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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One thought on “Better Late than Never…

  1. I flew over from Melbourne to watch Braintree and Nuneaton games and I will leave Weds thoroughly disappointed. Tuesday night was a spirited performance and yes the ref had a shocker. But we will still let in three goals to an Essex pub team, just not good enough. And as for yesterday, an absolute shocker! For 86 minutes it was pathetic, I don’t blame the players entirely, I blame the tactics of Mr Buckle. Flawless Lawless was very good and of course his two goals saved the managers blushes but it doesn’t cover up the rest of the dour performance. There are no true wingers which doesn’t help Shaw’s cause but how he scored 35 goals last season is a mystery. Ainge is a real plus and full marks to the manager for getting him, but I personally want to see Kovacs back in the team and judging by the reaction from the fans when he came on I am not the only one. He brings passion and spirit into the team which we definitely need if we are any chance of getting out of this league.

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