Jen Kelly – a.k.a. Cheshire’s Revenge / The Word Nerd – brings ilovemacc her own take on the highs and lows of The Silkmen
In my last blog post I bemoaned the fact that, yet again, the off-field factors were vastly overshadowing the on-pitch action.
Oh how I wished for the days when we all talked about actual football, not unpaid wages and takeover bids. So as I put my coat on to make the short journey up to Salford yesterday, I decided I was going to do exactly that for this post. Concentrate on the football, the performance, the tactics and leave all the other shit to one side for now.
Lap it up lads and lasses, because I can’t say how long it’ll last!
Looking at the team sheet ahead of kick off, it looked like Daryl was going for another multi-layered formation. Three at the back with four in midfield and then the staggered front line. The two Theo’s made way for Messrs Horsfall and McCourt, giving us plenty of options across the pitch for build-up play, but perhaps no real goal threat once again. With Archibald sidelined after limping off last week and Paddy on the bench, the responsibility looked like it would fall on the small shoulders of Ben Stephens and the slightly broader ones of Arthur. No pressure lads.
You’re just a shit Roary Lion!
Salford’s ground is something to behold. Less football ground, more modern conference centre from the outside. On the inside it’s small and compact but weirdly welcoming, unlike the majority of other new-build grounds. As much as I love the old ramshackle stadiums that feel like a throwback, Salford seem to have done a decent enough job with their redevelopment. But I suppose that’s what a blank chequebook can give a club. Rather like the monstrosities that continue to pop up all over Prestbury and Alderley, if you’re able to completely bulldoze what was there before and start again, I guess you can do what you like and do it properly. Oh, if only!
Although if anyone can explain to me why the money men decided to put the toilets in a portacabin out the back of the stand, you’re wiser than I am!
As our own lion is currently M.I.A it was quite nice to see Salford’s own feline friend sauntering down the pitch before kick off. Although short in stature, Bobby the Lion definitely made up for it in cat-titude, taunting the delighted away following. Only in football would you hear 600 people happily heckling and mocking a lion!
Incidentally, looking online to find out the name of the mascot, I came across a great example of the community feel at Salford. The club ran a competition for local school kids to name all three mascots (because baby lion Bobby has a mum, Babs, and a dad, Billy – obviously!) – simple idea, excellent execution.
“This has 0-0 written all over it!”
The game itself never really got into second gear. We definitely missed Archibald’s creativity and struggled to get the ball down and through, although not really because Salford were that great. It seemed to be more about our decisiveness, with passes going astray because we couldn’t quite decide what we were trying to do. Harris, who has been one of my players of the season so far, had an unusually off game and seemed to spend a disproportionate amount of time on his arse. McCourt had the only real chance of the game, a decent shot from just outside the box that the Ammies keeper did well to spot and push wide. Other than that, he was kept pretty quiet.
Stephens had minimal impact upfront, and looked thoroughly downtrodden when he was taken off for Paddy on the hour. Although thinking about it, Ben always looks like the little boy lost, like someone has stolen his teddy bear. Maybe that’s just his face. He’s the ying to the jovial Paddy’s yang, who spent his time on the bench dancing to the chants booming out of the away end.
Unfortunately, happy Pads had no more luck than sulky Ben in front of goal. One half chance went begging when Paddy’s feet couldn’t get themselves in the right order to shoot or pass, and the ball cannoned up into the air off the advancing defender.
All part of the plan?
I think everyone that went up to Salford yesterday can agree that it wasn’t a classic display. 0-0 was probably a fair result all round. However, perhaps that was all part of the master plan. Daryl knows that we aren’t brimming with goals, so maybe he’s decided to stick with what we know. Our defence is strong with a good midfield in front of it. Go aiming for a draw and if we can nick a goal on the counter attack, all the better. But it seems the first order of business is to stop the opposition scoring. Why else would he make substitutions after the 90 if not to protect the draw?
I’m not saying that it’s a bad plan. Yesterday wasn’t the most enjoyable for the fans but a point away from home is not a bad result. Without a natural goalscorer to call on you’ve got to play to your strengths and, right now, our strength is in defence. Kelleher had yet another assured game, with Cameron and Fitz slotting in like they’d never been away. Horsfall, who hadn’t given me anything to write home about so far, put in a good shift. Even MWH did alright.
The plan, if that’s what it is, has worked for the last 2 games. However, I suspect a rethink is needed ahead of the next two games. Bradford and Crewe will both be tough challenges, and I fear that our defence will need to be doubly solid to stop the goals a-flowing. Hopefully Archibald will be fit again and feeling goal score-y by next Saturday. And someone give Ben Stephens back his teddy bear!
Of course, all this could be irrelevant. Friday 29th November is payday and, without those pay packets landing on time, we could be back to where we started, staring down the barrel of more strikes and yet more excuses about banks and Brexit from our elusive owner. As he pulls the strings from afar, surely each and every player is left wondering what the weekend may hold for everyone associated with the Silkmen, just like we all are.
Bollocks. I said I wasn’t going to mention all the other shit didn’t I? Ah well, it was nice while it lasted!!