For a myriad of personal reasons it’s been a while since my last post, but hopefully I’m now back for a bit…
Saturday saw me able to return to away duties at Wycombe and I have to confess, after the Wycombe opener I thought we were in for a bit of a hammering.
What followed wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. It was a scrappy game, largely I believe because of Akinfenwa (bear with me on this one).
I like Akinfenwa, he’s one of those characters that the game needs. And despite his “robustness” he generally plays the game with a smile. When he was greeted by the Crawley fans with chants of “You Fat B******” he pointed innocently to himself and mouthed “what me…?” I like that and I like the self effacing humour. Unfortunately though, when you play with Akinfenwa you play a certain style of football. He uses his not inconsiderable bulk and strength to hold the ball up and lay it off. The trouble is though that in playing that constant aerial football you force the rest of the team to try and play the same way. And the rest of the team don’t have his “presence” meaning that they constantly end up playing the game on the fringes of the laws.
The perfect example of this was the challenge on Mark Connolly in the dying minutes that left Mark with stitches in his lip and a broken tooth. You can see from the highlights on goal rush that the player clearly lead with an arm.
Anyway, for once I pleased to say we didn’t get beaten by this physical game. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that and whilst the three points were extremely welcome, for me it was almost more welcome to see the team genuinely dig in and battle.
Now, if you’ll indulge me I’ll have a stab at some player reviews:
Where would we be without Glenn…? Mersin proved again mid-week against Bognor that he should be happy even to get a run out in the Sussex Senior Cup. With Mersin rather than Morris in goal we would be about 10 points worse off this season. Do not underestimate the value that Morris has brought to the side and the crucial saves he has made to keep us in the game. Whilst there were less examples than usual on Saturday, there were examples nonetheless.
Lelan Substituted for Young at 21’minutes
I feel a little sorry for Lelan at the moment. He started brightly the other week at left back and then ended up having to play more central where I don’t think he looked half as comfortable (and without McNerney or Yorwerth I would much rather have seen Garnett there). Moving him back out to the right certainly suited him better, but he didn’t have long to get involved before having to be substituted. The constant change in position isn’t going to help him settle. I just hope that when he does return he get to have a consistent run in the side rather than being reduced to a utility player.
Young looked comfortable when he came on and gave another solid performance. Even his move to left back on 68 minutes didn’t seem to phase him. He really has been one of the unsung heroes this season.
Connolly Booked at 69mins
He’s not happy unless he’s bleeding or concussed…!!! Yet again gave everything for the cause. One of the few players that can honestly say he gives his all week in, week out.
My man of the match. Initially credited with our first goal it’s pretty clear now that it was a Wycombe defender that got the deciding touch, but this shouldn’t detract from an outstanding performance by McNerney. With Joe and Mark at the back we have a solidity that will be hard to break down and a level of commitment that is hard to replicate.
Blackman Substituted for Yorwerth at 68’minutes
I’ll be honest, in recent weeks (and most definitely against Bognor on Tuesday) I have been scathing in my criticism of Andre. He’s been truly shocking on more occasions than I care to remember, but on Saturday he was good. I have to be honest though that I didn’t understand why he was substituted for Yorwerth, yet we continued to play with a flat back four. I think we’ve looked at our best this season with three at the back and when Yorwerth came on it looked like the obvious move was to go three at the back. Instead we moved Yorwerth to right back, Young to left back and carried on with the same formation. With Blackman having possibly his best game in a Crawley shirt this was a very odd move by Dermot.
A good, solid captain’s performance again. The Jimmy Smith of this season is unrecognisable from that season and what a delight to watch he is. Lead the team in to battle and even managed to come away with a few scars himself for his trouble.
Djaló Substituted for Payne at 72’minutes
Another strange decision by Dermot on Saturday was the removal of Kaby. He seemed to be loving the midfield tussle and at one point appeared to be trying to start a fight with Akinfenwa (for which i would happily have bought tickets…!) Composed on the ball and having a good game I can only assume that the decision to replace him with Josh Payne was more about squad management with an eye towards the next 10 days rather than any tactical switch.
Payne looked solid when he came on and seemed to have found his passing boots again. The free kick was an absolute delight, as was his somewhat surprised and random celebration.
One of Enzio’s better games, but he’s still not back to the early season form that we enjoyed. Hopefully this appearance was something of a recovery shoot. He’s got devastating pace, I’d just like to see it a bit more often.
Solid and better than Clifford. I realise that on Billy’s recent form that could be construed as damning with feint praise, but i much preferred him in that position. With his dead ball ability as well he’s a real asset to the side bringing open play and set pieces to the game.
Allow me to address the little elephant in the room: I don’t actually think Dean Cox is playing that well at the moment. Billed as the mercurial saviour of our midfield he’s looking more and more like a luxury player as the weeks tick by. Some of his set pieces were good, some of them were awful. But in open play he was anonymous on Saturday. Maybe he’s playing out of position, but he wasn’t the only one doing that on Saturday and the rest seemed to cope alright. I’m afraid that we need to see more from Dean than we did against Wycombe. I said back in December that I struggled to see where Dean fitted in to the side and if I’m honest I still don’t know the answer. He’s not got the fitness to play on the left in a five man midfield and I’m not convinced he’s got the metal to play more centrally. At the moment in the middle of the park I’d pick Kaby, Jimmy, Josh or Jordan ahead of him. They can all hit dead balls , but crucially they all get more involved in open play.
I do like Dean, I really don’t want this to sound like I’m singling him out but on Saturday he stood out by not standing out.
Another busy game from Collins, but again he was on a hiding to nothing playing up front alone. Too often he came wide looking for the ball only to have nobody centrally to play it to. It’s almost like he needs a strike partner…!!!
I found the performance and the result on Saturday encouraging. Doing the double over Wycombe is no small feat, but I really did struggle to understand the changes made by Dermot in the second half. Whilst the first half substitution of Lelan was forced through injury, the two changes in the second half made little or no sense. The Blackman substitution risked massively destabilising the back line and the switch of Payne for Kaby with 20 minutes to go seemed a pointless risk to take for no tactical benefit. Particularly when Smith was later forced to carry on with an injury to his shoulder because we had no substitutes left.
Reading this back I really do worry that I sound very negative about the weekend’s performance. That’s really not my intention because it was a truly great away win. But we have three very tough home games coming up in the next week and a half. We won’t be able to afford any slip-ups or passengers.