Another non-league classic to tell the grandkids about. Great stuff it you enjoy watching one goalie and then the other lump it down the middle. It was 90 minutes of high tempo-full-of-good-intentions football, with little in true quality to show for it, save for the goalkeeping and sound defending.
How apt that Mark Tyler got man of the match his three classy and brave saves in the first half kept us in the game.
Whilst Cambridge had the clear better of us in the first half I think we shaded the second, without really creating a clear-cut chance. How frustrating all round. Poor Jon Shaw, used as a target man and the focal point for all of the kicks is still suffering from his hernia and is trying his best. He lasted a half before being substituted. It was a blessing in disguise, as once he had gone off we at least had a bit more nous and guile and built the ball up from the back a few times rather than just pinging it towards Shaw. A bit more not a lot.
Mark Cullen too was struggling, and only managed half an hour before being taken off JohnStill said it was partially tactical partially because he was struggling for fitness and couldnt make an impact sufficiently to feed off the occasional scrap won by Shaw, or on the wing when swapped with Andre Gray, who had started on the right.
Andre Gray looked keen and up for the battle. He grew increasingly frustrated and angry at the poor service he was receiving from the midfielders and wingers but he himself played pretty well. Increasingly in the last twenty minutes he would find himself with space in front of the back two defenders and he would selflessly sweep the ball right for Shaun Whalley to do something – or as it transpires nothing much with.
Ah, Shaun Whalley, a fearsome pain for premiership and non-conference left backs, but in our division has had a weak start. Whilst he is always in a position to pick up the ball, I think his confidence must be low and it is affecting his play. His crossing, touch and passing were short of the required standard today and once again he was bottled up. He started on the left (with Gray on the right) but, when the pack was shuffled after Cullens departure moved out to the right, up against former Hatter Greg Taylor as it transpired. Brought in as an impact player, a snazzy quick winger, hes turning into a toothless tiger. On the way back, I listened hard to Luton Legend John Moore, who explained it thus whilst Whalley is hard to play against if youve never come up against him before, clubs in the conference know exactly what he is about and what he is capable of and set the teams up accordingly. Moore said that Whalley must progress his game further and adapt if he is going to be the player JohnStill wants and needs.
At the back, once again we coped reasonably well. Playing too deep initially we were seemingly allowing Cambridge too much time and space in our half hence the two early opportunities for them. Once we sorted that out, howler from Lacey aside, we looked in control at the back I thought. Good to see Scott Griffiths improving after the mare he had last week one or two of his passes did go astray, but defensively wasnt given the run around he had had against Macclesfield and was less vulnerable still once Jake was brought on in front of him on the left. He improved more as the match wore on.
We did fashion a number of half chances. Once the ball was on the deck a little more, having Jake on the left made a difference. Looking at the match statistics apparently we had five shots on goal – I don’t think I can remember them. I remember McNulty going close with a header at a corner and Jake having to shoot with his right foot and not his left. Not sure about the others – help please?!?
Richard Moneys team were tidy, but without many frills tactically it was the same as when he left us. Long ball up to Cunnington. We did well against him in the air, which was good but it was Cambridge who were better at feasting off the bits and pieces afterwards.
With Cullen and Shaw both off, and no striker on the bench, the formation ended up with Whalley on the right Jake on the left and Dave Martin (introduced for Jon Shaw) just behind Gray, who, as Ive said was increasingly isolated and frustrated.
Our midfield today of Guttridge and Smith had teeth but were not afforded enough room to be creative. Guttridge made one fantastic last ditch save off the line to bail out the Lacey howler I referred to above. I suppose we might be asking too much they are two similar-ish players. We miss Lawless something terrible. Someone to put their foot on the ball and look to do something with it. Too often the midfielders, starved of room just lobbed it forward hopefully. Barca it wasnt.
But that said the tempo of the game, if not the outcome, made it a not unpleasant watch. It did strike me as having 0-0 written all over it, but there have been worse 0-0s at the Kenny. There was a lack of quality in the final third something JohnStill was only too happy to concede (well it was pretty damn obvious). Once again we played soundly at the back without doing much up front. Were playing uninspiringly but still picking up points and scraping along. Once we go through the gears, which I have no doubt we will, then things will improve. Were not playing particularly well but still getting points against the stronger teams. Furthermore, we are getting some of the trickier fixtures out of the way early once we have got Kiddy Grimbsby and Wrexham out of the way, slightly easier fixtures are coming up after mid-September. Im hoping that we will have a little more of a cutting edge by then
Scores on the doors: Tyler 8.5, Henry 7, McNulty 7.5, Lacey 7.5, Griffiths 6.5, Guttridge 6.5, Smith 6.5, Whalley 4, Gray 6.5, Shaw 5.5, Cullen 5.5, Howells 7, Martin 6.5