Good Intentions, Poor Execution

 

A cold easterly breeze chilled us like lollies in a freezer; the wind from the Steppes more direct than a Watford pass. Unfortunately much of the play wasn’t enough to keep our spirits warm. A George Pilkington penalty was the only goal to separate the two teams.

Felt a bit sorry for Alfreton, we were promised a big bullying gruff Derbyshire team hell-bent on defending. A little time wasting aside, what we got was a team with one or two promising players keen to pass it where possible and with an eye to cut defences open with neat moves, in the first half at least. They tired as the game went on, and in trying to snatch something from the game presented us with an increasing number of opportunities; not that we could do anything with them. We wouldn’t have scored in open play if we’d doubled the size of the goals. Mind you – neither would Alfreton.

My first look at McAllister – playing for us, that is. I was warned that he didn’t win many headers for a big man, but set up plenty of goals. Strange that Newport let him go when they are in a bit of a fight for survival. Does he cost them too much? Are they confident of survival? Or was it that he’d not scored a goal in 25 games for them? Not sure – you decide. He was presented with one clear cut and two pretty good chances this afternoon and missed them all. That said he worked hard, did win one or two headers and looked as if he could pass and cross the ball. That’s a start at least.

Perhaps it is a new direction for the club? We normally take in-form strikers and turn them into toothless tigers. Perhaps with McAllister we are going to be doing the reverse?

We made three changes from what was a dire 0-0 on Wednesday. We started with 4-4-2 seemingly for the first time since Brabin had hair. Willmott and Howell were the lucky wingers with Watkins and Lawless in midfield. Crow started up front with McAllister. Crow was replaced at half time with the lively Fleetwood keen to get his place back. Whilst his passing was sometimes a bit wayward, he did seem to get in some good positions.

Which brings me back to the reason for the headline. For a team lacking confidence, the ideas were often right, other than perhaps not get wide enough or overlap enough down the wings. The attacking design was there, certainly in the second half. The trouble was, on occasion, the players looked as if they had never played with each other before, let alone playing this new-fangled strange formation. I can see why Brabin might be concerned that Watkins and Lawless might get overrun as part of a midfield two. Nicholls and Robinson they are not. Watkins was certainly less bright than usual today. and when he was replaced by Poku there was more bite in the midfield, if less creativity. I was keen to see how ‘on fire’ he was. He looked okay – a few good passes, some good tackles and seemed to be haring around in a good way, rather than the rough ‘n’ ready headless chicken last time I saw him.

O’Connor replaced Willmott with 18 minutes to go in the second half. Before he’d had a chance to hit his straps he got a bad knock and wasn’t quite himself after that. Personally, I think O’Connor fits better on the right of a front three, rather than a winger. Felt a bit sorry for him as he has been popping up with plenty of goals recently.

Dan Gleeson, with Andy Burgess removed from his Christmas card list, was a real mixture. He combined his usual efforts of escorting the oncoming winger to the byline, with a couple of good tackles and at one stage a lovely move forward where he overlapped and crossed.

Greg Taylor resembled the other Taylor who has recently played at left back for the Hatters. Not in his overall quality, heavens no, but the fact that he was much more likely to be seen in the offensive half of the pitch than defending. I find it refreshing and really like him as a player. He didn’t have his finest game, but I love the fact that he is up and down that side of the pitch so often. If all left backs spent as long up the pitch as him, their scoring reputation would be far superior.

Good to see Tyler back between the sticks. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking him a better keeper than Kevin Pilks (ahem). Kevin Pilks is good, but Tyler is better all round. His distribution was quick and was keen to roll out to a defender. There were plenty of clearances to McAlister down the pitch, but not unreasonably so. I can only remember seeing him make one proper save. So he must as been as cold as I was. Poor love. Bizarre though that Tyler was back a couple of days after GB continued to justify Pilks’ selection ahead of Tyler’s. Perhaps his continued omission was being a bit too personal.

The other Pilks, George, got man of the match. More for the fact that he cooly scored the penalty than for any great defending I think – though his defending was sound enough, as was Kovacs. Kovacs’ distribution was poor in the first half, too often he was the only defender in space when the ball came to him. He would launch it forward and wide, but not to a man in orange so often. I know no one was making any space for him, no movement – but surely it is more important to retain possession than to play a hopeful ball forward only to lose possession. I’d rather a square pass than a poor pass.

So the game was far from a classic. For me it had more the feel of a pre-season friendly (played in Iceland I hasten to add) where the players were getting to know each other and the formation. It’s a damn shame that next week it is February and we are aiming for a play-off victory come May-time. Today, there was much effort, and lots of huffing and puffing but there was barely a shot on target, or for that matter many shots at all.

 

York drew at Darlo and we are now five points clear of them, which is nice. So even though we are bumping along, not at our best, with two draws and a win in the past week, we are still making third our own. Seems odd doesn’t it? We’d be bloody dangerous if we actually started playing well. Perhaps that’s our lot from now on? However mediocre we are, or this awful division is, perhaps we’re just going to be perennially third; doomed to play-off stress, heartache and misery for all eternity?

It really doesn’t have to be so. It really doesn’t. This can’t be it. Someone do something to wake us from this nightmare.

And on that positive thought I’ll leave you until next time! Come on you Hatters!

 

 

 

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Alfreton Home)

A win with a clean sheet plus the long awaited comeback of his Lordship Poku were the only positives on a cold, cheerless day, with a game to match to the weather. It was proper non league filth – combative and hard fought but little quality on show. Two and a half years watching this kind of game does take it’s toil on your sanity ( that not I had any before).

Although we hadn’t lost since November in the League ( 4 defeats in 31 games looks excellent), it doesn’t seem like that, as a number of the games it would have been preferable to stick glass in your eyes than watch them. As an attacking unit, we have gone very sterile ( no goals in the last three home games in open play, does tell a tale). It does need freshing up before the transfer window and maybe a two week break before the next League game at Forest Green has come at the right time. The team collectively look tired and lacking confidence. Whilst we are churning out results ( which you can’t knock), we have looked very poor in the last couple of games.

Defensively, due to consistently marvellous form of Kovacs and Pilkington, who is slowly improving back to his usual high standard, we are improving, despite Gleeson, who is the epitome of desperately average. But also it does say a lot about some of the teams we have faced as an attacking unit recently and how inept they have been, bar Southport. March is the telling month playing Wrexham, York, Grimbsy and Gateshead, as to where we are. Play off bound, but with what hopes?

The recalled Tyler had little to trouble him, we failed to make the most of some decent positions, but the final pass or shot was absymal. When it comes down to the nitty gritty , we need to do so much better. McAlister won the ball in air on numerous opportunities spending his afternoon touched up by a large physical Alfreton defence linked the play up OK, there are a sign that when he and Fleetwood when in better form, their partnership may work. His finishing was shocking. His confidence is very low and really to do with a goal, even off his knee to get him up and running. He needs games, as isn’t match fit either. It’s hard to ignore his woeful shooting, but in other aspects of his performance he did well.

