PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Telford Home)

Pitiful and desperate, but enough of Carl Emberson’s team talk, splendidly done for them. Shame he didn’t use his mouth to good effect by trying to catch the ball in it rather than watching it pass him by and into the net during his playing days . The club really needs to shift this ill-placed arrogance – it does not reflect well on anyone. So bad at times, it was almost funny. But not quite. Big week ahead for Paul Buckle – both on the training ground and on his dog and bone. One good thing about today’s performance it shows, even this early on this season, that currently we don’t look good enough to challenge strongly for the top spot and bring in a couple of players to boost things, giving us some much needed options ( look at today’s bench – a promising young forward runner, a centre half only kept on because of injuries in that position, an out of form attacking full back and centre forward) , the team almost picks itself.

There appears to be a collective loss of confidence and too many of the players form is well below what they are capable of . The really sad thing, seemingly no matter how many players we get rid of or bring in, we aren’t any nearer to winning this division now, than we were in our first game at this level at A.F.C Wimbledon. We have gone backwards since.

Only at Kidderminster, we produced the type of performance where we need to be. Good spirit showed to get points back in losing positions against Gateshead and Hyde, but that alone isn’t enough, over the course of the season. We may well get better ( bloody need to) , but there isn’t any conviction in this team. Little cohesion or leadership.

We lacked craft to break down a very stubborn Telford defence, Fleetwood was the only forward who looked bright and sharp enough to cause problems, the other attacking players were at best a shambles. September hasn’t even started and the problems are clear for all to see. They were purple heads in their box everywhere ( sounds like Elton John’s dream night) Credit to them for throwing themselves at shots and putting in lots of blocks, but this is a team who have just celebrated their first anniversary since their last away victory. For all the play we had, if Telford had defended any deeper, they would have been stood half way up Beech Hill.

Some games, the goalkeeper pulls off a series of worldies, but Young apart from collecting a number of crosses – mainly from down the back of his throat which were relatively straight forward – only had one difficult save to make, parrying away Shaw’s well struck effort. If Shaw had scored from an outstanding move started with Greg Taylor, and some fine combination play between Fleetwood and Shaw, saw Shaw in front of goal, could only pass it back to Young. He would score those, with his eyes closed. His work rate is very good, but at the moment his finishing is terrible. We surely can’t have turned another good striker to pot?????

As a game, everything dire about non-league football was on view. Highlights being the brawl ( shame some of our players seemed to be more eager to join in the flailing fists, than trying to get us back in the match). Buckle obviously thinks a lot of Henry as a skipper. To me at Stevenage, always thought of him as a solid defender, but a nasty piece of work who is always trying to stir up trouble with more lip than Lesley Ash. He does though have a handy right hook, could be a decent opponent for one of the Klitschko brothers. With the team struggling for confidence, it is the very time you need the captain to stand up and lead from the front, not be in the stand for the next three matches. It also puts a lot of pressure on Beckwith with Kovacs injured , potentially having to fill the void, F.A. Trophy matches expected , has hardly been spotted since September, 2011. The briefest cameo from Read, on for St.Aimie before he got sent off. Read’s first contribution was to challenge Rowe- Turner, it was more ABH. Sent off whilst hobbling off for his troubles. I truly despise non-league football, it is more of an painful annoyance than a sport.

On the day we did too many of the basics wrong. Conceding another goal from a free header at a set piece. The quality of the crossing was sub-standard, too many hit the first defender , when on the rare moment a decent delivery was produced , the movement was non existent. Where chances did crop up, we looked to want too much time on the ball, almost trying to walk it in and then ended up at Andre Gray, whose confidence looks very low, snatching at the ball and endangering Keith Keane’s guttering.

Telford defended like their lives depended on it, but are a very limited side and it’s sickening to be turned over at home by a team like them. Both centre halves were outstanding Preston and Rose, Trainer in front of the them, gave a passable impression of a brick wall. Rooney in midfield can pick a pass and has potential, but very little else.

Two changes from the win at Hyde. One expected ( Howells for Taylor) and one enforced ( Watkins for Kovacs). Henry shifting back to centre half, Lawless dropping back to right back ( he has looked our best midfielder so far), with Watkins replacing him.

Attacking the Kenilworth Road in the first half, we started on the front foot amongst the massed ranks of the Telford’s defence. Lawless made several excellent raids down the right, but once again his crossing let him down.

We made a chance in the opening moments, Shaw nodding down, to Fleetwood squeezing between Rose and Salmon, allowing Watkins to stride forward and boot the ball over. From the early stages, Shaw kept having to drop deep to collect the ball, head it on, to the empty space as Rendell looked on as a disinterested member of the crowd.

