Saturday, 7 April 2012

Get lost March, hello April...!

Finally, at around 4.37pm yesterday, it happened. Yes, we scored a goal.
As soon as it did, the legend that is Paul Godfrey came into the radio box and wrote '10 hours 2 minutes' on my team sheet - yes folks, that's how long since we last scored before Kaid Mohamed smashed the ball past Dean Brill to lift the clouds over Whaddon Road.
I haven't heard a goal celebrated quite like that for a long time. It just seemed that a massive weight was lifted off everyone's shoulders - players, directors, management team, fans - and us media types as well.
Jimmy Spencer put the gloss on it, which was great for him as he hasn't scored for a while (okay, let's face it, who has...) and with the results elsewhere, suddenly things look much brighter all round.
We now sit sixth, five points ahead of Crewe, having moved above Oxford and within two points of Southend, who have a few bans to contend with for Monday's game. All much rosier now isn't it?
Mark Yates deserves some credit for that win - he started with the diamond, and when that didn't bring about the breakthrough, he found a Plan B with 4-4-2, and all three subs played their part in the goal, Kaid and Jimmy scoring them and Jermaine helping Kaid with his goal with a neat one-two.
But he also deserves credit by sticking with Jack Butland after the Southend shambles.
It would have been easy to have pulled him out of the firing line, and put Scott Brown in, but Mark showed faith in Jack, and it paid off.
Yes, Jack had some luck - the punch in the first half which hit his own player and nearly rebounded past him, and Clovis Kamdjo's header off the post which fell right back to him - but the save from Izale McLeod's header in the second half was from the top drawer.
His handling was immaculate, and he made two other good stops to pass what was a tough test of character for him after last week with flying colours. That's the sign of a top player.
With Sido and Marlon suspended, we knew there would be changes, and Keith Lowe stepped in at right back, doing well I felt after a bit of a dodgy start.
Barnet attacked a lot down our right hand side, with Ricky Holmes and Keith dealt well with him in the main, but we did miss Sido's better options going forward
Keith did have two good headed chances from corners and put a 30-yarder just wide, but with Sido out for three games, Keith will be in for Rotherham and Accrington at least.
Marlon's absence broke up the Three Musketeers in midfield, and we went back to the diamond we used against Oxford, with Summers at the bottom, Russ Penn and Josh Low wider and Steve MacLean at the top behind Ben and Darryl.
That meant no place again in the starting line-up for Jermaine, which was a bit of a surprise - but I don't feel he can play in a diamond, where you need to have half an eye on defensive duties as well as going forward.
In the 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation we have used a lot, it is okay to have a 'luxury' player, which Jermaine is, as you have that extra insurance policy of the two more defensive midfielders.
Just because we paid money for him, it does not guarantee him a place on the pitch. He has to fit into the system we are playing, or you may as well have 10 on the pitch.
Also, with Jermaine on the bench, you can use him as an impact player against tiring defenders - and it was handy to have him and Kaid both there to unleash late on.
I felt the diamond did okay - no more than that. Summers did very well in the Marlon role, keeping it simple and providing some decent through balls, while Russ Penn and Josh Low got up and down well.
Josh polarises opinion, yet I thought he out in a good shift apart from his crossing. On a few occasions he got into excellent positions with players waiting for service, but then hit the first man or picked out the centre half. That's what frustrates people about him.
Steve MacLean also did better than he had against Oxford. I thought he linked up well with Ben and Darryl and had a couple of half-chances to score - one in particular he could have shot but elected to cross.
That was our problem early on. We had several good openings, but seemed to want to either walk the ball in or pass on the responsibility. Not surprising maybe after 10 hours without a goal, but someone just needed to take it by the scruff of the neck and try their luck.
Darryl especially looked a bit tentative when he had an early chance and checked back when he could have hit it, and then Ben put a great chance over.
But the two of them linked up well, Ben winning a lot in the air and showing great touch on a few occasions to set up chances for us, and also setting up the second goal for Jimmy.
After an hour of knocking on the door and surviving a few scares at the other end, Yatesy opted to change it, and on came Jermaine to a huge ovation.
Steve MacLean was sacrificed as we had to go to 4-4-2 to accommodate Jermaine and it gave us better width and we were able to stretch the play much wider across the pitch.
Kaid's arrival with Jimmy for Josh and Darryl were two predictable changes, and you have to say they worked...
The first goal was brilliant, and was all about the Kaid Mohamed we have seen so often this season - think Bristol Rovers away and you have some idea.
From a Barnet corner, he picked the ball up in our half, accelerated past a defender and laid it off to Jermaine who gave it him back and he smashed it into the net.
That takes him to 10 goals for the season, and I am sure he would have settled for that before the season started - after all it is his first 'proper' campaign in league football.
Yes, he is frustrating. Yes, he runs up blind alleys. But when he does something like that, he frightens defences and gets people off their seats. It was a stunning goal.
Jimmy's tidy finish put the seal on it, and he now has nine goals (eight in the league) and I am sure he too will be pleased with that and hoping to hit double figures over the next five games.
So five games to go, and we have 68 points. To make sure of being in the top seven, I think we need to get two more wins, and one on Monday on our last trip (thank goodness) to the Don Valley Stadium would be perfect.

Player by player
Jack Butland - Brilliant display, even more so on the back of Friday's horror show. The save from Izale McLeod's header was stunning.
Keith Lowe - Steady display in Sido's place. Kept it simple and did his job. Could even have scored a couple of times.
Luke Garbutt - Also steady and came forward well too. Nice free kick to help set up the second goal.
Alan Bennett - Good display in support of Steve alongside him. Went for the safety first approach and it paid off.
Steve Elliott - Commanding. Won just about every header and dealt well with McLeod and Ben May in the air.
Luke Summerfield - Thought he did well in Marlon's role. Broke a lot of things up and set up a few of our half-chances.
Russ Penn - Usual self, making good runs and tracking back with some crunching challenges. Should have had a penalty in the first half.
Josh Low - Thought he did OK on his 100th Football League start for CTFC. But his crossing let him down.
Steve MacLean - Linked up well with Darryl and Ben, and had a couple of half-chances. Sacrificed when we went 4-4-2.
Ben Burgess - Excellent display. Won a lot in the air and was a willing worker. Set up the second and missed a good early chance.
Darryl Duffy - Linked well with Ben but looked tentative in front of goal. Also should have won a penalty.

Substitutes
Jermaine McGlashan (for Steve MacLean, 59 mins) - A popular arrival and he did ok, giving us width and it was a nice touch for Mo's goal.
Kaid Mohamed (for Josh Low 70 mins) - Electrifying run and finish for his goal lifted the atmosphere.
Jimmy Spencer (for Darryl Duffy 70 mins) - Glad to see him back on the scoresheet. Did well when he came on.