Probably just as well we were only playing a side from a small town in Derbyshire, population circa 20,000. A place better known for…erm….being the other side of the M1 from Mansfield…erm.. between Derby and Chesterfield …..rough eyesore with plenty of locals who look like they eat bricks ….. .Wasn’t expecting the wholesale changes that Brabin made, despite the fact the Mansfield performance was awful. Im in a minority of one, but don’t think 4-4-2 suits our current squad, we lack the quality of wingers for starters and as a two men midfield we are vulernable on the break. To be honest, it doesn’t matter what formation you play, if you don’t pass the ball with purpose coupled with good movement you are stuffed.

Change of thought by Brabin to play Lawless and Watkins as a two. Watkins made little impact and could do with a break for a couple of matches or so. He has gone off the boil recently, despite an outstanding goal at Southport. Time to take him out of the firing line for a short time.

Tyler back in goal, the usual back four, Willmott on the right ( fortunate to get the nod as did little to enhance his chance in the Hinckley games), Lawless and Watkins in the middle, Howells on the left. With McAllister and Crow up front.

Alfreton, a curious mixture of giants and dwarfs. They at times neatly passed it, but others the big boot came out. Oddly, they dragged off their most likely outlet of a goal, Arnold, a nimble forward striker with decent ability. But with their powerful tall defenders, Streete, Kempson and Franks, who spent the first half molesting McAllister, were a threat at set pieces. Earlier in the season, we woukld have caved in at some point. Looking at one of their results, they seem to pop up from time to time with an unlikely win. As most teams who came to Luton, just played the one forward up front, packed the midfield and looked to break sharpish.

Although the formation looked like being a 4-4-2, Howells played inside, so we lacked much width to our play. Willmott, rarely given the service n the right,Taylor bombed forward with his usual jest, his control and delivery was poor which was very unlike him , although perked up later on when the game become stretched.

The tiny Lowson, a trialist with us last season, had little to bother him, as the game rarely rose a second ball scrap. A Taylor forward move, passed to Crow who dallied before being dispatched with a fierce tackle by Young. Alfreton’s first attempt came after Moult made progress forward, lovely back heel by Arnold, pushed the into Mullan forcing Pilkington to knock the ball behind.

Alfreton looked to break up play at all times, passing the ball three times before Franks lobbed in a long throws. Most of the game revolved around McAllister being fouled by Street and Franks, but remarkably neither were booked. Poku, on the other hand cautioned for his first foul, a push on Moult, which was a foul but no more bearing in mind, the fouls before, not helped by their manager’s Law, who jumped up like a firework has placed up his bottom. Pity it wasn’t lit.

Once,again, none of our midfield were on song. Not easy against a side quick to into into our faces, but we are better, far better than that( maybe not after the last couple of games). Lawless improved vaguely, after the arrival of Poku, gave him a free role, but too often he got into good positions but his final pass was poor. generally, we weren’t good or bright enough on possession. The Mansfield rut continued. Watkins and Taylor exchanges passes down the left before Streete, a real street brawler of a dfender got a blockon. A lovely flighted ball by Howells gave Taylor the chance to run down the left but his curling effort lamely wide of the near post. Willmott put in a curling centre which Lowson caught well.

Arnold’s exquist touch from a ball over his shoulder, beat Gleeson, but his shot smacked off Kovacs and over the bar. A deep inswinging cornher from Moult, was played by Young, but incredibl;y missed his header with a poorly timed jump, when unmarked. Tyler’s early throw gave Taylor another chance to go down the left, hispass found McAlister showing neat feet to squeeze between Kempson and Streete, giving Crow the move to force in a shot , which was weak, but Lowson managed to push it out, Howells’ touch gave Taylor a sight out goal, but his side foot was blocked on the line by Franks, then he managed to force Howells cross from close range away for a corner.

Appreciate it is a backward little place, but no one seemed to tell their players , you have to get the ball between the posts and not yards wide, judging by waywards attempts by Brown and Jarman, if he could play football like he moans, would be a hell of a player.

McAllister won a flag kick off Young. Howells’ curler towards the centre of the goal, Kovacs nudged Streete out of the way, but flicked away of the far post.

Just when I was thinking Howells was poor today, he produced a sublime throughball to Willmott, who faced by Lowson down the left channel, pushed the ball beyond the prone keeper and Willmott made sure he toppled over the outstretched arm. The referee had a good view, which judging his decision making wasn’t a good thing, gave the penalty. With O’Connor on the bench, Pilkington stepped up, and calmly blasted the ball over Lowson, down the middle of the goal.

Despite the relief of scoriong, our performance level didn’t notably rise. Although Crow’s weak curler from Taylor’s pass hit Kempson’s hand before being pouched by Lowson. The two players combined again, Taylor skipping past Streete before shooting staright at Lowson.

The goalkeeper had a very good kick on him, but none of their strilers were tall, so seemed an odd tactic, although Kovacs hoovered up most of the aerial bombardment. Lawless gave away a needless foul ,tripping Mullan, which was late and lucky not to be booked. Moult, who had a decent delivery at set pieces, whipped in the free kick, flicked backwards by Jarman , Arnold only a inch or two away on the volley.

Franks headed Tyler’s clearance back to Howells, pushed pass, through to McAllister, running into the space which franks was out of position, in the box, but clogged a very decent chance over. The longer he goes without a goal, that non goalscoring statistic will tighten around his neck like a noose.

Half time, came and went. A sub each, Fleetwood for Crow for us, Crow rarely involved. However the game remained very uneventful. Fleetwood looked very keen and eager, running at the defence, he spoke of how much he enjoyed playing with McAllister at Exeter in the paper , and both had a good understanding. McAllister’s flick on and Fleetwood manged to reach most of them. Fleetwood’s downfall on the day, after showing some impressive turn of pace, which his decision making, often he would look to pass( badly) rather than shoot belies his lack of confidence.

As it was Alfreton had a spell of pressure. Tyler wasn’t troubled except for being man handling at corners by Brown, a big unit. Streete’s impressive break from a corner, only Kovacs managed to hold him off, allowing Tyler to come out and collect.

Watkins’ early pass out to Willmott, centring well which across goal and McAllister appeared to watch it go past without attempting to head or kick the ball. Both teams lacked a cutting edge, a long throw by the newly arrived Franklin, was nodded on by Brown, Kovacs almost made a Horlicks of his clearance, but managed to shovel it away. Moult, who on the day, looks one of their better players, but a heavy touch went him down after Jarman’s defence splitting pass, making life easy for Tyler.

Gleeson’s pass forward, Lawless in plenty of space, could only pass it straight to Young. The amount of decent positions we wasted five yards from the byline is criminal. A better attempt was McAllister’s dug out centre for Willmott to strike a crisp volley which cannoned off Streete.

We were being outgunned in the centre, so who better to call on than the living legend that is Poku? He came on and gave his usual wholehearted performance and booking ( naturally), a shove on Moult. He closed them down,broke up the play passed it simply and held his position, giving Lawless the opportunity to try ( and fail) to link up the attack. Think when Keane’s buttocks are alright again ( what a horrific image), he will be loaned out again. But personally would prefer to keep him, there will be lots of games when Poku will be needed. When more higher profile players go missing, he won’t. Whatever his limitations in his game, we will always play up to a certain standard.

