Saturday, 13 September 2014

Another learning curve

I can't talk too much about the events at the Kennel today as I wasn't able to make the trip to that delightful Bedfordshire town so beloved of those who hail from the same town as me.
This wasn't some sort of protest because of who the opposition were. It was just the mere fact that I wanted to spend some quality time with my children, and having some fun at the swimming pool was much more appealing than spending an afternoon in Luton.
As it turned out, the unbeaten record went, and it seems from what I have seen on Twitter and gleaned from texts and phone calls since the game, another League Two goalkeeper, the second in a row, has a man of the match award to take home thanks to us not being able to take our chances.
We conceded the only goal to a header, which surprises me given the strength up to now of our back three in that department.
We started Koby Arthur, as so many fans had been asking for, seemingly to use his pace against the immobile Steve McNulty, then I have been told we didn't really make the best use it, and played to his strengths rather than our own.
It appears too that a half-time change with Byron Harrison coming on was pro-active, It is good to see the manager not waiting and waiting to make these changes as he has in the past, but instead acting quickly.
But I am pleased that the vast majority of tweets and texts remain positive despite the defeat, and that, despite the setback, may continue to be encouraged by the performance and believe we can respond.
That is the key now - how do we respond? That horrible and made-up word 'bouncebackability' has just appeared on my Twitter timeline, and however much I loathe it, it is now what we wait to see from the team.
This will be another learning curve for our new team, and we will learn a bit more about them in the next week, with two home games against Southend and Dagenham.
After six games which, on paper, were not really against teams I thought would be right up at the top this season (Bury, Accrington, Carlisle, Tranmere, Hartlepool, Morecambe) the next eight, starting with Luton, are against sides who I felt pre-season would at least have the play-offs in their thoughts.
The next seven opponents now are perennial challengers Southend, Dagenham - who can beat anyone on their day, current leaders Burton who look pretty strong, AFC Wimbledon with their in-form forwards, much-changed and much-fancied Shrewsbury, dark horses Northampton and well-supported Plymouth.
All tough games in their own way. So maybe by the end of October when the FA Cup comes along, we really will be able to make some more forthright judgments on this team and in which direction we might be going.
Up to now, in seven games, we have let in only four goals now, which is hugely encouraging. Only Burton have conceded less. Last season, we gave some real gifts to the opposition, but this time around we have really tightened up.
The three at the back has helped that solidity, with Matt Taylor proving so far to be a good signing and an excellent leader, while Troy Brown and Steve Elliott have also more than played their part in that.
That solidity has also been backed up in midfield, especially by Jason Taylor and Matt Richards, and even when we have come under real pressure (Bury at times, periods of the Carlisle home game and the second half at Morecambe in the games I have seen) we have resisted it well and mostly kept teams at arms' length.
One of the major issues for me this season was going to be creativity. We have a lot of 'solid' players, hard workers, but would we be able to create enough chances to keep us in games, and win them
So far, this has been an emphatic yes, but the main problem now is that we have not taken enough of them.
A quick tot-up from the stats on the match reports of the BBC website tells me that we have had 91 shots on goal in our seven league games, and 43 of them have been on target.
Tranmere, for instance, we had 21 shots and 12 on target, and at Morecambe 18 shots and seven on target. Today's stats were 15 shots and four on target.
We have only scored seven times (only six teams have scored less). This means we need about six on target shots to score a goal - an average which we need to cut down a bit. Surely it signals that someone is going to get a pasting from us soon - just such a shame it wasn't today.
I am told by the club's video analyst Craig Cope that, before today's game, we had had more shots on target than any other team in League Two (39) and had actually had more shots on target than off - before today it was 39 on and 37 off from 76 shots.
Yet more evidence that we need to be more ruthless in the final third and make the most of these promising situations we find ourselves in.
But I am sure that Mark Yates, while rueing the fact that these chances are going begging, will be happy that we are creating them and getting into decent positions. For now at least - if it carries on however I am sure the frustrations will grow larger.
It will be interesting soon to see what Yates does about the loan signings he has.
Jordan Wynter was signed on August 22, so his first month will seemingly end after the Dagenham game next weekend, and by that time Asa Hall might be close to a return to training.
Wynter is on a youth loan as he is under 21 years old, but reaches that milestone in November, when we will then be able to sign him on a proper loan for 93 days (until January) if we want to, while John Marquis signed on August 28, and can only stay for a maximum of 93 days (which by my calculations is November 29), with his first month ending after Burton if I have worked it out right - so there will soon be some decisions to make.
Both have had an impact, with Wynter scoring the winner at Tranmere and Marquis making a difference to our attacking options, as it stands at the moment I think Yates will be wanting to keep them both on.
Overall, despite defeat today, things stay in a positive vein, with an interesting few weeks ahead, and even a visit from the TV cameras to come...