is off. This does not bode well for the play offs. I’d love for a trained psychologist and a proper coach to sit down with five of them and talk them through the process of what is needed and what they should do, it would probably only take a dozen sessions over a few weeks. It can be done – there is no reason why the mental block cannot be lifted. They need to learn to take penalties when the pressure is on without thinking twice. It should be as easy as shelling peas or as mechanic as holding a catch.

A cracking volley 6 yards out from Willmott finished off the scoring , this time from a Watkins cross though if the game had gone on for longer it would have been many more. Rarely have I seen a greater contrast on the pitch between the weary Kettering lads and the fresh’n’tricky Kissock and Fleetwood when they came on. Kissock did his fifteen minute ‘come and kick me if you can’ cameo. He looks so very dangerous and terrorises defences when he comes on. We did get two goals almost instantly after they came on – but it is interesting that Watkins got both assists.

So, a good win against a weak team – be good to continue the rout on Saturday with the same team. Each win breeds confidence. Then we play Newport at home and then Stockport on the 10th January. Again, as before we should really get 9 out of the next 9 available points which keeps the pressure on those around us.

Another development this week is that the board and GB have hinted that “the money is there” if they need to bring in another player. Not sure who on earth he is thinking to bring in. A striker? Well at present we have four front men and Brunty (excluding MBH) and we play in a formation that only needs one genuine striker. If he brought in a Tubbs or a Shaw, surely some would have to leave to make room.

A central defender? Well we have Pilks, Blackett, Antwi, Beckwith, Lacey – and assorted others who can play there.

Full backs? We’ve got tons of ‘em.

Defensive midfielders? Well – if Hand comes back on a permanent basis we’ll have him Poku (presently at Southport) and Keano.

Central midfielders? Too many to mention

Wingers? Tons of them, some of whom have only played for about 10 mins.

We’ve also got to remember, and this was pointed out to me today that we have been in the process of buying the in form striker at this time of the season and turning them into toothless tigers. Remember Jason Walker? 46 goals for Barrow – five for us – now 15 in 21 for York. It’s no good bringing a prolific striker in to a) not play him enough and b) to turn him into a blunt instrument.

Some have spoken about Jon Shaw, now that Gateshead have gone off the boil. I actually remember Shaw scoring against us last game of the season about seven years ago when we had Enoch and Nielson playing for us.

I think we should only buy players who would still be playing for us if we were top of League one. No good buying any more non league journeymen. If you must get someone in – get a loan from a Premiership or Championship club or a youngster go we can develop and get the benefit of for a couple of seasons before selling him much further up the league. Otherwise – save your money Garys.

So that’s it – the final post (I hope) for 2011. Many thanks for taking the time to read, and to those of you who post on here which makes it all worthwhile. A big hello to those Hatter ex-pats who read the blog too from far-flung parts of the globe.

Let’s say ta ta to a largely disappointing, but not un-entertaining 2011. Here’s to a wonderfully successful 2012, a couple of successful trips to Wembley and a big smile in LU4.

 

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Kettering Darts team H)

Happy Bank Holiday Tuesday Eve! To celebrate a good old fashioned rout against poor old Kettering. A heavy defeat is the least of their problems, to complete that rarity this season of back to back wins. Kettering’s luck is currently so bad they may as well listen to Michael Chopra’s betting tips, if they went to one of those parties, which you put car keys in the fruit bowl, they would end up with Jimmy Krankie. So, it didn’t need a fandabidozi performance to put them away. With the upcoming fixtures, that winning run should be extended. The only downside was Howells limping off after the half hour mark coming off second best after O’Leary’s challange.

Five, it could/should have been a dozen, as we coasted to a bloodless victory, To be repeated when the teams play the reverse fixture on Sunday, I expect/hope.We played some excellent, if uncontested football, helped by an opposition who gave us plenty of time of ball and played a very high square line.

It was just a question of how many, the contest was never one. We do need to create an awful lot of chances to score goals. Not a problem today but in the harder, tighter games, we do need to become more clinical in front of goal. Some of the shooting, in the first half, was fairly wild. The advertisment hoarding, near the Keith Keane guttering, above the Oak Road end goal took a fearful beating.

Just the one change from the victory at Tamworth, O’Connor for Dance. Straight like for like swop. The formation remained unchanged.