The game wasn’t end to end, but didn’t have a pattern of play and was even. Moult’s volley from Taylor’s header away, caused Tylerto scramble across, but missed the far post. Kovacs sent the ball forward, Fleetwood brought the ball down and tried a cheeky little effort around the corner, which Lowson read.

O’Connor was the final change repalcing Willmott, shortly after his arrival he pulled up sharply, he managed to soldier on, as with Poku on a booking, nine men would have been a huge problem.

We were never in complete control as we couldn’t kill them off. Moult should have done betetr, after a decent interchange of passes between Mullan and Jarman. At times, in possession it was like a hot potato, nobody seemed to want to get tehir foot on the ball and try to dictate affairs. The one man who did in the latter stages was Howells, picking out Lawless, but again the final ball was of poor qualitty. Gleeson’s good centre found McAllister heading over.

Whilst Alfreton were tiring, to be fair they are a poor team but worked hard off the ball. Lawless’ neat turn and for a change found Howells to shin wide.The visitors last chance, came coutsey of a free kcik on the edge of the box, after Kovacs was adjudged to have fouled Moult. Our wall wasn’t ten yuards, it was barely eight, but Low’s drilled effort was weak, straight into Poku in the wall.

Taylor motored forward, passing the ball to Lawless, who did well to get past Streete, with a shot on the cards, he elected to go backwards to Fleetwood, a shot dribbled at Lowson. It’s almost if we are either passing the buck in shooting positions or try to walk the ball in. Whichever it is, could the team kindly stop doing it, please ? CIA.

Howells linked the play out to McAllister in the box, right of area, but he was a weak finish towards the near post, Lowson got down well, but he shouldn’t have given the keeper a chance from there. Fleetwood, on the wing, centred across the face of the goal, with no-one there, the type of cross which would be perfect for himself. Lawless and O’connor set up McAllister and his shot curled hopelessly wide.

Best forgotten really, it’s clear something isn’t right. Whilst the results are acceptable, performances and the body language of some players suggest something is wrong. Brabin ‘s got a few days to bring in/ shift out players and two weeks to prepare for Forest Green, who judging by the reports over the last couple of games have performed well.

It’s a depressing sign of the times, on the day Stevenage and Crawley qualify in the last sixteen of the F.A. Cup, that Im thinking ooh Forest Green away, that will be tricky. :o( * punches walls in padded cell*

Mark Tyler 7, Dan Gleeson 5.5, Janos Kovacs 8, George Pilkington 7.75, Greg Taylor 6.5, Robbie Willmott 5 ( Aaron O’Connor) , Alex Lawless 6, Adam Watkins 5( Godfrey Poku 6.75), Jake Howells 6.5 , Danny Crow 5,( Stuart Fleetwood 6.5) Craig McAllister 6.75.

Subs not used – John-Paul Kissock, Kevin Pilkington. Booked – Poku.

Alfreton – Lowson, Street, Kempson, Franks( Franklin). Young, Moult, Clay, Brown, Mullan ( Law), Arnold ( Clayton), Jarman. Booked – Brown

*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 72 all out. Getting up at 6am on a Saturday morning to watch that debacle was tactically naive. They should ban cricket in the desert unless Camels are allowed to play, they may bat better too.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Hinckley FAT #2)

In the end a comfortable passage through to the last sixteen. For long periods, the only difference between the two sides was Mark Tyler and the quality of the finishing. In a good, attractive open game of football, it could have been different had Hinckley brought their shooting boots with them and not found our reserve goalkeeper in splendid form, making half a dozen decent stops. None worldy saves, but often Tyler was quick off his line, in a way Kevin Pilkington with his concrete boots couldn’t have reacted so quickly.

Whatever has gone on between Tyler and Brabin, it’s time to stop this madness and pick Tyler again. Kevin Pilkington is a more than decent back up keeper and performed with the upmost credit against Cambridge and Northampton, but there is no comparsion between the two goalkeepers.

Just hope the selection policy continues of giving squad players much needed practice and giving the kids a chance continues throughtout the competition and not do a U turn like last year when Wembley got close , the first team got selected and knocked out by Mansfield, although that was more to do with wasting chances up there, also a marvellous display of goalkeeping and a poor referee in the second leg. The biggest problem in this Trophy the timing of having the final between the Play Off Semi and the Final itself. They really need to look at the scheduling of the tournament closer, but not to mention the potential League games off. Barrow, Darlington, Gateshead away. Someone is taking the piss.

Apart from the fact our defence were caught wide open often with only one pass, Lacey struggled again at first but by the end was getting the better of the wily Farrell, and Edward was given a torrid time by Gray, who with all due respect to Hinckley is better than Conference North standard. It was a night with far more positives than negatives. A clinical finish by AMS getting another half under his belt, Fleetwood looking sharper and playing with most desire ( he played with the heart of a size of a stale baked bean at Hinckley), the youngsters all performed with credit. Once again Jerry Nash shone. He looks about twelve, but plays with the maturity of someone double his age. Shielding the back four, holding his position with Kissock over all the place ( which isn’t meant as a criticism), kept the ball and passed it simply. Nothing flash, but a very good proper footballer. Looks a bright prospect. If any of the vultures/scouts are reading this his actual name is CURTIS OSANO.

Once again Hinckley gave us a game. They had a go and were ultimately out-gunned. All they need to learn is to refund car park charges on games postponed and not pour boiling water on frozen grass they will be fine. Over the two games, they look far better than a team fighting relegation in the Northern Monkeys league. The antics of their rent a gob manager Dean Thomas is worth the admission price alone. Never shuts up, why manager moan at the fourth official is a mystery. They provided the comedy moment of the evening, the sub Carovan, a dead ringer for Sideshow Bob, with lime green boots I ask you. The haircut and boots alone are worth a month’s fine.

Two changes from the original match. Injuries ruled out Dance and Ann in came Nash and AMS. Tyler in goal, the same back four at Hinckley Osano, Lacey, EAA, O’Donnell. Midfield four of McAdams, Nash, Kissock, Willmott. AMS and Fleetwood as the front pairing, showing signs that the duo could form a decent partnership, with their movement. So only Kissock, naughty boy nets?, remained from Saturday’s team.

The game had an unremarkable start. We settled quicker, trying to use the pace of AMS behind their back four and Fleetwood peeling off to the left channel.

Chances were far and few between in the opening exchanges. Kissock was a marked man, Hinckley looked to get stuck into him, by any means, including him getting clobbered in the head by Bragoli, an incident missed by the referee. Resulting in a nasty gash to the forehead, resuming with a head band looking like a pint sized Steve Foster.

Our first opportunity came from AMS, a heavy touch took him away from goal, turning back to goal, blazed over with a left foot strike.Hinckley’s only moment of note came after Gray burst through denied by a crucial nod back to Tyler by O’Donnell.Kissock was fouled by Bragoli, but remained on his feet, spread the ball out to Osano, a thumping drive followed but lacked accurary.Kerry given time to size up a crossing opportunity, to find Newton to loop a head wide. A fine run down the flank by AMS won a corner. Willmott floated it over to Lacey ‘s downward header blocked by Dudley, Fleetwood scrambled towards the rebound, which was turned in past Hinds by Bragoli.

