2:05pm Monday 10th February 2014
By John Light
“I PICKED a team to work hard and win the game”. These words were uttered by Scott Bartlett in response to a question by Bob Hunt, following Scott’s first game as caretaker manager. The question was asked because there were some significant omissions following the previous game. This had been yet another defeat.
We all know what happened. Scott’s team won, as did the team he selected for the next game, although by now Ady had arrived and was on the touchline. Those two games and especially those six points could prove to be the pivotal point in the season. League form has improved so much that, as matches will now come thick and fast, anything can happen.
Players will be injured and perhaps suspended but there are at least 20 players of proven Conference quality at The New Lawn. Every position is properly covered.
Of course there was quality during Dave Hockaday’s reign; that was what made it so frustrating. The previous season ended in collapse. There were five straight defeats. This column did not advocate a managerial change and in that instance I was mistaken, but it did ask for and expect major changes in the way we played.
This did not happen and what we were seeing at the start of the season was more of the same and it got worse. For me the nadir was the home defeat at the hands of a limited Tamworth side. The words of one of their players – words that were so correct and so damning still rankle - “We came to press, to mark closely and tackle quickly. We did not guess it would be so easy.”
They would not get away with that now. AP has looked at the team, looked at the players and put things right. The change of attitude is there for all to see and the signing of a forward who has played at the highest level was a master stroke. Lee Hughes does not only play well, he brings out the best in those around him.
Now we have a centre half who will effectively cure a long standing problem.
At 6ft 7ins Luke Oliver will improve our aerial defending. A weakness in this area has cost us goals and more importantly points, the best example is the match at Halifax (sadly there are many others). Rovers had started brightly, were dominating the game when Halifax scored with a header from a corner.
It looked at the time the scorer had a free header and the TV highlights confirmed it. They were now in front and hung on to their fortunate lead.
In his first post match conference the new manager highlighted our weakness in the air as a major problem. Hopefully he has now solved it.
The left back position has been a cause of concern since Chris Stokes was insured. Being an admirer of Ed A/A I thought he could prove an adequate deputy, but his attacking play was spoiled by poor crossing and a determined winger could get past him.
We saw this clearly at Hereford, where the opposing right sided player left Ed for dead and had time and space to set up the winning goal.
A determined, loyal player A/A has in fairness not let us down in the past and of course he is more at home on the right. I hope his day will come again, but he has work to do to get back in the side.
The loan player from Crystal Palace looked splendid going forward, but try as hard as he could defence was not an area where Jerome Williams excelled. There were too many lines when he was rescued by fellow defenders. It will be interesting to see who fills that position when we see Turley at right-back and Hodgkiss on the left or perhaps Eddie will play there.
The postponement of the Barnet game will have pleased one person very much. Bob Hunt is a Barnet boy through and through. London friends of his were coming to the game. Bob however had an important other engagement.
Known in West Country ‘am dram’ circles as one of the best pantomime dames of the Severn Vale Bob was playing that role in the Berkeley Players production of Snow White- another fine performance I am sure. SNJ Ash, Joycie and myself are sure to hear about it!
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