An odd end to the season like this encourages flights of fancy. When we were interviewing Mark Creighton today Geraint Parry very astutely compared it to a pre-season, as the games are essentially of no consequence and the manager has taken advantage of that to give his whole squad a run out. But now reality kicks in, and after the Braintree match it’s time to reluctantly burst a few balloons. Andy Morrell ain’t going to start with Glen Little in the play-offs unless things have gone wrong. It’s a shame, but it’s true, and it’s probably the right call.
As I say, I’m highly reluctant to say this as I’ve been as delighted by Little’s vignettes this season as anyone. Furthermore, I’ve often felt that Little represents our best, sometimes our only, hope of coherent, creative passing in midfield. In fact, I felt that as recently as a week last Friday at Mansfield!
However, a return to more confident form against Braintree has surely ensured that Little will retain the role he has played so well in the second half of the season: that of impact substitute.
The Braintree game was a return to what Wrexham have been doing well all season: controlling a game almost by attrition as much as anything else. The final shoreline might have flattered us, but we’ve often managed that trick this season as we wear opponents down, and it’s no coincidence. Opposing managers might often leave the ground feeling they were unlucky not to get more from games against us, but we’ve been consistently good at applying pressure, defending stoutly when required, and working opposing defences until they crack.
And that’s why Little will remain an impact sub. He might bring fantasy to our team, he might draw players into intricate passing movements which are pleasing on the eye and threaten defences, but it’s the organised unit of three in midfield which has been at the core of a side which has earned 98 points this season. They attack to a plan and defend with shape and discipline. Little doesn’t fit in with that model.
That’s no criticism of Little, but his strengths lie in other areas: he’s a flair player, not a workhorse. When he plays, we have to adjust the balance of our midfield accordingly, as the deployment of Chris Westwood as a holding midfielder against Grimsby showed.
If the midfield had malfunctioned as badly against Braintree as it did against Mansfield, the case to include Little from the start would have gathered steam, but it didn’t. Instead it returned to its redoubtable best, with Jay Harris both creating and destroying-I think that might have been his best performance of the season- Dean Keates probing and both Jamie Tolley and Joe Clarke adding muscularity to our play.
For that reason, Little remains a very handy option at Morrell’s disposal rather than a indispensable weapon.