Rock of Ainges

 

Today was the same old story – ball in air: poor. Ball on floor devastatingly good in places. This was ye olde game of two halves. A little bit listless and lazy in the first half whilst in the second half they showed more pace, dynamism and intent.

Lots of changes since the last report. Interesting to see public enemy no 1, famous for being less good at right back than Alex Lawless, Ronnie Henry. He didn’t mess up – his defending was tidy, whilst his attacking play was…was….erm.

Also in came Simon Ainge, a big tough rock of a centre half, he slotted into the team well. Actually it was like he’d been here all along and the other ten were the new ones. Looked like a good partnership alongside Essam, though of course if Essam goes back next week it will be a marriage as short lived as one of Britney’s.

Taylor and Watkins have departed, presumably for fitness reasons, though Taylor’s big bust up with Buckle won’t have helped. With Taylor gone the chance of the stolen moment 3-5-2/3-4-3 reappearing seems as likely as Ronnie Henry being signed by Chelsea.

Tyler in goal, as ever largely untested. Got a loud cheer when he rolled the ball out rather than punting it towards Rendell. Got a groan when he clung onto it rather than punting it out when the break was on. Punting it up front should be frowned upon as it is the best way devised to give possession back to the opposition, unless you have a Steve Howard of course. Aiming for Scott Rendell who’s heading is not the best part of his game seems illogical captain. Ironically of course Rendell won more headers than I’ve seen all season, but I think that says more about the opposition than a leap forward in his ability. Mercurial performance from Tyler today – he seems to have developed a penchant for punching over catching.

Left back today was young Jake Howells, what with Taylor being persona non grata and all that. We saw the best and the worst of him today, his link up play, passing and movement were at his very best, but it was his clumpy mistake like a lad in an orthapaedic brogue which ceded possession to Parry for the Southport goal.

At right back was Ronnie Henry. I spent a lot of time focussing on him. He barely made a forward pass, and of the forward passes he did only about one in four found a fellow Hatter. Hardly a surprise then that his passes are either square or back. He had a tidy enough game, passing aside, and kept the right hand side safe and sound.

I’ve mentioned Essam and Ainge. Both were exactly what Mr Buckle was after – heading the ball away with impunity and keeping it nice and tight at the back. The goal aside they looked good. Not sure how Messrs Beckwith and Kovacs feel right now. After the Grimsby game where  I felt Beckwith had a worse performance than Kovacs I thought if they can’t cope at this level then they’ve got no hope have they? Mind you, as Barnes-Homer and O’Connor have illustrated, underperforming for Luton is not necessarily a guarantee of inability. Essam is good but young, does the basics well, but gives you the impression that it might only be a matter of time before he makes a catastrophic error. A bit like Shane Blackett. Mostly tidy, but prone to howlers.

In the middle we sort of had a three – Kasim, finally given a start and who looked much more at home than at the start of the season. He doesn’t quite have the bite of some defensive midfielders, but, at this level has a degree of nouse and positioning that makes him stand out. In the second half he found space and time and seemed a class above.

O’Donnell worked bloody hard and had a fantastic game. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, his tendency to be knocked off the ball is inversely proportionate to his tenacity. He was at the top of his game today. Played on the left side of the three in midfield and on the left on occasion and linked up well with Jake. Though too often when a ball down the line to a winger would have been good – there was no winger! When he drifted to the middle he had the beating of his opposite number (was it Parry? Not sure – but O’Donnell owned him ) . JJ played a part in the second goal, it was his cross after Fleetwood’s glorious flick that allowed Rendell in to slot home.  He was involved in almost everything that was good in the second half. I’m delighted for him. Whilst I think on occasions we need a player with a bit more teeth in midfield, there are games where, if allowed, he can make a huge difference. And today was one of those days.  Well done JJ.

Lawless had a good game but quiet game, though he was oft shoved to the ground by their player Ledsham.  His quick free kick in the first half freed Jake, but his shot was wide. He also had half of the on-target shots in the first half a neat clip going straight to MacMillan in the Southport goal. He had more opportunity and found more space in the second half – as did Kasim.

In front of the defensive midfielders was Scott Rendell, playing just behind Fleetwood and Gray. Two goals and had a great game. Lovely finish for his first and a cheeky penalty for the third. Pleased to see him settled in and hitting his straps. That’s five goals now – not bad for someone who has not played as an out an out striker all year. My man of the match today. Note to manager: ball to feet – not to head. Feet good, head not-so-good. Link up play on floor to Rendell excellent, knock downs and headers won – not-so-good. Please take note, rocket science it ain’t. Rendell could have had a third when Kasim and Gray linked up well to enable O’Donnell to play him in, but he shot at the goalie.

Up front Fleetwood and Gray, though Gray regularly slipped to the right and Rendell pushed up to make the formation look more like a traditional 4-4-2. The first goal came when Gray latched on to a long ball forward from O’Donnell got to the byline and laid it in the path of Fleetwood who curled home an exquisite finish with the confidence of a man who has eight goals already and who is back playing in the middle rather than stuck out on the wing. Fleets looked lively and hungry again and when he is playing well has the swagger of a junior Viv Richards which I love. He had a good chance in the second half after a poor clearance, but it went straight to the keeper. Gray was perhaps slightly less effective, but his pace is a constant threat and his passing can be superb.

I think I enjoyed the first half more than most. Whilst we were increasingly slow and listless and sleepwalked into the equaliser I think on another day a few of the half chances and dinky little moves we tried but which didn’t quite come off might have resulted in goals.

We actually tried some really good football and Southport let us. Even with Poku. On another day it would have been a whooping. It was like the first half we were shaking off the last vestiges of the sleepiness since the Cambridge game, Tamworth win notwithstanding. By the second half we had rediscovered some belief and confidence and a little pace to our game. It would be lovely to think that that was a bit of a turning point. We did play better and we did look good.

That’s the funny thing. Man for man, again we were miles better. Technically, if they wanted to, if they applied themselves the Luton players were a league ahead of Southport. We are a bit like golfers. Away from a tournament, if you took a golf professional to a tee and said – “go on then, drive this within ten feet of the green” and nine times out of ten, pressure off, they will do it. But put them in the pressure of a tournament and boy watch that ball fly around. We’re the same, against some of these teams the technical gulf is immense. You just watch O’Donnell or Howells tackle back and win the ball up against two players. If the likes of Gray or Howells or O’Donnell take on a man and want to dribble into the box, if they put their mind to it they can do it seemingly unfettered by the opposition. So what stops us? The Physicality of opponents. People closing us down and not letting us play and a lack of confidence and self belief. Once the confidence is there, the ballsyness and belief we should take these teams apart. We should be doing that – but have been allowed ourselves to be bullied by bigger teams and caught on the break by cannier ones.

Missing today was talisman Jon Shaw – did we miss him? No. Good player to bring on though. Good player to have if you have two wide players to cross the ball in. But the byline is an elusive thing. How many times have we got to the byline this year? I’d wager that almost every time we have we have got a goal. Amazing isn’t it. Back to my point in the previous para – if we can muscle or dribble our way to the byline to get the ball pulled back it is goal after goal.

So what of Godfrey Poku? Whilst I was a big fan and was disappointed to see him go he was inconspicuous by his presence this afternoon. He didn’t even get booked. I presume he has the same moronic agent as Robbie Willmott and George Pilkington. Don’t worry lads, I can get you a move away to much smaller clubs but for a few more bob. How many of them are starting for their new teams now? Willmott is as popular as a sausage in a synagogue at Cambridge. Pilks has played three games. And Poku was shipped out back to Southport from Mansfield quicker than you can say “he’s on fire”.

I’m hoping that today is the start of something good. If only we can keep the ball on the floor and not punt it up the middle.

Next game is next Saturday away to the Imps – followed by Tuesday night against the thugs from Braintree. Should be a good opportunity to put pressure on FGR at the top. All other things being equal it should be six points surely? Belief, confidence and a settled back four – that’s what we need.

Come on you Hatters.

 

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Southport H)

Not even the return of the Ghanaian sensation back on his old stomping ground could stop Southport sinking to their traditional defeat. They must be sick of coming to Kenilworth Road, conceding fourteen goals on their last three visits. (But probably not as sick as I am of going there, the unattractive drag across from the M58, the lack of green lights in Ormskirk and the climate of the North Pole to name but three. Being a moaning old tart, I could carry on…but won’t).

