Date: 6 September 2008
Maybe we were hoping for too much from this match. Following the appointment of a new coach, and a 3-0 win against higher league opposition on Tuesday, some believed we were going to see a marked improvement. (There were some who didn’t. I heard on the train about a supporter who’d stayed away because of the dire performance against Port Vale. Clearly he didn’t think a change of coach counted for anything.) Well, there’s a long way to go. Today’s match was a hard slog. But without wanting to be accused of employing a cliché, there were certainly some “positives” to take out of it.
For a start we were playing a more conventional 4-4-2. Everyone knew their place and pretty well stuck with it. For example, when Bradbury went forward for a corner in the second half, and got a shot in, he immediately ran all the way back into the right back position. Also, more people seemed to be in their preferred position, such as Pitman up front and not on his own; and Igoe in central midfield. (The jury is still out on the best positions for Bradbury and Hollands. And Quinn hadn’t much choice but to play Cooper at centre-back.) This wasn’t quite as true after the substitutions, when Bartley came on at right wing again (making a midfield of Bartley - Hollands - Anderton - Wagstaff) and McQuoid came on as one of a pair of twin strikers, to Pitman’s left, whereas we think he prefers a slightly deeper role. His position today certainly didn’t seem to suit him, which was a shame after Quinn had shown confidence in the youngster by bringing him on in the first place. But it was good to see players playing with more spirit, and a few ‘tricks’ being tried out from dead ball situations - evidence that some routines had been practised in training.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing was that we were once again a lot weaker in the second half than in the first, and players didn’t hold their positions so well. 1-1 was a fair score at half-time but County will feel they deserved three points in the end. It was as though Quinn had no advice to give at the break. Maybe our players were starting to tire, but they were totally dominated by County for the first twenty minutes of the second half. We rallied towards the end. The matchday programme mentioned that County concede a lot of late goals; and indeed we could have scored twice during injury time. The first shot followed a corner; the second was the very last kick of the game (from Wagstaff).
One thing that can’t go unmentioned was the consistent dirty play by County’s number 3, Paul Mayo. He fouled Wagstaff at least seven times, and was let off very lightly by the referee. But maybe we’ll see more of that as other teams discover what we’re already discovering: playing on either wing Wagstaff is a great threat.
He was my man of the match - for the second match running. It was his cross from the right that resulted in Pitman’s goal on 19 minutes. Pitman - at the back stick - slammed the ball home with his left foot. There was great relief and jubilation; on the part of the whole team, but especially Pitman who came straight to the away crowd of about 200 to celebrate with us (and the skid marks in the turf from his celebration remained visible for the rest of the game!).
Of course, at that point we were chasing the game. County had had two soft shots very early in the match, but it was “third time lucky” for them when they scored on 12 minutes. We made it a little easy for them then; but in fairness our defence - particularly central defence - worked well together for most of the match and helped us on our way to a valuable point away from home.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Bradbury (6), Cooper (6), Pearce (8); Cummings (7);
Wagstaff (8), Igoe (7), Anderton (6), Hollands (6);
Goulding (7), Pitman (7).