No Ponti, No Party?

The main negative from pre-season so far is also the main reason why I felt so positive after the hammering we doled out to Kidderminster. For me at the moment, it’s all about Ponticelli.

I was utterly thrilled when we signed Jordan Ponticelli on a two-year deal this season. He showed at the back end of last season that he’s the sort of striker who could really bang them in at this level.

I didn’t for a second think that Coventry would let him go. After all, he was on the pitch at Wembley the season before last, as they secured promotion from League Two. His performances for us last season showed that he’s certainly not lost any sharpness, and although Coventry have gone up again, and recruited in attacking positions, I didn’t imagine for a moment that they’d actually let him leave.

To be frank, the best I was hoping for was a season-long loan, and I was skeptical we’d even achieve that. Surely Coventry would want him to go on loan to a League Two side to develop further?

And yet, incredibly, here we are with Ponticelli a permanent part of our squad.

Which brings me to that balance between the positive and negative which I mentioned at the start. The main negative is obvious. Ponticelli is struggling with injuries and his pre-season has been decimated as a result. He has had less pitch-time than any other player in the squad, including young Callum Huxley, who got game time against Salford.

While we’re not lacking options up front, with Kwame Thomas and Adi Yussuf both looking like excellent signings, and Jake Bickerstaff enjoying a breakthrough pre-season, it’s worrying to see Ponticelli struggle to get on the pitch. The other three strikers all have the potential to stand out for us this season, but Ponticelli feels more like an out-and-out goalscorer than any of them.

Adi Yussuf, of course, has had a couple of terrifically prolific seasons under his belt, but a fully fit Ponticelli feels like as close as you’ll get to a guarantee of goals to me.

He’s still at an early point in his career, of course, so the statistics can be misleading, but 8 goals in 13 career starts is a good strike rate, although he has made a lot of substitute appearances.

Thomas only has ten career goals to his credit, but there are a couple of reasons for that. He’s only made 49 league starts, and needs an opportunity to get a good run of games under his belt to do himself justice. Also, he’s a target man, and therefore his role is to work for others as much as it is to find the net.

Yussuf is a fascinating case, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can achieve this season. He has an impressive scoring record: 144 career starts and 77 goals.

He got 50 of those goals in two seasons though, so he hasn’t been so prolific in the rest of his ten-year professional career.

Jake Bickerstaff in action during his league debut against Boreham Wood.

Bickerstaff, with two starts and one substitute appearance to his name so far, doesn’t have enough first team experience to make a judgement yet, but he has scored a goal, so his goals per 90 minutes stat is impressive!

The positive I took from our victory last Saturday is quite simple. We battered Kidderminster, and could easily have scored more than the four goals we accumulated. Aggborough is never an easy place to go, and while I fully appreciate that it was a friendly, and that people who get excited by friendlies tend to be badly disappointed when the real action begins, even in a non-competitive fixture it’s easy to spot a gulf in class.

The good news to take from the game in terms of Ponticelli, who wasn’t able to take part after he broke down at Telford, was that we looked so potent in front of goal without him. Thomas and Yussuf both scored, Elliott Durrell and Jordan Davies prompted intelligently, and Anthony Jeffrey continued his one-man campaign to inflict the worst 45 minutes of their lives to as many right backs as possible.

And all that without Ponticelli, whose smart movement in the brief spells we’ve seen of him this Summer has offered an attractive target to intelligent passers of the ball like Dan Jarvis, Jay Harris, Durrell and Davies.

If we can look full of goals without our most likely goal scorer, what could we be when he’s firing on all cylinders?

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