A real mish-mash of a performance. Good in parts, horrific in others. From Barton to Barcelona, would be stretching it somewhat, but the first half was miserable fare. No rhythm, pattern or attempt to play football on our snooker table of a surface. We couldn’t make our supremacy count, despite an early lovely strike from Fleetwood (nice of Stevie Wonder to keep his flag down), as Gray chased down’s O’Donnell’s hoof.

Southport enjoy the work of the up and under themselves, towards the beanpole of Ledsham, whose backing in caused a few problems for Ainge and Essam, and with Whalley’s pace caused huge problems for Howells. Feel desperate sorry for Jake; he has had more position changes than the Karma Sutra. The sooner he plays under a manager, who will select him in one position for more than a couple of games, the better and his career will develop far quicker. They fought back into the game, through a series of set pieces, which we coped with better than was the case at Tamworth in the week. Defending higher than the six yard box was a start; both centre halves won their fair share of headers. Tyler came off his line far more but looked shaky, either caught in no man’s land or punching when a simple catch was on. Southport equalised just before the break, it was coming. Howells’ given the ball away needlessly to Parry, who was allowed to run forward and pass the ball into the far corner. We had two shots on target in the half, Fleetwood’s goal and Lawless showing exceptional technique with a volley.

Once again, Buckle proved adept at changing the team, even we under-perform (which happens far too much, currently). No triple change, but moving O’Donnell over to the left wing, give us that dirty word, WIDTH and it worked a treat. We pressed the better far better, didn’t give Poku or Moogan time on the ball and they collapsed in a heap. O’Donnell put some cracking deliveries in and took advantage of playing against Parry, a centre back at right back. Gray on the other side torn into Lee, his crossing was somewhat erratic, a couple of pearling centres followed by a few over hit, none more so than his effort to hit the bus way. But he’s no winger. Backed up by Lawless and Kasim who kept it simple, ticking over.

Played some good, patience football, on the deck and ended up running out comfortable winners. The problems are still there, a couple of wins won’t disguise that, but it’s vital to make the most of this easier run of fixtures, before the tricky trips to Forest Green, Hereford, Mansfield and Newport thereafter. We could probably have won by a greater margin , which won’t have reflected our display and Fleetwood was in Mr greedy mode, it’s good he has tunnel vision for the goal, but at times, he should laid off into colleagues in better positions. But, after being left out, he looked in determined mood. Above all, he needs to play no wider than the lines of the penalty box.

With Ledsham having to play deeper in midfield, our centre halves looked more comfortable. Ainge won plenty of the balls in the air. He’s a no-nonsense player, strong, reads the game well, tries to organise. Not the best with the ball at his feet. Good start, but he will have harder tests against better opposition than a poor Southport side. He looks and has a similar style to Ivanovic of Chelsea. Not the only look alike on view, nice of the club to invite Kissock back as mascot for the match between his parent and former clubs.

Another day, another cull in the defence, but still Teflon Ronnie remains (to be fair, he was reasonable enough). Beckwith, predictably and LRT (very harshly) omitted. Shaw also left out, he isn’t right at the moment, but if he played in a team which O’Donnell providing the ammunition from wide areas, he would thrive.

So, Tyler in goal. Back four of Henry, Essam, Ainge and Howells. Midfield which started as a diamond, Kasim in front of the back four , Lawless and O’Donnell, with Rendell in the hole behind a narrow front two of Gray and Fleetwood. That didn’t last long, as we went 4-3-3 soon after.

Southport themselves, played a 4-5-1/4-3-3. Whaley is a stand out player, nimble footed pacey winger, to be honest wouldn’t be the worst type of player for us; he has always shone in games against us. Long ball, plenty of hoofs towards Almond and Ledsham, thanks to McMillian the keeper’s monster kicking. Combative in midfield, no more, no less. Bit cumbersome at the back, coped well against our long ball filth, but struggling, when we played to feet with tempo in the second half. Their low mid-table position is about right, no chance of repeating their bold bid for a play off place of last season. As for Godfrey, he was pretty average, won a few tackles, lost a few, lucky not to get booked and his passing was patchy. Not a blessed day for him Legoooooooooooooooo. Terribly advised, why turn down a contract at Luton to go to Mansfield?

Long ball madness broke out straight away, O’Donnell’s hook forward, Gray looked offside, beating parry with pace with ease, came back and intelligently rather than going for goal, passed square and Fleetwood curled a fine shot which sailed into the top corner.

That goal didn’t settle us down, Rendell struggling having to play the target man role, with Lynch beating him in the air. No point playing Rendell unless the ball is into his feet, when he can bring others into the game. The referee produced a cynical block on Pouk, leaving O’Donnell in space after Lawless passed the ball to him, the strike low and well held by McMillian.

Our kick and chase approach, not only awful to watch but ineffective, helped the Merseysiders back in the match. Whalley beating Howells with his direct running style, played square to Ledsham, Essam made a vital block. Essam again did OK. You can see why Gillingham loaned him out, reasonable in the air, he senses trouble but now and again makes a really bad error. Given time, he has potential.

Almond on the left was allowed a yard by Henry, but he stopped the danger at source. The tempo of the game wasn’t help by a lengthy injury to the lino and subsequent drinks interval.

Ledsham shoved Lawless to the deck, found Whalley, always their out ball, and got the better of Howells, dangerous cross and Essam facing his own goal, sliced over. Whalley’s whipped cross, Tyler wandered out, the ball dropped to Almond, a looping header sailed just over the bar.

Gray’s run across their defence was deemed offside, as Kasim passed the ball forward, in turn being found by Henry. Kasim struggled to make an impact in that half, he was puffing hard by the end, and he needs to work on his fitness.

Poku attempted to mount O’Donnell (appreciate they are good friends, but there is a time and place for that?). Lawless quickly took the free kick short to Howells but his drive drifted wide.

Southport had a decent spell, even against limited opposition, could we get any control on the game, only Gray looked capable of creating something.

Almond getting the better of Henry, his strike sliced wide and a clumsy late tackle by Essam ( as the old joke goes, he got there as quick as he could) and booked for his troubles Rendell bravely headed away the free kick on the left touchline in front of Grand. Rendell proved a good shield from set pieces. Lawless joined Essam into the book, leaving his foot in on Lever, made to look worse by Lever’s high jump. Then Lever picked himself up without treatment was sent to the touchline.

The goal came from a nervous poke to Howells straight to Parry, with no one attempted to challenge the man in possession, moved forward and produced a calm finish.

Kasim’s forward pass was half cut out by Lever, the ball fell to Lawless, a very clean strike was claimed by the stopping McMillian.

The second half needed a vast improvement, and credit to the team they produced, the tempo raised, Fleetwood’s movement caused the Southport’s back four problems, we were more aggressive in winning the ball back, combined with O’Donnell who had Parry on toast produced the improvement required.

Southport had a couple of opportunities; Almond’s pass only produced a feeble shot, easily saved by Tyler. Essam easily skinned down the left by the newly arrived Tames, Whalley just failed to get a touch, in front of Howells.

A well worked free kick saw us back in front. Poku fouling Howells, just inside our half. Ainge played the ball down to the Fleetwood, good control and vision to flick the ball to O’Donnell, great delivery and movement from Rendell poking in towards the far post.

Confidence came back. Kasim and Lawless got on the ball (after having neck ache in the first half performance) we rarely looked back. Both have the handy knack of playing the ball to a team-mate in space. It looked like we had an extra man, as the player in possession often had options. Far better.

Moogan’s sloopy pass was cut out by Fleetwood, one thing on his mind, going for good, moving past Moogan attempting to make up for his error, the strike smacked against Grand’s back.

Howells was getting forward as well, he and O’Donnell linked up nicely, neat play saw him beat Grand, as his attempted pass into Fleetwood was stopped only as Parry chopped down Fleetwood, with the refer in a good position, a penalty was awarded. Surprised to see Rendell take the kick. He had a stuttering run up, and waited for McMillian to move, before side footing the ball to the keeper’s right.

Kasim’s pass inside the full back lever to Gray, ran inside and pushed the ball over to O’Donnell, playing a teasing pass into Rendell, a fine point blank save from McMillian denied him his hat trick.

