Better Late than Never…

A stunning shot from Alex Lawless broke the deadlock and put us ahead in a game for the first item this week.

Today’s game was a bit like bad sex – a lot of humping and pumping but ultimately it came good in the end.  It wasn’t that the players weren’t trying, but for much of the game they were closed down and harried so much that we couldn’t string one pass together, let alone two. Too narrow and a bit clueless in the first half at least in the second we upped the tempo and added some width.  By the time I’d convinced myself it was going to be a 0-0 and the crowd were singing “what a load of rubbish” up popped Sir Alex of Lawlessshire to silence the critics. By deciding to shoot it was almost as if he’d said “oh for God’s sake let me have a go”. He’d already had a good game, with only a couple of wayward passes and one-twos which didn’t come off to let him down. He’d started in the heart of midfield, but had moved back to right back when Essam was substituted. The further back he goes the more goal prone he gets. Goalie next week then. We knew he had it in him because he has scored some cracking goals in the past.

The team started in a sort of 4-4-2, with O’Donnell on the left and Gray on the right. There wasn’t much width and O’Donnell drifted inside rather than being a winger. Up front we had Rendell and Shaw. Shaw had a funny game, whilst the service he got was poor, I don’t think he is benefitting from having the crowd on his back. Some of his jumps seem a bit half hearted, I’m sure they’re not, but if you are banging in the shots and nodding in the headers people seem to forgive and forget these things. Steve Howard got away with murder because he was a goal machine. Bang some in Jon and you’ll be fine.

Lathaniel Rowe-Turner started at left back – he ended the game much brighter than he started it. He would play the ball down the line, only to find no one there. By the second half he drove forward and had the beating of the right back all day long. For a period in the second half he was on his own on the left and was having a whale of a time. In a way having Dan Walker in front of him (when Dan was brought on) blocked him off and stifled his ability to get forward and cross. And he’s got a good cross on him.

I thought the corners were disappointing today. With so many tall players in the team today it seems ludicrous that our inswinging corners are unable to find the heads of oncoming players at the far post. Rocket science it ain’t. Crack that and you’ve got an additional ten goals a year.

Ainge and Essam were tight at the back, but on occasion needed to run with the ball rather than passing it out. Regularly there were big gaps in front of them which they could have exploited.

Jake had a relatively good game in the middle. His work rate was high, though occasionally his through balls were poor. He made one scintillating run at the start of the second half.

JJ worked and bustled again, but I thought was disappointing in his original position on the left and better in the middle.

Rendell won his fair share of balls in the air and worked hard, the one clear cut chance he got he drove wide. He laid the ball of quite well a couple of times. I like his intelligence on the field and can see why PB has been playing him as an attacking midfielder on occasion this year because I don’t think he’s and out and out striker – I think he will get his fair share of goals because of his positioning and football knowledge, but I don’t think he has the attacking dynamism, the towering heading ability to be a 20-25 goal a year man. Just my thoughts – that’s not to denigrate because I think he has slotted in pretty well and reminds me a bit of Kevin Gallen (remember him?) though not in height or girth.

Of course if you do play two ‘big’ men up front you need them to feast on a hail of crosses going into the box from your wide men – which we just didn’t do.

Andre Gray – striker or winger? A winger needs to be quick – he certainly is that – he needs to be able to run onto balls and turn – boy he can do that, but he also needs close control when it counts and the ability to cross and find his man and these are parts of his game he is working on. At times today his turns and dummies showed us glimpses of brilliance, though like the rest of the team he was closed down quickly like an army of ghosts chasing poor pacman.

Not an enjoyable game, but how many would have taken 1-0 let alone two? With the teams around us all losing or drawing that was a vital win. I’m hoping it can be a bit of a catalyst, because despite working much harder this year, the performances haven’t been great and we’ve had some shocking results. The difference between this year and last is that the heads are not going down when we go behind. Today our fitness showed right to the end, whereas last year Brabins boys would have been reaching for a ciggy, a pint and the paper after 75 minutes.