The goal brought an end to end spell of play. Belcher’s one two with Gray, Lacey slow to read it, but Tyler claimed the ball.On break, Willmott’s daisycutter went wide. Once again Willmott on the left, is a flawed idea. He has no left foot for starters, so often cuts inside. However in the second half, when he swopped wings with McAdams, he looked far more dangerous. One aspect of the game, we didnt do well, was the lack of runners followed numerous AMS deft headers. He won plenty against Flanagan, a far taller man.

A neat clip by Kerry over our oh so square back line, gave Farrell a chance to hammer a low hard drive across goal, which Tyler held well.Although our defence was shakey, our bulid up was of a decent standard, Kissock’s pass out to the right to McAdams, good pass inside, Fleetwood managed to get half a yard to drill a strike straight at Hinds.

First real moment of panic from Hinckley wearing a more boring away kit similar to Bolton, rather than their home Barcelona kit, Gray got to the ball before Lacey, his ball around the corner found Farrell ( their two forwards have an extremely good understanding), EAA unable to catch him, Tyler quick out of the blocks and made a terrific block. EAA was fouled by Farrell backing in, the refree not bright enough to see it, ball went out to Newton, Osano was somewhat slow to close the first movement but managed to get across and deflect the attempt behind.

Nash blocked the run of Newton, allowing Edward to ping the ball out to O’Donell, beating Kerry whipping a cross in which was cut out by Lister. AMS’ pass to Fleetwood, was held by Flanngan, the defender waited for Fleetwood to commit to the shot before lunging in.

Again Hinckley dangerous on the break with their pace both through Gray in the middle and out wide through Belcher and Newton, Belcher and Gray combined,the latter’s first touch poor, again Tyler off his line to stop a potentially dangerous situation.

O’Donnell, got forward well, maybe his final ball could have been better, but he always travels comfortably in possession. The second goal arrived just before the break, a fine solo run and finish, AMS taking the ball from the right channel, seeing off the challange of Flanagan, before knocking the ball into the far corner with ease. Class finish, he never looked like missing. Fleetwoo’s movement and awarness teed up Willmott from a similar angle on the other side of the box, but Willmott’s finish was poor, poking the ball across goal.

Just time for Tyler to deny Farrell with a superb save, once created by Gray. The half time break saw Woolley replaced AMS. Wooley, a whole hearted busy player, perhaps his finishing needs improving,but plenty of time to do that. Hinckley started brightly , Holt from central midfield heavily involved, a direct run and strike hit a defender and behind, which Newton’s corner sailed across goal , everyone just watchedit go across. Holt’s square pass, saw Newton break through, a strike saved by Tyler’s legs. Then Kerry and Farrell set up Gray to lash against Tyler’s chest.

If a couple of those chances had gone in, it would have been a different complexion to the scoreline. But we rode our luck, as was the case in the second half in Leicestershire. A run through by McAdams found by Osano, the finish couldn’t match the move and he dragged his effort wide. Then he dug out a centre from the left, Woolley just not getting enough contact on the header.Generally our of the finishing by the younger players was a bit excitable, but hopefully they will learn from the experience.

EAA’s fine pass found Fleetwood moving out wide, finding Woolley snatching at his strike and it dribbled wide. A short corner played to Fleetwood he centred for EAA to denied on the line by Bragoli, the ball was cleared to Willmott who took out both Dudley and Newton, but was shot was heavily deflected.

Gray’s neat pass found Belcher on the overlap, in plenty of space to wildly smash over with the newly arrived Byrne unmarked. Byrne had an impacton the game,Osano looked comfortable prior to his arrival. Although Hinckley played with a positive attitude, some of their tackles were terrible and a lot went unpunished. Kissock was floored by Kerry, a good advantage was played, McAdams allowed to find Fleetwood to the left of the penalty area, he managed to wriggle enough room past the full back, before firing expertly past Hinds into the far cirner.

There was an opportunity for Brabin to give debuts to Charlie Smith and Brett Longden. Longden, in particular impressed during his short cameo, good first touch and excellent awareness.

Kissock was the next to go close, floating Willmott’s pass , inches wide. Hinckley well beaten by this stage, but kept battling on, Byrne’s run towards the near post was met by Dudley’s corner and the ball flashed past the post.

Excellent control and set up by Willmott, gave Smith a chance to run at the tiring defence, a neat feint, but Smith over cooked his shot and sent the ball over. Even towards the end, Tyler was kept busy, a simple stop to his left, after Belcher exchanged passes with Byrne.

Kidderminster is a good test and hopefully the young team selected can do themselves justice. Obviously far more important league games before then. With Kissock playing the whole game, he looks like being axed for mansfield. probably a bit early to start with AMS, so could means Keane ( if fit) or Godfrey will be the third midfielder, alongside Lawless and Watkins. Tyler back in goal, a decent right back to be signed eventually and we finally aren’t far short of a good squad, shame it’s taken about six months too long

Mark Tyler 8.5, Curtis Osano 6.5, Alex Lacey 6.75, Edward Asafu-Adjaye 5.5, Jonathan O’Donnell 7 , Corby McAdams 6.5, Jerry Nash 8 , John-Paul Kissock 7, Robbie Willmott 6.75, Stuart Fleetwood 7.5, Amari Morgan-Smith 7.25( Jake Woolley 6.25).

Subs not used – Lewis Kidd, Leeroy Magaurshe.

Hinckley – Hinds, Kerry, Lister, Flanagan, Dudley,Belcher, Holt( Hicks), Bragoli, Newton( Byrne), Gray ( Carovan), Farrell.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Southport AWAY)

A hard earned point in a match played like a cup tie, in a howling gale on a heavy surface with a clash of styles. In the difficult conditions, a very decent match containing many mistakes, but lots of goal chances, in the second half both teams went for the win, both had chances to do so, but on the balance of play a draw was a fair result, it was also played like next goal wins.

The result could have been a whole lot worse being 2-0 down against the run of play. Showed excellent spirit and character to turn the deficit into the lead, but with Taylor conceding a needless, if soft free kick just outside the box, converted by Gray hitting the post and in off the luckless Pilkington, the defence not without the odd wobble or seven, kept out just about an aerial bombardment via the towering long throw ins by Owens and some viciously inswinging corners by Ledsham perfectly placed on top of Kevin Pilkington. Crow wasted a reasonable chance at the death, however his finishing doesn’t match up to the recent improvement in his all round game and attitude.

Whilst I know people will say it’s only parttime Southport coming off the back of a couple of heavy defeats, but earlier in the season we could have capsized in a heap against a side with such physicality. Whilst it’s not the result we could have done with, it’s by no means a nightmare, unlike last season’s little effort up there.

Two changes from the last League match. Fleetwood and Dance, who were at best dire at Hinckley dropped and in came O’Connor and Kissock. Although Kissock played well in the week and Brabin praised him in the Luton News, Tyler too played with merit but wasn’t picked. Surprised as the selection went against his normal default position of not selecting Watkins and Kissock together. In a three man midfield, there is a degree of flexibility, but against a strong side on hardly a billiard green of a surface, probably not the situation to get the best out of both players, even against JPK’s former employers. He was alright, Southport looked to close down space at every opportunity, frustating him , often Kissock wasn’t on the same wave length as his team mates, perfectly weighted passes were met by statuesque movement by his colleagues.

