>Dean Saunders has shown in his managerial career so far that he isn’t frightened of making big decisions, though our poor run of recent form has forced him to make more than he would have liked of late.
Gavin Ward is the most high profile victim of our recent collapse, and you can understand that decision: while he hasn’t exactly been committing howlers, there have been a few goals lately where you could point the finger at him more than anyone else. The notion that has been floated that this will give him a reality check is unfounded though: Ward’s a serious, committed professional who will have been analysing his performances thoroughly, and will be desperate to reclaim his place. It’s Anthony Williams who’s in possession of it now, and it’s literally in his hands to make the most of the opportunity.
Dropping a goalkeeper is no small issue for a manager, and this is the first time Saunders has had to do it. In making the decision, and concluded that removing Ward is a requirement, Saunders will have had to factor in whether the replacement will be any better, and I suspect that might have been a matter which he had to give serious consideration.
I think it’s been fairly plain that Williams hasn’t featured in Saunders’ thinking, and this is an unexpected chance for him to show his capabilities. There is a real danger that he has lost confidence over the course of a year and a bit on the sidelines though, and this is something which we must hope will be restored along with his place in the team.
One key attribute which Williams boasts was clear on Tuesday though. He made a big impact when he arrived under Brian Carey with his organisation: he was eager to maintain a high line at the back for set pieces, not least because his lack of height means he needs to try and avoid aerial confrontation. It was good to see him very animatedly marshalling the defence in the same manner again, as I got the impression during his last days as our number one last season that his loss of confidence was reflected in a less demonstrative manner when he was sorting his defenders out.
This approach paid dividends in the first half when a nasty free kick caused him problems, only for the attempt on goal to be ruled out because the high line had caught the striker offside.