Lawless played Ainge in trouble but a strong tackle won the ball from Almond. Henry dealt with Almond’s cross from the right, which Ledsham was slow to react to. Fleetwood took advantage of a Lynch header which lacked any power, raced into the box, whilst McMillian came out smartly and saved with his foot, you would have lumped on Fleetwood scoring from there. With Southport having to throw bodies forward, we played well on the break with gaps opening up.

A good advantage played when Moogan had a hack at Lawless, Howells and Fleetwood combined, Lawless started and ended the move dinking wide. Moogan booked and withdrawn afterwards. Moogan took it well, I must say, his training top and shirt thrown to the floor, then sat there arms folded. Not just professional footballers who act like Prima donnas then.

Lynch produced a superb flying header to deny Rendell following another outstanding centre by O’Donnell. Weird decision by the linesman, flagged for offside, Ainge intercepted the ball, and then lost it, flag down, allowing Southport a chance, Tames’ pass, was hit wide by Whalley. What exactly is the advantage, twenty yards from your own goal?

With the result in the bag, the players were desperate for Rendell to get his hat-trick, but a fine scissor kick pass on the deck by Rendell beat Poku, the ball to Fleetwood was saved by the keeper. Kasim, looking very tired was replaced by LRT, he played his part with a couple of decent defensive blocks, and Fleetwood also went off for Shaw.

A fine cross field ball played by Howells, found Gray, a brilliant take with a high pass, but wasted it blazing his cross over. Rendell missed his final opportunity, curling woefully in the missed ranks of empty seats in the Oak Road end. He like most of the players looked far better when we passed the football. Southport’s final opportunity came from a lovely pass by Whalley, into Tames; he brought the ball down well and had the vision to chip Tyler, just off the line, but was inches more the bar.

As Sven Goren Eriksson, used to say first half not so good, second half good. Well done Paul Buckle for sorting out the mess at half time. But who the hell told the team to hoof it in the first half? They need a good old fashioned J in C style shoeing. The two loanees did well enough, without much practice. As long as Essam stays, it’s good with having no Tuesday game, they have a full week’s training to build an understanding. Obvious to say, we need a settled back four.

Mark Tyler 6, Ronnie Henry 6.75 ,Connor Essam 7, Simon Ainge 7.5 , Jake Howells 6.25 , Yaser Kasim 6.75( Lathaniel Rowe-Turner), J.J. O’Donnell 9 , Alex Lawless 7.25 , Scott Rendell 7.75( Jake Robinson) , Andre Gray 7, Stuart Fleetwood 7 (Jon Shaw).
Booked – Essam, Lawless. Subs not used – Dan Walker and Dean Brill.
Southport – McMillian, Parry, Lynch, Smith ( Tames), Grand, Poku, Moogan (Willis), Lever, Whalley, Ledsham, Almond ( Benjamin). Booked – Lynch.
*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 receiving an email from the ticketing department at the F.A. entitled England vs San Marino, the match you must not miss. With tickets at £40 a pop. Do they want a cheeky wager on that?

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This is Glorious

From the Daily Mail:

Why Watford are a snapshot of all that’s wrong with the modern game

The sell is Alexis Sanchez. The reality is Steve Leo Beleck. The fantasy is a brave new world. The reality is 20th in the Championship. The model is Udinese of Serie A. The reality is Watford.
There are 42 first-team players on the books at Vicarage Road this season, 14 of whom are on loan including 10 from one club, Udinese. Like Watford, the Italian side are owned by the Pozzo family and very successful they have been, too. The past two seasons, they have missed out on Champions League football in the final qualifying round.

Watford, however, are a different proposition. Last season, they were a tight little unit managed by Sean Dyche who, against all odds and expectation, finished a very creditable 11th in the Championship with a squad of mostly British players.
Dyche was a journeyman professional, a centre back who played most of his career at Chesterfield, also having spells at Bristol City, Luton Town, Millwall, Northampton Town and, between 2002 and 2005, Watford. He returned to the club as youth team coach in 2007, was made assistant manager to Malky Mackay in 2009 and took the manager’s job in 2011. His one season in charge represented the club’s best finish since 2007-08. Naturally, when the Pozzo family took over, they sacked him

This season, the manager is Premier League legend Gianfranco Zola, the director of football is Gianluca Nani, an old friend from Italy, the squad now boasts 15 football nationalities and a draw with Bristol City on Saturday was all that avoided the worst start to a season in six years. Watford had lost their previous three games and have won two of their first seven in the League.

Pre-season talk of promotion and football from the heavens has given way to a grimmer truth. This entails a fight for survival in a famously unpredictable competition with a group of players who are passing through and a manager on unfamiliar terrain.

If Watford drop, many of their temporary recruits will simply return to their true employers Udinese or Granada in Spain — the other club owned by the Pozzos, who bought Watford for £15million — to be replaced in all probability by a new foreign legion.

Dyche’s final match in charge was a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on the final day of last season. From the 13 players used that afternoon, only two started Watford’s last game and two were substitutes. There were six loan players in the starting line-up and two more came on from the bench; one player of the XI was English, Nathaniel Chalobah. He is on loan from Chelsea.

The appeal of the Pozzo takeover is that Udinese is another of those clubs with a philosophy. Just as Moneyball was going to elevate Liverpool to the top again, until Damien Comolli turned it into a billionaire equivalent of Supermarket Sweep, so Udinese have a transfer policy for which the owners, not the coaches, assume credit.

Sanchez, spotted as a youngster in Chile and eventually sold to Barcelona for £21m, is held up as the finest recent example of Udinese’s nose for talent, but Marcio Amoroso, Gokhan Inler, Oliver Bierhoff, Marek Jankulovski, Fabio Quagliarella, Stephen Appiah, Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari have all starred at Stadio Friuli before being sold at a premium.
The prospect of bringing this level of expertise to Watford must have looked very pleasing to supporters who saw a club going backwards, almost into administration, after the briefest of flirtations with Premier League status.

And this is, admittedly, the beginning of the project. The new owners would wish judgment to wait until at least the end of the season and perhaps for a couple of years. So nobody is saying the Pozzos’ involvement in Watford will not work. It may all come together splendidly.

The point is it shouldn’t be allowed to work. It shouldn’t be allowed, period. No club should be able to put out an entire starting XI of loan players, plus three subs. No club should have 10 players, almost a team, registered to one generous donor. Watford has been transformed overnight into Udinese’s finishing school, with all the loss of identity that entails. Champions of the loan system see its contribution as necessary, even beneficial, spreading talent and helping bring through young players who would otherwise find their first-team opportunities limited. Many of the world’s finest footballers have at some time gained valuable experience through a temporary transfer.
Yet even the loan defenders must be unnerved by what is unfolding at Watford. This is a club with history, a club that came through four divisions to challenge for the English title, that nurtured future England managers, that produced one of the finest English players of the modern era in John Barnes and more recently Ashley Young.

It is not Udinese’s tool, nor should Championship teams have to overcome Serie A Lite. At the very least there should be a limit on the loan intake in any one season or from any one club. More healthily, clubs should work with what they have got.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore proposes this reform almost every year, without success. Club chairmen like what is cheap, and in a financial sense a job lot from Udinese will certainly compare positively to 15 new signings.
Watford fans may at first have been taken in by the idea of forming a mighty triumvirate with Italian and Spanish clubs, but building a team around 10 Udinese cast-offs, who will no doubt pine for a return and a chance in Italy’s top league if they ever do hit form, is no basis for long-term success. All here is temporary.
Previously, clubs such as Beveren in Belgium have been turned into clearing houses. A youth academy founded by Jean-Marc Guillou in Abidjan took advantage of Belgium’s loose work-permit regulations to use the club as a European shop window for players from the Ivory Coast. Emmanuel Eboue was one graduate.
The Championship gap year may be beneficial to Udinese, too, but what are the products of Watford’s own academy to make of this policy? When attracting youngsters, a key selling point for any club outside the Premier League is that it will, by necessity, give young talent a chance.

Watford are fishing in the same pool that contains all of London’s Premier League clubs, in particular Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur to the north. Watford train at the London Colney ground belonging to University College London, vacated by Arsenal when they built their new facility next door.
No doubt previously, parents of promising teenagers would be told that while their son would almost certainly find his path blocked by expensive acquisitions going straight into the first-team squad at Arsenal, Watford look to youth. Make a name there, like Young, and then move.

