Can we win the flanks?
Naturally, our switch to three at the back has placed extra responsibility on our wing backs to provide attacking width. Today they will come up against a 4-4-2 which could cause them problems, though. The threat of Sutton’s full backs overlapping to create overloads with their wide midfielders is something Mark Carrington and James Jennings will have to overcome if we are to have any joy down the wings.
Can we start beating the teams around us?
As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, our record against sides outside the play-off spots is horrendous, and the game at Sutton starts a sequence of five games against sides round us. It’s time to start beating them.
3-5-2 or 3-4-3?
Dean Keates pulled off a tactical coup when he switched to a 3-4-3 against Solihull Moors, having triumphed at Eastleigh with a 3-5-2. The addition of Paul Rutherford as a third forward helped us to press in the Solihull half in the first period, stopping them from delivering early, accurate long balls for their strikers to feed on.
Sutton are a different sort of team, who prefer to pass out from the back if they can. Will we put an extra man in midfield or look to take the battle into their defensive third?
Hooper to start?
JJ Hooper managed 58 minutes last Saturday in his first appearance after a ten-game absence. He looked lively enough, so will Keates be tempted to include him from the start?
To do so would mean disrupting the attack which has played well in the last two games, and the decision might well hang on whether he opts for two or three up front. It would be very harsh on Bobby Grant too, as he’s probably the player most under threat from Hooper’s return. He has worked extremely hard for the team in a role which doesn’t massively suit him, and looked good cutting in from the right against Solihull Moors.
On the other hand, the prospect of a fully fit Hooper combining with Omari Patrick is an exciting one. If that partnership clicks, opposing defences won’t enjoy chasing that pacy duo.
Can our midfield drive Sutton backwards?
Since his return, Keates has wisely fallen back on players he knows he can trust, and it’s worked because they were being kept out of the side by players who weren’t performing. The two obvious beneficiaries are Akil Wright and Paul Rutherford, and now they have an opportunity to repay their manager for his faith in them.
Sutton’s four across midfield will need to be driven back into their own half, and Wright and Rutherford have the legs to do it. Wright has been rejuvenated by Keates’ return, and is coming back to his best form after a start to the season which was disrupted by injury.
Wright’s fate at Sutton last season epitomised our miserable afternoon. Brought on for the last half hour with us 3-0 down and reduced to ten men by Luke Summerfield’s red card, he had no hope of inspiring an heroic fightback, and as he battled to ensure the scoreline didn’t get any worse, he endured an unhappy final seven minutes playing as a fish out of water at left back. He can return in glory today.