Thought maybe Brabin may go with a horses for courses selection by including the return of the prodigal son, G.A. Poku esquire and McAllister. But selected the usual formation. K.Pilkington in goal, back four of Gleeson, Kovacs ( Janice Kovacs according to the lady on the tannoy) and Taylor. The midfield trio of Lawless, Watkins and Lawless. Crow on his own, O’Connor and Howells either side.

Southport are a basic team ( well they are Lancastrians. Stupid, blunt – but only when it suits them, chip on the shoulders goes with the terrority). The fact they are nicknamed Port is presumably that everyone needs to be raging alcoholic to live near such a grim outpost. Competitive, close down space, look to get the ball forward or wide as quickly as possible and put pressure on the opposition. They rarely looked to play through the midfield. Fair play to them considering they only survived due to Rushden going pop, they have given it a good go this season. You could see why Godfrey was in his element for them, they get stuck in, tackles raining in and the odd push and shove thrown in.Perhaps not the best team to coach his rough edges out of him.

The weather conditions which worsened during the game, was seen early on as the Southport goalkeeper McMillian kept finding touch with his goal kicks, could barely reach the half way line. Initially, we started brightly, but did have a tendancy to try to play straight through the home defence, trying to use the man advantage in central midfield, as Southport played 4-4-2 and some dogged defending meant chances were few and far between.

Southport looked to use their loanee/man mountain Mukendi, who would look more at home on a basketball court, a real bean pole, who try to shove his way through our defence, and the tireless Gray, a real bundle of energy looked to chase down any loose ball.

We did look to use the ball on the floor, Kissock and Howells creating an opening for Watkins to shin an effort at the keeper. A short corner routine between Howells and Watkins, fell to Howells unopposed dragging his strike wide of the near post. In terms of possession, we were domination,the hosts had only the long throws of Owens plus towel as a threat.

Their first attempt went in, thanks to the farcial nature of the conditions, Kissock passed the pass into Akrigg, his prod, saw Gray running forward trying his luck from twenty yards, , K.Pilkington ‘s first move was to shift to the left but the ball moved and went straight down the middle, leaving him helpless no time to recover. Looked awful though.

With Southport having their noses in front, it became a battle, no finesse, which suited them more. Apart from a neat roll by Howells, out of his feet, towards Watkins, but his first touch was poor.

Southport doubled their lead, another poor goal from our point of view, although a excellent finish, opening his body up by Mukendi, rather like Watkins a little later. Kovacs lost the ball to Gray, his incisive pass found Muklendi, shrugged off George Pilkington, before dispatched the ball past Kevin Pilkington into the far corner

Two shots, two nil down. Appy daze are here again :o( Howells, who was our best attacking player on the day, wriggled through a tiny gap between Grand and Owens, crossed low across goal, Kissock was there, but seemed to get impended by McMillian,but the referee waved play on.

Howells benefiting from a switch over to the right, with O’Connor having a very quiet game ( having little service didn’t help matters), he dug over a cross which Taylor at the far post post header across for Crow to nod in . We needed a goal before half time to get back into the game, as the longer it went on, Southport despite not being a major attacking threat on the game despite the scoreline were coping well in midfield, Ledsham in particular covering a huge amount of ground, and only Lawless in our midfield was any influence, without the ball.

Kisoock’s neat body swerve took out Grand and Ledsham, but the finish didn’t match the trickery and could only toe poke the ball at McMillian. O’Connor caught Lever with a slightly high tackle and in the current climate not be be cautioned.Lever was streched off in a lengthy delay, which meant four minutes injury time actually became six of extra time.

We equalised in the middle of this,as Southport had to re-jig their defence, Taylor’s pass forward, was meant by Crow, having the awareness to roll in Watkins, beautiful side foot finish from the edge of the box, leaving McMillian no hope. Howells’ inswinging wind assisted corner almost drifted in, leaving the kepper flapping at thin air.

The second half saw Southport have the significant wind advantage at their backs. Although for some reason Pilkington elected to try to boot the ball into the wind, to no success ( not learned from grays two seasons ago in similar windy conditions), oddly enough. From his first failed attempt was won by Mukendi, Gray chased through, George Pilkington managed to deal with it .

Grand’s back pass played blind, perfectly found O’Connor clear through ( thanks very much), O’Connor seized on the gift, Owens couldn’t get to them,and O’Connor scored past the onrushing McMillian, with a calm shot into the net.

Whilst our football was very precise and always looked threat on the break, particularly when Howells went into the middle of the park and AMS returned after his long absense, we did look to shuffle back, which was a mistake to sit back against a side who always looked like they had another goal at least in them.

Putting Whalley on the left, gave Gleeson plenty of problems, it’s taken an awful long time for our opponenets to work out he is our weak link, he’s not bad but to progress we could do with better. Whalley’s quick, but without the necessary cover Gleeson was exposed regularly. Whalley’s end product was ineffective, but against better opponents, it’s something that needs to be sorted.

Southport responded well to the turn around, they look a side with plenty of spirit in them, Mukenid hopeful toe poke hit Lawless and looped comfortable through to Pilkington. Smith got beyiond Taylor, kncoked the ball to Whalley nodding down for Ledsham to fire a low drive which Pilkington got safety behind it. From a very long throw from owens ( most of tehm were reaching around the near post), the ball was half away, but fell to Benjamin to help the ball back in, Akeigg teed up Grand to curl just wide.

Southport were having to send more men forward, so gaps appeared at the back, a fine move between Lawless, watkins and shifting on to O’Connor, the ball sat up nicely but with Owens closing the angle,O’Connor screwed the ball wide.

Taylor nduged Gray centrally. It was soft but stuopid. Given the wind factor, Gray ran in like a fast bowler, Pilkington seemed hidden behind his wall, with a large gap towards his right, Gray opted for the narrow angle, not sure what view Pilkington got with the wall in front of him, but Gray’s strike hit the inside of teh post, but ball bounced off, richoting in off the luckless keeper.

AMS replaced Kissock, not a happy chappy on his withdrawal. He was unlucky as had a better game than at least a couple of players who remained on the pitch. Howells with a fine mazy run squared for AMS toshot into Akrigg, the ball finding Crow, he powerfully smashed wide.

The game become very stretching and it was really up for grabs. Mukendi travelling strongly denied by the outstretched foot of George Pilkington. O’Connor switched the play to the left, but taylor wastefully lobbed the ball across allowing McMillian an easy claim.

Howells lost possession to Whalley, but won it back with a wonderful sliding tackle against the same player, gave it to O’Connor, nice back heel and Howells attempted his luck, the ball taking a wicked deflection off Owens adn saw McMillian scramble towards his far post.

Southpoert were quick to use the flanks, Whalley skinned Gleeson with the upmost ease, Kovacs covered the near post, but almost suceeded into flicking the ball into the far corner. Grand missed a free header at the near post being found by Ledsham’s floated corner.

