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.
When you slash and burn your squad over the Summer, bringing in many new faces, most of whom you’ve never worked with before, it’s inevitable that you’ll spend some time getting to know their capabilities and working out which combinations have chemistry. Kevin Wilkin has been engaged in this process for the course of the season, and I’m sure he’s still drawing new conclusions as he works out what his best side is. A new, highly intriguing question which has come to the fore in recent weeks is whether Connor Jennings, deployed in an unexpected position on the left, might turn out to be a crucial part of his first eleven.
Jennings has had a strange start to his Wrexham career. I think a lot of us thought he’d be used as a striker bearing in mind his scoring record for Macclesfield last season and his superb hat trick against us. It hasn’t really turned out that way: Louis Moult established himself as the main man through the middle in the early part of the season, when we played one up front, and the switch to a 4-4-2 has generally seen Wes York and Andy Bishop as the forward partnership.
In the middle of the season he did get a run through the middle, usually in partnership with Moult, but that coincided with his least productive spell of the campaign. Playing as a central striker he’s made thirteen starts, scoring two goals and producing one assist.
Jennings tended to be used on the right flank in the early stages of the season, with mixed results. He had games where he linked up with the strikers to good effect, such as his all-action scoring performance against Macclesfield. However, there were also times when he was a peripheral figure, looking like he yearned to be in the heart of the action rather than on the flank. A frustrating performance at Halifax perhaps encapsulated the problem – he was withdrawn and lost his place after a lacklustre display.
No one could fault Jennings’ effort. He chases energetically and works terrifically hard for the team. He has a good touch, a bit of pace, and the technique to be confident in possession and turn out of tight corners. But he’s struggled to hurt opposing sides and although he has scored a couple of magnificent goals he tends to be offer quality rather than quantity.
The last few games have been different though. Tried out on the left his greatest attribute is no longer his capacity for hard work. He has become an integral part of our attacking play. Able to cut in onto his stronger right foot, he’s more of a goal threat and his vision has allowed him to become something of a play maker, drifting in between the lines to set up chances. His excellent assist for Neil Ashton’s goal against Southport was the perfect illustration not only of his rekindled creativity but also of the way his new role helps the shape of the team. Ashton looks rejuvenated, driving forwards into the space Jennings creates when he goes narrow.
It has taken a while to work out the best way to make the most of Jennings’ ability, but we appear to be on the verge of doing so and improving the team as a whole in the process.