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Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
|Fear of Fear|
Fighting with Fear
By: Andrew Doherty
IT'S been over a month since a Saturday home game at Blundell Park. In that month Town have been unbeaten in the league at home and away. It's been the away results that has been most impressive, with all three league home games drawn so far.
Today's opponents Swindon have been draw specialists also, which may point to the most likely result today, although they are coming off a handy win at Doncaster last Saturday. "What's the point of going?" asked my wife when I told her my prediction that it would be a 0 - 0 stalemate. I explained patiently that it was about the tactical battle. Actually it was more than that on this international break weekend, as I chose to find international diversity by having some food from the lovely Portuguese bakery on Freeman Street and a slab of concrete from the market. A bit of nostalgia to go with international cuisine. The jolly man on the market stall slammed down the concrete on the surface to demonstrate it was the real thing. I must remember to book my next dental appointment.
At Newport, Holohan linked up well with Morris, indicating that Town were getting it together as a team after the pre-season changes. Morris is now injured, and we're now reliant on the partnership of Holohan and Hunt. In spite of last week's victory at Colchester, Town had problems taking care of the ball, as Mr Hurst described it. Now, a week on, we're looking for an improvement in overall team play and tempo. The team with the task of achieving this improvement and the consolidation of our upper half league position was: Crocombe – Efete, Waterfall, Smith, Glennon – Kiernan, Hunt, Holohan, Clifton – Richardson – Taylor. My only disappointment was that Swindon didn't have George Cowmeadow in their squad. As Andy Humbo observed to me, he should have been named Pat. I expect his parents slipped up somewhere, so we have to make do with ex-Mariner Rent-a-Thug Gavin Gunning who is now on Swindon's books as a coach. It's not quite the same thing.
6,805 spectators were here, including 353 noisy ones from Swindon. The conditions were sunny and blustery. The Wiltshire men in green started to play the ball about but Town had the first opportunity following a through ball from Glennon to Clifton whose control was poor. A Clifton error then allowed Hutton through but Efete swept up. Town launched a couple of attacks with Taylor beating the defender to win a throw, and a cross from Efete which was too close to the keeper with Taylor homing in. On 11 minutes Swindon won a corner. Gladwin's cross came in. Blake-Tracy shot. Crocombe saved. The ball wasn't cleared and landed with Jephcott who shot home from the left. Town 0, Swindon 1. Swindon dominated play. Gladwin found Shade who won a corner before Efete put in a good block to stop a shot from Jephcott. Swindon looked more threatening and had a physical presence. Wakeling in particular looked dangerous. Kiernan had a left-footed effort which went wide, but Town didn't put any moves together until the 25th minute when nice work in midfield saw Holohan start an attack. The ball was threaded through to Taylor in the box. Taylor shook off the defender, turned ad deftly chipped the ball over Swindon's keeper Brynn. This was Town's first proper move, and led to an improvement in intensity. An Efete cross again was too close to the keeper before Clifton fell over himself after Hunt found space. Swindon in turn won a corner following a break by Wakeling. Hunt floated a ball to Taylor who used his experience to win a throw but Clifton lost possession. On 34 minutes Richardson was fouled 30 yards out. Hunt's curled free kick sailed over the crossbar. The overall quality of play was now better with both sides passing well. But Town's attacks were breaking down. Hunt in particular was putting in good work. Richardson found Efete who confused himself and headed to the keeper. Half time approached. The ball went downfield. Smith lost Gladwin and was unable to retrieve the situation as Gladwin passed to Darby who had the easiest of hances and scored to make it 2 – 1 to Swindon. Town were deflated. Swindon had applied most of the pressure and had most of the shots. Town improved after a nervy start.
