In a season where we’ve bemoaned a lack of creativity, a couple of recent goals reminded me that we have a player who, when we are able to find him in the right position, consistently delivers the sort of service which strikers hanker after.
The left back must have wondered how Graham Barrow saw him: in the previous manager’s first match he was left on the bench, and utilised late on as a winger. At AFC Fylde, when our newly-adopted direct approach seemed to suit a swashbuckling full back like Jennings, he was left out of the squad completely. Thankfully, the early indications are that Jennings has found a manager who appreciates his attacking verve in Bryan Hughes.
Jennings’ assist against Dagenham was glorious in its simplicity. He engaged his man, faked to drive outside him, stopped, and then accelerated again, leaving the flat-footed defender for dead and ripping in an inviting ball across the six yard box. The rest meant Dagenham were history.
There were other elements which contributed to the goal, of course. Ben Tollitt’s desire to find space saw him drift back to the edge of the area, pulling away the man who was covering the full back and leaving him exposed to Jennings’ surge; viewed from the GoPro behind the goal, Stuart Beavon’s movement to the near post creates an inviting gap at the far post for Luke Young to attack; and Young’s acrobatic volley, somehow achieving power and accuracy on the stretch, was impressive. But Jennings’ sweet cross was what made it all hang together.
The combination between Jennings and Tollitt continued at Havant and Waterlooville the following weekend. Tollit’s movement created space for Jennings and his sublime assist allowed the left back to score.
I pointed out the excellence of Rekeil Pyke in our previous home game, against Maidenhead, but his bravura performance wasn’t achieved in isolation. Jennings’ supporting role, particularly in the second half, when he regularly bombed forwards with conviction, was crucial in Pyke’s eye-catching success. Jennings offered a regular option on the outside, driving into the space Pyke created when he drifted inside, and created space which Pyke could exploit.
Jennings loves getting involved going forwards, and that match offered a clear illustration of how dangerous he can be when the man ahead of him on the flank is able to engage the full back and pull him around. However, for this to work Jennings has to overcome his natural desire to join in away from the periphery of the action.
It’s an interesting quandary for Jennings, a player blessed with the ability to carry the ball and a desire to link up play. He is able to come inside and join in with the movement on the edge of the area when he’s on the attack, and is two-footed enough to link comfortably in central areas. He also has a vicious shot, which the Dagenham goalkeeper will confirm. Jennings’ rasping 25-yard drive drew a fine save from Elliot Justham – one of many – and I’m surprised he hasn’t posted his bruised and swollen hands onto Instagram as evidence of the battering they received from Jennings’ thunderbolt.
So Jennings is no one-dimensional full back and has the qualities required to offer more than just a wide, driving option. Yet here’s the irony of his situation: he’s so dangerous from wide areas, I wonder if the best use of his talents is to encourage him to curb his instinct to cut inside.
Jennings has the ability to create and destroy, and is both a leader and a thinker on the pitch. Yet when he bursts down the left, he’s often most effective when he keeps it simple. His crossing has a crispness to it, and a natural shape which makes his delivery tempting to forwards. He rips balls into the nether region between back four and goalkeeper with tantalising regularity, offering the kind of service any goal-hanger worth his salt would salivate over. All we need is for him to be given the opportunity to keep delivering that sort of cross…..and a goal-hanger!