Thank god for Mark Tyler. Saving us for the umpteenth time during his Luton career. Everyone owes him a few beers. As we did our best to throw away a 2-0 lead. We need January to come around as quickly as possible and get two defenders in, although given some of the fairly dreadful player recruitment in recent years; I don’t be holding my breath for an improvement. Both collectively and individually, the defence is not good enough. I don’t doubt Buckle and the coaching staff are working hard at set pieces, but you could practice 24/7 and if the players aren’t bright enough at set pieces it’s a waste of time. Concentration is the big problem and awareness as well. The 4-4-2 formation hasn’t helped much either, in fact playing that formation we have gone backwards. We need three centre halves in the team, desperately. At least until the defensive frailties have been addresses, then we can move on forward.
After a first half, which we will in control, but until a spell before the break, we weren’t a huge goal threat not until half time approached ( our best spell of the game) , as we moved the ball too slowly, although did use the flanks well. Played reasonably, but nothing more. Fortunately really, Dorchester parked the tractor in front of goal, weird they had already seen they could hurt us as an attacking force. So they handed us the incentive, very softly. Strange they left out two players, Malsom and Thompson, who made a positive impact on Tuesday.
When Matthews’ faux pas gifted Lawless a second goal, looked like they were going out of the competition with a whimper. Unsurprisingly, they got back into the game via a corner, a low dragged delivery by Gosling, was back heeled by Nicholls into the path of Pugh to side foot past Tyler.
Panic stations, we defended too deep, Rendell long since disappeared into the back pockets of Pugh and Clough, they managed to ping cross field passes over to Gosling usually by Nichols, who doesn’t have the legs to get round the park, but can spray the ball around pretty well. . O’Donnell failed to backtrack to give LRT the help he needed. Too big a gap between our defence and midfield. Kovacs and Lacey won a number of headers in the air against a makeshift forward in Clough, but we didn’t win enough 50/50 balls and we couldn’t get out, holding a deep defenisve line, further hindrered ourselves. Centres rained in and it was virtually shooting practice for the Dorchester forwards against Tyler. Fortunately he made four or five saves from good to outstanding, to prevent an unwanted trip back down to the Dorset County town. There isn’t much between the two teams considering the full and part status of both clubs.
Do hope we avoid a team from the top two divisions, although the financially it would be marvellous. A good team would destroy our numerous obvious faults and may leave a psychological mark for the season. Also we have lots of games before the fifth of January, non league players presumably think Manchester United away is a big deal ( the reality is all rather mundane. Trust me, been there, seen it, lost it) and disappear from far more important matches . It happened against Watford before we played Liverpool, when we were a proper football team.
On a cold, cheerless day, The Theatre of Comedy was an empty place come kick off time. Good following from Dorchester, probably more than attended Tuesday’s night match. One change from that game, Beckwith recalled for the cup tied Ainge. Again 4-4-2, Tyler in goal, back four of Henry, Kovacs, Beckwith and LRT. Same midfield and forward line from the last game. Surprised that Fleetwood didn’t have a trundle instead of Gray. Although Gray worked tremendously, taking his goal very well, far harder chance than the numerous misses down there.
It was a low key start; we tended to improve as the half went on. Smith was at it more like himself, just as well as Howells was a passenger. Rendell like the team was decent enough, and then faded badly after the turn around. Dorchester only left the small Watson up front on his own, playing three centrally in midfield, so our main joy was down the wings. Lawless was heavily involved. They are tactic was Mr Mobile himself, Matthews to lump goal kicks towards Watson, no price against Kovacs, who was better in the air today.
A good run down the right by Gray was halted by Pugh. First sight of goal came courtesy of Rendell peeling off his marker to smash Lawless’ low corner into Pugh. The Dorset’s side first hit was wayward, Jermyn latching onto Beckwith’s nod forward. Lawless picked out O’Donnell on the left, a perfect delivery into the corridor of uncertainty which eluded the dives of Rendell and Gray.
A tug, outside of the area by Gleeson (still looking nothing like Beckham) on Lawless, gave Howells a reasonable position, but his left foot wedge sailed over. We missed a trick by not shooting on sight to make the most of Matthews’ lack of mobility. Henry noticing getting forward more, with Garcia barely involved, lashed in a cross which Matthews punched away from Rendell, O’Donnell seized upon the loose ball, Clough touched him, but JJ went down instalments. A poor intended back pass by Clough was reached by Gray, a delightful back heel, gave Rendell a clear sight of goal, rather than carrying the ball into the box, he went for the difficult option, by curling the side footed wide, from a hard angle. If he could pop them in from there, he wouldn’t be wasting his time in the Conference.
We coped better against Gosling, O’Donnell a bigger help, but LRT at least showed Gosling down the line on his weaker foot. We started to take a grip on the game, mainly through corners by Howells; Beckwith slipped with the goal at his mercy, the ball came out to Smith, stabbing at the ball, taking a touch off Gleeson. The next corner saw Beckwith make better contact, but a simple catch by Matthews for a looped header.