Actually this links in nicely to a few words about Tuesday’s game. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to put an article together, but there was a lot to say. For once, our performance was bright and attacking we counted 5 minutes before the Cockney bovver boys touched the ball and virtually got the (brilliant) goal with their first touch. You knew it was going to be one of those nights and the referee certainly had one of those nights. What a clueless buffoon he was: straight from the Trevor Kettle “you’ve come to watch me, not the game” school of refereeing. I hope he never blows a whistle in anger again. My hearty congratulations to the fans near the tunnel for not showering him in shrapnel at half time. The quick-tempered and short-witted must have been sorely tempted.

What’s the phrase? If it wasn’t for bad luck we’d have no luck at all, and that showed on Tuesday. Poor old Fleets was (and hopefully still is) on fire and was tormenter in chief of the man mountains in the Braintree defence. I think we hit the woodwork twice in the game as well as obviously being denied a penalty, where Fleets got his first booking. I asked around at half time and spoke to a mate in one of the boxes to see if he had got a better view. One person said SF had handled it, another said he’d got booked for picking the ball up when he was fouled, and the third was that it was for simulation. Well it can’t have been simulation because he was fouled twice, once where the defender had a nibble outside the box before finishing the job just to make sure in the box. A mistake is a mistake and we all make them, but that was a crass error of judgement. For a referee to be so wrong would suggest that he is either bent or just not up to the job. Would you want someone umpiring a cricket game who had given the batsman out caught when the player had whacked the ball for 4? Well that was the equivalent. And while the first half was littered with anti-Luton refereeing he improved a little in the second, or rather made it a bit less obvious.

We did well to fight back to 2-2 and demonstrated yet again that we are as bad at defending set pieces as we are at scoring from them.

It wasn’t a bad game and I enjoyed it– but it was bizarre. I was so full of adrenaline at the end of the game I could have out run the Braintree coach on its way back to Essex. I was so pleased that the fickle, yes we are fickle, crowd backed and cheered the boys on, the atmosphere was electric and by that stage we are all in the ‘nobody loves us, we don’t care’ frame of mind, as were the players.

What the game did highlight was Ronnie’s and Jake’s deficiencies at full back because of their lack of pace. I maintain that unless Henry gets quicker somehow, he is better suited to being a centre-half.  I still think that the 3-4-3/5-2-3 was the best formation we played this year with Lawless and Taylor as attacking wing backs and three central defenders.

But enough of such things. We have to look forward, and next Saturday we are to enjoy the delights of Cambridge and Mr Money. He will want to be getting one over on us, and we will be keen to show him that he is still a bit of a tit. At least we know he won’t leave anyone up-field when defending  the corners…

I’m going to miss the Cambridge and Forest Green games because of a (well earned) holiday in the sunshine away from the delights of the English autumn. I won’t even have access to the internet or a radio and I will have to see if the numerous junior family members with their gizmos, widgets, iplods and thingies will be able to look up the score.  Or I could ask my Mum to text me I guess….

Come on you Hatters!

As ever, please leave your comments below, I’m still amazed at the large number of ex-pats and foreign Hatters there are who view these pages. Welcome one and all.

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PDW’s Kneejerk Reactions (Cockney thugs Home)

Blimey. Where to begin? An eventful night, as ever in the airport derby, under the lights at Kenilworth Road. Even by the Conference standards, an utterly incompetent referee and oh for a bit of luck. This experiment of having “Care in the Community” types refereeing football matches isn’t working. Fleetwood sent off for two bookings. The first, streaking clear of Bailey-Dennis, built like Canary Wharf, Fleetwood’s shirt was clearly being tugged for a prolonged period in the box. Penalty all day long. Referee awards a free kick to Braintree. Why would you foul anyone when you are in front of them? It was like Usain Bolt running past a pensioner carrying their weekly shop up a steep hill. Fleetwood didn’t try and cheat like a Suarez, Bale or Young and throw himself to the deck. He didn’t dive, so why book him, even if the ref missed the shirt pull.

