Sunday, 29 January 2012

Top of the league...

When I left Gresty Road last April, after Cheltenham Town were smashed 8-1 at Crewe, if someone told me that nine months later I would leave Moss Rose with the Rubies top of League Two, I would have got the men in the white coats over immediately.
The transformation from that day to this really has been nothing short of remarkable - and after the impressive way we bounced back from last week's defeat, it seems that we are back on course again.
There were a few questions to be answered before the game, after the loss to Bristol Rovers, mainly about the mettle of the side, did they have the determination and the will to bounce back etc - and they answered them in style.
But I am sure the questions intensified when Marcus Marshall scored on the half-hour to put Macc ahead - or did he...?
I know it doesn't matter now in the grand scheme of things, but having seen the replay on the Football League Show I am not convinced it crossed the line, and with the assistant's view blocked by Scott Brown's body, I don't know if he could have seen it clearly.
A small point I know, but it was given and the question was then if we could respond to it positively, or, as we have seen a few times in the past, we would react badly and start to panic.
Once again we answered the question, and Sido popped up with equaliser, showing he is lethal from two yards.
Before going behind, we had started well, as if we were intent on making a statement, and going out to impose ourselves on the game straight away.
Mark Yates shook things up a bit with his team selection - three changes, a rest for Russ Penn, which he needed, and a seat on the bench for Jimmy Spencer and Darryl Duffy, without a goal for eight and seven games respectively.
Jermaine McGlashan was always going to start and it was good to see Junior Smikle and Jeff Goulding getting a go - and it would also be the est of the depth of the squad.
I thought Junior took his chance well. He was buzzing around, especially in the first half, finding space and making runs off the ball to free up space for others.
Jeff (and he admitted as much after the game) was a bit ring-rusty in the first half but he grew into the game and his goal was a superb finish.
It also poses a question to Yatesy for Wimbledon next week - it would be harsh to drop Jeff after his goal, but does he go to 4-4-2 against another side likely to come and park the bus for 90 minutes? We shall see...
Jeff's goal capped a brilliant 25 minutes at the start of the second half which was probably our best spell of play since the Southend game.
Kaid and Jermaine were tearing them to bits every time we could get them running on to the ball and we created some great chances, one for Kaid and one for Luke Summerfield especially should have been taken, and Jermaine had a penalty shout when he went down in the box. Think the ref got it right though.
But credit to Macc for the way they came back at us, and Browny had to make a fantastic save from Ben Mills' header to keep it at 2-1, and they had a couple of half-chances, so you always felt we needed the third to be absolutely sure.
We got it right at the end with Luke Garbutt's (deflected) free-kick, but he is having that goal if only for the one in the first half which Jose Veiga turned round the post.
It was great to be live on BBC Glos describing that goal, and the moment we went top of the league at the final whistle!
So here's a question - when was the last time both CTFC full-backs scored in the same game? Having racked my brains, it might be a certain game against Yeovil back in April 1999, which meant we finished top of a league and went up...
That is, of course, if you think Michael Duff scored the winner and not Jamie Victory - but anyway, it would be a lovely omen wouldn't it...
So on we go. Southend could knock us off the top on Tuesday against Swindon of course, but there are going to plenty of twists and turns to come in the next three months or so.
What we have proved with that performance yesterday and the way we responded to the Rovers defeat is that we have the stomach for a fight - and we are going to need it.
In the pub last night, we worked out that if we maintain our points average for the remaining games, we will have 93 points in May.
If that doesn't win the league or finish in the top three, it will have been a monumental effort for someone else to have got more points.
We all know about the run in March, but first we have February to go through, with six games - one against Crawley as we know, but the others - Wimbledon, Burton and Torquay at home and Dagenham and Hereford away - are not exactly ones to fear.
As March is so tricky on paper, we have to take advantage of these games and make sure we go into that five-game run in good stead.
Before that, we have the transfer window, and after the game Neil Howarth said he was 'hopeful' Jack Butland would be back, knocked back rumours about Torquay's Chris Robertson (until the summer at least...) and said Matthew Barnes-Homer was 'a possibility' - maybe more so as he was sat in the Moss Rose stands with Danny Andrew, Theo Lewis and Bags Graham yesterday...
Let the speculation continue...

Player by player
Scott Brown - Not sure their goal was over the line, and made a superb second-half save. The Jack Butland speculation continues, and it would be a bit rough on Scott if he lost his place again.
Sido Jombati - In the right place at the right time for his goal and defended well, coming forward as well to back up Jermaine McGlashan.
Luke Garbutt - Good to see him on the scoresheet and put in a good performance after being a bit 'off' last week. Was out of position however for the cross which set up Macc's goal.
Alan Bennett - Back to his best. Was superb in the first half and soaked everything up in the second. A great leader for the team.
Keith Lowe - Has done well since coming into the side and proving a good deputy for Steve Elliott. Header across goal set up the equaliser.
Marlon Pack - Some great passes, to try and get the wide men going, but sometimes over-plays. Gave the ball away to Colin Daniel who went close to scoring, but still makes us tick.
Luke Summerfield - Thought he had a good game, his best for a few weeks. Should have scored in the second half, but seemed to pop up everywhere.
Junior Smikle - Did well in Russ Penn's role, finding space and making some good runs. A useful squad player to have around and never lets us down.
Jermaine McGlashan - Started with a pirouette and a run down the right and gave Carl Tremarco a tough time. Will be a threat when we get him running on to the ball.
Kaid Mohamed - A threat all game I felt. Got the ball down and just ran at them, and got the defenders backing off. A couple of decent chances to score but did well to set Jeff's goal up.
Jeff Goulding - Grew into the game after a shaky start and it was a great finish for his goal. Should keep his place for Wimbledon next weekend.

Substitutes
Russ Penn (for Jermaine McGlashan 76) - Needed a rest to nurse his injury, but a good player to bring on to shore us up.
Jimmy Spencer (for Jeff Goulding 86) - Also needed a breather, but came on fresh and played a part in seeing the game out.
Darryl Duffy (for Kaid Mohamed 90) - Gets his win bonus! Almost charged down a clearance to score.