Thursday, 11 December 2014

Words are fine - but let's have action

AFTER Sunday's gutless surrender to Dover, it seems the reality has finally dawned on Paul Buckle.
But instead of hopping on a plane back to Mrs B in New York, instead he has been laying down the law it seems, with a lot of talk of all the players being on trial and having to prove themselves to him.
He shouldn't have to be telling them that. They should already know, and it should be a given that they go out and give it their all in training and games.
However, as we remember from the end of last season with not-trying-in-training-gate which came to light after we lost at Rochdale, players at this club have form for this sort of thing.
It seems that our players do constantly need to be told that they have to work hard and show commitment when they play for us, or they might find themselves out of a job pretty quickly.
Remember - only Trevor Carson, Matt Taylor, Lee Vaughan and Asa Hall know they will be in gainful employment after the end of the season.
It is telling then that two of them didn't play on Sunday, and the other two are just about the only ones from the seniors who can be excused too much blame for the Cup defeat.
The rest are out of contract and don't so far seem to be going the right way towards getting themselves a new one, either here or anywhere else.
This should be the time of year when they start raising their levels of performance. January is approaching, the time when they might get a move somewhere else, put themselves in the shop window or get the tap on the shoulder from the manager to talk about next year.
It is also good to hear from Troy Brown that the players heard the chants and boos from Sunday. That was the idea Troy. You were supposed to. Now pay attention to them and start performing.
I must say I like the cut of Buckle's jib so far. He seems to be saying all the right things, but the proof of the pudding will come as we see if he backs his words up with action.
He is still in his honeymoon period. He can't be expected to work miracles after two weeks, and after two pretty lame displays so far, can still hide behind the fact that he inherited this bunch and has to make the best of it.
But even so, he needs to start making his mark - and that starts with his team sheet on Saturday.
I don't want to pick up a team sheet at Field Mill at around 2.15pm and see an unchanged starting 11.
That would be tantamount to a vote of confidence for the shambles we saw on Sunday, and also tell those who are sat on the bench or in the stand that no matter how badly we play (if it is possible to play any worse than Sunday) that they will not get a look in.
Steve Elliott is not fit and Vaughan has one more game of his ban, so the back five will not be able to change.
In honesty though, they weren't the worst thing about Sunday, the terrible marking for the Dover winner aside. But defending has not been our strong point in the last few months.
We have now gone 13 league games without a clean sheet, since the 0-0 game at Morecambe, when we left the Globe joint top of the table. Yes. Joint top. Seems like a parallel universe.
Since then we have shut out Oxford in the JPT and Swindon in the FA Cup, but too many goals have gone past Carson in the league, despite his heroics in many of the games. He can't save everything.
But defending isn't just the job of that back four. Yes, some of the goals we have let in have been woeful - down the poor marking from set-pieces for instance.
Good defending also starts at the top of the pitch where forwards hold it up and provide an outlet, and that hasn't happened nearly enough.
It is also helped by the midfielders, breaking up play, tracking runners and covering whenever necessary. That hasn't happened nearly enough either. Too often we have been brushed aside too easily, caught beyond the ball or allowed shots from the edge of the box with no closing down.
We have been a soft touch. Too easy to pass through, and too easy to break down on the counter attack.
Buckle's first task on Saturday is, I feel, to give us more of a backbone and make us harder to beat, so my suggestion would be a 4-5-1 formation.
The three in midfield could be set up one of two ways, with one sitter and two further forward, or two players sitting deeper and one further up to support the front man.
If there is one sitter, I think that has to be Jason Taylor. Further forward, I want to see Kane Ferdinand moved more central, where he can be more effective.
Against us for Southend when they beat us 4-0 at Roots Hall (the night Sido was sent off) he scored and had an excellent game in a central role - yet since being here he has been shunted out wide.
It's the usual situation - either play him in his best role, or send him back to Peterborough. It is pointless to have him here and not use him to his maximum potential.
I'd also find a place alongside him for Joe Hanks as he has that energy to get up and down, can pick a pass and can also get into goalscoring positions - had he been in those situations Taylor found himself on Sunday, I'd have bet on at least one of them going in.
I don't think he has done much wrong this season. Remember he is only 19, and will make mistakes sometimes, but I don't feel he has deserved to be left out. He can also deliver a decent set-piece.
The other set-up in midfield could be two deeper and one further forward, and there could be a few combinations here.
He could play Taylor and Hanks deeper with Ferdinand ahead of them, or Ferdinand and Hanks deeper and then maybe use Harry Williams further up, off the front man.
Williams' best position is that 'number 10' role and that is where most of his goals at reserve and youth level have come, and he would make those runs into the box and get into goalscoring positions. Like Hanks, I feel he would have converted some of the chances that fell to Taylor last weekend.
As well as helping make us more solid, we need more goals from midfield and the likes of Ferdinand, Hanks and Williams are more than capable of providing them.
At this point, you may have noticed that Matt Richards has not been mentioned. That's because I feel he needs to step out of the team for the manager to try out other combinations. I don't feel he offers the steel, tackling ability or mobility that we need at the moment, and he doesn't move the ball quickly enough to raise the tempo.
We need some kind of spark in the team, and need to try to get some more pace and an attacking outlet in there, so we need to get our wingers out of the icebox and try to get some chalk on their boots.
We have four of them - Andy Haworth, Raffa de Vita, Zack Kotwica and Omari Sterling-James - and it's time they were used properly.
Two of them need to start. From a pace and spark point of view, that would be Zack and Omari - but you also have to counter that with the need to help the full-backs out defensively from time to time, and you might get more of that from Haworth and de Vita. So that is a dilemma for Buckle.
I'll throw in another two outside-chance alternatives. Craig Braham-Barrett was our best attacking threat last weekend getting down that left-hand side - so what about starting him wide left and slotting Paul Black in at left back? Or he could give James Bowen another go, either at left-back with CBB ahead or on the left hand side.
That leaves the one up, and it's a 50-50 selection here as we have been left with two senior forwards. I will never stop marvelling at the ineptitude of how that has been allowed to happen.
But hopefully that is something Buckle will rectify in January with the little bit of Cup money he has left, and if we are playing one up on Saturday it has to be Byron Harrison, who is the best of the two we have in that role - but it is vital that the advanced midfielder(s) and wide men get up in support.
So all in all, while he may not have the biggest squad, he does have alternatives which need to be explored in the light of Sunday's surrender. The status quo will not do.
Over to you Mr Buckle.