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.