Telford’s first attack, almost brought about an opening goal, Salmon’s lopping cross aimed for the far post, clipped the top of the bar. Their tackle, as so many visiting teams is, defend very deep. We steadily got worse through tout the game and ended like looking a rabble. Telford’s confidence, grew and with none of our midfield picking Rooney he was given license to run forward, with Hubbins having the pace to trouble Howells.

Our approach initially wasn’t bad, but done little to trouble their defence. Leslie tugged Kasim in front of the D, a short free kick played short from Howells to Watkins, allowed Fleetwood to blast a free kick into Leslie in the wall, which after refusing to go back, crept forward. With Telford’s physical approach, it was a difficult game to kept control of. But the referee failed to spot some obvious fouls, but was razor sharp pulling back free kicks which were played an inch away from the correct position.

Excellent skill by Fleetwood turning and centring in one motion towards Shaw at the far post, decent connection, but his header was a few inches too high. Watkins, whom the game bypassed him, an early strike, at least caused Young to parry away to his right, Fleetwood on the rebound, Preston got back to make a vital block.

A mistake by LRT ( who generally had a steady game, although not tested) gave away the ball, to Rooney going through, but thankfully the pass to St. Aimie, who has the first touch of a bouncy castle, saw the move break down. Then Leslie turned Lawless, but LRT managed to step in.

Leslie’s pass outside to Spray, living up to his name by spraying his shot wide, the angle was against him. Out of nothing Rooney fired from 30 yards and Tyler made a superb save tumbling to his right. They had the better goal threat, considering ours was minimal.

Kasim struggled, think he is decent enough and has potential, but the hurly burly of the Conference isn’t for him. His passing game went and once again our midfield looked lightweight and ineffective. From his corner, Henry missed a free header, the ball dropping to Rendell but his effort was charged down by Preston.

Hubbins with his green booties flashed past Howells, like a kid from the old Ready Brek advert, delivered a centre for St. Aimie, who missed a guilt edged chance, heading over.

Fleetwood went through Rose, but Trainer tracking back closed him down, Watkins tapped a decent opportunity straight at Young. Hubbins wriggled past Kasim and Howells, but was unable to keep his shot down. Henry climbed over St Aimie and from the free kick on the left, Leslie swept across a centre which St Aimie glanced a header past Tyler. Our only response before the break, came from O’Donnell blazing over from Howells’ pass from a deep K. From decent work by Shaw , whipped across goal, Rose tapped behind before Rendell arrived.

Half time arrived, Kasim who is usually the default sub when we are trailing, was the obvious man to take off. On came Taylor, with Howells pushing into midfield. Taylor’s arrival did bring about a brief spark to our play. But being right footed on the left, our play was even more squeezed. Howells did try to get on the ball, but the long the half went on, whilst his ideas were good enough, his passing became increasing over hit.

Telford just left St. Aimie, pushing their wingers even further back, and we had little answer of how to break them down. It was a risk for Buckle to gamble on Spiller’s injury record and being without him and Lawless at right back, we don’t have enough quality to get through ultra defensive teams, O’Donnell’s non stop effort and running, you can’t expect him to open teams up.

If Shaw had put us back on level terms , we would have probably won the game. But he missed. Taylor starting the move, very good understanding between Fleetwood and Shaw, before the space opened and Shaw could only tap into the grateful goalkeeper’s arms.

A misunderstanding between henry and Tyler over a hoofed ball through, would have allowed St Aimie a decent opportunity, but such is his lack of football prowess, his attempted trap, dribbled away from him. A push on Howells by Rooney went unnoticed and on the break, Hubbins and Salmon worked space, but St Aimie couldn’t finish.

Shaw showing great knee control to start a move , which he finished with a well timed attempt which at least forced Young into a save , with Salmon helping the ball over the bar. , our day was rather summed up, with Taylor diverting Henry’s shot away. Howells’ neat pass gave Gray a chance but again Rose put another saving block in. Shaw nudged the ball down to Rendell, laid off for Gray to stab wide.

We had all of the play, as Telford camped around the edge of the box, our best creative opportunities came down our left, Taylor into Fleetwood, playing a decent ball through, no one moved.

Telford had few chances to counter attack, although Leslie’s shot took a nick and rolled behind, Brown and Taylor combined for St Aimie to roll a low drive the wrong of Tyler’s post.

