They often say that after a devastating defeat it’s good to have a game soon afterwards as it offers a chance to bounce back and put things straight. Whether that applies to Tuesday’s game rather depends on whether the same eleven are given a chance to rectify things though.
Fundamental problems have afflicted us in the last two matches, so I’m not suggesting we pick the same side at Southport. It’s time to press the reset button and go back to what was working so well at the start of this season.
A couple of statistics I posted on the Supporters Association website’s stats page illustrate where I’m coming from:
- When Mark Creighton has been on the pitch this season, we’ve conceded a goal every two and a half games. When Chris Westwood has been playing, we let one in every thirty minutes.
- When Chris Maxwell has been on the pitch this season we have conceded a goal every two games. When Joslain Mayebi is in goal for us we let one in every half.
I’m trying to adopt a factual approach because I don’t for a second want this to become personal. Westwood has an impressive pedigree for a player at this level, and I’m sure he’ll turn out to be a valuable acquisition. However,he virtually had no pre-season due to injury and doesn’t look fully ready yet. Don’t forget that in the midweek before the Barrow game Westwood played the whole game in the reserves’ 5-2 defeat to Oldham, so his three games since the season began have seen eleven goals go in. He surely needs more time preparing at that level rather than being exposed too soon.
Returning Mark Creighton to the fold not only brings back a stopper who has never let us down, but it gives Nat Knight-Percival a chance to team up with him again; the novice centre back battled manfully over the last two games, but looked a little more exposed without his reliable beast by his side!
There needs to be a change in goal as well. Perhaps the injury Joslain Mayebi suffered on Saturday will mean there’s no decision to be made, but it’s crucial to our prospects that a goalkeeper of Chris Maxwell’s pedigree returns to the side swiftly. It’s absolutely true that Mayebi made two important first half saves on Saturday; the one from Jason Walker was terrific. It’s equally true to say he couldn’t be blamed for any of the goals; however, there’s an element of good fortune attached to that, as he made other fundamental errors which York failed to punish.
Bringing Creighton and Maxwell back is not just important defensively either. Our early season success was based on a coherant way of playing, where we built patiently from the back and drew players onto us. With Mayebi and Westwood both looking uncomfortable in possession, I can only recall us working that tactic successfully once at Barrow (and it led to our goal!) while against York we didn’t even seem to attempt to play that way. If we’re going to return to our previous form, we need to start doing what we were doing so well once more.
I reiterate what I’ve said previously: Saunders knows what he’s about, and might well have been forced to take action over the goalkeeper’s shirt in order to maintain discipline. However, we’re in danger of losing a lot of momentum at the moment if he has to stick to his guns. Football managers have to be pragmatic, and the time has probably come for Saunders to return to the massively effective formula he concocted during the Summer.