Isn’t Italian a lyrical language? Signing Jordan Ponticelli was an invitation to delve into linguistics which I couldn’t resist.
It seemed pretty obvious that his name means little bridges, but that’s not all. Ponticelli is also the Italian word for jump leads! How brilliant, to come up with such an evocative word for a mundane object. They make little bridges between cars; why didn’t we see that when we came up with a word for them?
Anyway, you’ve probably guessed by now that I’m leading up to a rather tortured link into the football stuff, so let’s get it over with. By the time Ponticelli came off the bench on Saturday, we’d already jump-started our season.
Sorry about that.
The performance at Harrogate was magnificent, and the perfect way to follow up the previous Saturday’s beating of Woking. Once again we’d proven that we can perform against the strong sides in this division; now we need to take that form into a massive double-header against relegation candidates in the sort of fixtures we’ve consistently failed in this season.
The first half at Harrogate gave me hope that we’d turned a corner in terms of our resilience as well as the quality of our play. After the game I read claims that we’d ridden our luck in the first half: I couldn’t agree less. We defended heroically in the opening 45 minutes against high calibre opposition, restricting them to the extent that Rob Lainton had to make two difficult saves, a remarkably small number considering the pressure we were under.
When we’ve faced such adversity previously this season, we’ve cracked. Remember the home games against Chesterfield and AFC Fylde? We started brightly against the Lancastrians, and looked a different class to The Spireites, but in both matches we fell apart once we conceded.
That wasn’t on the cards on Saturday. The three centre backs were magnificent, but it wouldn’t be fair to single them out without mentioning that every player on the pitch did their job superbly. Luke Young’s lunging clearance from under the bar, taking a clout in the process, after Town had hit the post epitomized our fighting spirit.
It wasn’t just heart that we showed, of course. Another massive difference from previous matches was our threat on the break. After nearly three seasons of struggling for goals, here was a Wrexham side which counter-attacked clinically. JJ Hooper had a fine game up front, and once again Dan Jarvis’ quality on the ball meant we constantly threatened to break through Harrogate’s defence. Just look at his composure when he carries the ball forwards to win the free kick James Jennings dispensed into the top corner.
In the second half it got better. Clearly the team had been told to get ten yards higher up the pitch, and the effect was immediate. We were no longer defending deep, while at the other end Jarvis and Paul Rutherford were much closer to Hooper. The consequence was that we bossed the second period in Harrogate’s own back yard.
Remember, this is a Harrogate side which had won its last six games and not conceded in five. It wasn’t an off day for them either: their fans applauded them off the pitch at the end, and they were comfortably the best side we’ve played all season. But we were better than them, and 2-0 felt like a fair reflection of the game. That’s progress.
The box midfield formation has worked well since the recruitment of Jarvis and Davis Keillor-Dunn. At last we’ve a supply line to JJ Hooper, the little bridges between midfield and attack which have been absent for so long. It’s all about the Ponticelli