AMS, looking not 100% hardly surprisingly, showed a neat turn of feet to bamboozle Smith, his centre was met by a deft header by Crow, O’Connor flagged offisde at the far post. It was the hosts who looked most likely to get a winner. A brilliant tip over by Pilkington, making amends for his unlucky afternoon, saved from a thunderbolt by Whalley, after Kovacs could only get a weak header on yet another massive throw by Owens. A neat drag from the newkly arrived debutant Ellison beat Taylor, laid off to Gray, who found Whalley storming through on the left, his shot hopelessly fired over, last seen going towards Liverpool ( my sympathies for the ball).

We had to show some fight ( in the correct sense) of the word under plenty of pressure. It maight be the eye catching result of the season, but few points had been as hard earned. Taylor’s diving header cut out Whalley’s centre, Owens’ attempt flashed across the goal. Then Gray, strike caught the wind and flew over Pilkington.

In the dying stages,AMS was found by Kovacs, sliding the ball through to Crow, he took two touches, when one would have done, but his shot was tame and easy for McMillian.

Ten games unbeaten, and two home League games coming up. Mansfield looked decent up there and are going OK. Probably won’t be easy, but it’s getting to the stage we look as though we need snookers to catch Fleetwood and Wrexham. It’s the winning positions thrown away against the lower teams, plus losing tight matches to teams around us at home, have really put the kybosh on it, far more than today’s result.

Kevin Pilkington 5.5, Dan Gleeson 5, Janos Kovacs 7, George Pilkington 6, Greg Taylor 6.75, Alex Lawless 7.5, Adam Watkins 6, John-Paul Kissock 6.5( Amari Morgan-Smith 6.5), Aaron O’Connor 6, Danny Crow 7, Jake Howells 8.

Subs not used – Mark Tyler, Craig McAllister, Stuart Fleetwood, Godfrey Poku. Booked – Watkins. .

Southport – McMillian, Smith, Akrigg, Grand, Lever ( Benjamin), Whalley, Parry, Ledsham, Owens, Mukendi ( Ellison), Gray. Booked – Benjamin.

*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 Paul Dainels cutting off his finger. How many fingers has he got left? Not a lot. Apart from being tactically naive,surely all magicians need only a five knuckle shuffle to demonstrate their apparent talents. A chain saw around their throats is about their only trick,I would like to see.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Hinckley FA Trophy – #1)

A nil nil on a damp January evening against plucky opponents at a perfectly functional if soul destroying stadium, slap bang the middle of nowhere half way between Leicester and Coventry sounds horrific. Surprise surprise it was as well. The main winner of the evening is the inevitable onset of Rheumatism for the crowd. The main loser me, Hinckley the cheeky monkeys charged me twice for the same game in car parking fees. Once on Saturday, once last night. Governments have been overthrown for less.

As often is the case when a weaker team is field, the result least wanted we achieved. The old place will be rocking on Monday thanks to a heady aroma of boredom and mild indifference. Hope for the groundsman’s sake all his excellent, hard work on the pitch is not ruined with three games on it in five days, if the weather turns wet.

We were slightly lucky ( or should that be unlucky) to remain in the competition due to a rank second half display, after shading the first half and we had enough opportunities to break deadlock. Hinckley could have won but for a lack of quality with the final final ball, a couple of outstanding last ditch tackles by EAA ( the P.A. announcer’s attempt at his surname was the quality moment of the evening), two fine stops by our young rookie keeper Tyler ( he may have a future in the game) denied the Knitters an opportunity to sew up a famous win.

It was only towards the end, when the match became incredibly stretched on a sapping pitch as the awful prospect of a replay became an inevitability, when our one man attacking team (Kissock), went on a couple of solo rushes from short corners.

With so many changes (only Dance and Fleetwood remained as starters from the last day against Stockport), it’s always going to be difficult to produce a decent performance with a pick and mix selection. But the going through the motions attitude from certain players is very disappointing. Willmott and Fleetwood in particular did their starting prospects no good whatsoever. Probably better to find about about their lack of professionalism now rather than a later, more far important date. Appreciate a game in the F.A. Trophy is not an enticing propsect for anyone, but the likes of the two named do have a point to prove to the manager. Looking disinterested isn’t going to do either of them any favours.

The sooner, as lots of people said before, the competition becomes like the JPT/LDV/HIV Trophy the better. One off games in the week, with the majority of the matches played far earlier in the season and most importantly non compulsively entry. If teams want to have a serious go in it, good luck to them. That way it could work out to be a good little, worthwhile competition, rather than a hassle which leaves the teams who progress a major headache in fixture congestion. No point in a Cup competition, if it suits teams to be knocked out as soon as possible.

With our replacements more like a creche than a subs bench. We lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Tyler in goal. Back four of Osano, Lacey, Ed and O’Donnell. The midfield of McAdams, Dance, Kissock and Willmott with Fleetwood and Ann the two forwards.

Hinckley have done well in the cups against Conference teams and produced a battling performance above their league station. They wore Barcelona shirts. Shame we were more of a mess than Messi in the second half. The positives were another clean sheet, we have more of them now than a dry cleaners currently and the performances of Tyler, O’Donnell and Kissock, who had a more complete game than usual, careful in possession and following up his own pass very few step overs or looking to beat his opponent 12,685 times before falling over. He is a far better player when he doesn’t look to show boat every time. Also a promising cameo of Jerry Nash, a tiny central midfielder, whose passing was accurate, well worth a start in the replay.

Their game plan was basic. Direct and physical. Get the ball up to Farrell, the target man from Telford, who knows exactly how to play outside the rules and fool officials. Lacey early in the game, won a few headers but struggled thereafter, still looks a long way of regular first team start. Flicking on to the pace of Gray, who looks better than that standard. Osano struggled against Newton, their left winger and looks entirely bereft of confidence, on the ball, he as assured as someone with a shoebomb attached to them. He needs a loan spell to regain confidence or just a new career.

We had two plans, one a hoof up upfront, which would have been fine but for an unlucky injury to Ann, chasing down a backpass, became the coconut in the shy after Hinds’ powerful kick out smashed into him , poleaxing the big man like the Costa Concordia . He gamely tried to continue but limped off, a great shame for him for his debut to be off almost before it began. Woolley replaced him, leaving two small strikers. Too often we played far too long and narrow. But of a waste of having Kissock and Dance, who was a shadow of himself on the evening. When we did pass the ball and look to commit defenders we looked far more dangerous and Hinckley merely resorted to hacking.

O’Donnell and Kissock were our only creative outlets. It’s unlucky for JJ he has to get in front of Taylor and Howells to get a run in the side. An impossible task. A few of the players could do worse than the club send them to Darlington or Kettering on loan to help them out and in turn us, in a way that Godfrey did helping Southport take points off some of our rivals.

The game took a long while to settle down after Dudley’s back pass to Hinds kick crashed into Ann. Hinckley defended deep and relied on the pace of Gray and Newton and Belcher out wide. Lacey rose highest to divert Newton’s cross after Gooding’s pass out wide.