Double act: Gianluca Nani and Zola during their West Ham days
What will the club tell them now? If you’re going to be pegged behind half of Udinese’s reserve team anyway, signing for Arsenal doesn’t seem such a long shot. Watford have lost their unique selling point. So who are they, this legion of temporarily hired hands? Nobody you would know. Joel Ekstrand, Jean-Alain Fanchone, Neuton, Marco Cassetti, Almen Abdi, Christian Battocchio, Fernando Forestieri, Steve Leo Beleck, Matej Vydra and Alex Geijo from Udinese, Daniel Pudil and Ikechi Anya from Granada, Chalobah from Chelsea, Geoffrey Mujangi Bia from Standard Liege. Beautiful British names, as Al Murray’s Pub Landlord might say.
Any gems? Vydra and Abdi look the best of it so far, apparently, but the sheer number smacks of throwing viscous material at a wall and seeing what sticks. Zola is again working with Nani as his technical director, which followers of West Ham United will confirm does not always end in glory.
When Matt Jarvis signed for West Ham this summer, his £10m fee broke a previous club transfer record for Savio Magala Nsereko, then of Brescia. Don’t feel embarrassed, there is no real reason why anyone beyond Upton Park should have heard of him.

West Ham paid in the region of £9m for Savio, despite him having only played 23 games for Brescia, scoring three goals. He featured in 10 matches for West Ham and did not score, before being sold at a massive loss to Fiorentina. He did not play a game for them and was farmed out on loan as his career diminished, to Bologna, TSV Munich 1860, Chernomorets Burgas of Bulgaria, Juve Stabia in Italy’s Serie B and Vaslui of Romania. Still only 23, he now plays for SpVgg Unterhaching in Germany’s Liga 3. In case you forgot: £9m.

The day the Hammers came calling was certainly a lucky one for Luigi Corioni, president of Brescia and also, happily, Nani’s ex-father-in-law. Nani was eventually sacked by West Ham with a substantial period left on his contract, but accepted a payment for considerably less. Scott Duxbury, West Ham’s chief executive at the time, is also back with Watford. You’ve got to admit, it’s one hell of a team. But is it any way to run a football club? Not really. Lacking independence or long-term direction, Watford has become a snapshot of everything that is wrong with the modern game.
While cracking down on Manchester City’s ability to buy players outright with new investment from beyond football, UEFA have no problem with Watford competing this season with a majority of first-team players that are not their own. For local loyalists the fear will be that manager, owners and the majority of the new charges have never travelled this course or distance.
‘We are all Watford and we are going in the same direction,’ said Zola.
Sadly, for the good of football, we must hope from early indications that this is true.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-2208564/Watford-snapshot-thats-wrong-modern-football-Martin-Samuel.html#ixzz27fFXMC00
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Of course, he failed to point out that their fans are often inbred too and their love for long-ball hoofery.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Tamworth Away)

A season defining result or just a lucky victory, after an hour of doing the basics of the game completely wrong. After that, we should all lump on and buy EuroMillions tickets, one of us is bound to win it. A triple change as the South Staffordshire monsoon season began ( is it Sri Lanka in disguise, pop the floodlights on and it rains) wrestled a pathetic, amateurish performance, which but for Tyler would have been another defeat into a win. Not sure this playing no defence lark will work much either. Would say the changes were inspired but for the fact both Kasim – the ball passer of the ball and Fleetwood – the best finisher at the club, should have started.

Buckle’s a strange manager, often picks the wrong starting eleven only to make amends very well with his changes from the bench. Given our dismal form, a scrappy undeserved win at least gives us an opportunity in the next four matches to put the season back on track. It confirms what a lousy long ball team we are, however on the rare occasions we do get it down on the deck, play with tempo, we look a very decent side. Even by Luton standards, our current mob are wildly ht and miss. Play well for twenty minutes, then play woefully for no apparent reason.

The first fifty five minutes were shameful. It really was Sunday pub League fare – that’s being rude to that standard. Defending all over the shop. Beckwith, bullied by Cunnington, both he and Essam compounded the problem by conceding silly, cheap free kicks. Barrow from left back, put in decent set pieces, but the lack of marking was terrible. It shows a real lack of organisation. It’s not like Tamworth’s movement off the ball was bright and sharp, their heavy artillery was set forward and weren’t pick up time and time again.

With the ball we were little better, looked to knock it long to the out of sorts Shaw and Rendell, whose aerial ability is limited. Only Lawless and Rendell were composed enough to look like creating anything. Gray was an outlet once again, but poor vision and touch let him down, apart from making the winning goal.

We need to go back to three centre halves, four in midfield, Rendell in the hole, with Gray and Fleetwood up front. Personally feel, at the moment that’s the way forward. Probably not ideal, we are being beaten by long straight passes from the opposition, it’s too easy and we aren’t making them work for their goals.

As it was Buckle made two changes from the heavy defeat at Grimsby. LRT and Essam for Fleetwood and Kovacs. Actually, could have done with Kovacs tonight, Beckwith for a big chap is very weak and Essam lacks experience and against two lampposts in Thomas Wright (formerly of this Parish) and Cunnington from Leighton Buzzard (poor sod) caused untold problems.

Buckle went back to 4-4-2. Tyler in goal. Henry, Essam, Beckwith, LRT the defenders. Midfield of from right to left, Gray, Lawless, Howells, O’Donnell, with Shaw and Rendell upfront.

Tamworth are a very tall side. Set piece team little else. Lots of height in their side, although Till, ex of Fleetwood and York, gives them a midfield playmaker. But their tactic is very simplistic, the tarty Breeden in purple, the type of keeper who fancies himself as an outfielder, got a horse’s kick on him, shame he keeps more like a Horse’s bottom, up to Cunnington, he tries to win either free kicks or knock downs and they play from there. Their full backs Courtney and Barrow got forward well, to provide some width. Not easy to play against, but our defending has been dire, pretty much all season, so we made it look very hard.

Defensively, we looked very nervy, in particular Beckwith. Normally his saving grace is he isn’t bad on the ball, but humped everything forward in the air.

We kicked down the slope in the first half; made it look like we were playing up a mountain. we played little football or made many chances. Balls banged up, Marshall and Dempster cleared everything away with ease. Part of the problem was the gap between Beckwith and Essam played a long way apart, we would have been better off, playing a narrow back four, to stop the ball coming either over the top or in the channel. The biggest cheer of the night came with Henry’s substitution, but he did look the only defender in the first half who hadn’t been down the pub and kept a decent check on the Coventry loanee Jeffers, who has a trick and some pace to his game.

Tamworth worked hard, Baldock and Kerry getting through a lot of work in the midfield. But there was no excuse for the awful long ball madness. Breeden didn’t have a save to make in the first period. Howells dragged Lawless’ centre from a corner into the ground, with Jeffers nodding away. A lovely turn by Rendell, played Gray through past Barrow, a poor touch, worked out well as it found Shaw, but Baldock closing down the angle quickly.

Not sure what happens in training or what our coaches do to earn their money. But we desperately need someone to organise them. We defend like statues, very timid. From a long throw from Courtney, everyone stood and watched it bar LRT hooking away from Jeffers. Kerry being found by Cunnington’s square pass, Tyler moving smartly to the left pushed it away.

O’Donnell was virtually a spectator on the left, but he sent in a perfect cross to Shaw, his confidence is rock bottom, rather than chesting it down and having a pop , he elected to head back, but the mass ranks of the red shirts managed to clear their lines.

Then the trouble started. Essam, showing his inexperience needlessly shoved Cunnington in the back. In a central position. Barrow floated the ball across to the far post, Dempsey netted with a firm header. From the next attack, virtually in the same place, Howells clipped Cunnington, this time Till picked out Marshall again on his own, but was flagged offside.

Shaw’s header across goal was glanced wide by Essam, but we didn’t have a serious effort on goal. With the fear we defended the long ball, it was like a bouncing bomb was approaching our box, not a football. A massive goal kick by Breeden, won by a Tamworth head, Cunnington, almost fell to barrow. It took us 34 minutes to win a header in our box, Beckwith winning Till’s straight free kick.

