Saturday, 6 August 2011

Satisfactory Start / Decent Foundation

It was just that. A generally competent start to the season with some reasonable football at times and considerable effort by all in the side.
Punctuated by an excellent goal from Stephens following a good sequence of passing with Chris Solly on a good overlap and a cool cross,
Stephens was the surprise package. He had sprayed the ball around in the pre-season games I watched but was guilty of wasting the ball at times. On this occasion he did not really set a foot wrong, apart from a stupendous shot across goal trying to crown his imperious performance with glory with a ’goal of the season’ screamer volley, when something simpler was the order of the day. However, he can be forgiven (on this occasion) as he brought a breath of fresh air to the midfield and was easily the best player on the pitch. He still reminds me of Curbs in his appearance and movement, though potentially a better player.
I have voiced criticism of Waggy in the past but he was much more effective today. A few misplaced passes when he momentarily lost the plot as usual but, in general, a hard working effective performance, including some good defensive covering and an excellent volley after being set up by Stephens.
Wiggins’ game picked up after a nervous start that seemed to be the result of constant barracking from the Bournemouth contingent. Solly was caught out a few times in the air but otherwise snapped away at the opposition throughout the game in a way that must really irritate them but was good for us. However, it was obvious that they were playing ball out to his wing constantly to test his height shortcomings and after Francis good form in the pre-season games it’s difficult to see who has the strongest claim for right back (discounting all the uncertainty about Francis’ position at the club)..
Morrison and Taylor performed generally well, but I still have doubts about total reliance on them in the months ahead. Especially on the ground against fast ball-playing forward. We had that problem with Lierra and Doherty but on balance I think we will need Doherty (now that Daily has gone) to bring some solidity and experience, even though he is also suspect on the ground. I have yet to make my mind up who is the better of the two.
Apart from Stephens and Wagstaffe, Hollands had a steady reliable game. However, my initial thoughts that he is a little too one paced seemed to be borne out, though I am still hoping he will add a cutting edge over 10 yards to his game as he gets fitter. To an extent I had envisaged that he and Bover were going to be the starlets in midfield so Stephens’ emergence and Hollands’ slowish non-dominant start was a bit of a surprise. But, if Stephens can turn the same heat on regularly then, as my mate Keith said, Holland can perform a role as an effective foil.
Jackson did not stand out but had a steady game and did not really put a foot wrong, and I’m sure he will go open to have better games as the weeks pass.
BWP tried hard to get into the game but only really managed to have an impact towards the end with a rasping 25 yard shot that was just wide, and a determined run towards goal out of nothing that won us the penalty. Without those two contributions he was relatively anonymous but that is his game and if he can score or win us a goal a game then he will continue to be a valuable match winner for us.
I had been disappointed with Hayes’ input to the pre-season games that I saw, but I saw an improvement today. Not a stunning game, but he showed he had a decent touch at times and a couple of neat passing movements nearly came off. However, he has got to get stuck in a bit more in the air on the long clearances and hold the ball up more consistently. The feeling is that we still need another option in the same moulld which we do not seem to have at the moment, though I liked the look of our French centre forward at Woking, but probably too early for him yet.
So, a satisfactory start but no reason to sit on our laurels. There will be better teams with faster and bigger forwards to play over the coming months and though the scoreline was impressive, any watching opposition rep's would not have been scared out of their skins from this performance.
However, it's a good foundation for the team and CP which will be tested at the “top of the table clash” next week at Notts County.
Pritchard, Benson and Doherty had short cameo appearances, and the former showed a few nice touches (and was a dead ringer for Keith Jones).
Will be interesting to see how CP juggles the selection with Green and Waggy no doubt feeling they deserve a chance. I would go for Green with the option of deploying Waggy for 20 minutes at the end anywhere in midfield if desperate measures are called upon to score, or hold on!
One word for Bournemouth. Given what a small club they are and their known financial constraints you have to give it to them for doing so well last season. Also, given the outflow of their players (including our own raids) they still played some good footba and looked a fair side, albeit with no punch upfront. There was certainly nothing to suggest that their star forward whom we are supposed to be trailing was worth anything near the rumoured £1M asking price. However, I wish this game little club the best, though I think they will struggle this season.
Hartlepool might emulate Bournemouth this season as the little club who ‘done well’!
( I see that Racon could only manage the sibs bench for Millwall today)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

“Start Me Up”: not “The Last Time”

We all hope that the right Rolling Stones number for this season will be “Start Me Up”: we don’t want it to be “The Last Time” for Chris Powell’s promotion experiences.

Chris Powell had his share of the promotion glory in the Year 2000, as shown in this picture of our heroes of the 1999/2000 season. 91 points, 12 consecutive league wins after Boxing Day and a centre forward (Andy Hunt) who netted 3 hat tricks and 24 league goals. The picture also shows solid stalwarts with a physical presence like Steve Brown goal scoring opportunists like Clive Mendonca and Shaun Newton.
Optimism is the name of the game at the moment amongst the CAFC faithful; just look at CAFCPICKS for what is being predicted. (Of course, only ‘The Funder” has gone not only for an undefeated season but all wins!! (Courtesy of poetic licence on the part of the Editor!).
I fancy a successful outcome, though the magnitude of achieving should not underestimated. However, I would not be totally surprised to see a slow start whilst out new set of players synchronise. We may need a comparable Boxing Day + run this season and the hope is that the first part of the season is reasonable enough to avoid untold pressure on CP’s shoulders.
The strength of the side seems to be in midfield where,  unlike last season,  we have a vast array of choice. The players available include the quality of Hollands, Stephens, Green & Jackson and, possibly Alonso, for starters. I hope that the opportunity arises for Ruben Bover to impress, as he looks like one of the most exciting midfield talents we have had for a few years.
Upfront, BWP should have the instincts if fit, to emulate Andy Hunt. However, whether or not we have the right supporting act in Hayes, Benson remains to be seen and the general feeling is we need another experienced foil, who can also score goals himself. There is a hint that we may be recruiting another Pole, Rasiak, (hopefully a little more effective than Abbot, though he may have been underrated). The most likely addition may be Jason Euell. I was not that great a fan first time around but my feeling having seen him briefly at Woking is that he is still fit and up for it, and he could be a surprise package, not least to opposing defences.
I am still uneasy to rely on Morrison and Taylor alongside each other at the back and unless we have a suitable addition (Hughes??) my feeling is that we are going to see Doherty (or even Dailly??) play an important role.
It's good to see Mambo hanging on in there and surely he will come through in the medium term, and can a fellow CAFCPICKER be right when he said another youth back four player was alongside him at Carshalton and was even bigger!
Difficult to predict what is going on in respect of a goalkeeper, though all the signs are that Elliot may move on. If that happens, we have seen too little of Hamer to say he should get the nod, but Sullivan to me seems a reasonable replacement. However, as a colleague said, he needs to play a good game as well as talk one.
At the end of the day, a solid goalkeeper who can not only save but come out for crosses and instil confidence in our new defence is critical: let’s hope the club get it right. We didn’t when we let Elliots competitor go to Scotland, who is apparently now being courted by other leading clubs.
Oh for a “Successful Dawn of Honest Endeavour” with greater emphasis on commitment, skill and courage than coloured designer plastic boots: would be nice to think austerity may rule those out.
It's almost time: "Onwards We Go, Boldly Going, (we hope), into the Unknown, or where our Year 2000 team went before us".
Lest hope the start is better than I expect, so the CAFCPICKS can cross the Atlantic in September with untold optimism and expectation and leave his lumberjacking behind him.