Then having being fouled in the central third of the pitch, Fleetwood went in for a 50/50 tackle with Mulley; his feet raised and did slide in. However the referee had blown up (not literally, more’s the pity. Where’s a shoe bomber when you really need one?) , prior to that and awarded a free kick to Luton and books Fleetwood again. The second booking, yes that was fair enough although odd to win a free kick and then get penalised , but the first was a joke. h The referee was shocking generally. Bailey-Dennis committed at least half a dozen fouls, not booked. Essam rashly went to ground to upend Mullen, not booked. Unfortunately the referees may know the rules (possibly) but they don’t know the game. Still, the powers that be will do absolutely nothing about it. Still, the referee wouldn’t be have to buy a pint in The Bull next time he takes his guard dog into Braintree town centre. Although why West Ham or Ipswich fans would buy him a pint, is anyone guess?

However, as bad as the referee was and whilst we showed great character to come back again from once more gifting our opponents an easy lead . Even a Centipede would be legless, if it shot themselves in the foot as often as we do. Three soft goals given away, admittedly it was a sublime strike from Holman for the first goal, he is the best young talent we have faced in this League for a long time. Great first touch, excellent awareness.

Although Fleetwood was our brightest spark before his sending off, we looked better with ten men, played some very good stuff at times, particularly either side of the half time break. Plenty of crosses came in, but Braintree defended with resolution, we didn’t really have the rub of the green.

When Walker came on and made an instant impact scoring with a cool finish into Naisbitt’s far corner to bring the scores level. Foolishly thought, we would go on and win the game. As Walker and Gray looking threatening every time we got the ball wide.

However Paine’s bobbly header crept over the line from Sparkes’ corner, it gave the Essex side a boost and inflicted a kick into the dangly bits, which we never recovered. From that point on, Braintree looked the more likely to increase their lead on the counter attack, through the pace of Mulley, control of Holman and the physical nature of Marks.

The real worry is against a side with pace and a touch of guile, we really look dire at the back. Whatever combination, Buckle tries, the situation remains the same. Yes, we defended better against Lincoln, but they didn’t have much attacking threat, bar Taylor.

One change from the Lincoln game. Shaw in for the injured Rendell. Other than that, same formation, same positions. Alex Lacey on the bench for the first time this season, Beckwith and Kovacs have really slipped down the pecking order. Even the always injured Garry Richards (who, he?) is more likely to get a game than those two.

Braintree, the self-styled “pub team from Essex” arrived on a winless streak of seven games. To be honest, they still have the same physical nature of last year, but look to play more football, probably playing on a surface which isn’t like a cobbled street helps. Well organised, two banks of four, look to play on the break. For a side with their meagre resources, they have some good attackers, too good for us anyway. Mulley given time to run at Howells, Holman held the ball up well, it will be a miracle if they keep hold of him for long. Slow at the back, Naisbitt is almost Mayebi-esq standard at time wasting.

It all started quite well. Very quick start, Bailey-Dennis made three excellent blocks to prevent us taking the lead, the best after some good interchange play between the two Jakes, Howells and Robinson, Bailey-Dennis got his toe in front of Shaw. Howells’ corner swung in towards the far post, Shaw unselfishly fed Robinson to drive wide of the post.

Once again, the opposition score with their first sight of goal. Gray penalised for a foul on Habbergham, on the half way line. Bailey-Dennis launched it into our box, some ball watching ensued, Mulley rose highest to nod the ball down to Holman, turning past the statuesque Essam before slamming the ball past Tyler. Class finish, but when you can’t win the first ball at a set piece, nor react, you are struggling.

Going forward we looked OK, Shaw winning a fair amount aerially against Bailey-Dennis. However he run out of puff as the game went on. His movement was fluid as a Septic tank and made a poor decision to try and chest down the ball rather than head in front of goal, allowing Paine to clear.

