Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
I went into this season a little worried about where the goals will come from, but what I’ve seen so far has given me cause for optimism.
The loss of Jake Speight and Mathias Pogba left us short handed up front but while I was disappointed to see them players leave I wasn’t quite as distressed as I might have been.
Pogba clearly has potential, but he blows hot and cold. While I’d rather he stayed with us, it’s not impossible to replace a striker who has a few of quiet games for every one he has an impact on.
On the face of it, Speight is a much greater loss. He was our top scorer and led the list in assists as well, despite his apparent distaste for passing! That figure is slightly boosted by the fact that, like Gary Bennett, he developed the habit of winning penalties which he could then convert himself!
However, the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Only three of his goals came against sides which finished in the top ten at the end of the season, so he might have been a bit of a flat track bully.
That’s not to say we won’t miss him: a player who can put the mid-table sides to the sword is genuinely valuable. Speight certainly illustrated that point against Ebbsfleet last season, putting three goals past them (two from the spot and, yes, he did win one of them himself!)
Hopefully, Rob Ogleby will be able to fill that void. He has genuine pace, and now the ball over the top is a genuine option as he’s quick enough to latch onto them.
We all saw this last Saturday, when he went one-on-one with the keeper twice. Admittedly neither effort went in – he netted with a cleverly judged volley instead – but the fact that he was getting into those positions was highly promising. If he keeps doing that throughout the season, he’ll certainly score his share of goals.
He reminds me of one other young Dragons of recent years. Brian Little threw many babies out with the bath water, and I’d have loved to have seen Jamie Reed given more of an opportunity. A distinguishing feature of his play when he was brought off the bench was that he’d get on the end of chances. Admittedly, he never hit the net, but he was still learning his trade, and missing a chance didn’t knock his confidence: he kept coming back for more.
Chris Armstrong had a similar start to his Racecourse career. He had pace and strength in abundance, but for ages simply couldn’t hit the net despite constantly bursting through opposing defences.
He got there in the end though, and just look at where he ended up!
Ogleby is young and still developing, as Reed and Armstrong were. But he already has a couple of goals to his name, and looks further down the road to being the finished article than either of them did at the same stage. Hopefully he can fulfil his potential sooner rather than later.