At this stage the referee was in danger of losing control, Kerry caught O’Donnell with a shattering tackle, and then Lawless and Cunnington got involved in a shoving match, man bags at ten yards. Lawless had the last effort of a half of very poor quality football, Rendell turning infield, laid off to Shaw, neat pass, some room appeared but Lawless’ attempt drifted wide.

The second half was played in heavy rain. Aptly, as we were a right old shower. Buckle changed the formation, with Gray playing through the middle (we still played long to him), with Shaw on the left wing, and Rendell just behind Gray. For the first ten minutes, we could barely get out of our half. Marshall climbing above Henry missed the target from Kerry’s deep corner.

A long throw by Barrow, found Jeffers, a neat flick gave him half a yard, but Howells managed to get a foot in. They were dominating. A triple change saw the arrival of Kasim, Fleetwood and Jake Robinson in place of LRT, Henry and Shaw. Shaw is struggling badly and needs to be dropped. He has been done up like a kipper. Who would sign him and not provide him with any service from wide areas. The planning and thought again this Summer has been lacking and to be frank has been half- arsed. It looks like players have been signed without the foresight of where they should play and how to fit into the squad.

However, we got out of jail. With Kasim’s introduction, we immediately took control of the game, we kept the ball and with Fleetwood playing upfront ( Hurrah ) and not loitering around on the wing like a school kid outside bargain Booze, he looks interested and was a pain to the Tamworth defence, we could turn them and they didn’t look so comfortable having to chase back. Lawless went to right back, Howells to left, Kasim in the middle, with Gray and Robinson swopping flanks.

Although Barrow cut past Fleetwood and could only scoop a low shot into Tyler, we scored with a next attack. It was Tamworth’s turn to defend like drunks, Fleetwood cutting in from the right, found Kasim, his drive blocked out by Courtney, no one moved to the rebound but Kasim, who stroked into the far corner, Breeden didn’t move, presumably not wishing to get his purple kit dirty.

We had to survive a couple of scares, some good build up from Tamworth , Baldock into Cunnington, Barrow popping up on the right, before a much needed tackle by Essam. Then Kerry was put through, a brilliant half block by Tyler, and then he managed to pick himself up and hack clear. When the goalkeeper is doing the centre half’s job for them, the problems are obvious.

We won the game, through a neat through pas by Robinson, towards the right, Gray’s pace took him away, the ball may have crossed the by-line, the Tamworth players weren’t happy, but play continued finding Fleetwood to drill fiercely beyond Breeden in the goal.

The goal settled us down; we were better on the ball, trying to knock the ball down the channel for Fleetwood and Gray into space. Kasim dictates the play well; he is rather good at diving. Tom Daley would have been proud of his dive near the touchline. If Buckle has anything about him, he will fine Kasim for that. Pathetic. He won’t yet, he will spot the next player to dive against us and moan about it. The joys of myopic.

Tamworth kept plugging away, they shouldn’t have lost that game, Cunnington finding Barrow to nip past Lawless and send a fierce drive wide of Tyler’s goal. Then Beckwith delayed his clearance, allowing Kerry to chip over a cross which Wright seemed destined to score, but Tyler managed to save near or the line.

Beckwith ‘s neat pass to Fleetwood, whizzing past Dempster and Courtney, found Rendell, hitting the ball into Courtney, who regained his ground.

A lucky clearance by Robinson found Gray, who in turn, played a super reverse pass into Fleetwood, it was on his left foot, but should have done an awful lot better than almost break someone’s bathroom window behind the goal. In truth we saw out time fairly comfortably, as a nice triangle of passes between O’Donnell, Fleetwood and Gray, resulting in his strike curling wide.

In the four minutes of over time( in which Tamowrth wasted their own time, by putting two subs on as the ninety minutes was almost up, only a well-placed bending free kick by Breeden dropped nicely for Baldock , which struck Essam.

Bizarre game, it’s been a long time, since we have played so badly but got a win. Once again we have conceded the first goal, but shown character to come back. But Buckle and his army of coaching staff need to sort out this defensive crisis and start picking the correct starting eleven. Hopefully, the fixture list looks kinder now, and we should be aiming to collect at least ten points from the next four games.

Mark Tyler 8.25, Ronnie Henry 6 ( Yaser Kasim 8) , Connor Essam 5.5 , Dean Beckwith 4.5, , Lathenial Rowe-Turner 6.5 ( Jake Robinson 6) Andre Gray 6.25, Alex Lawless 7.5, Jake Howells 6 , J.J. O’Donnell 5.75 , Scott Rendell 7.5, Jon Shaw 4.5 ( Stuart Fleetwood 7)

Booked – Lawless Subs not used – Janos Kovacs and Dan Walker.
Tamworth – Breeden, Courtney, Marshall, Dempster, Barrow(Gudgen), Till, Baldock, Kerry, Jeffers ( Collins), Cunnington, , Wright. Booked – Kerry and Dempste

*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 teacher who has ran off with that fit ( oh dear. Sex Offenders list, here I come) fifteen year old school girl. Not very bright. He’s a Maths teacher, but can’t work out, waiting a year and it would be legal.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Grim, very Grim Away)

I must concur with everything Paul has taken the trouble to write here. His points A, B, C and D are spot on. Sort it out Buckle. That was piss poor and it was down to you. Do something now whilst the season is young and someone hasn’t got a 10 point lead over us.

In the home of the Pleasure island (oh the irony), having witnessed us ship (possible typo) 7 (seven), 6 (six) and five (5) goals in the past, it was a display of Herculean bravery to keep Grimsby to a mere 4 (four).

Another battering on the North East Lincolnshire coast, the score line was no red Herring we were sunk by the Mariners, as soon as you saw the line-up and the way the team was set up we had our chips. What a load of Pollocks.

One redeeming feature of the night apart from it not being cold (the weather at Grimsby is always far more important than the result, not to mention the chance to admire the beauty of the run down/ closed shops in the Cleethorpes Road. Squalid chic at its finest) was we scored by the far the best goal of the night. Superb, looping header by Beckwith. Perfectly placed, keeper no chance. Admittedly, it was a pity the goalkeeper in question was Mark Tyler. Deano, dear boy, we change ends at half time. Although the rinsing he received off the Grimsby forwards, it’s no surprise he didn’t know whether he was coming or going.

Joking aside, they are serious problems. Some of the body language looks awful. It’s more than just a bad day at the office, lessons need to be learnt and those trite meaningless clichés, trotted out. Although this Division is the gift which keeps on giving – the four games upcoming after Tamworth. Southport, Lincoln, Braintree and Nuneaton, points and plenty of them need to be hoovered up from that little lot. If not, the season is in danger of imploding before it’s begun in earnest. If anyone from the media is reading this ( if they can read that is), could they ask please Paul Buckle, why when he first came to the club stated, correctly in my opinion that Fleetwood is a natural goal scorer, best playing on the shoulder of the last defender and shouldn’t go any wider than the penalty box, why he is playing out wide? What has changed in the last six months? It’s a waste, as is not getting the best out of Gray when he is against a nippy left back, which was the case against Thomas. He isn’t getting the best out of the players available. Same comment applies to Shaw, yes he is short of match fitness, missing chunks of pre-season isn’t going to help, nor was excessive shrug gate. He needs service from wide areas. We don’t have any. Unless Taylor, comes off the naughty step and links up with Howells.

For a man who achieved promotion at this level, to the untrained eye (mine), you would be forgiven for thinking that Paul Buckle appears not to know what it takes to get out of this League. This Kevin Keegan approach of bung lots of forwards on the pitches will work at times against weak teams, but it’s very risky against the better teams on our travels.

We fell into an almighty sucker punch. A naïve formation against a fine counter attacking side, they have all the attributes in their team to make a serious challenge for promotion, if Hearn bangs in the goals when he is fit again. Do wish Buckle would stop the following a) trying to shoehorn in four forwards b) select both Beckwith and Kovacs, when the opposition have a forward with the pace vaguely quicker than a snail in there. C) Selecting Henry. Dying your face in the same colour as the team shirt will never make up for the lack of leadership skills. D) Playing our best goal scorers as wide men. I could go on and on and on.

