I was struck by how many people’s immediate response was that the second half was much better. It wasn’t actually particularly great, but it was certainly an improvement on the first period. I can see why so many people clutched at straws in that way, as current form is terrifying, but the truth is that such a view of this match is highly optimistic. The second half was better, but the first half set the bar particularly low.
I was also struck by the fact that both the players I interviewed talked about the need for a win to restore their self-belief. They hit the nail on the head: this isn’t as bad a side as it appears right now, but it does seem that confidence has completely collapsed. When that goes you’re not left with much hope.
The pre-match discussion was revealing too. After the team was announced two people approached me separately and said exactly the same thing: they couldn’t see where a goal would come from apart from a set piece or a lucky break. My reply on both occasions was that if you want to play the percentages then the most likely source of a goal was one of the opposing players scoring for us: we’ve scored five in our last five games, and two of them were own goals.
Bearing this in mind I my hopes were raised by the thought of Bradley Reid being fit for Saturday’s game; then I remembered that, talented though he is, he’s still a teenager with one senior goal to his credit. While he represents the best hope of fresh impetus in front of goal, I’m still clutching at straws, aren’t I?
The teething problems of the midfield diamond continued. We don’t have a player to support the strikers at the point of the diamond, as I suggested on Saturday, and although Jay Harris’ endeavour on the right was admirable, there was a sense that he’d be more influential at the heart of the action. The ease with which Grimsby’s wide men were able to cut in and run at our back four in the opening eleven minutes – Rodman had two shots in the fourth minute before Paddy McLaughlin ran unhindered to the heart of the box and scored the only goal – suggested the midfield were still working out what their shape ought to be when they lose the ball. It was all a far cry from the solid defensive block of the Saunders/Morrell heyday, although to be fair that deterioration has been going on all season.
As a result this was a game where, once more, Danny Livesey looked impressive as he covered a lot of ground putting out fires, while again Andy Coughlin would come into the thoughts of anyone thinking about a man of the match. When your defenders and goalkeeper are standing out, you’re spending too much time without the ball.
You’ve really got to feel for Kevin Wilkin: he’s inherited a very difficult situation. The natural optimism you feel when a new man comes in has dissipated very swiftly and he has a hard slog ahead of him to turn things round.