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.
Four defeats in a row, for only the second time since we dropped into the Conference? No wonder the mood dipped dramatically as the Woking match went on, even if that was in some ways the defeat out of the four which it was the least easiest to draw conclusions from.
The sodden state of the pitch, our desperation in chasing the game and a couple of key refereeing decisions made a big difference to the outcome. How ironic that Wrexham’s hopes might have hinged on a red card for Joey Jones! The Woking defender trod the disciplinary tightrope which was so familiar to our cult hero, and when he was booked for pulling Wes York to the ground after half an hour it really ought to have been his second yellow having already committed the same offence a few yards closer to goal, leading to Dom Vose’s spectacular opener.
But there’s no point in crying over spilt milk, spoilt pitches or refereeing timidity. What we need to do is take a step back and ask ourselves why things have gone so wrong so quickly.
It doesn’t take a genius to put a finger on the key issue. We’ve let in nine goals in these four defeats, and by my reckoning there were clear problems in how we defended all of them. Clearly Gary Mills recognised there’s an issue at the back in switching between a back four and a back five and signing a defensive midfielder to go with the new keeper he drafted in before Christmas. At the moment we look a long way from the defensive solidity which would underpin our more attacking instincts.
There’s a bigger picture to consider too. We certainly aren’t as good player-for-player as the side Dean Saunders assembled and Andy Morrell guided to ninety eight points. However, it’s fair to say that squad was assembled in a very different financial climate to Mills’.
A root cause of our financial problems was the boardroom decision, for whatever reason, to allow Saunders to spend freely in putting that squad together. Before we judge the current team we must understand that Mills is not in a position to recruit like that.
That’s not to say that we’re financial minnows in this division. Even in our current, poor run of form we attracted over four thousand to the Woking game with very few away supporters. That’s something few clubs at our level can manage, and while it would be simplistic to suggest that such pulling power should make us eight times more wealthy than clubs in our division which attract crowds of five hundred, it would be misleading to portray us as paupers.
However, we’re in an era of financial realism, which any fan who recalls the traumas of recent years surely embraces. Good recruitment is key, and not just among the players. We brought in an experienced managed this Summer, and in a season which has seen dramatic peaks and troughs already, we must trust he can steer us through.