O’Connor is a far cry from the player who looked so nervy and lacking confidence at the season’s start, being unfit didnt help. But every time, he got on the ball, he burst forward and looked to run directly at the defence. His penalty miss aside( on the bright side, he would have nailed the Crossbar Challange), he put in an excellent performance.

Luckless Kettering, unsurprising given the absolute shambles up there are a rag bag outfit. One shot on target, a looping header over plus a couple of corners is the sum of their attacking efforts. Apart from Grays and Hayes, struggling to think of a worse team to play on the hallowed turf. The amount of possession we had was incredible. We have struggled to put away similiarly dismal teams away in the recent past, but in a League fixture, they are one of the worst teams we have come up against. We could have played without a goalkeeper and back four and still strolled to a facile win.

Good crowd in today. It’s incredible despite all the trials and tribulations, our club have suffered, that the fan base has not dropped. Even in the early stages, such was our total domination, Taylor was almost playing like an additional left winger.It was clear Kettering, including one former Luton legend Stephen O’Leary, oh and Sol Davis played as well, were well out of their depth. They tried to pass the ball but were outclassed, although Bridges and Dawkin would be OK in a better team. Playing one up front in Mason-Hughes, a Fortnum and Mason hamper wouldnt have hampered their progress any more. To their credit, they didn’t sit back.

A poor pass by Ifill was seized upon by Taylor, played the ball into Watkins,but was slow getting his shot off and the ball was cleared away by Navarro. Navarao made several crucial tackles to save them from further humilataion, as well as Walker in goal, who made a couple of top stops, a few lucky ones and barely kept the ball in play with some woeful kicking, kept the score down. The cones and bibs used for training would have given us a sterner test today.

The team continued the verve in which they played at Tamworth, Kept the ball well, with some good movement ( Ok it was against a very por team), but the approach play was excellent for a team at this level and for the second week running, after the team had come out early at half time, to knock the ball around, played well enough in the second half.

Kettering’s only attempt came from Dawkin’s low drive from outside the box safely pouched by Kevin Pilkington. Keane’ forward prod, brought O’Connor into play, his strike was blocked by Davis. From the first of a number of short corners, Howells shifted the ball into Gleeson’s path, the ball into the box met by an aerobatic Crow, as ball seemed to be arrowing for the top corner, before Walker somehow managed to palm the ball behind. From the resulting corner, Gleeson waste a striking chance, but the ball fell to Kovacs, curled the ball just wide.

Watkins has shoved to the deck by O’Leary, Lawless took the free kick quickly, Watkins blasted over. It was the story of teh first half, our players shooting hurriedly and over, when not closed down. Do think we need someone to coach the forwards. Watkins had a strange game, heavily invlved outside the box, but inside of it, it wasn’t his day, missed a number of one on one chances, mainly taking one touch too many.

A dreadful kick out by Walker found to Watkins, who virtually gave Walker a pass back. The unrelenting siege of the Kettering’s goal continued unabated. Gleeson strking in a high cross, then was more than a hint of a shove by Jones on Keane.

Taylor produced another fine foray forawrd down the left, squaring perfectly avoiding the clutch of orange shirts , but eventually the ball trickled through to Howells, who given time to turn, should have down an awful lot better than smashing the ball over. With Ifill on the floor ( Kettering could only name two subs) , we played on Crow lining up Watkins to welly over once again.

With Kettering down to ten man, with sub Sangere taking an age to get prepared

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That’s more like it!

A pleasing performance in the rain today – good to see a positive and attacking performance from the boys. I am delighted for Gary and the team.

And lo – we did go one up and pressed up the field and defended from the front. And yea the passing went largely to feet, and lo – the manager did play the best front three and a proper left back.

And yes, we were playing against ten (nine) men for much of the game, but you still have to beat them and we did. This is the sort of performance we should be putting in to beat non league teams like Tamworth.

Absolutely delighted for Big Hips Crow – shame about the penalty – but we’ve been missing them since May on a regular basis and so it was no surprise.

The Shadow was a permanent threat and I was pleased to see him back in the team. Let’s remember he had created the last three goals we had scored when he was in the team. Pleased to see him get the third and a good goal it was too.

Good midfield too – Lawless playing behind the other two – Keane slightly more advanced, which seemed to work well too.

I’ll not mention the dodgy own goal – least said soonest mended.