As soon as I read Grimsby in the week, had signed Neilson, a skilful ball player and Ross Hannah, a career change from playing a fat American bird in a alleged sit-com, a Speedy Gonzales of a front man, knew we could be in trouble. Whilst you should not pick a team just for the opposition, it would help to try to stop their obvious threat. With a midfield as toothless as a pensioner who has lost their dentures ( sounds like Wayne Rooney’s dream date) unable to protect our defence, every time Grimsby broke forward they looked like scoring. Mostly down our right, Henry ruthlessly exposed against the tricky of Neilson and pace of Thomas. Don’t have an ounce of sympathy for any of that sycophants Graham Westley’s former players. Come on PB how about giving him protect, if he is going to be continually picked. Henry wasn’t the only one who had a poor game. Kovacs was shocking; he has reverted back to the first coming Kovacs during his first spell, Beckwith little better. Fleetwood was on the pitch but did little to contribute. When Shaw goes out to play wide, it’s all rather desperate.

Ironically our ball retention was good, didn’t look to pump the ball forward aerially, but we were too slow to transfer possession and as Grimsby defended in numbers, we ran into a wall of black and white shirts as soon as their penalty area hoved into view. Apart from Rendell, we lacked any serious goal threat.

The thing that really grates me, is our best performance was against Macclesfield, we played three centre backs , LRT was the much needed pace alongside slow and slower. Sure, he isn’t much cop with the ball at his feet, but does have a gift of getting in timely blocks in the box. The most sickening aspect, is it’s ditched just to bring back Sunbed Ronald, who hasn’t got the legs to get forward from full back and needs help against a winger. So playing Gray ahead of him just compounds the problem. Could stick Lawless in front, but better to play Lawless at right back in the first place.

The team selected was Tyler in goal, back four of Henry, Beckwith, Kovacs and Howells (one of the few players to do himself credit. Some excellent forward runs from left back). Midfield two of Lawless and O’Donnell (outnumbered in there. No fault of their own), Rendell in front of them, pushed further forward when we were losing), Shaw up front, with Gray and Fleetwood out wide. Can’t see what Rowe-Turner or Kasim have done wrong to be left out. On the bench were the two last mentioned names, plus Essam, Walker and Northampton Robinson.

They didn’t have much to beat, but very impressed by Grimsby. Pace and power, good work ethic. Used the loan market effectively. Of the teams we have played against so far, they would be the best we have come up against. Playing 4-4-2, well organised with a balanced side. If they can replicate that type of performance on a regular basis, they will be near the top. Decent players in a simple formation, which they understand their roles. Two wingers, big and little men upfront. Basic but does the job for them. How hard can it be?

With free child admission, thanks to an advert in the local rag (isn’t that child cruelty???) brought a bigger than usual crowd in, the game had a fast start, but neither team got on top. The first significant chance of the night ended up in our net and the evening went downhill from there. Patience build up by the home side, Thomas into the bald head of Niven, swept a cross in which Cook got above Kovacs, into Hannah, Tyler produced a fine half-save, but the ball fell kindly for Colbeck to poke in via the post.

Kovacs couldn’t cope with Cook, more worryingly his problems where in the air rather than the floor. Tyler had to push away Colbeck’s centre from Disley’s pass, into Niven but his strike was wayward.

Until this point, we had rarely threatened McKeown in the opposite Net, none the ruthless pair of Pearson or the infamous Pondlife ( he of “ those bones are made for breaking” fame). We lacked the cut and thrust required. Pearson heading away Howells’ diagonal cross aimed for Rendell, was our best moment.

Our best move of the early stages came down the right as Gray and Lawless combined, Rendell’s neat touch, played the ball into the path of O’Donnell, whose curling target sailed just over the bar. A poor header by Kovacs, saw Thomas return the ball with interest, Beckwith getting a vital toe end to block Neilson’s drive. Lawless’ pass down the right gave Gray a chance to run at Thomas, but he has as much pace as Gray and timed a tackle superbly. Fleetwood’s feeble roll into McKeown, laid on by Howells, the return pass would have been a better option.

The only booking of the night came, unluckily for Disley, block tackle on Howells; O’Donnell didn’t do him any favours by making an issue of it.

We didn’t have an answer to the massed ranks, only from Howells and a lesser extent Rendell did we look threatening. As Grimsby defended so deep, teams have worked us if we can’t get Gray in behind them to penetrate (ooh matron), we rapidly run out of ideas.

Our best chance came from a fine cross by Shaw on the left, eluding Pond; Rendell got enough contact on the ball, but McKeown reacting well tipping over.

Apart from not dealing with crosses, we need to work header at stopping them come in. Defending on top of Tyler doesn’t help either. The two goals just before half time killed the match stone dead.

Thomas again a real thorn in our side, centring for Pond to smack a header against the bar, once again it was the hosts who reacted quickest to the loose ball, Cook, a head long dive scoring from close range, just off the ground.

The third goal was a straight long ball, after Lawless had been played into bother; Neilson pinched the ball, pinged one over the top, for Hannah to chase with Beckwith. No contest, imagine Usian Bolt against someone carrying their weekly shop up a hill. Hannah breezed past Beckwith, and beat the onrushing Tyler, with an effort into the far corner.

Gray did well top control a long free kick from Henry, excellent touch and turn defeated Pond, but snatched at the ball and ended up horribly over.

So again, a deficit to pull back at the break. The team were out very early. One change Essam on for Kovacs, who was utterly dreadful. Essam, himself, given the circumstances coped OK, but in truth isn’t ready for first team football. Good in the air, battled away well enough. But a like for like change wasn’t going to alter the match. Niven and Disley running the midfield, Neilson and Thomas winning an unequal struggle against henry. Our strikers (or should that be wingers) not given the service to make an impact on the game.

So the pattern of the game, remained unaltered, we had a lot of possession, Grimsby soaked up our play, in truth they only had to wait for an unforced bad pass. Nothing fancy about them, but gave a good, basic display of football. No frills, fewer mistakes, but the right behind to go well in this division.

Neilson, slalomed past Henry and Lawless but smashing the ball into Mablethorpe. Lawless’ corner found Howells deep outside the box, a decent post shot hit Colbeck and flew behind. From the resulting corner Howells’ delivery found Rendell poking the ball at short range, which McKeown produced a decent low save.

Kasim replaced Henry, hopefully a sea change in Buckle’s thinking. Lawless at right back, Kasim in the middle. Don’t think he is answer to our problems or a saviour, but he does keep the ball ticking over.

Neilson on the break, playing Colbeck through, stopped by Tyler, palming the ball out of harm’s way. Beckwith denied Hannah, after Thomas and Neilson linked up on the left. Cook’s powerful header from Colbeck’s flag kick cannoned off the bar.

Just before Robinson took place of Fleetwood, forgotten he was playing by this point. Robinson a forward, naturally slotted in out wide. He made a couple of decent runs inside carrying the ball, but looks a player lacking confidence.

If you are looking for positives, you would need good eyesight; I suppose the team get plugging in. Rendell’s lovely take shifting the ball to Shaw, Thomas getting enough of the ball to loop over.

The goal which summed up our night. A long straight free kick by Disley from around the half way line, at last one of our centre backs won a header in our box, it arrived at Beckwith, who had to win the ball, but was slightly off-balance and ended up diverting the ball past Tyler and into the unguarded far post.

Wood making good progress from right back pinged in a cross knocked away by Essam with Hannah lurking. Shame it wasn’t last goal wins, as we scored the final goal of the night., Howells’ a positive probing run to the edge of the box, not much of a shot, but McKeown let the ball slip through his grasp and Rendell netted from close range. Howells again down the left, found Kasim, good determination by the Iranian, battling past a few challenged, the ball broke to Rendell, this time McKeown made amends for his error with a better stop.

Tyler, who was faultless for all four goals, made another decent stop, denying a fine direct run from Colbeck. As the game rolled down its painfully obvious conclusion, there were chances at both ends, Robinson cutting in from the left, Howells shinned his strike wide of the right upright. A long ball over the top, saw the newly arrived Southwell skin Lawless and Tyler half blocked the strike, O’Donnell, did well back tracking cleared the danger away.

So onto Tamworth with their oh so flat pitch. We should train in London Road in preparation. One of the forwards needs to ditched for the sake of the team shape, at the moment, probably Shaw should be the one to make way. Henry’s got to go (but won’t), would prefer to go back to three centre halves. Would start with Rowe-Turner and Kasim . We may win, but until Buckle selects a team on merit and one which will bring out the best in the players we have, we aren’t going to make significant progress forward.

