Sometimes the hardest thing for a young player to do is make the leap from being seen as one for the future to actually nailing down a spot in the side. I wonder, having seen them play together in per-season, whether Johnny Hunt might climb that particular obstacle thanks to a leg-up from Brett Ormerod.
Hunt has looked a real prospect for a while, but while Andy Morrell showed last season that he’s not scared of using him when the pressure for results was at its peak, first team starts were still few and far between. He’s been a prominent part of things this summer though, and the movement of Ormerod ahead of him means I fancy him to be a surprise starter when the serious action begins.
Ormerod’s movement opens the pitch up in front of Hunt. He’s our most direct midfield option, bursting forwards from a left-sided position in the three, and he has been linking well with Ormerod, taking advantage of the pockets of space which the striker creates by dropping deep or wide. Hunt also gets a long way into the danger area, as the Coventry game illustrated: quite apart from his goal, he nearly scored in the first half when he was able to meet a Danny Wright cross deep in the six yard box, only a superb save by Joe Murphy denying him a goal.
Third man running
1. Ormerod drops deep 2. Hunt makes a run into the box, with Ashton helping create space by pulling the full back out 3. Keates plays the killer ball. Voila!
A midfielder able to get beyond his strikers is worth his weight in gold, and if Hunt can fulfil that role the loss of Jamie Tolley might be more than adequately compensated for. Joe Jakub, the ex-Chester midfielder whom I have the good fortune to sit next to in the press box, coached Tolley when he was coming through the Shrewsbury youth system, and was surprised at his inability to burst beyond the forwards and score goals, which used to be his stock in trade.
Most of his goals for Wrexham came from powerful long range strikes rather than from third man runs, and he told me last season that he was quite frustrated that that part of his game seemed to have become dysfunctional. Perhaps Hunt can fulfil that role. He’s certainly well suited, with his background as a left back, to carry out the defensive duties which Tolley did well, slotting into a rigid team shape when we lose the ball, and his stamina means he might be more effective than Tolley when it comes to pressing and winning the ball back early, before we have to drop back into our defensive positions anyway.
With Neil Ashton bombing on around the outside as well, the left flank looks an intriguing part of the pitch with Hunt’s thrusting runs at the heart of it. If you can draw any meaningful conclusions from friendlies, that is!