Henry swung in a cross, which there looked to be a foul on the keeper, but no whistle fell to Shaw to stab the ball towards goal, only to be whacked off the line. From the throw Taylor, by Taylor, Fleetwood, looked up and was lucky his effort, pinged off the bar. From another long ball tossed into the box, the referee blew for a foul on Young, all hell broke loose, for a short while , few punches thrown, none of the usual push and shoving. One from Henry confirms the impression a career in boxing is nearing. After the referee and linesman had a mass debate( nice game of the Pass the Buck played very slowly), they dismissed Henry and Preston.

Lawless rolled the ball into Gray on the right, with our players going near post, he elected to fire in a centre to the far one, which Brown headed behind.

Then St. Aimie was taken off before being sent off was replaced by Read. His stay was short if memorable, lunging forward to a bouncing ball, ended up Karate kicking LRT. Surely with ten against nine, we could create some space to fashion some chances. Yes, but to no avail.

Rendell and Shaw helped put the ball towards goal, Gray flying in with a very high foot caught Trainer. With the officials losing the plot and the bad feeling, was surprised when Gray was only booked and not sent off. Rendell’s header to Lawless flicked the ball toward Gray only to turn and fire over. LRT won a header from Howells’ corner, Rendell wanted so much time, the chance was gone as Rose blocked him. Again Rose was Telford’s hero as he dived in to fend the ball away as Fleetwood got through from Rendell’s pass.

Although six minutes was added, we could have done with 600 extra minutes. Howells leaning back smashed Fleetwood’s corner horribly over, then Gray missed another opportunity.

Suppose, one good thing , no time to dwell on the performance and can crack on at Ebbsfleet on Monday, before a tricky set of fixtures in September. No time to bring in reinforcements either or indeed to recover from the full horror of that for our fans either. Maybe Paul Carden could get a game down there like last season?

Mark Tyler 6.5, Alex Lawless 6.5, Ronnie Henry 5, Lathanial Rowe-Turner 7 , Jake Howells 3.5 ( Greg Taylor 6.5) , Yaser Kasim 4.5 , Adam Watkins 5 ( Andre Gray 5.5), J.J. O’Donnell 6 , Scott Rendell 4, Jon Shaw 5.75, Stuart Fleetwood 7.5

Subs not used – Dean Beckwith, Jake Woolley, Dean Brill . Booked – Lawless, Gray. Sent off – Henry.

Telford – Young, Salmon, Preston, Rose, Valentine, Hubbins(Brown), Trainer, Rooney, Leslie, Spray(Taylor), St. Aimie ( Read). Booked – Hubbins, Rose, Rooney, Trainer. Sent off – Preston, Read

*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 chap who won the EuroMillions, stating he wouldn’t change his life ( why enter it then, you utter plum?) and then gets surprised as he receives begging letters, after electing to go public . Who ever thought that would happen? Common sense is unlikely to happen from a man wearing a pink shirt.

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The Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

 

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Just as we were beginning to delude ourselves that everything was now okay, up  pop the welders and scaffolders of Telford to remind us of our own mortality.

The first ten minutes were more open than the legs of a Bangkok ping-pong girl. Such was the ease with which we were carving holes in the Telford defence that we began to think it was an easy game. But like the Borg, Telford quickly assimilated to our method of play and soon snuffed us out with increasing confidence. Coming for the draw, they must be overjoyed with the win.

Having the talismanic Jon Shaw was now a peculiar burden, especially because of the difference he made coming on in the last home game. Our tactics were “we’ve got a big man, we’re going to use him”. Whilst we created a succession of reasonable chances our reliance on the big hoof up to Shaw and/or Rendell were laughable. But we’ve never outmuscled big teams, not ever. What made us think that we could somehow outjump and outmuscle Telford’s line up of hod carriers and bear-wrestlers is truly beyond me. They nodded the ball away all day, our hopeful diagonal balls across the box greedily munched by their centre-halves.

The best play was when the ball went out wide, or where we had an overlap or got to the byline and brought the ball back to someone in space. But as often or not the shot would be blasted over or worse than that passed around the edge of the box until the move broke down, in a similar way to when Big Mick was in charge.

And, just as inevitably as Gateshead did, Telford snuck a goal from a set piece. Suddenly it was like Brabin was back in charge and we’d gone back a year.

Man for man we were miles better than Telford, that was the funny thing. As far as skills and talents were concerned we ran rings round them, yet none of these advantages were used to gain any advantage, if you see what I mean. None of them counted for anything, because we didn’t play to our strengths. There were glimpses, yes we created chances (and one or two clear-cut ones) but we didn’t show of our best. Instead we played to Telford’s strengths. You couldn’t make it up.