Khan replaced Kiernan at half time and immediately injected pace into the attack. Swindon won a corner on 48 minutes but Efete broke. Swindon's Khan was booked for hauling him over. A great move on the right involving Hunt and Richardson led to a cross to Waterfall the angle was too tight. Khan retrieved the ball bit Taylor couldn't get power on his shot. Khan then wriggled through and won a foul in spite of Town being in possession, before Waterfall battled in the Swindon corner to win a free kick. Town were fighting. On 55 minutes a short pass from Glennon found Hunt who shot over wastefully. Richardson, now playing on the right, curled in a cross but Taylor couldn't get on the end of it. It was noticeable that Town were winning more of the ball. Smith then cut out an attack as Swindon's Khan threatened. On 60 minutes a Hutton cross hit the bar. The referee awarded a corner. Holohan headed clear. Town broke. Richardson crossed into space for Clifton to run on but Clifton lost possession. A minute later a foul by Swindon's Khan led to a second yellow card. Swindon were down to 10 men, and now defended in numbers, relying on the occasional break to ease the pressure. A Smith error at the back led to an increasingly rare Swindon attack but Hepburn-Murphy was unable to control the ball. Town responded with a cross-field passing move but Holohan's cross was awful. On 71 minutes Maguire-Drew replaced Richardson, and immediately supplied a cross. Taylor then almost latched onto a bad back pass. On 77 minutes Orsi and Pepple came on for Holohan and Taylor. But in spite of this attacking ploy, Town's quality let them down as Khan made a mess of a one-two with Glennon, and then the hesitant Efete lost his way after a nice chip from Maguire-Drew. A Hunt interception started a move but Town's final ball was a constant disappointment. A poor cross from Clifton set up a Swindon attack and corner. From it Efete burst out but didn't know what to do, and passed to Hunt whose cross went straight out of play. Town showed endeavour but fumbled and stumbled. On 84 minutes a move on the right led to Efete supplying Maguire-Drew whose left footed curler was pushed away for a corner. The ball came back to Hunt who crossed into a packed box but the ball bounced and Pepple was unable to control it, shooting over the bar. Jephcott was booked after dragging back Hunt, before Maguire-Drew sent Efete on a run. Swindon countered as Wakeling broke and shot, striking Smith's head to earn a corner. Town had taken control of play but were failing at the final hurdle. Seven extra minutes were added. Maguire-Drew approached the box, and ran wide of the defender on the right. Smith's shot from close range was blocked. The ball came back to Maguire-Drew who crossed into the box. Amongst all the bodies Pepple got up. His header was saved. With time running out, Town messed about and frustrated as Swindon defended their position. Hunt won a free kick and after good work found Efete on the right. Efete crossed. When it seemed easier to score, Orsi was unable to get the ball over the line, and Town had a corner. Not only Orsi but Town were unable to get over the line. Time ran out. In spite of all the late flurry of activity, Swindon's resilience and earlier dominance earned them the victory. Grimsby Town 1, Swindon Town 2.
I concluded that taking care of the ball is just one of our concerns. It strikes me that before every game Mr Hurst talks about the opposition with such reverence that it's as if every team we face is going to play us off the park. This was certainly the case with Swindon today, and I wonder if this message transmits to the players. If you tell everyone that you're playing the equivalent of Real Madrid every week, some players might believe you. Mr Hurst is right that some of our recent performances have been below par, and we've got away with victories in some of our games away from home. Today we lost this game in the first half, when Swindon admittedly played well but equally we allowed them to and looked frozen in some of our movements until Taylor's excellent goal and the move which led to it. We then improved as if we had suddenly gained belief that we could play until the game-winning goal just before half time. The second half was a different proposition. We fought and played with skill, and had some bad luck. But Swindon, even when down to 10 men, knew what they had to do. Our substitutions were positive and overall we played well in the final 45 minutes, albeit with some moves breaking down. We were fighting and believing, where in the first half and some of the other games we have played in this season, we were playing with fear. We have a decent squad of players and it's up to the manager and his team to instill the belief, not the fear which is so evident.
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