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.
Things are starting to slot back into place. After the rocky start to the season there were some who were calling for all sort of apocalyptic solutions, but we’re starting to bed down a little and the table is looking more palatable. There have been a few factors which have led to this improvement in our fortunes, most obviously the impressive efforts of Andy Coughlin and Dean Keates’ return to bring a calm sense of reassurance to midfield. There’s one more piece I’d love to see fall into the jigsaw now to make me feel that things are likely to really click. If Andy Bishop could start getting amongst the goals, then we could kick on again.
Bishop was our major signing of the Summer, With Danny Wright leaving – the third season in a row that our top scorer has left in the close season – we needed a leader of the line. Bishop looked to fit the bill perfectly, having scored more than fifteen goals in a season five times in his career. However, he was unable to get off to a scoring start and there were murmurs of concern as our poor start to the season coincided with him failing to hit the net in our opening seven matches.
It looked like Bishop was turning the corner when he got two goals in two games against Luton and Gateshead, both smart finishes which recalled the predatory penalty area instincts of his loan spell at The Racecourse last season. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to kick on from there and a player like him is bound to be judged on the amount of goals he weighs in with. The cruel truth is that Rob Ogleby scored as many goals in forty six minutes on Saturday as Bishop has managed all season.
But Bishop’s performances over the last fortnight have given cause for optimism. Previously, the worry was he didn’t get involved in build-up play as much as one might have hoped. He looked like a penalty area poacher waiting for decent service to come his way. Whether the lack of chances that arrived was down to his short-comings or his team-mates’ was unclear.
Yet against Woking and then Hyde his all-round involvement was much better. Whether that was because he’s hit some form, because Keates is a wily prompter who provides better service or for some other reason, I can’t fathom. Clearly his performances had kicked on though. Admittedly still snatched at chances on Saturday, desperate to get among the goals again, but there’s an obvious cure for that anxiety and hopefully he can self-medicate soon.
Andy Morrell deserves credit for keeping his cool when some fans were calling from his head and the board weren’t stepping forward to back him. He has restored a sense of equilibrium to the season by playing the long game and backing his key players to deliver once they were fit. If his statement signing of the Summer starts delivering for him then he really will force his critics to eat their words.