Last Saturday wasn’t great. Losing to a lower division team on penalties with a heavily-rotated team isn’t all that of a shock: it’s not as if the FA Trophy was ever a priority, after all. However, we have enough squad depth to be able to make 9 changes from the previous game and still come through.
Still, there were things to learn from the game. Following the win at Weymouth, it gave us a chance to take another look at the new formation Dean Keates has introduced. In fact, across the two games we saw 21 players slotting into the 3-5-2 we’re playing. Devonte Redmond is the only player who didn’t get a chance to show what he can do in this new shape.
Jordan Davies was the player who looks have benefitted most from the switch. It’s no surprise to see his quality; Brighton didn’t snatch him away from us for nothing. However, playing in more central positions so far this season, he hasn’t managed to secure a permanent spot in the team.
His technique is obvious when he plays in midfield, and he has produced some moments of real class. However, he’s still developing as a player, and while I suspect he’ll end up playing in that position eventually, he hasn’t found the physical nature of his National League counterparts to be accommodating.
However, playing as a wing back over the last two games, he’s really shown what he can do. He came on at half time at Weymouth and was the best player on the pitch, and he continued in a similar vein against Leamington.
He has the ability to swing in a vicious cross from the left, and the whip he puts on the ball means he can deliver them from deep positions. However, there’s no substitute for hitting the goal line to rip in a cross, and a combination of his pace and his intelligent interchanges with Dan Jarvis in the first half at The Racecourse meant he was able to put some tempting balls into the danger zone.
You’d think a striker like Kwame Thomas would be thrilled to have a steady flow of crosses like that throughout the season, and if we stick to this system, we ought to be able to get more men into the box to attack crosses.
That includes the other obvious winner from a switch to 3-5-2: if we’re playing with wing backs then Reece Hall-Johnson is the obvious choice on the right, and he’s notably good at getting into the box to attack the far post when the ball’s on the left. His ability to do that could be telling if we stick to this formation.
It also felt like last week marked the start of Dan Jarvis’ season. We’d generally been playing a 4-4-2 previously, and that doesn’t really suit Jarvis’ qualities. He’s at his best floating between the lines, finding space in which he can supply the strikers.
Our change of formation offers him a more natural spot, as the most attacking member of a midfield trio. Ironically, our downfall might have been directly linked to using Jarvis in his best position, because we also fitted Elliott Durrell into that part of the pitch. That worked fairly well in the first half, but we lost control of the middle of the pitch after the break, and probably learned that fielding both of them in midfield is probably a little too attacking.
Jarvis made a good case for getting a run in the side, though. He made a difference at Weymouth, was promising in the first half against Leamington, and as I mentioned before, linked intelligently with Davies.
James Horsfield illustrated on Saturday that he can do a job as a defensive midfielder, and Max Cleworth was accomplished in the first game of the season. However, the greatest benefit we might gain from the match was a defeat which could help ease fixture congestion as this wildest of seasons comes to a conclusion.