600 Luton fans to lift a team who hadn’t been playing well at all on the Saturday before Christmas. Nothing ceases to amaze me about our club. The fans have every excuse to shun the team, but just push and push and push. Pound for pound, I swear no set of fans have ever been more deserving of success.

Well done Luton Town – season starts here.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Swindon Darts XI H)

Dont think the Commercial Department should expect many DVD sales of this game. A scruffy, laboured performance, but for a fine performance from our reserve goalkeeper, what looks like a comfortable victory, was anything until our second goal. At least, the rock bottom has possibly been reached when a team from the lower reaches of the Southern League for a good 10-15 minutes after half time outplaying us with some intelligent football, winning the vast majority of second balls and tearing though at will on the flank nominally guarded by Osano. A number of players put in some poor performances. This competition has a habit of weeding out some deadwood, White and Atieno, and if that is repeated this year, all will not be in vain.

But for Tyler, all roads would have been leading to South Marston come Tuesday evening, any day/night in Swindon, even the outskirts, is a somewhat dire prospect. On the balance of play, considering the supposed gulf between the two teams, a draw wouldnt have been an unfair result. Only after a period after both goals, did we get better.

The biggest positive from the afternoon, was the sight of the Moon rising above the Beach Huts. Lacey did well enough, dominant in the air, decent on the ball, at times he lost concentration and got the wrong side of the forward. His potential is obvious, but long way away from starting regularly,another loan spell in January , perhaps at a lower Conference club maybe the way forward. O’Donnell hung up a lovely cross for Wright to nod in to seal the game and had a steady cameo coming off the bench.

Out of the other outfield players, Kissock had the best game. He could do with better end product and not going to ground as often. But he at least showed for the ball,playing with his usual enthusiasm, when we were struggling and at times was the only man willing to run with the ball and take on defenders. Considering he has been unwell, it was a very good effort.

The team selected by our very own Mark Cavendish ( disrespectful to Paul Carden to be described in the press as a bike though. ) including only three punters, Gleeson, Watkins and Keane, who started the previous match at Ice Station Sincil Bank. Not to say Kenilworth Road was overally warm this afternoon. So the team was Tyler. Back four of Gleeson, Lacey, Beckwith, Taylor. Midfield quartet of Osano, Keane, Watkins, Kissock. Brunt partnering Fleetwood.

A far stronger team in theory than I expected. But for the opening half an hour, collectively, the side looked liked they wanted to be anywhere else but at the football today . The feeling is reciprocated. Appreciate the early stages of a minor Cup competitions are not exactly thrilling affairs for anyone, but the players are being paid to put in a professional performance. With so few reserve matches this season, players currently not involved regularly will not get many better chances than this to impress. Still, it’s their careers on the line,not mine.

Swindon put in a good shift, for a side at their level played some very decent stuff, only when the game was beyond them, some cynical challanges were put in . They didn’t waste time, came with a bold game plan.Deserved a goal at least for their efforts.

Never easy making so many changes and putting in a decent performance. But even so…never got our passing game going, little movement and generally were careless in possession. We were very slow out of the blocks and Swindon had a couple of openings, a through pass by Wells, put Edenborough into the clear, Tyler stopped with his legs, but it was offside. The same two players combined again, with Wells shot being blocked off by Taylor. Then Taylor out of position, allowed a ball to drift which Beckwith had to tangle with Edeborough.

The only thing happening in Swindon’s defensive half was the linesman getting arm ache as Fleetwood ran offside on regular intervals, the service to both forwards was incredibly poor. Our first move of any note, Fleetwood turned Stanley well, feeding Brunt who also, managed to half turn Bampton, but the centre half got a toe to the ball and ball went through easily to Rae.

The opening stages were summed up neatly, when they took a quick corner, but we were switched off from Stanley’s cross, only awaking to block Cole’s stabbed effort. lapham and Dean played a decent give and go, comfortable stop by Tyler.Tyler ‘s handling was excellent all game and never looked like spilling Edenborough’s strike which sat up nicely for outside the box.

Apart from the fact that Swindon closed us down quickly, often three men at once, but we didn’t have the vision to pop the ball to another Luton player. Defensively, we weren’t great either, the back four often playing too wide apart. A fleet of London double decker buses could be comfortably drived through the gaps.

