Monday, 10 October 2011

Daggers blunted by Robins - Brian Lancaster's view

Forget the scoreline of 2-1 and forget the fraught and nervy last 5 minutes of the match, a very poor Dagenham side was dominated by an effervescent Cheltenham team this afternoon. This game clearly demonstrates how far Cheltenham have improved this season, the midfield no longer needs padding out with honest but limited players and the bench offers real options not emergency measures. Our starting central midfield was comprised of Pack, Summerfield and Penn with Russell Penn playing in the advanced central role just behind the lone striker James Spencer. It appears that Russell Penn is a better footballer than he was first billed as. He has a good touch, a couple of tricks and decent strike. He is more than a chaser, tackler and 5 yard passer. His boundless energy and tenacity was evident and telling today. Today's star turn was Marlon Pack. He was a class above every other player on the pitch today. He showed calmness, vision, creativity, drive and desire (and loads of other positive stuff). Playing like that will get him noticed and inevitably lead to him being lured away from the Anti-Lock Brake Stadium (that is what ABS stands for isn't it?) Anyway, back to today's match and some detail. Strangely, Keith "Bilston Cafu" Low was dropped for Luke Garbutt and Duffy made way for a returning James Spencer. Spencer deserved a start again after his efforts in the heat at the Memorial Stadium last week. His surly, angry demeanour is a joy to behold (no sarcasm at all in that last sentence) - I wonder whether he does a Bob Taylor before kick-off? Maybe Low had a slight injury but it meant that Jombati moved over to right back and Garbutt played in his natural position of left back. Jombati played well at Bristol Rovers but I'm not sure I'd pick him over Keith Low as our starting right back. It has been evident in the last 2 league games that we have been working hard on the training ground for set pieces (2 goals came against Bristol Rovers from set pieces) and the opening Cheltenham goal came from a perfectly executed free kick from Pack which was headed back across the goal by Alan Bennett. The free-kick was from no more than 25 yards out and it was not unreasonable for the Dagenham defence to assume that Pack would have a direct effort on goal but instead he curled a ball onto the left hand edge of the 6 yard box for Alan Bennett to run onto and head back across the 'keeper into the right hand corner of the goal. Dagenham showed no signs of the creative spark that they so badly needed to equalise but just before half-time they did equalise. A mistake in the right back position, slack defending in and around the box and the failure of Scott Brown to either gather to clear out of danger a driven low cross lead to a simple equaliser for Dagenham. You will have to excuse the vagueness of this description as I was stood in the Prestbury Road end and the goal came at the Whaddon Road end. Cheltenham's second (and just reward) came from a counter-attack driven by a direct, driving run from Marlon Pack who almost fluffed his opportunity to release James Spencer. Pack momentarily appeared to have stood on the ball and somehow dug it out with the outside of his right foot to set up Spencer on the right hand corner of the 18 yard bow. Spencer took a touch to set himself and then got all of his laces through the ball to drive it high into the net despite a finger-tip touch from the Dagenham 'keeper. Dagenham tried to play like so many other limited Division 3 and 4 teams, play direct, busy football that relies on having an outfield 10 that are all at least 6 foot tall and physical. (See Stevenage, Southend, Accrington and Morecambe for prime examples). Dagenham failed as they do not possess the right kind of players to play this way and played with nerves and a lack of cohesion that belied their current form and league position. Dagenham threatened to commit the biggest crime since the Star Wars prequels in the last 5 minutes but the previously lacking quality and poise remained at the fore. In summary, Cheltenham tucked away an inferior side in an appealing and driven manner that makes performances like Hereford at home so hard to understand. Just a few moans to balance out the very positive and encouraging afternoon: - The referee allowed to many usual yellow card offences to go un-punished. I'm very much in the old school which wants to see full-blooded tackles and a flowing game and this referee tended towards this school. However, this frustrates suporters as they see no consistency from referee to referee. He allowed several cynical tackles from behind to go un-punished (with a yellow card) but as soon as a Dagenham player threw the ball away he got booked. Referee you are just embarrassing yourself and your profession with performances like these. - I'm still un-convinced that Mark Yates has a Plan B for when things go wrong on the pitch - or maybe the players are incapable of changing things when asked to do so? - If Kaid Mohammed had a first touch or was capable of looking up while running with the ball he would be a far better player but probably not at Cheltenham Town. - Steve Elliott worries me. He is so very basic and possesses the turning circle of an oil tanker. The sooner young Mr. Hooman can step up, the better. - The attendance of 2,814 was a worry. OK, so Dagenham brought no more than 100 but on the back of 2 very good victories the Gloucestershire public continued to stay away. Forget other matchday experience initiatives, people want to watch winners. Keep winning more than we lose at home and continue to play the kind of football we saw today and attendances should improve. On today's form, Pack, Penn and Garbutt alone were worth the ticket price.