10:22am Monday 28th April 2014
By John Light
“TEACHING them how to play is the easy bit. It is teaching them how to win that is the difficult bit.”
Kiwi cricket coach John Bracewell could have been talking about Forest Green Rovers not our county cricket club.
The common factor of the season is that too many matches that could or should have been won have been drawn or lost because of self-inflicted wounds.
Ten red cards and perhaps 13 penalties head the list. Add on the failure to win first or second ball at too many corners and set pieces and you have what amounts to a collection of suicide notes.
Looking at the final league table one match stands out in importance. It is the game at Halifax. Rovers were on top until the home team scored with an unchallenged header from a corner. That goal decided the match. It did more than that, it propelled Halifax forward to the play-offs and they became stronger contenders than us.
Having given that simple goal away our confidence and courage vanished and we were no longer a threat. The two main tasks that confront our manager were clearly evident that day.
First of all our aerial defending must be improved. Our ‘goals against’ column is a disgrace. Perhaps it would not be so bad if we were not so sluggish in dealing with the second ball. If the first challenge is won, the second is lost, our midfield being too often outpaced and outmuscled.
First on my shopping list would be two midfielders – swift, strong, incisive and decisive. Of course they will be hard to find but they are needed.
This leads on to the second task and it is difficult. I could use several words such as character, resolve, courage or just heart. Leaders are needed in the dressing room and on the field. If we can produce a team that plays with maturity and resolution the crippling disciplinary problems will vanish.
League tables do not lie and no one will be satisfied with tenth place. I am certain had we started with Ady Pennock in charge the wretched September/October slump would not have happened and a play-off place would be ours. That fact must give us all confidence for next season.
Many players will leave. My list starts with Ed A/A, Brogan, Williams and Walker. Jamie Turley and Paul Green have revealed by Twitter that they have moved on as has goalkeeper Adam McHugh.
Some departures will certainly shock us, but can be explained in several ways. Firstly the team is not performing well enough.
League tables do not lie and we are tenth. Too many of our squad are under-achieving.
Secondly Ady’s budget is cut. This is understandable. “It is still competitive,” he said on Saturday, explaining he would be operating with a smaller squad.
Mrs Pennock has been told there will be no family holiday as the manager will make personal sacrifices to lead our club forward.
He and the chairman have a proper vision for this club and it is one that everybody should buy into. It can be summed up in two words, league football.
There will be frustrations. Inadequate players on long contracts will still be with us.
This is an inherited problem. Happily such contracts are a thing of the past, Ady wanting ‘hungry players’.
The squad have been spoken to collectively and individually about what is expected.
They have seen evidence of the ‘Pennock power jet’. This happened in the away game at Barnet.
I have never seen players looking as shell-shocked when they emerged after half- time. With Ady everyone now knows where they stand. We should all share his hopes for the new season.
Despite the low league position I have enjoyed this season. Remembrance Day, Ambassador’s Day and Saturday’s Youth Day have been fine occasions.
It has been an honour to be part of the excellent coverage this newspaper gives readers. The SNJ Ash videos are a splendid innovation.
Roll on next season.
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