Henry was in the book for upending Jermyn. Whilst it was a foul, it was his first offence and Jermyn got up as soon as the yellow card was brandished. LRT overlapped well from JJ’s pass, he thrashed the ball with power, it picked out Lawless, but such was the pace whilst he got his head to it, couldn’t keep it down.
Beckwith lofted a ball over the top, Gray scampered down the left flank, entering the box, he did really well keeping his composure waiting for the right angle to appear, Dorchester stood and watched, Gray netted with a tidy finish.
Kovacs’ ball forward, helped on by Rendell, The giant Pugh nudged Gray and it ran through to the keeper. O’Donnell was getting the better of Walker, space opened up and he smashed the ball just wide of Matthews inches wide of far post.
Howells and O’Donnell combined the ball arrived at Gray, getting there in front of Pugh, but Matthews smothered the ball. Gray again went twice close. LRT’s centre found Rendell to flick off a defender and begin. From which Lawless, collecting possession from a half cleared corner, his attempted cross hit the top of the bar.
At half time, Malsom replaced Garcia, and not surprisingly had to take a more positive approach. We never really got going. Not much danger of them getting back into the game. Nicholls dragged wide set up by Watson. Once again, we tried to hit Rendell in the air. Which is stupid, another lesson not learnt. It was scrappy stuff, neither team on top. Gleeson latching on Pugh’s knock down, which struck LRT. Clough’s flicked header from Malsom’s in swinging corner, Kovacs watched Gleeson in space head wide. A simple opportunity in front of goal.
Martin’s reverse pass gave Watson a chance, but his shot was weak. But we were struggling against set pieces. We switch off, don’t appear to anticipate danger. A long free kick played forward by Martin, Clough got a clear run on Beckwith to head across goal.
We were playing on the break; Gray’s movement gave us an outlet. Tyler’s goal kick, reached Lawless getting goal side of Martin, firing wide, when he should have done a load lot better. A clever pass down the channel by Smith, gave Gray a chance to rattle against the post, with Matthews’ faint touch, touched the ball onto the post. Beckwith again won a header from Lawless corner, which was straight at Matthews. Jermyn smashed over from a weak Smith clearance.
Beckwith suffered an injury which he was stretched off, looked an innocuous incident. Whilst hope the injury isn’t serious, no need to hurry back Dean, old boy. Lacey replaced him. He struggled to get into pace of the game, however without regular reserve games or a loan spell, he won’t improve. By the end we won his fair share of headers.
Neat interchange between Henry and Howells, the low pass found Lawless, whilst he pinged his shot with pace, Matthews, basically waved the ball through into the net. At last a two goal lead with twenty minutes to go, plenty of time make a mess of it.
Gosling’s corner from the right, not properly hit, Nicholls back heeled the ball to Pugh who finished clinically.
As we weren’t passing the ball well, too often panicking under pressure, Dorchester do hunt the ball in packs. Walker and Gosling combined down the right, the cross came in to Thompson the Pompey loanee, to head low and Tyler stuck out a crucial right mit to prevent the equaliser. Nicholls’ lob, was flicked behind him by Lacey, leaving Watson sprinting clear down their left, Watson’s flick was palmed away to his left by Tyler. . Malsom and Thompson again were repelled by Tyler. The referee missed an assault by Pugh on Howells, already booked, for the break away for Malsom’s chance. The space we leave open in the box is incredible.
Gosling taking full advantage of the exposed LRT. Why it took Buckle so long to take O’Donnell off, fine with the ball, but no help to LRT. Needed Mendy on and Howells could have played in front of LRT.
As it was Fleetwood replaced Gray, who had been a livewire afternoon. A sharp cross by Henry was nutted out by Clough to Howells, who miskicked the ball wide. Gosling cut inside to hit the side netting after Watson played him a square pass. Smith was then booked for winning a tackle on Clough. A neat turn by Lawless and shot hit Pugh and went behind. Six minutes were added on, which became more after a nasty clash of heads between Pugh and Rendell. We tried to waste time by playing the ball in the corner.
Although Dorchester were denied again by Tyler at the death, but a fantastic relax save by Tyler, Thompson allowed to control yet another centre by Gosling, but he got down low to his right. Lawless picked the pocket of Martin, sold short by a Matthews throw, his pass to Fleetwood was half blocked by Matthews.
Job done, just about. Mainly thanks to Dorchester’s negative tactics and the fact they only started playing at 2-0. At least we showed character to see off the Dorchester siege. Still, given the recent results, it’s a win and we can get back to the League programme. Oh silly me, we have this lot again on Tuesday night. At least they have re-arranged Newport quickly. It’s only going to take another bad Winter and we are going to be horribly behind in our League programme, with the Macclesfield away game now off. However every team in the Conference needs to voice their concern about the way the F.A. Trophy is prioritised over the League games. Mid-week competition, no replays, no extra time, if it’s a draw then penalties. If the F.A. don’t like it, refuse to play in it.