FIRST the good news. Third in the league – three points – a clean sheet – a perfect playing surface and the knowledge that crowds are up. All valid reasons to be cheerful.
Now the bad news – it was the worst game of the season. Rovers were poor especially in the first half. Fortunately Nuneaton (only one corner and one shot all match) were worse.
Manager Dave Hockaday readily accepted this stating he was performance driven and that what we had just witnessed was not good enough. No-one disagreed. Twenty minutes later I had a conversation with a senior player who made some very valid points. He mentioned the problems of playing into the low sun, as was the case in the first half, adding that for the first half-hour of the game the ball was very flat, making this difficult for the better fooballing side. Both those factors changed. The sun went down and the flat- football was replaced.
I must stress these facts were not offered as excuses, they were given as partial reasons for a poor display. More importantly he added that last year that is the sort of match we would have lost. Now a tight knit squad is more determined and resolute. They do not give up and there are match changers on the bench.
Selection is difficult for the manager with so many good players available. It must have been difficult to leave out Todd and Green and if Jamie Collins is fit that makes selecting midfield difficult, of course that is his job, and how much different it is now, selecting from quality players.
Able to see the players in training all week manager Dave makes selections that must be both accepted and respected by both the players and us. That does not mean that we should not query them. We all have our own opinions.
Why was James Norwood left on the bench? Many in the media thought it was Nors’ silly comment regarding assistant Gary Seward in the match programme. Nors saw it as banter, but whilst not wanting to defend him, I think the programme editor should have omitted the comment.
However, the gaffer revealed that Nors was left out because he was in a rut, and perhaps needed a rest, adding that in the second half he showed he was back to his best.
Rut or not I would not have left him out. Nors, like Reece, who joined him on the bench, has the dash and devilment to unsettle defences. Reece had scored twice in the last two home games when he came on as substitute and had made a good case for starting. The players who replaced them are undoubtedly good footballers, but have yet to make the impact needed to win matches. Whatever team is selected Norwood or Styche should be in from the start. Surely the second half proved that.
Some points from the game- Racine gets better and better, as does Turley at right- back.
Man-of-the-match could have gone to either. Again corners were poor – there being twelve fruitless ones, we do miss the dead ball skills of Big Ben Wright. Finally, we must remember how easy a game it was for Sam Russell, so someone must have done something right.
The referee did get the sending off incident decisively dealt with. There was a discussion with the linesman and swift action taken.
An annoying aspect of games this season is the scuffles between players that occur immediately before corners or free- kicks. Too often these are ignored. On Saturday one player went too far, clearly striking Racine. The right thing happened. Well done officials. I hope others follow your example.
There was one problem for the media on Saturday. We were not issued with team sheets and were informed of the team courtesy of a visiting journalist who used twitter to find out who was playing.
That is the first time this has happened since I have been writing this column. I believe sheets were available elsewhere in the ground, but none came to us.
This is of course a small point and writing on Sunday I can refer to the NLP but I should not have to. Perhaps I am becoming grumpy and should refer back to my opening paragraph – three points and a clean sheet.
Good crowd for such a fixture as well! Get a sense of perspective Light!