Shows how key Kovacs is to our team, not because he was particularly missed today, but because he was unavailable, Henry was in the middle, which meant Lawless was shuffled to right back from midfield, Howells was on the left, which left our three diminutive midfielders, Watkins, O’Donnell and Kasim against the four big lumps of Telford. O’Donnell worked hard again, though the other two were anonymous. Howells swapped for Kasim at half time. Frying pan fire. Don’t know what they teach down in the valleys, but dear Jake came back from Wales about as useful as Anne Frank’s drum kit.

Early in the first half we seemed to play on the break, but without Gray’s pace it was ineffective. Note to manager:  if you are going to play that way, you really need someone to exploit it.

For me Fleetwood and Gray were the only sparks. Fleetwood in a rich and positive vein of form seemed supremely confident and was still lively and wanting the ball at the end. The only time he got any space was out in the wing, moving with ease into the box, but with the amount of bodies in there, rarely got to deliver the perfect ball in. Andre Gray when bought on stretched the play a little, but was eventually dragged down to the general poor standard after a while.

Shaw and Rendell were less effective. Rendell, playing on the hole or slightly on the left Shaw being the target man. Shaw won his fair share of headers, but we were muscled off the bits and pieces and knock downs. At one stage Telford were even allowing Shaw to win the headers, uncontested, because we couldn’t win the second ball. Rendell: I overheard someone say at the end as I was leaving “6ft tall, jumps 5ft 6”.

It was one of those games. I suspect we could have played until tomorrow but still not scored a goal.

To think they ended up with nine men! Rose pushed Shaw over, but stayed on, somehow Henry the peacemaker got sent off too. And their sub striker, Reid could only have been on for a minute before he was off again.

Off we went to boos and some fisticuffs in the Kenny End. Clueless and frustrating, it was a bad day at the office. We must learn to use our skills to break these sides down. Some vision in the midfield, some balls played out wide, some quality crosses in would be nice. Of course, with some better finishing it would have been a scrappy but welcome win. But we cannot just assume that because our quality is better we will automatically win. There is no high-tempo play, and where is the closing down from the front we had last year? We are stuck in a buggers muddle.  Pumping the long ball to Shaw as the main route forward is poor man’s football. The long ball is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

The writing should have been on the wall. Yes, a fightback against Gateshead, but we were lazy and poor in the first half. Against Kiddy I thought we were competent but sterile. We were outfoxed by Hyde until Gray’s pace and Henry’s ball of the season combined with Fleetwood’s finishing to bring that game back from the brink, and today? Once Telford sussed us we were uninventive and lacklustre. Buckle must have been near apoplexy afterwards. His standards are higher than this. Hopefully this is the kick up the backside we need – I’m hoping PB kicked their backsides all the way down the Oak Road afterwards. Perhaps he got Embo to do it for him – hang on, Embo would have missed the kick.

Lastly, today I was looking forward to watching and writing about the comedy talents of Kyle Perry, one of the few luxuries afforded the watcher of non-league football, but I was even denied that because he wasn’t even good enough for Telford and is now at Nuneaton. Curses.

Time for another 6-1 against Ebbsfleet on Monday to make things better I think. Come on Luton – you are better than this. Make it the last loss until Christmas….

 

(PS Apologies for the lack of posts after the Kiddy and Hyde games – after the Kiddy game I did 2 14 hour days and was too knackered to do anything and I went to Lords on the Saturday after the Hyde game and was too hungover to type anything on the Sunday.)

 

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Here we go again…

 

In the middle of the summer, just as the sun comes out, with the Olympics and cricket still ongoing, up pops the football like a bashful, gawky teenager intruding on a private party.

Nevertheless, like punch-drunk fools we will still turn out in our thousands to witness another season of triumph and disaster, the disappointment of Wembley as recently as May not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the hordes of Hatters.

I think we generally and genuinely look forward to this season with a bit more optimism than in previous years. Town discovered a lot more gumption under PB last season and ended the league season on a high. Buckle has recruited in his own image this summer, knowing his favoured formation, purchasing players to fit that formation and getting shot of the dead wood.

And what of the match this afternoon? Based on the pre-season performances and formations I think it was easy to call the starting XI, if you assumed that Luton wouldn’t start with Jon Shaw, having not played a full 90 mins since returning from injury.

Rowe-Turner started at left back, I was keen to see how he fitted in. He had a mixed game. His game seemed to consist of good blocks, strong tackles and occasionally pretty lousy passing. We like the first two, the third must improve and I’m sure it will do.

Greg Taylor started at right back and had a poor game, whilst he got into good positions his touch and distribution were poor for him. He failed to mark Hatch properly for the soft first goal. He was substituted at half time and made way for Alex Lawless.