However when Kissock was on the ball, he looked the only one to set anything up. Osano’s confidence still looks very low and didn’t offer an attacking threat. Keane, once again, was poor on the ball, he did retrieve his mistakes, never the less, a player of his experience should be able to take games against opposition like that by the scruff of the neck, but didn’t happen. Watkins was OK, but often around the box, he did try to be too clever and take an extra touch.

Osano hacked down by Cole, right on the edge of the box, Kissock’s fee kick was low and hard, but Allen managed to get his foot to stop the strike. We lacked zip in our play generally, and never looked up upping our game. Wood’s low pass towards the right channel, Edenborough defeated Beckwith with ease, fortunately his cross was cut out by Lacey.

We scored against the general run of play. Fleetwood make progess into their box, Lapham’s clearance hit Dean and went behind. From the resulting corner Kissock’s set piece, went deep and was met by a soaring header back across goal from Lacey to Fleetwood who hooked in from close range, with his back to goal.

The goal settled us and we started to keep the ball admittedly it was mainly sideays and backwards but it was an improvement on the dross served up prior to that, very good forward move by Watkins robbing Stanley, playing a one two with Fleetwood, defeating Cole before intelligently rolling it into Fleetwood’s path but he blasted woefully over. Kissock apart, supported well by Taylor, it was the first time we ran it them.

The final chance of the half caem from Fleetwood working space on the right, centring for Brunt, only denied by a smart clearance by the impressive Lapham.

Half time came mercifully, one change Gleeson, who seemed to pull up just before the break, was replaced by Wright. Osano went back to right back, Kissock switching flanks, with Fleetwood dropping back to the left wing ( no wonder he is struggling for confidence and form asked to play three different roles in the same game), with Wright going upfront.

The problem is from a defensive viewpoint having Osano and Kissock on the same flank looks horrific even against a lower grade team. Although we created the first chance, Fleetwood’s reverse pass, Taylor on the over lap, played a fine cross which Brunt wasn’t able to turn in. Once again we struggled, and for a spell we were on the rack, against a better team they would have made us pay. Cole’s pass out wide to Allen, low ball dummied by Stanley and Etheridge tested Tyler with a shot towards the right hand post.

Watkins brought down by a lunging challange by Dean, rightly booked, Fleetwood’s arching free kick, missed Rae’s post, but not by much. Our fragile confidence and square defence were expiosed by a simple sweeping ball by Allen, Edenborough through on goal missed a golden opportunity firing wide with his left foot. Osano lost possession in a danger position to Stanley, flicking the ball to Edenborough ( giving a lively performance but the shooting accurary straight out of the Douglas/Feeney finishing text book), Lacey getting caught wrong side, Tyler had to narrow the angle and danger was averted.

All these chances from down their left wing , Tyler making a brilliant save when Edenborough’s drive looked destined for the top corner following neat build up play from Allen and Etheridge.

We barely threatened their goal, with Wright, not surprisingly looking rusty, after his absense but improved steadily. Fleetwood managed to cut past Lapham, but his shot bobbled and Rae almost made a mess of a simple save. Kissock was very unlucky to get the second goal we desparately needed, beating Cole after Keane’s pass, smashed a powerful drive against the bar, from the rebounded Wright toed the ball to Keane to drill across goal,wth Brunt diving full length with a despairing dive , all to no avail. Immediately O’Donnell replaced him . The shape of the team looked better, Fleetwood on the right, O’Donnell on the left, Kissock playing just off the front man Wright. So, allowing our two most creative players to get on the ball in more dangerous positions.

O’Donnell’s first meaningful contribution killed the game, with Swindon’s fitness beginning totell, the result there was never in doubt. Despite the close attentions of Lapham, he managed to dig in a cross from the by-line, which Wright rose above Bampton and powered a header into the corner. He’s not a good player, in technical terms, but Wright has already scored more goals than I expected and despite his limitations works hand. At least he gives us a target man option, although Brunt has the height, he is far better on the deck.

Osano’s diagonal pass sent Wright chasing the ball down, won a challange against Rae, out of his box, but delayed his pass until Kissock moved through, cyncially brought down by West. Watkins ‘s hard hit drive was touched off by Rae.

We ended the game comfortably enough, and there was time for Wood to pick up a second caution by a needless trip on O’Donnell. He helped turn the game in our favour, with some simple passing. Although he is still very lightweight and will have to improve greatly to usurp Jake Howells,is a player worth persevering with as a wide left option not a full back.

