Obviously the most important thing at the match yesterday didn’t happen on the pitch, but as a little relief from the ongoing ownership trauma, might I ask a question about the game itself? Namely, what the hell was going on out there?
A side built on the soundness of its foundations, which is in the chase for the club record number of clean sheets in a season, fell apart in spectacular style. Why?
Well, it was apparent that the right side of the defence collapsed, and it has to be pointed out that it was the one part of the line-up which was different from that which embarked on the wonderful unbeaten run which suddenly seems like ancient history.
Jordan McMillan had a very solid debut against Crawley, the one reservation about him being that he doesn’t have the attacking thrust of the man he was replacing, Curtis Obeng.
Sadly, he looked much less confortable yesterday, his problems summed up by the fifth goal when he speculatively appealed for an offside rather than deal with a cross which was allowed to float too far across the box. As a result, his man had an easy finish.
Mind you, the ball should have been cut out before McMillan’s error of judgement. Marvin Andrews misjudged the flight of the ball horribly, and sadly it wasn’t his first mistake.
With the benefit of hindsight, plenty of people questioned the decision to drop Frank Sinclair and bring Andrews back in. Their argument makes sense; Sinclair had been doing well alongside Mark Creighton recently and was unlucky to be left out.
However, I must say that most of the people I spoke to before the game were happy with the decision, and I was one of them. Sinclair is forty this year, and has already been injury-prone since he came to Wrexham. He needs to be looked after, and with a big game coming up on Tuesday, the decision to give him a rest and bring in Andrews, who has been a great success this season don’t forget, seemed perfectly sound.
Saunders might also have been aware that Gateshead have genuine quality out wide; Alan Shearer famously valued the quality of Martin Brittain’s crossing when he was at Newcaslte, and Nelthorpe is useful on the other flank. Perhaps Saunders thought the height of Creighton and Andrews would be valuable in dealing with theirdelivery from wide areas. Again, based on what we’ve seen before today that would be a sound assumption; it emphatically wasn’t the case though.
I suspect another factor was larger in Saunders’ mind than resting Sinclair or guarding against Gateshead’s crossing ability though. Andrews has been excellent this season, but he’s a big man in his mid-thirties who, it shouldn’t be forgotten, started only seventeen games in total over the last two seasons through injury.
In his early performances for Wrexham he naturally looked rusty, doing some good things but making occasional misjudgements. That especially happened when the ball was in the air; his aerial prowess is legendary, but Andrews is a centre back who looks to time his jumps rather than use his bulk to occupy the space required to repel the ball and letting it come to him, as Creighton is. That means that if his timing is slightly off, Andrews makes mistakes. As he got more games under his belt this season, Andrews became more sound, and looked in magnificent form when he was injured at Altrincham on New Years Day. Perhaps Saunders reckoned that he needed Andrews to get his match-sharpness back as soon as possible, ready for a tough run-in, and decided the only way to do that was to give him some starts.
Again, there’s absolutely no flaw in his logic. Sadly, yesterday’s game was one in which logic went out of the window.