Ronnie Henry partnered Kovacs in the heart of defence – what I saw of him he looked tidy and competent – as indeed he should be, however he was caught cold for the (offside?) second goal, and was caught out more than once by the canny Hatch, whilst Kovacs, who was otherwise sound, was occasionally led a merry dance by Odubade.

Yaser Kasim – seemed to have a competent start getting stuck in and playing the sensible ball. Sacrificed at half time tactically for Jon Shaw it will be good to see more of him on Tuesday.

Howells had a better second half than first. Seemed off the pace at the start, but got going considerably better in the second – though I notice he has the turning circle of an old E class Merc.

And the revelation of pre-season? JJ O’Donnell. Seemingly found his best position, having started out on the wing and moved to left back, now he is a live-wire dynamo in midfield. Thought there must be something about him to be given a three year deal and you can see that that he works so very hard. His only downside, and presumably this will come with age a bit, but he seems a tad lightweight, by that I mean easier to knock off the ball with his short stature and slight build. But his tenacity makes up for it.

Up top we had Andre Gray, the star at the end of last season. Poor Andre didn’t get much of a sniff today, other than the chance he blasted over five minutes before our first goal. Not his day today, but hopefully he can richly benefit from the hundred of nod ons he should get from Jon Shaw.

Scott Rendell was off the pace a little in the first half, for long periods he seemed to be playing at the front of a diamond, just behind Fleetwood and Gray. I think he looked happier in the second when he pushed further forwards and was more of a handful. Plenty more to come.

Stuart Fleetwood can feel very happy with his performance. Again, like Rendell and Gray didn’t see much of the ball in the subdued first half, but his determination to succeed meant that he set up the first and got the second. Not a bad afternoon’s work.

 

 

Overall the first half was a great disappointment. Seemed to think we could coast it and the goals would come by themselves. The performance was the antitheses to what we were used to from Buckle’s teams last year, the pace was far too slow, they didn’t play far enough up the pitch and we were narrower than a country lane. There was just no service to the front three at all. The midfield was bunged up worse than someone with a diet of only eggs and rice. I think dear Andre Gray must only have touched the ball about three times in the whole half. Wholly unsatisfactory and changes (and presumably a kick up the arse) were needed.

And what a difference a half makes. On came the icon Shaw for his debut replacing Kasim and Lawless replaced Taylor. Both made an immediate impact. Jon Shaw’s class was immediately apparent. More direct, without being long suddenly we had a man to aim for to stretch the play. Shaw won headers (yes, a rarity for a Luton centre forward I know), laid the ball off, nodded the ball on and was a general pain in the arse for the Gateshead defenders. With him on the pitch they had the fear. Suddenly, having had only one chance in the first half, Gray and Fleetwood had chances which they both snatched at unfortunately. Then with  15 minutes of the second half gone,  good Lord, a Luton player got to the by-line for the first time. On this occasion it was Stuart Fleetwood who played it across the goal for Shaw to poke in for his first goal, hopefully first of many in Luton colours. Respectfully he didn’t celebrate in front of his old club. The fans were energised and the noise ratcheted up. Gateshead were suddenly rattled. On came Watkins for Andre Gray, who hadn’t really been in the game as much as he would have liked. The team settled back into a more natural shape, and about a minute later Rendell stuck his head on an O’Donnell cross after a rather lame header by Kovacs after a poor corner from the left . Fleetwood pounced to level the scores. All seemed to me to be offside, in fact three Luton players might have been, but who cares – I think we are due an off-side goal or ten after the Wembley refereeing debacle.

We continued to press and looked by far the better side, but Gateshead’s discipline was too good. Bogie’s sides rarely get picked. The winner could have come with five minutes to spare. Ironically Adam Watkins, who has a goal sniffers nose if ever there was one was presented with a gilt-edged chance for the winner after Jon Shaw (who else) nodded down a through ball for Watkins to run onto in the box. With only the keeper to beat Adam shot wide. If he has ten more chances like that in his life, I’d wager that he’d slot 7 or 8 of them. What a winner that would have been, but it wasn’t to be. We’ll leave the roof-raisers until later on in the season.

So there you go – first game of the new season, not going to be such a waltz after all perhaps, but Gateshead are a canny well-organised team and no mugs. You always get funny results in the first round of games. Mansfield lost at home to a re-energised Newport and Ebbsfleet beat Nuneaton 5-4 for goodness sake. Slow out of the blocks, but we worked our way through the gears in the second half. We looked so much better with Jon Shaw up front, he transformed our play, our positivity and our outlook. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so reliant on him so soon, but the difference today at least was tangible.

Off to Kiddy on Tuesday (yet again) and hopefully for the last time…

 

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