Mark Tyler 8.75 , Dan Gleeson 5.75 ( Tommy Wright 7) , Alex Lacey 7.25, Dean Beckwith 5.5, Greg Taylor 6.75, Curtis Osano 3.5, Adam Watkins 6.25, Keith Keane 5.5 ( Colby McAdams), John-Paul Kissock 8, Stuart Fleetwood 6.25, Ryan Brunt 6 ( Jonathan O’Donnell 6.75)

Subs not used – Lewis Kidd, Charlie Smith. Booked – Watkins-

Swindon Supermarine – Rae, Lapham, Bampton( H.Etheridge), Cole, Allen, Wells(Morris), Wood, Dean, Stanley, M.Etheridge, Edenborough(Cook), Stanley. Booked – Cole, Dean, Wood (x2)

*THE DISCLAIMER* The above ratings were picked on a whim and very rarely are an accurate reflection on the player’s performances simply to annoy the reader. Today’s fatuous comments are about the Euro. Whilst I applaud anything which annoys the smug Europeans, not sure I trust any British Politician to sort out the current economic mess. Personally, think they should stick all the money the Country has left (all £3.72 of it) and buy a EuroMillions Lottery ticket and hope it comes in. Missed my vocation not being an accountant/Financial advisor.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Lincoln away)

Not sure playing football in the Arctic Circle will catch on. Time for the Winter Break. Or as it maybe entitled Kettering home and away. Any chance of the authorities could tweak the rules so games would run the full 90 minutes without a team talk at half time? Little point in the players going back to the dressing room now at break. Our away performances show more repeats than the programme schedule for Dave and Gold. Good job, we are playing Swindon Aquamarine next game, as they apparently have a bloke who makes prosthestic limbs, he could make up some new feet for our players, as the amount of times we have shot ourselves in the foot so far, we can’t have any toes left.

It’s gone beyond frustation, just resignation( hint, hint and that includes some of the playing staff,who strutt around in a manner which suggests they a vastly inflated opinion of their ability over a season. A good game, half here and there doesn’t cut it ). Without disclipine , application, professionalism, just doing the basics correctly having a modicum of talent doesn’t get you very far. Teams win things not good individuals who put it in then they fancy it. More needless points given away from a winning position against abject opponents, the fifth time it’s happened that winning positions have been converted against bottom half opposition on the road. A lack of nous from the management and players is holding us back badly. In the first half, the Imps played more like Gimps. Looked they had taken up the voluntary redundnacy offered by their club already, judging by their barnstorming first half effort. A P45 does have more ability than Kyle Perry though.

As the squad which started the season was noticeably weaker than the one which ended last season, was personally expecting not much this season, but hoped for better than to be eleven points behind the leaders at the half way stage. Being nearer 15th place than 1st place is rather Lion hearted.

First half, we played some good thoughtful football deserving our interval lead, perhaps without a cutting edge, but with only Crow (who deserves a lot of credit with his newly discovered effort and tenacity) playing centrally. Even without the ball, we forced Lincoln, a side clearly there for the taking and lacking confidence, into errors, giving Kevin Pilkington an easy half. Quite how he retained his place, after showing the sharp reactions of an arthitic Tortoise over the previous two games, is a tricky poser. Any chance the local media could ask Brabin is Kevin Pilkington the Number one option and then all have a good laugh about it.

Second half, Lincoln came out five minutes early clearly fired up after Holdsworth had given them a piece of his mind (surprised that cretin has any spare). We had to change as G. Pilkington took a whack to his head, shame as he passed the ball very well and started a number of fluent passing moves, Keane went to centre half, with Hand coming on. Hand hasnt been helped by Brabin’s ‘Hokey Cokey’ selection policy. But he produced a wretched display. If only his pass completion ratio have been as successful as the number of fouls he gave away. Although his second booking was no more than a basic trip. It was a minor miracle he stayed on for so long, he was a sending off waiting to happen. Hand’s done a solid job for us in the majority of games. But in the long term if he were kept over Poku – past this season anyway, it would be a clear indication that the pressure is affecting Brabin’s decision making.

The referee had a Jekyll and Hyde performance. Until around the hour, had all the enthusiasm of getting his book out as a man with short arms and deep pockets when it is his round.