Lawless was bright and sharp against a combative pair of Symons and Davis. O’Donnell, had a slow start, but improved as the game wore on. We flung in enough crosses in, the bar by a mile from Gray, Ainge’s poke found Gray, brilliant piece of skill, a back heel beat Habergham, torn past the left back and sent in a cross, which eluded Fleetwood by inches.

It took Naisbitt a whole three (3) minutes to time waste. Referees enjoy turning a blind eye to this, but too often the ball was at his feet before one of our players closed him down to picking it up. Soon after came the Fleetwood penalty shout…no shout about it, a stone wall decision.

Quinton tested Tyler with a straight forward strike, after a free kick wasn’t clear. Both centre halves, outstanding on Saturday, struggled. Essam, who is often a bad starter, really had a dire game, he’s young , but his rashness of diving in, needs to be curbed quickly. He has promise, but like the rest of our team, is capable of throwing in a real stinker in.

Fleetwood appeared to handball, controlling a throw in. Ambled through Habergham and Paine, who stopped, his pass was stabbed by Robinson at Shaw who could only force the ball off target.

A fine pass by Davis found Mulley beating Howells, his cross stabbed away by Ainge. Then came the sending off of Fleetwood, leaving us with ten men for over an hour. Although O’Donnell took advantage of a poor pass by O’Connor, his fizzling drive flew over.

Before we could re-organise things properly- going 4-3-2, with Robinson tucking in more centrally, with Gray joining Shaw up front. Unfortunately before we could settle down, Braintree doubled the lead. Terrible goal to concede, Henry ball watching, Habergham’s pass over the top, good movement by Marks and tidy finish, but one long ball beats the whole defence? Basic, basic errors. After an improvement in the last couple of games, henry was poor this evening. One Marvin-esq run apart, too slow on the ball and doesn’t look like a man who played two leagues higher last season.

Credit to the team, for showing some fight, upping the effort and playing some good stuff. Lovely one two between Howells and Gray down the left, Gray’s strike brought a sprawling save by Naisbitt, and then Quinton dived to block Howells’ attempt.

Braintree defended deep, with two slow centre backs, but always looked a danger on the break, Holman into Marks, beating Essam, Marks sent in a cross to no-one.

We got a vital breakthrough before half time. Ainge free and heading home Howells right wing corner. Mulley reached the ball quicker than O’Donnell, went forward, cynically hacked to the deck by Essam. In a game of generally poor free kicks, Quinton could only fire into the wall.

Gray racing through to Lawless’ outstanding pass, knocked the pass to Shaw, who had to lift the ball over the keeper, but Bailey-Dennis snaked a leg on it, the ball to deflect it over. A neat reverse pass by Robinson, sent Gray down the right, he smashed his cross/shot towards the neat pass, but Naisbitt flying through the air like an overweight Spider-man turned it over ( why can’t Farman play against us every week). The resulting corner, summed up our luck, Robinson’s flag kick, powerfully headed against the post by Essam, then the rebound drilled wide by Ainge.

Davis shrugging O’Donnell effortlessly off the ball gave Mullen the ball, Ainge got the wrong side of marks, but his touch took him towards the by-line and a loopy cross brought no danger.

It was a shame half time came when it did, we were playing with rhythm and tempo and Braintree were being stretched.

The opening period of the second half was more even. Lawless doing well to reach the by-line, great cross which Shaw couldn’t keep his header down. Our defending was shambolic (even allowing for being a man light and chasing the game), long ball by David found O’Connor, and his centre just had too much pace on for Holman, who looked like getting in front of Ainge. Gray sped past Paine; a thumping low drive was blocked by Naisbitt.

We had good spells of pressure and possession, but the final ball wasn’t quite good enough. Howells and Robinson combined to send a pass too hard for Shaw, likewise Henry after a forward run (wonders will never cease). A double change brought the arrival Kasim and Walker for Robinson (who did alright, but if we are going to play 4-4-2 get a left footer down the left flank, O’Donnell with either Howells or LRT behind him would be a better bet) and Essam (who looked the novice he is. Shame for him, as he was excellent up at Lincoln). Kasim on his day is a tidy passer and Walker’s pace gave O’Connor, relatively untroubled at right back, something to think about. Lawless went to right back, Henry in at centre half . A mighty hoof by Ainge, almost coming down with Snow on it, Lawless nodded the ball down to walker, side stepping Habergham, before calmly finishing into the far corner, he could have hardly placed it better.

