Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Crowning glory

When Jon Palmer sits down to write the next volume of 'CTFC's Greatest 50 Matches' the chances are that this visit to the Crown Ground will not figure too highly.
In fact, it would probably struggle to make the greatest 500 - however in a few months time it could be looked back on as one of the most valuable.
That first league win of the season is always a landmark - the sooner you get it the better and there is that little sigh of relief all round when it finally does come.
After our curate's egg of a start - Jekyll and Hyde against Burton, rousing against Crawley, beaten by the better side at Chesterfield and downright dismal for the most part against Plymouth, it was important to show some resolve, put down a marker and get that win on the board.
That's exactly what we did at the Crown. It wasn't pretty at all, we won't win any style or artistic impression points from the judges but that 'north of Birmingham' jinx was ended after 15 games.
Everything about the game was scruffy, right down to the winning goal, scored by Jason Taylor with a deflected right foot shot from a free-kick which wasn't a free-kick, which should have been cleared and wasn't.
Mark Yates got the selection and changes spot on in my view.
Keith Lowe in for the out of form and out of sorts Sido, Taylor for Jermaine McGlashan and Terry Gornell back for Byron Harrison - so not much width, not much flair - just dig in and grind it out.
The ploy was obvious from the off - keep it tight, and try to spring the pace of Gornell or Stevens Gillespie on the break. The first bit worked, but the second bit didn't.
Neither forward had a sniff of any decent service in the first half, but they joined in the work ethic, both dropping deep or pulling wide to give an option, but through the middle Stanley's centre-backs and two holding midfielders gave them no space at all.
Deering, Penn and Richards, with the added security blanket of Taylor behind them, had a bit more freedom to get forward and try to spring the forwards without the worry of a quick break opening us up if they lost possession.
As it was, they couldn't get the final ball right - and with Taylor scrapping away and the defence holding firm thanks to Brown and Elliott's best game as a pair and Lowe's positional sense, a 0-0 half-time score wasn't the biggest shock in the world.
Stanley were very poor. They worked hard, gave everything effort-wise, but had no quality - no player who could unlock our defence and make the difference for them.
Scott Brown didn't have a save to make all game - as clean sheet bonuses go, it was probably the easiest one he has ever earned, and the question was could we find a way to win the game.
We did, and after Taylor's goal, Deering could have had a second himself, or laid it on a plate for Taylor, but did neither - irrelevant in the end as it turned out.
Taylor typified the performance. Sleeves rolled up, sharp in the tackle, giving his all and roaring with delight (and no doubt pent-up frustration having been condemned to the bench) when his shot hit the net.
Elliott and Troy Brown were solid, Lowe and Braham-Barrett disciplined, Richards and Penn took their lead from Taylor, Deering was energetic to the last and Gornell and Gillespie battled away. Harrison, when he came on, barely had a touch but ran himself silly to defend from the front as we held our advantage.
That fact that we did that was a big relief. Accrington, on this viewing, will do well to escape the bottom two, and therefore it is definitely filed under 'places a team wanting to do well has to take three points from'.
Whether after this we will ultimately go on to 'do well' is still up for debate, but from little acorns giant oaks can grow, and this is a base to build from.
After the mess which the Plymouth game eventually became, we were never going to emerge seven days later having suddenly morphed into Barcelona -  this is a gradual process.
Having gone 18 months without success oop North, it would be one of the perverse things that happens in football for us to go and win again at Bury next weekend.
The shake up at the Shakers has seen 22 players arrive this summer, more than we have in our whole squad, so goodness knows that 11 we will face next weekend.
As to be expected maybe after such a big turnover, they have been a bit hit and miss so far. Miss would be a help on Saturday, but first, we have our big day out in the big smoke.
Upwards of 1,500 fans will be following our freshly-clad Whites to the Boleyn Ground for our Capital One Cup game with West Ham.
It still doesn't quite seem right that we made it past the first round. I can't remember the last time I saw us in the heady heights of round two.
I just hope we give a good impression of ourselves, and as we always say before games like this, you just never know... there will be an upset somewhere... if we play well and they have an off day... we must take our half-chances if they come along... etc etc
There couldn't be more of a contrast for tonight's game from last Saturday. The desolate, delapidated Crown only had 1,224 paying customers inside it on Saturday.
At least 200 more than that will be in the away end alone at the 'Academy of Football.'
But one thing I hope is the same is the level of resolve and effort from our players that we saw on Saturday - but with just a bit more quality. If we get that, anything can happen...