Then like a flasher he just couldnt put it away. How Gosling was allowed to finish the game is a mystery, considering he spent the evening riding Crow like a Grand National winner. Then there’s that rancid Carthorse Perry(apologises to Carthorses, at least they have a purpose), diving, hacking down Howells and a clear elbow on Gleeson.Withdrawn at the break, Perry is still in the shake up as player of our season, dispatching Beckwith thus meaning Kovacs could return was a masterstroke.

Have no idea, what the Winston Churchill of Liverpool says at half time. But judging from some of the away performances it appears to be ‘Give the other team a chance, take your foot off the gas, stop doing the things you have done well previously. But as soon as we have let them score, we can start playing again’.

As was the case last night in the second half, what hope is there were players cant knock a pass five yards when unopposed to a team mate? None. There are problems in the playing side of the club. Regardless of what happens during the second half of the campaign. Lessons need to be readdressed. Currently too many options, players who are better suited to differing formations. There needs to be clarity in the thinking of the players being brought in, how to bring out the best in, their disclipine or lack of. How to handle pressure situations. As a group, the team buckle too often. At the moment, just from an onlooker’s viewpoint it appears to have the strategy of a toddler let loose in Poundland. Its uncanny the way the team can go from performing well to playing like dross in several minutes and also rather unfathomable.

Same team and formation who did well to stay with Cheltenham for so long on Saturday. Personally unhappy with Tyler’s continued omission. But then what have Dance or Taylor done wrong either? Kissock omitted the last three games, but the first cab off the rank against Chelts. How bizarre, how bizarre.

Lincoln look a very poor side, except for Platt a decent technically sound player, good first touch and awareness, would look better in a decent side. They could barely string three passes together. Their main creative idea was Farman, a veteran of many a comical moment against us for Gateshead looked to find the Ozone layer with his punts, towards the immobile Perry ( one forward at home how adventurous!), even when they got the ball wide they were so slow in delivery, we could file back and defend the situation with ease. We did give them too much time around the box, but most of their chances fell to Power, his striking was more powerpuff than powerful.

On a wide, but bobbly pitch( Willmott in particular was gulity of taking one touch too many) , we settled into a good rhythm, helped by Lincoln’s chronice lack of confidence. Their recent good home run, is merely a red herring, look at their opponents who have come to Sincil Bank. recently.

We kept the ball well and settled after a slow start. A lot of our play started with Pilkington and Howells, O’Connor’s first touch was too good for Hinds, laying the ball off to Watkins who let fly, but the direction was out. Russell gave away a needless corner heading behind with no dark navy shirt near him. With Lincoln marking zonally ( always a dreadful idea), O’Connor wandering into space and headed home Willmott’s corner. The linesman ( unusally alert, those duffers usually fail to spot anything).

Watkins given the ball by Hinds, stroked the ball to Willmott, getting the better of Sinclair, striking low only to be blocked by Farman, Watkins also denied by the goalkeeper at the second attempt. whilst we forced Farman into a number of saves, few of them were anything out of extordainry.

Up to his point, Lincoln offered little. Hinds made a mess of an attempted karate kick , from Nutter’s free kick. Then some neat skill by Platt, space opened up, finding Power, able to control turn and lash a drive miles over . Pilkington’s fine switch of the play, sought out Willmott, in turn laid the ball to Watkins, low strike Farman parried away and scrambled by the defence to safety.

Lawless allowed time to progress forward, after a neat interchange between Gleeson and Watkins, there were better options avaliable than to drive straight into the grateful arms of Farman.

We lost our zip found the forehead of the Care Bear haired Gosling, perhaps complanency brought on by the factor that Lincoln had been dreadful. Although they were dire, the amount of space we allowed them in the box, was poor. Russell on the left, given enough time by Gleeson to find the onrunning Power to barely make connect. Strike 1.

Howells once again making ground down the flank, Willmott on the over lap, low centre, Gosling’s solid challange on O’Connor conceded the corner from which we scored. Terrible kick,O’Connor ‘s miskick at the near post or Lincoln’s attempts to clear it were no better. O’Connor’s second attempt was, touching it off for Crow to convert inside the far post.

