Sunday 14 August 2011

Derby day delight

After the on-off-on again shenanigans of Thursday, this 1-0 win over Swindon Town tastes more sweet than any 'normal' win would.
Quite ridiculously that was our first Saturday home win in the league since October 9 last year, when Junior Smikle's goal beat Northampton - such has been our appalling form on our own patch.
Most of the defeats since then were tame surrenders but there was none of that today and it was good to see us battling tooth and nail for every ball, especially in the second half.
We even scored from a corner, and that simply NEVER happens - and let's face it nothing was going to stop Steve Elliott's progress towards that ball from Marlon Pack.
But it was good to see our centre-halves getting on the end of one at last - and that is what we need, more goals from different areas and I would hope Elliott and Alan Bennett could aim for eight goals between them this season.
Bennett nearly got one too, his header producing a great save from Phil Smith near the end of the first half after we had weathered Swindon's early storm.
I must admit that after 15-20 minutes I was worried that we were going to be on the end of a two or three goal hammering as Alan McCormack hit the post, while Oliver Risser and Raffelle De Vita went close as well and we were struggling to get to grips with them.
But from then on we competed much better - and eventually won the battle and with that, the game.
Mark Yates made a couple of changes after the defeats at Gillingham, with Russ Penn finally getting his start but I thought it a little harsh on Luke Summerfield and that Josh Low was lucky to stay in the side.
Up front, Darryl Duffy started ahead of Jeff Goulding, which was fair enough as Jeff hadn't really shone in the opening two games.
But Swindon started better and we could not have complained if they had gone one, or maybe two up early on, but we finished the half strongly with the Bennett save and Danny Andrew's free-kick going close as well.
Having conceded early in the second half on Tuesday it was good to see us starting strongly this time and getting the goal early on.
After that you could visibly see us grow in confidence and while Swindon tried to throw everything at us after that, Scott Brown in truth had few direct saves to make.
A big reason for that was the defence in front of him who were outstanding, especially Elliott, who probably had his best game for us.
Brown's only alarm was when he failed to meet a cleverly-worked free kick and Aden Flint beat him to it but headed over.
However, I feel Swindon could be aggreived at the referee's decision not to give them a penalty when Billy Bodin went over in the box. It certainly looked stonewall from where I was.
Jimmy Spencer's red card made the last eight minutes a bit more awkward, as Swindon went to three up front with £100,000 man Alan Connell coming on, but they seemed a bit lightweight in attack.
On the red card, Spencer definitely led with his arm but there didn't seem to be much contact despite Flint holding his face - at least until the red card went up, then he seemed perfectly alright again. Strange that.
But the red card should not distract from the performance, one of our best at home for a long time and a display which definitely gives us something to build on.

Managers' views
Mark Yates: "There were two committed and decent teams on the field today so we had to battle, scrap and dig in at times. Marlon Pack and Russell Penn were excellent in central midfield against two very competitive and very good players. They dominated and got onto the ball very competitively and were the heartbeat of the team. We've been working hard on the set-pieces and the quality of the run and the delivery for the goal was spot on. I thought we deserved to come out on top and it was a well deserved victory."

Paulo di Canio: "I was happy for the first 25 minutes because the team did what we wanted. We put them under pressure. If you don't take your chances at any level it's difficult. We didn't believe in ourselves, we lost the confidence."

Player by player
Scott Brown: Recovered from Tuesday's error with a good display. Handling was good under pressure and did what he had to with confidence. Just one slight worrying moment but otherwise safe and secure.
Keith Lowe: Yet another steady display. Coped well with Matt Ritchie and then Etienne Esajas down Swindon's left and got forward well to aid our attacks when needed.
Danny Andrew: Good game. Positioning was much better and nearly scored with a free-kick. Has made a good start to the season.
Steve Elliott: Outstanding. Won just about every header and made some great blocks and interceptions. Fabulous header for the goal. In my opinion, his best game for us.
Alan Bennett: A great foil for Elliott, sweeping up what little the big man missed. Nearly scored with a header, denied by a great save.
Josh Low: Better than in opening two games, but that's not saying much. Still not on top of his game, but was up for the battle and put in a good shift.
Russ Penn: Showed why he had to be in the side with a gutsy display. Never shirked out of anything and with Marlon Pack won the battle in midfield. 
Marlon Pack: Very influential in the second half as he and Penn dominated McCormack and Risser. Great corner for the goal.
Kaid Mohamed: Disappointing going forward as he was unable to get much change out of Paul Caddis. But put in a decent shift with some good defensive work.
Jimmy Spencer: Worked hard again, and could have had a goal in the second half but shot saved. Led with his arm for red card although I don't think there was much contact, but red was probably fair enough.
Darryl Duffy: Did well I thought. Showed good touch and willingness to work hard and I am confident goals will come from him. 
Jeff Goulding (for Duffy 61): A few good touches and a couple of shots when he came on, left on his own when Spencer was sent off. Will get place back now..!
Junior Smikle (for Mohamed 77): Put in some good, strong tackles and helped shore things up late on.

Positives: The three points of course! A goal from a corner, which has been a rarity, and the central midfield pair of Pack and Penn showing great battling qualities. Defensively we looked very solid and it was good to see us grinding out a result.
Negatives: Very few, if any. Was a bit disappointed by the attendance figure, 4402, minus 1582 from Swindon means around 2820 CTFC fans. Would have liked to have seen the crowd top 4500, but hopefully if we play like that more regularly, crowds will increase. Spencer's red card was a shame but he is only 19 and it's part of his learning process.

Summary: A great way to start the home league campaign. Elliott, Bennett, Pack and Penn all outstanding, but everyone did their bit. Something to build on - hopefully more of the same on Tuesday against Morecambe. 

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