Can we do that “Fortress Racecourse” thing again?
Our recent home record is magnificent. Discarding the Eastleigh defeat, partly because it was a play-off, partly because it just feels right, we’ve won our last five home league games, and eight out of the last nine.
In fact, Halifax are the last side to return from The Racecourse with a league draw, in early September 2018: since then we’ve won 18 home games. We were one win short of equalling the club record for most home league wins in a season, and one goal away from matching our record for least home league goals conceded in a full season, discounting the shorter affairs we often experienced before joining the Football League.
With familiar problems on the road re-emerging, we need to keep that whole “Fortress Racecourse” thing going.
Is it time to make changes?
We’ve named the same starting eleven, and the same five subs, for each game this season. Is it time to switch things around? There’ll be at least one change, as Bobby Grant’s suspension kicks in, but is it time to make more?
You might argue not, as the performances have been promising so far: we ought to have closed out the win at Boreham Wood, and the Dover match would have played out differently if we’d kept ten men. On the other hand, four points out of nine is disappointing (although I admit I’d have settled for a draw on Saturday!) Do we have to switch things round?
How will our front three line up?
That enforced change, brought about by Bobby Grant’s suspension, means Bryan Hughes will have to tinker with the attack which has brought him an increased cutting edge for the first time. The question is how will he reshuffle them? The only obvious right-sided attacker in the squad is Paul Rutherford, but the need to have three players capable of threatening goals counts against him.
Elsewhere, Leighton McIntosh is a wide striker but has played on the left, cutting inside, in pre-season. Slotting Jason Oswell into this set up would necessitate JJ Hooper going wide, and asking Mark Harris to switch wings would seem odd when he is settling in nicely on the left.
Back three with Oswell and Hooper up front, and Harris in the hole anyone?
Will what happened at Dover make us re-evaluate the back 3 option?
We switched to three at the back ten minutes into the second half at Dover, and then conceded twice. That’s not a reason to jettison the idea, but the flaws in our set-up were certainly exposed.
I love Paul Rutherford, and he certainly brings a forward thrust when used as a wing-back, but the defensive side of the role does not come naturally to him. We saw this on the rare occasions we switched to that formation last season, and in pre-season.
On Saturday, Dover’s outstanding substitute, Nassim L’Ghoul, turned the game, running riot down the left. I reiterate, it’s not Rutherford’s fault when he’s asked to fulfil a role that doesn’t suit him, and in a back three the wing back lacks a wide midfielder in front to double up on a winger. Should Mark Carrington or Jazzi Barnum-Bobb be the wing-back option, albeit a more defensive one? Or should we shelve the back three idea?
The BIG question
We’ve scored in each of our last nine league games, our best run since December 2015. Whisper it, but could we have cracked our goal-scoring problems?