The rest of the half was uneventful. Apart from Nutter’s corner, helped up but not away by Kovacs finding Perry lobbing into K.Pilkington on his tip toes from the edge of the box
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As Lincoln came out early, it was clear that Holdsworth was looking for a reaction, he used his subs well by bringing on pace in the shape of Taylor and Sheridan, with our formation and defensively poor full backs, we would be struggle unless we kept the ball well.Oh. Too often the default ball was hacking it down the side for Crow to chase down when he escaped the attennetions of the serail fondler Gosling. Since when has Crow’s agme revolled around running the channels. He needs it to feet. O’Connor and Willmott were both straved of service, and gradually Lincoln started finding their feet, winning the midfield, not giving us time on the ball.

Willmott’s corner was blocked by farman ‘s shoulderts todeny O’Copnnor. Howeevr such our our poor use of the ball after the break, we hardly threatened until Lincoln scored. The introductions of both Dance and Brunt ( or at least one of them) were too long coming. A critical feature of the modern day game, is the use of subs and the timing. Brabin’s are usually alright decison wise, but often far too late to influence the match .

We were gifting Lincoln easy possession. memo to Jamie Hand, you don’t play for Lincoln any more, you know? Both his decison making and accurary of his passing were terrible. Another poor pass to Thompson rolling in Power ,who with time on his side, should have done better than shoot wide. A poor defensive header by Sinclair , gave Howells an opportunity that he should have done betetr than lean back and send his effort dipping over harmlessly. Hand dwelt, allowing Thompson to break clear, fortunately his shot looked more destioned for the lit up Cathedral than the goal. The Cathedral is about the good thing about the City. The myriad of pokey little terraced streets around the ground were designed by someone without any soul.

Our first excellent move of the half, Willmott intelligently made a dummy run, allowing Howells to run into the space, kept his head rolling the ball against to O’Connor, at first looking for the non existant over lap, trying his luck, dispatching the ball wide. But good football all the same,.

Keane at first struggling to fit into playing central half, played the ball square, blind to Laurent, passing to Taylor to cut in and smash wide. Needless foul by Lawless on Platt, their were a big side, so could throw lots of height into the box, and Nutter’s delivery from set pieces is decent enough. Gosling couldn’t keep his header down. Lincoln kept getting into good positions down both flanks, both their delivery and finish were generally poor. Christophe sent another headed opportunity a begging from neat play between Platt and Nutter.

Howells was the first in the book, complaining over a clear foul by Hand on Christophre. Watkins played a good give and go with Crow, was denied by a tackle by Gosling. There were some bizarre decisions, O’Connor flagged offside after a block tackle by Hinds had gone to him. How does that work then?

Power’s fine display of inablity to kick a football was complete after airkicking Taylor’s pass. Taylor roasted Gleeson after his introduction ( he’s not match fit apart from the fact he’s reasonable in the tackle, he’s not very good either). Good bodyswerve from Taylor beat Kovacs and went on a mazy run, Lawless cyncially tried to hack him down, as play was waved on. With a player having some a big impact, maybe a good idea to give Gleeson some protection?

We still looked good on the break though at times, when the ball was kept on the deck, a clever curled pass by Watkins, and Lawless could only head into Farman.

A change was eventually made danmce for Willmott. Willmott’s slow walk off typifies the negativty inflicting the club. Other teams do it, but footballers like Children only pick other’s bad habits. He was rightly booked, and should be fined for it. It’s pathetic. If Brabin doesn’t it, fine him as well. There needs to be a zero tolerance on dislcipine. For starters we are rubbish at time wasting and managing the game.

The change was inspired, as Lincoln scored straight away. Didn’t clear a Nutter free kick , Platt managing to hung up a cross despite close attention from Lawless was bundled at the far post by Hinds. Nice of Pilkington, to wait until it crossed the line to save it, as it bounced in off his chest.

Brunt replaced O’Connor, and oddly enough having another body up there, meant we kept the ball better and with Dance also on he pushed Nutter back. We don’t play at 1-0 up, but resume again at 1-1. The game was very open, as a quick winger Sheridna appeared for them. An awful pass by Howells gave the ball away to him, skipping down the line but shoving his cross into the empty seats. Lincoln’s customers turn up more dressed up as empty seats than people.

Dance broke past Nutter, a near post cross, fell to Brunt but his back heel was denied by Hines. Lincoln with something to hold on, defended doughtily. Cynical shove by Lawless on Platt with no immediate danger just inside our half, saw him sent off. By the summer, Lawless himself should be gone. Good player, but a loose cannon unable to keep calm in pressure situations. Loose cannons aren’t generally worth the hassle unless they are exceptional, Lawless isn’t.