Mark Tyler 7.25 , Ronnie Henry 3 ( Yaser Kasim 6.25) , Janos Kovacs 2 (Connor Essam 6.25) , Dean Beckwith 4, Jake Howells 8 , J.J. O’Donnell 6 , Alex Lawless 6.75 , Scott Rendell 6.75 , Andre Gray 6, Jon Shaw 5.5 , Stuart Fleetwood 5 ( Jake Robinson 6)

*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 Alex Ferguson’s open letter to Man Utd fans told not to sing songs about the dead. If anyone would take notice of the Scottish Father Christmas, you hasn’t even got the manners to close his mouth when chewing gum , abusing officials when they don’t give his team every decision. Not the FA would do anything (as if), but if they closed grounds down, after such chants, that might make clubs act sharpish. Banter is banter, but sickness is something else, even against Northerners, who are usually fair game.

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Hustle Bustle

 

On an afternoon that was as unsatisfying as coitus interruptus, neither side managed assert enough quality in a game that could have gone either way.

I say either way, let me qualify that, though we had a bright start, we barely had a chance but both Shaw and Rendell had chances towards the end, Rendell headed to the keeper and Shaw wanted two touches rather than just heading it. Personally I put the delay on Shaw’s part down to shock so surprised was he that he actually got a cross in the first place. Wrexham had the better chances, the ball being cleared off the line more than once. But most of this game was bottled up in midfield each team cancelling out each other to the extent that rarely did we get the ball down as meaningfully as we would have liked to. Tyler restarting by lumping the ball aimlessly forward to Shaw didn’t help: it wasn’t a good way to retain possession. In fact Shaw only won one header all night and was penalised for that. So it was one of those games, the sort of game which if served up every week would soon see attendances plummet and spirits broken.

Frankly there’s not too much more to say. Paul Buckle seemed pleased with the point and the fact that we could live with Wrexham, a side who finished 19 points ahead of us last year. They won’t this year. There didn’t seem to be an awful lot about them. They are boring time-wasting stiflers. Macclesfield and Gateshead demonstrated more guile and talent. The Welsh came for a draw and got it, but of course could quite easily have nicked a win, but from some good work by Mark Tyler.

This division, this season, is crying out for a team to grab it by the scruff of its neck, and to be brutally honest there doesn’t seem to be enough about any of the teams to do that. Might be one of those seasons where first place is 85 points rather than 105, where anyone in the top half can beat anyone else.

It annoys me that having found a formation that suited us and that worked well (eg 3-4-3/5-2-3) we abandoned it so quickly. Rarely in my long time as a Luton fan have a group of players taken to a formation so readily. But clearly it wasn’t good enough… we have had to jiggle everything around to accommodate Ronnie Henry, who hasn’t really leapt out at me thus far as being two divisions better than the rest of them.  Lawless played well today, he was the one half decent spark in midfield, but wing -back suited him so well. That’s gone out of the window now that Ronnie is back.

Apologies for the lack of reports over the past week. Frankly after the Alfreton game (or as the PA announcer said today Al-Frey-ton) I was ready to slit my wrists and so it was probably just as well that I didn’t put electronic pen to paper. Those of you who were there don’t need any reminding, and those of you who weren’t don’t want to know.

The Cambridge game was much better and I had started to pen a piece entitled “Two Twats and a Pussy” (after the ref, the reserve linesman and the cat-on-the-pitch) but unfortunately I ran out of time and have been busier at work than a whore on a quayside so that article bit the dust – perhaps I’ll try and resurrect it at some point.

So where are we now? Today poor Fleets and England-hero Andre Gray didn’t get a sniff – Shaw got a few bits and pieces and Rendell only got a few chances to influence. I’m hoping that Grimsby will afford us a bit more room – but don’t count on it.

 

Though I love the work ethic of the likes of Howell and O’Donnell (Howell played briefly at left back today) in the midfield, as the season progresses I think we are missing just a couple of things. Perhaps I am asking too much for non-league but I’d love to have a bad-bastard anchor-man type and a creative midfielder able to stamp some authority on a game and open up defences. I’m sure all teams would – but I do feel that we are slowly slipping into the lazy “we’ve got a tall bloke and we are going to use him” mentality. Once again I’m bound to ask where is the high-tempo-short-passing-press-from-the-front football we were promised? I think we are falling between two stalls. I don’t mind us sinking back and playing on the break and using Gray’s pace – I welcome it – but we’ve not being doing that. We’re neither pressing from the front nor playing on the break and worse still, when we are not given any room in midfield we are not using any width or even playing it over the top, it seems that we are just relying on the long restart and a few lucky knock-downs hoping that the front players will hunt as a three and the opposition allow us to get deep enough to get shots on goal. But it didn’t happen last Saturday or today.

It’s early days. Paul Buckle has forgotten more about football than I’ll ever know and I am utterly convinced that given a bit of luck, a following wind and a settled side we will romp home.  It’s just a teeny weeny bit frustrating in the interim, bearing in mind what we’ve been through. Amazing to think how, as collective fans, our expectations and tolerances have changed and been reconciled in four seasons. I think that four years ago the result and performance against Alfreton would have had fans tearing out the seats and tearing up our season tickets. Jesus, the 3-0 at Wrexham was the beginning of the end for big- Mick and that was bad enough. Today, six and a half thousand fans turned up to see us up against a team we’ve seen far too much of regardless of the poor result the previous week. The resilience and character and tolerance and loyalty of Luton fans never ceases to amaze me. Being a Hatter is more an act of religious devotion than of football fandom. With that in mind I pray that the footballing Gods will lead us to the promised land in April….

 

 

 

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Wrexham Home)

Hats off for everyone who predicted Mayebi’s time wasting would commence in the second minute, personally went for the option it would begin on the journey down, around Chirk by the disused petrol station near the McDonalds. Your prize is a week’s stay in Wrexham. Second prize is a fortnight’s stay in Wrexham.

A predictably competitive, tight tussle, with a fair outcome against difficult opponents. A draw against a promotion rival after the abysmal first half at Alfreton is a more than reasonable result. We never looked like scoring after a bright, quick start. The four main forwards started, but with Gray and Fleetwood playing wide and only receiving the ball from very deep positions, we didn’t get enough bodies to support Shaw, lacking match sharpness, most of our play lacked any quality and far too often poked the ball forward without much thought. Only Lawless looked composed on the ball and put a decent shift in as well. The rest of the time, we looked like we were playing with a ball of fire rather than a football.

The positive is at least, we got something from a game where we lacked any end product and gained a very rare clean sheet. Fortunately Wrexham the better team for long periods of the second half, couldn’t shoot straight and were diabolical at set pieces for a big side, nearly all hit Rendell, our first defender, at the near post. We defended better today, no silly tackles flying in.

Although Buckle was positive selecting an attacking team, was surprised Kasim again missed out for at least improving the second half in the last match, he’s inexperienced and the style ( what style???) of this League isn’t going to play to his strengths, but at the moment personally think he should start. Having only two midfielders against the likes of Keates (a nasty bit of work, but would be ideal for us at the moment) and Harris was a risky strategy, but we got away with it. The squad and team still looks unbalanced despite the continued revolving door of players – both in and out , apart from the obvious in midfield, with Shaw in the side, we need with a quality winger to fire in crosses, even when he is fit, Dance’s crossing can be all over the place at times. Shaw thrives on service, like most centre forwards of his type. Asks far too much of our full backs to solely create opportunities from wide areas.

The team selected by Buckle: Tyler in goal, back four of Henry, Kovacs, Beckwith and Howells in the back four. Lawless and O’Donnell playing centrally, with Gray on the right, Fleetwood on the left, with Rendell playing off Shaw up front. No Brill on the bench. The obvious reposte, there is never anyone brill on our bench. LRT, Kasim, J. Robinson, Essam and Walker being the options. Taylor and Watkins the scapegoats for the Alfreton result, then.