Our first opportunity , Hinds punching clear from Willmott’s corner, the ball dropped to Kissock, a move to his right and struck the ball with power, produced a flying save by Hinds to tip it over the bar. Their first chance came from Kissock giving away possession to Dudley, his hopeful prod forward, Lacey dwelt looking for Tyler to sweep up, allowed Gray in through on goal, Tyler was out swiftly to get block his shot.

Then we become to play with excellent sweeping football. a fantastic crossfield pass by O’Donnell found McAdams, cutting past his full back, a low centre found Woolley, his strike at the far post hit the net. Alas the side netting. This started our best spell ofthe game, Fleetwood and Woolley combined, finding O’Donnell travvlling forward, his low shot rolled across Hinds goal. Willmott poked the ball into Fleetwood, square pass to Dance nudged clearly by Lavery, Dance remained on his feet, the ball fell to Fleetwood shooting accurately but straight at Hinds.

Apart from a shot by Gray which ballooned over and ended up nearer the five a side goal on the training pitches, after a decent exchange between Newton and Belcher. We continued to look themore likly, an exceptional header underneath the bar by Lister denied Fleetwood’s flicked header from Willmot’s left wing corner.From a corner on the other flank, Lacey’s knockdown fwell to Kissock, Hinds bravely diving at dance’s feet. McAdams began another move in turn finding dance and then Kissock, O’Donnell always an outlet, sent a teasing centre over with just too much height for Woolley.

Belcher’s header caught out O’Donnell, Gray again through denied by a crunching tackle by Edward. Naturally he looked ring rusty, but all things considered he did reasonably well with his lack of recent football.Hinckley had a goal chalked up for offside, Newton’s strike deflected into the path by Gray, neat finish into the far corner, ruled out by the Linesman. Both had a unique insight into the offside rule, appeared just to flag randomly for no reason.

We weren’t able to build on the first half and to be honest barely turned up for the second half. Playing into Hinckley’s hands, by knocking the ball long which suited their two centre halves Lister and Flanagan, but when we tried to move them out of their comfort zone, didn’t look so comfortable. O’Donnell gave the ball away needlessly, it returned via the balding pate of Farrell, Gray,once against on the shoulder of the last defender , made progress towards to area, Tyler foiled his shot diving to the left, Osano managed to come across and force Gray into a horrible swipe wide.

With a light weight midfield , the back four didn’t have much protection, defending deep, it looked like the makeshift defence it was, very wide apart and often too square, beaten by one pass. Kerry’s long throw, found Belcher, nicking the ball onto Gray, pushed the path into Farrell, well timed strike was saved well by Tyler.

It needed a change. McAdams, who had seen little of the ball, not his fault more of his senior colleages, was replaced by Nash and his controlled passing gave us a foot hold into the game, rather than the hoof one way, hoof t’other the game was developing into.

O’Donnell found Kissock jinking pass Belcher, Fleetwood gained half a yard, dragged a shot, which was easy for Hinds to stop. Kissock turning well past Dudley, played teh ball up to the byline towards Willmott, a dug out cross found Woolley faliled off the bar.

Willmott’s short corner played to Kissock making good progess into the box, shifted the ball to Woolley but with a pack of defendesr in front of him, the ball bobbled and teh final shot was porr.

Hinckley, whose energy levels for a part time side were excellent had another goal chalked off, a clear two handed push by Lister heading past Tyler from Newton’s corner.

Our best chance of the half, created again by Kissock, the low pass turned into Fleetwood by Woolley, through down the left channel, was denied by Hinds standing up big and the ball hit the keeper’s shoulder. Hinkcley wasted their best chance, fell to Newton, who was started to beat Osano with alarming ease, he elected to shoot at Tyler, where if he looked up, Gray would have had an open goal to aim at.

We ended the stronger, but it was too little too late, Nash’s low pass to Kissock on a mazy dribble, his attempted cross/shot flicked off Dudley and onto the roof of the net. With two minutes signalled by a card, Newton burst past Osano but Lacey managed to take the sting out of the strike.

With the replay sandwiched between the Southport and Mansfield matches, would imagine it would be an even younger team that plays in the replay, no bad thing really ( if the Da Silva brothers haven’t been caught by those child snatchers Chelsea they may have got a gig) give them more experience, rather than bored looking professionals.

Mark Tyler 8.25, Curtis Osano 5.5, Alex Lacey 5.5, Edward Asafu-Adjaye 7, Jonathan O’Donnell 7.25 , Corby McAdams 6.5( Jerry Nash 7) , James Dance 5 , John-Paul Kissock 8, Robbie Willmott 4.5, Stuart Fleetwood 4.5, Alasan Ann ( Jake Woolley 6.5).

Subs not used – Lewis Kidd, Charlie Smith, Brett Longsdon. .

Hinckley – Hinds, Kerry, Lister, Flanagan, Dudley,Belcher(Holt), Gooding(Bragoli), Lavery, Newton, Gray, Farrell. Booked – Gooding.

*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 F.A. Trophy. If we were to win it in our delightful sojourn into the murky waters in non league, if we won the competition. We could donate it to our chums down the M1. It would give them something to put in a trophy cabinet except for the gathering of dust and vegetables. Although soon the Elf and Safety people will ask them to remove their fans from the trophyless cabinet.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Stockport HOME)

A ground out win, which was a grind to watch with few chances or much decent football on display. Not convincing, however we have got to the stage, when wins are more vital than quality of performance, regardless of the dross lined up against us recently, can’t argue with five league wins out of five. On that display, Stockport like Tony Thorpe will be shooting blanks for eternity which is far too information, Anthony, dear boy.

Considering our lack of success from the spot, it was one of those nights, where it looked like a penalty or an own goal would prove to be our mostly likely route to scoring. O’Connor’s crisp convention, after a lengthy discussion between him and George P, defeating the fingertips of Ormson. Too often the final ball was of a poor quality until we broke the deadlock. A struggle to put away a well organised Stockport side, who whilst defended well, were rarely seriously threatened.

The first half saw us play too narrow, with numerous passes astray, Lawless being the only bright spark, both in possession and sitting in front of the back four.. Then when we got the ball in the final third, too often let down by a lack of creavity and flair. It was the Cheshire Hatters who came closest to scoring Holden’s desprately unlucky top see his thirty five yarder ( wild guess, miles out anyhow), kiss the bar, leaving Kevin Pilkington motionless ( no change there then), a powerfully struck clearance by Piergianni against Watkins on the rebound , forcing Ormson to save to his right was as near as it got for us.

The introduction of O’Connor at the break, saw the tide turn in our favour, with a performance full of hardwork and at least he tried to make something happen. Although it was a game which was crying out for Kissock. When Watkins ran into Piergianni in the box. not the most stanewall penalty I’ve seen given. O’Connor kept his cool and scored. The goal, brought an improvement in the performance, giving the ball simply and Stockport never looked likely to get back into the game. Crow and Howells missed gulit edged changes to increase the lead, but that would have added a false gloss to the scoreline.

Stockport credit were it’s due, tried to play football, didn’t park the bus, time waste, kick lumps out of our players, but their problem will be scoring goals.The way teams are dropping like flies,they should avoid their third successive relegation.