Kovacs had too twice keep out Sheridan’s crosses, then he and Pilkington got in each other’s way, almost turning in Laurent’s cross into his own net, but the situation was retrieved in the nick of time. Although Watkins shot wide, naturally Lincoln looked the more likely with the extra man. A long ball over the top, Laurent breezed past Keane unable to keep up with him,but Laurent rushed his strike and could only find the side netting.

Deep into the extra four minutes, Hand had a silly kick at Sheridan, rarely have I seen a more richly deserved sending off for a Luton player. Hope whichever players fill in against Swindon, play the games of their life and keep Lawless and Hand( he goes back next week anyway) out of the team.

The fixture continues to look inviting, double bubble against Kettering ( unless the Poppies go pop by then), then home games against Newport and Stockport. As a collective group of players, wouldn’t trust them to be able to go on a winning run even against those lot. With the pack lurking behind, it would only take a couple more dodgy results and we maybe out of the top ten.

Still, on the positive Brabin at least polished his hitherto scruffy white trainers and Saturday brings about the first step towards the chance of winning another Competition. Shane Warne would be proud of that amount of spin. At least he could had he not been Botexed to death by Liz Hurley.

Kevin Pilkington 5.75 , Dan Gleeson 6, Janos Kovacs 6.75, George Pilkington 7.5 ( Jamie Hand 3) , Jake Howells 6.5 , Adam Watkins 7, Keith Keane 6.5, Alex Lawless 6.25, Aaron O’Connor 6.75( Ryan Brunt), Danny Crow 7.5, Robbie Willmott 5.25( James Dance).

Subs not used – Mark Tyler,Stuart Fleetwood, Booked – Howells, Willmott, Lawless ( x2), Hand ( x2)

Lincoln – Farman, Sinclair, Hinds, Gosling, Nutter, Platt, Christophre( Sheridan), Thompson, Russell ( Taylor), Power , Perry ( Laurent). Booked – Chrsistophre, Hinds.

*THE DISCLAIMER* The above ratings were picked on a whim and very rarely are an accurate reflection on the player’s performances simply to annoy the reader. Today’s fatuous comments are about Socrates and his quote about Football being an art. He wasn’t talking about the Conference, as most of the artists involved are of the piss variety. Enjoyed the minutes’ respect towards him, if there was one. Someone has a vicious paper cut and there is a minute’s respect. But the captain of the best team I have ever since ( even surpassing Ricky Hill’s magic eleven in the last decade) and there is nothing. With all due respect how many great teams did Gary Speed play in? Leeds may have won the League, but doesn’t count as that weasel David Batty played in that team.

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Same old same old

 

I think the record is stuck. Haven’t we been here before somewhere?

As I said the other day, I’m away from home with work today and I couldn’t go so I can’t comment on the game itself. I listened to Messrs Pitts and Duncan on diverse FM on the internet. As usual it sounds as if we were much better in the first half but let Lincoln back in, in the second half. It sounds however that with a few better strikers on their part they would have certainly scored more than one. However, I am delighted for Danny Crow to get a second successive away goal for the Hatters. Good man.

That’s 5 points out of 9 against three of the weaker teams in the division. It’s not going well – we should be on a march by now, not a mid-table crawl.

Whilst being fully supportive of Mr Brabin in the past I think he has lost the plot a little now. We can neither score enough goals to put the game out of reach, or close games down to prevent the opposition from getting one. It’s very frustrating.

It’s not promotion form, and there is nothing to suggest that we can snap out of the inevitable good first half but then poor second half. There’s no glimmer of hope or signs of improvement.

I’ve said it all before I’m not going to repeat myself. It’s embarrassing to think that we might need yet another manager to get us out of this league, but if we are going to do it we have got to invest in someone who can take an enormous squad and some mediocre performers and inject a spark of life and some determination into the team. I fully back 2020 and the current board and off the field the club is 100% going in the right direction, a sustainable direction. I am convinced that if the change is made it will be for the good of the club.

11 points off the top at the start of December, it seems unlikely that we are going to overtake them unless Wrexham and then Fleetwood implode, and so the play offs are a realistic goal. Do we want to limp into them or be the form team who everyone wants to avoid? I know which I’d prefer.

I’m reluctant to say it, it is the easy way out I know, but I think the end of the road may have been reached.

 

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