Wrexham were their usual charmless selves. Mayebi, incredibly talented at time wasting, they enjoy the work of a raised elbow, will be cursing themselves not being able to take advantage of us having an off day. They look weaker than last season, but such is the substandard nature of this division, they probably won’t be far away again. Need to be more clinical in attack though. They lack pace through the middle of the defence, but so do we. Very well organised and difficult to break down, as they look to kill the flow of the game at every opportunity. They will always be a threat on the counter attack, thanks to the trickery of Ciesleswicz, far too talented to rot in this hell hole of a division.

The first twenty minutes looked promising, although D.Wright caused Howells problems, as being bigger and bulkier, Howells didn’t have the physic to cope. D.Wright shrugged Howells aside with easy, rolling into Bishop, who didn’t bash the ball hard enough to trouble Tyler. Our best outlet looked to play the ball down the line to Gray, although Ashton no slouch himself, coped well with Gray’s pace and was let down by a poor first touch. To his credit, he kept showing for the ball.

The tetchy nature often seen when the two teams was seen very early, Shaw’s foot was late on Ashton, but no need for Ashton to roll around, and quickly get up when the free kick was correctly awarded. A clean push by S.Wright on Shaw just outside the box, gave us a decent angle from a free kick, shifted by Gray into O’Donnell, good connection but it flicked off D.Wright’s head for a corner. A poor square pass not under pressure by Bishop, found Gray, from forty yards out, rather than running at their cumbersome defence, elected to shoot. O’Donnell fire over after decent control by Rendell. Shaw linked up the ball well, Gray on his bike down the right, looked to have the edge on Ashton, but Mayebi lumbered out on his box, to conceded throw.

Unfortunately we couldn’t build on this, and as Wrexham got a foothold on the game, they pressed us quickly, as Alfreton did last well and our play got scrappy and knocked it long and easy to defend. Even when Shaw won the ball against Riley, with Rendell playing deep, both Fleetwood and Gray out wide, the ball would never drop to an orange shirt. We rarely looked to get the ball into Rendell’s feet for some variety.

It wouldn’t be a Wrexham game, without an outrageous launch by Harris, Fleetwood fortunately was quick for him, as Harris lunged in with both feet off the ground, but only injured the turf. The silly sod. Luckily, Kovacs showed a career being a groundsman awaits, but carefully replacing the divots.

Wrexham then created the only serious chance of the half, on the break Ciesleswicz ( wish his name was Smith!) tie toed forward, allowed to strike, which Tyler could push up but not away, Henry did well to spot the danger and hook off the line. Howells struggling to cope with D.Wright, feed Cieleswicz to shoot goal wards which Kovacs diverted the ball wide.

We lost Howells early on, with a bang. It was no bad thing, as LRT coped better with D.Wright, but on the negative, LRT is not a naturally attacking player, so with Henry on the other side, our play become even more narrow

Neat play by Lawless got the better of Keates; his through pass aimed for Gray was well intercepted by Riley. From the corner, Shaw won a header back out to Lawless, decent cross across the box, Gray was denied by Walker’s block, however it was offside. Kovacs’s header from O’Donnell’s corner was hacked away by Walker.

A clumsy tackle by Bishop on Fleetwood, gave us a free kick on the right, O’Donnell sent in a terrific delivery, aimed for Kovacs, with Riley denying him space, Kovacs could only nod wide. Keates sent in a dangerous low centre which whizzed across goal which just eluded Bishop.

Second half, we never got going. Battled away, not whilst not holding on for grim life. Mayebi wasn’t tested, too often set pieces would pick him out, being a huge man he isn’t hard to spot.

The tone of the game was set, when Ashton was allowed to carry the ball forward unopposed to centre, which Tyler swiftly off his line, collected with ease. Lalwess recived a hospital pass, Wrexham broke, a superb touch by Beckwith denied D.Wright, with Bishop only could roll the ball wide.

Only Lawless looked capable of creating something, his performance today and all season, he’s looked the player we know he can be and not the miserable, sulky misfit of last season. Combining with Henry down the right, centring perfectly for Rendell in space to thump a header straight at Mayebi.

We were struggled to contain Wrexham, who started playing with confidence, Cieswlewicz beat Beckwith, Hunt in acres of space, could only locate Kovacs. We looked vulnerable out wing and allowed them too much space; against a better attacking team we may have paid the penalty. Ashton and Hunt strolled down the left, before Keates screwed wide.

It was a difficult game to referee, he struggled badly , the worst a terrible decision to deny Henry’s re-entry into the game after being caught in the chops by Ciesleswicz, he only spotted Henry’s frantic waving when Wrexham started to break down their left. Which could have been costly.

The first booking came after Keates’ rugby tackle on Gray, after a neat ball down the line from Lawless. Keates had the cheek to complain about a stray elbow. Dan Walker came on for Fleetwood, who wasn’t involved heavily in the game, playing very deep (presumably under instructions).

Walker did OK, his pace is an obvious asset, did relatively well with limited service. Strange how he was left out on Saturday, with limited attacking options, but now jumps ahead of Woolley and Robinson ( Cobblers variety rather than the Foxes variety of Robinson) in the pecking order.

We were still on the back foot, vital well timed clearance by LRT and Henry, denied Ashton and Ciesleswicz respectively. D.Wright and Hunt played the ball to the left for Ciesleiswicz to smash the ball into Kovacs. A ball behind Beckwith gave Bishop, supported by Ashton to whip in a cross which, was helped behind by LRT.

We improved slightly and started keeping the ball better, with the introduction of Kasim. Walker holding the ball down the left, inviting LRT to whip in a cross, which Ashton blocked off Gray’s run, leaving Maybei to catch with ease. A neat pass by O’Donnell, gave Walker a chance to run at Riley, the defender blocked the shot, rebounded to LRT hacking wide. Lawless linking up with henry, showing a quick foot work to spray in a cross, which Riley dealt with. Kovacs tamed nodded won and wide from the resulting O’Donnell corner.

Sign of the times, as kasim was being readied to come on, lawless went over to the bench for instructions, the crowd booed heartily as they thought he was being replaced, it was actually Gray who was hooked off, with lawless going to play down the right flank.

Our chance to win the game was proved by Walker’s great cross from the left, Shaw tried to chest it rather than head it and Ashton got the vital touch. The three subs were involved in an excellent move, starting with Walker across to Kasim, waiting for Lawless to pick out LRT (wrong man in the right place), but the Wrexham Walker deflected the ball into the side netting.

Wrexham sent on two forwards to try to win the game Ogleby and the wily old Ormerod. A fine tackle, well timed by Henry on Ormerod conceded a corner, after Kasim was half sleep as Harris pick pocketed him, well he is a Liverpudlian.

The lack of cover in front after Ormerod’s arrival was worrying, finding Ogleby and into Harris, who sent his low drive shimmering wide of Tyler’s far post. One of the few misplaced Lawless’ passes gave Wrexham a golden opportunity, fine low save by Tyler denied Bishop and then got up quickly to prevent Ormerod scoring from a narrow angle.

Four minutes injury was fairly uneventful, as Harris proved again what he lacks in quality he makes up for in kicking people, by shooting wide, when he had time and space to at least hit the target.

Still, one we got away with. With the next three out of four games away, it may give us more space to hurt teams on the break. We are becoming a one dimensional, narrow team with brief glimpses of outstanding football. The early days of Buckle with Gray and Fleetwood causing havoc by playing close together do seem a very long time ago.

At least, while the Musical chairs game being played out by the weekly League leaders continues, it gives Buckle time to try to coax some improvement and find some cohesion to our play.

Mark Tyler 7.5 , Ronnie Henry 7 , Janos Kovacs 6.75 , Dean Beckwith 6.75 , Jake Howells ( Lathaniel Rowe-Turner 6.75) , J.J. O’Donnell 6.25 , Alex Lawless 8.5 , Scott Rendell 6.25 , Andre Gray 6.5 ( Yaser Kasim), Jon Shaw 6, Stuart Fleetwood 6 ( Dan Walker 6.75)
Subs not used – Jake Robinson and Connor Essam.
Wrexham – Mayebi, Walker, S. Wright, Riley, Ashton, Harris, Keates, Hunt, Cieslewicz (Ormerod ), D.Wright(Ogleby) , Bishop. Booked – Keates.
*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 shock horror that the Police are sometimes a bit naughty and tell fibs when it suits them . Whoever would have thought it? Cough, cough. Still it’s nice the Press don’t have an attention span of a gnat and are now more bothered about French photographers. Oh.

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