The team picked by Brabin ( condolences to him and his family after the death of his father) saw two changes from Saturday Although Gleeson, Crow and Pilkington were passed fit, Keane was absent. With Hand back at Hayes and Godfrey banned, we are lacking replacements in the middle of the park. So we went back to 4-4-2. Think against weaker teams at home, we can get away with Dance at full back, Gleeson doesn’t add much to our attacking side of our game. Fleetwood and Crow, personally don’t see that as a partnership flourishing,as Fleetwood will be the one working the channels, and naturally is a better finisher than Crow. With Watkins, Howells and Taylor rarely seen in attacking areas, we struggled to put Stockport under much pressure. With the personnel we currently have, for the time being at any rate the 4-5-1,4-3-3,4-3-2-1, or is it 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11, formation is the way forward.

Second half we reverted to that, with Willmott and O’Connor ( personally feel he was unlucky to be omitted in the first place). Fleetwood starved of service and Dance one of the players who looked like he may create something, were unlucky to be withdrawn.

Our play for the majority of the game, lacked the tempo, urgency and most of all quality. But like Saturday, we gained a win without playing well or anywhere near it. Which in it’s self is a positive sign.

Stockport who arrived in sumptous mid-season form ( lost their last five league games, without scoring in the last three of them. It’s consistent). Rowe looked a threat on the left wing, as he did in the game up at Edgeley Park in September, direct small player, good change of feet, in a better side would look a very good player.

On an incredibly mild, possibly barmy evening, there was a low crowd and a very quiet atmosphere. The game had a very scrappy start ,not helped to two lengthy stoppages to Gritton and Halls. We never managed to switch the ball well enough, it just didn’t click, one of those days even really on Kovacs was reduced to playing some aimless passes forward.

Crow broke on the left channel, exchanging passes with Fleetwood before Holden got a block on Crow’s drive. On the break, Holden’s pass down the line sent rowe away, his square pass, was controlled by Whitehead, changing feet nimbly before limping prodding the ball back to Kevin Pilkington.

Dance found by Lawless, an excellent first touch, got the better of Holden, laying it off to watkins side footing which Piergianni saved well with his hand ( that was a far clearer penalty thn the one we were given)

Stockport slowly found some confidence and started to have a small threat to our goal, Gleeson getting an important touch to divert the ball away from Piergianni from Rowe’s outswinging corner. dance produced a sublime sliding tackle as Rowe moved ominiousing towards our penalty area.

Whether that was the wake up call we needed, but it preceeded our best spell. By and large, we didn’t get behind them enough, but when we did the crosses were of paucity quality, which was disappointing against a small side and a tiny keeper. One superb cross by Howells,approaching the by-line and hanging up a cross which Dance attempted to volley and was flicked away by Holden. Lawless’ sublime flick from the outside of his boot, saw Fleetwood sped away , squared for Watkins to fortiously mis-hit into the path of Crow but could only turn the ball wide of a gapping goal.

Kovacs was found by a Howells’ corner but headed down and can’t find the goal through a mass of bodies. The lively Cole, well-marshalled by Taylor most of the evening, smashed a powerful drive wide, after Gritton scrambled Rowe’s corner out to the edge of the box. Dance again couldn’t control his header, after Lawless beat Halls and played a fine ball across goal.

The tame half, ended with some fine play by Howells running forward and curled the ball, which at least foreced a save from the under-employed Ormson.

The second half saw two changes, under heard of by Brabin. First half we simply didn’t play well enough. O’Connor was like a breath of fresh air, moving off the ball, some direct running and made a nuisance of himself. Think Willmott was somewhat of a waste of the change, on the left wing, where he rarely does it and Kissock really was the more obvious call ( to my little brain anyhow), in that type of game. The biggest improvement saw Howells link up with Lawless in midfield and we become more combative in there against Sheridan and Connor. and far less passive.

Our first opportunity was well worked but basic route one stuff, Kevin Pilkington’s boot up field ( his kicking appears to be getting starighter), Crow neatly helped the ball onto Willmott, legged it past halls, making good contact but only hitting it down Ormson’s throat. O’Connor’s square pass to Watkins, getting the better of both Connor and Piergianni before O’Donnell headed the ball to safety. watkins showing wonderful vision to ping the ball across to O’Connor, his centre towards Crow being denied by a full stretching dive by Piergianni. Howells’ corner flighted into towards the keeper, whom made an awful attempt at a punch, both Kovacs and Pilkington tried to force it in, then Kovacs placed the ball against teh outside of the post, from an seemingly impossible angle.

Whilst we haven’t exactly pinned Stockport back in their own half, they struggled to keept the ball upfront with only Gritton up there, they created a good purposeful move with Rowe, still full of running, finding Connor, who in turn squared off to Sheridan, his run not picked out, pulled out a decent strike, which K.Pilkington did well to help over. From the resulting corner, he also claimed a low Piergianni header. Crow holding up Taylor’s pass spread the play out to Gleeson, producing a low cross which Ormson stopped well.

Stockport still looked the more careful team with possession, but severly lack a cutting edge, displayed by Gritton, unmarked not finding the net from Holden’s pinpoint centre. Then the newly arrived Nolan burst though only to finsish tamely.

O’Connor’s pass from Watkins, beating Connor and with little room to go, seem to run into Piergianni and ended up on the turf. penalty awarded, O’Connor hard and low past Ormson. The confidence returned to the team and we saw out the game with the minimal scares, except K.Pilkington taking his eye off Gleeson’s header back to him. Stockport sent on the gangly Elliott, given the huge height difference , George Pilkington dealt with him extremely well and had one of his better games recently. His passing still leaves something to be desired, but playing as the left sided centre half, does him few favours in that respect.

Watkins like the team were lifted by our goal and did well to keep the ball in play find Howells, popping off to Willmott , but the cross was poor only finding Piergianni. A lovely ball by taylor, was wastefully headed over by Howells, when going across the keeper was the better option. Willmott’spass, saw splendid skill by Watkins beating two defenders with quick feet rolled the ball through to Crow on a plate, but brilliantly managed to knock the ball wide, when seemed easier to score, which sealed his MOM award by the press. He did put a shift in, but isn’t that a prerequisite?

Kovacs pulled up sharply at the death, however with no important football for ten days before we head up to Southport, it gives him plenty of recovery time. As can’t see many of the first taemers risked at Hinckley at the weekend.

Kevin Pilkington 6.75 , Dan Gleeson 6.25, Janos Kovacs 7, George Pilkington 7.5, Greg Taylor 7 , James Dance 6 ( Aaron O’Connor 7.75) , Alex Lawless 8, Adam Watkins 6.75 ,Jake Howells 7, Danny Crow 5.5, Stuart Fleetwood 5.5 ( Robbie Willmott 5).

Subs not used – Mark Tyler, John-Paul Kissock, Alex Lacey. .

Stockport – Ormson, Halls, O’Donnell, Piergianni, Holden, Cole( Elliott), Connor, Sheridan, Rowe, Whitehead ( Nolan), Gritton ( Rowe)

*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 knowing when you are working amongst the Captains of Industry when the hot topic at work is…how to improve Celebrity Big Brother? Replace the diary room with a gas chamber, was my cunning suggestion.

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