We did have a few chances to get our noses in front; Braintree threw away a two goal lead on Saturday, and were looking nervy. Shaw’s intelligent knock down was excellent if anyone had bothered to move from Howells’ corner. Gray, rampaging past Habergham, played through by Walker, was unlucky to be denied by Naisbitt’s fine low save into the side netting. Walker being fid by Howells low pass, cut past O’Connor and the back of Paine’s heel stopped his progress.

Holman and Davis opened up our defence for Marks with all the time in the world, on the edge of the area, but could only fire low straight at Tyler. Mulley and Holman played a fast one two, which Henry blocked, although judging by the players and Kenilworth Road End’s reaction, he didn’t get the final touch. Braintree’s sub Sparkes, providing the visitors with a bright spark, curling corner to the far post, Paine’s header, was hardly like an exocet missile but trickled in.

It was a real pain, a sickening blow, but again poor, poor marking and Tyler, unless unsighted, should have done better. Braintree’s confidence rose and ours took a fatal knock. We kept plodding on, but really looked a threat afterward, if anyone was going to score again was the punters from the small town in Bocking.

It was a just of nearly, but not enough. Sparkes’ presence meant Lawless couldn’t get forward as much, as previously from full back. Sparkes with a nimble change of feet defeated Lawless before firing over.

Howells’ inswinging free kick, after a Braintree player was booked (Habergham after 70 minutes) found Ainge, his flick too heavy for Shaw to get on the end on. Fine pass by Kasim inside the full back to Gray, equally superb cross for Shaw, crying out to head it, but Shaw, still confidence an issue, chested it down, and allowed Paine the time to block it. Gray was excellent didn’t deserve to be on the losing side, with white shirts surrounding him, a cheeky back heel, just again too hard for Howells to reach.

Walker passed to Kasim, in turn flicked it square to Shaw, falling over Bailey-Dennis’ out stretched leg, the referee brought it. O’Donnell opted for power hitting Habergham on the wall. No idea why O’Donnell is on free kicks, rarely does he have a shot on target. He knocked a fine pass into Lawless’ path, making progress forward but his effort sailed wide of the far post.

Kasim’s poor square pass, played in Mullen passing to Holman who rushed and blasted the ball over. Tyler had a rush of blood, rushing out and missing Sparkes’ free kick, which fortunately also missed Holman and Marks. Despite five minutes of injury time, we didn’t threat the Iron goal. And aren’t they just?

Bizarre game, we played far better football than at Lincoln, creating more opportunities, but lost the game. The defending is a massive concern and until that is sorted, we aren’t going to make much progress forward. Can’t keep giving teams two goal head starts and keep coming back. Going forward we looked very good at times. No consolation, but we will play far worse than that and win.

Mark Tyler 5, Ronnie Henry 4.5 ,Connor Essam 4 ( Yaser Kasim 6) , Simon Ainge 5.5, Jake Howells 6.5 , Andre Gray 8, J.J. O’Donnell 6.5 , Alex Lawless 8 , Jake Robinson 6.25 ( Dan Walker 7.25) Jon Shaw 6.25 , Stuart Fleetwood 6.75.
Sent off- Fleetwood Subs not used – Lathenial Rowe-Turner, Alex Lacey and Dean Brill.
Braintree – Naisbitt, O’Connor, Bailey-Dennis, Paine, Habergham, Mulley, Symons(Sparkes), Davis, Quinton, Marks, Holman( Shepppard) Booked – Habergham
*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 new Governement directive ” Bash a burgler”. Most MP’s are too busy bashing their own Bishop to notice what happens in the real world.

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