Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Another late show

Coming as it did on the back of two four-goal defeats, this was never going to be a walkover.
Barnet, bottom of the table, with Edgar Davids in their ranks, had improved of late, and showed that they are nowhere near the worst side we have played this season.
The pressure was on us a bit after those defeats on the road.
The table had closed up after our loss at Chesterfield, and the way the fixtures fell for the other sides around us did not help.
While we had two away games, the other sides had two home games, but had not really taken advantage of them, with Gillingham and Rotherham among the team beaten on Tuesday.
Now we were at home, and everyone else was away, so we had to try to take advantage of it. Which we did. Just.
With Jake Taylor coming in from Reading, and on the back of those defeats, Yatesy's team selection was always going to be an interesting one.
Jeff Goulding had not excelled in the lone striker role at the Proact Stadium, so Shaun Harrad came back in, while Kaid Mohamed's injury saw Chris Zebroski move out left.
Taylor came back into the side, but I have to admit I could not understand Russ Penn being left out to accomodate him.
He had been the pick of the central three against Rotherham and Chesterfield, and with Davids in the Barnet side I thought he would be the perfect man to combat the Dutch master.
But Yatesy opted to keep Marlon Pack and Darren Carter together, despite worries over how they have gelled together lately... and some of those doubts surfaced during the game.
On a few occasions, Mark Byrne was able to make dangerous runs to the edge of our box and get shots in, as did Davids just before half-time, shooting wide, while Ricky Holmes on the left had some dangerous moments.
That was partly due to a lack of tackles and closing down in midfield, but also by our back four's tendency to back off and invite them to keep running at them rather than standing their ground.
In the first half, we didn't create any real golden chances - just some half-chances, Taylor shooting wide and Harrad also.
This was, in the main, down to the presence of Clovis Kamdjo, who was a human barrier for anything we tried to pass through or around the Barnet midfield.
He sat 10 yards in front of their back four, and nothing was getting through. We had him on trial under Martin Allen, but he was allowed to go. No further comment is needed.
I thought Harrad generally looked sharper of late, while Taylor looked a neat and tidy player. I was encouraged that he always wanted the ball and was available.
He found space well on the edge of the box twice in the first half, but looked a bit reluctant to have a shot. I am sure that confidence will come with games.
The big turning point was the penalty, and it looked a stonewaller as Carter had his arm out, and the ball hit it. These days those are given straight away.
To be fair to Scott Brown, his record from penalties has not been great - I must admit I do not think I have ever been at a game when he has kept one out.
But with the help of Sam Deering (via Steve Book pointing from the bench), he guessed right this time and made a good save.
That seemed to deflate Barnet, and Yatesy soon looked to his bench, with Deering the first to come on and I thought he looked lively straight away and seemed to perk us up.
He was followed after 79 minutes by Penn, and then - most tellingly of all - Goulding, once again brought on ahead of Darryl Duffy.
Jeff had been on the pitch for precisely 84 seconds, and had not had a touch when he reached into his bag of tricks and dug out a pitching wedge to direct a very precise chip over Graham Stack for what proved to be the winner.
It was a sublime finish, with very little backlift, the quality of which we have seen before from Jeff - at Accrington last season, again when he had just come on, and in a pre-season game at Telford, when he chipped in from about 40 yards.
Therein lies the frustration with the enigma that is Jeff Goulding. We know he has that quality in his locker, but do we see it enough...?
If he did it all the time, he would not be playing in League Two, no doubt, but contrast that with his display on Tuesday, when he barely got a kick and you can see why fans do get frustrated with him.
Shades of Josh Low, whose languid style and tendency to affect one game in four or five was a source of much teeth-gnashing.
Jeff is a bit of a bete noir with some Robins followers anyway after the game at Wycombe this season, where he was accused of flicking a sign at the away contingent who were unhappy with him after missing a late chance for a winner.
I wasn't in the away end so did not see a) if he flicked anything and b) if it was directed at the away fans, but some fans have demonised him for that
I am told there were some boos and yells of derision when he came on last weekend. They didn't last long as his moment of magic was enough to win us the game.
That was despite Kamdjo hitting the post and Stack heading a late chance wide when he popped up in the box, but, once again, for the second home game running, we ground it out with a late winner.
Sometimes, that it was what you have to do. These teams will not roll over, and after two chastening away defeats, a win and a clean sheet is all that matters.
It opened up again a three-point gap for us in the third - now cut to one again by Rotherham's midweek win.
Finally, a few stats...
After 20 games, we have won half of them, drawn five and lost five, which is respectable.
We have kept nine clean sheets, the most in the division, yet in the five games we have lost, 17 goals have gone in (3 lots of three goals and the two fours last week).
In the other 15 games, we have let in eight, and four of those were in two games, the 2-2 draws against Torquay and Fleetwood.
So that means in 13 games, only four goals have gone in - Keith Lowe's own goal at Wycombe, Peter Leven's penalty against Oxford, Byron Harrison's header at Wimbledon and Conor Hourihane's opener for Plymouth.
We have scored in 17 of our 20 League games. Only Accrington, York and Gillingham have kept us out.
This is a record only bettered by Gillingham, who have failed to score in two games (one against us).
Our home record after 10 games is 7-1-2 - the best in the division - and we have now played all the teams in the bottom half of the table, winning eight, drawing three and losing one (to Accrington) -  again the best record in the division.
We have three teams left to play - Port Vale, Northampton and Rochdale. By December 21, we should be able to gauge properly who the strongest teams in the division are.