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.
Happily, Andy Bishop returns this weekend. He’s found his form and it’ll be good to have him back. But losing our top scorer for three games hasn’t actually hurt us. We won them all, including a 5-1 away win and beating the division’s big spenders. A lot of that’s down to our unsung hero.
It might seem peculiar to describe the man who scored the winner at Wembley as unsung, but Johnny Hunt doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Stepping up to the plate and scoring in three consecutive games just when we needed him to should change that.
Hunt is that great cliché: the player’s player. Mel Sutton was the first example I was ever aware of: he did the legwork for the dazzling side of the late 1970s, allowing the likes of Mickey Thomas, Graham Whittle, Bobby Shinton and Dixie McNeil to work their magic. Likewise, Hunt does the dirty work, puts in the miles and does the things his team mates appreciate. The sort of stuff that doesn’t always get noticed from the stands.
In particular, Hunt’s movement is excellent. If you get a chance to see his goal against Gresley again, take a look at how he finds space in the penalty area. As he waits for Adrian Cieslewicz to cut inside and deliver the killer ball, Hunt works really hard, giving the winger angles to allow him to play the pass. Cieslewicz obliges, and Hunt pulls the trigger. A lovely example of intelligent movement off the ball making the game look simple.
Like many utility players, Hunt’s versatility doesn’t really help him to pin down a regular starting spot. It’s nice, after all, to have an all rounder like him in reserve in case we need to change the plan.
Left back was his position when he broke into the team and that spot’s taken. I really like him in centre midfield as the lungs of the team, but we’ve an established, well-grooved trio in there. As for playing up front, that’s where the arguments start.
Some don’t like it. I follow their logic to an extent. His movement creates opportunities for others, but he hasn’t chipped in himself: before Dartford Hunt had started up front sixteen times and scored once. Against Sutton United.
He got a crafty free kick at Dartford to spark his current scoring run, but it’s the two subsequent goals which have been particularly pleasing. Both were the sort of goals strikers score, pouncing within ten yards of goal and finishing ruthlessly. His newfound threat in front of goal is an encouraging development. He’s scored eight career goals but five have come in his last nine starts.
Of course that goal against Gresley came from left back as Hunt showed his adaptability once more. At least he shouldn’t pay the price with his place when Neil Ashton returns for the FA Cup. We might still not be sure what his best position is, but it’s clear he’s good value to be in the first eleven somewhere.