On Wednesday night we ground out a vital 1-0 win over Bradford Park Avenue to move us up to fifth. However, did the late goal from young Harvey Saunders hide what had been a very poor performance?
Disappointing display all round
For the majority of the match, we looked second best against a Bradford PA side who have only just moved away from the relegation zone in recent weeks.
Recently we have played three central midfielders in Falkingham, Syers and Turnbull, while this gives us a more solid base it lacks creativity and it often leaves us relying on Thompson to create something out of nothing.
If we played through midfield this formation makes sense, but too often we bypass them all and go long to Beck.
Bradford were happy to let our defenders have the ball even up to the half way line, knowing that our only option would be a long punt into the box. Beck has done fantastic for us this season, but this formation is leaving him too isolated.
As the game went on the only way I could see us scoring was a hopeful ball or a set piece just falling to us right in the box. Fortunately, Thommo provided the spark and Saunders was there to pick up the pieces after Beck had been unlucky not to grab the winner himself.
Thompson is so often that player who makes something happen, as he has done over the last five seasons, but Josh Gillies was brought in to the club last summer to do the same. After a great start for us, he has gone missing since the turn of the year. Yes, he hasn’t been starting as much, but on Wednesday he was given a chance and looked disinterested from the outset.
Regardless of which division we end up in next season, I expect quite a large overhaul in the summer with many of the squad being moved on, Gillies is a prime candidate at the moment not to be here in August.
At the other end of the pitch, despite keeping a clean sheet we looked vulnerable against a side that for the majority of the game set up with their eyes only on earning a point. Twice we nearly had a repeat of the Gainsborough’s second goal on Saturday with a breakdown in communications at the back.
My final negative not just from last night, but in general since we started to slip after October is that it isn’t an easy watch at the moment. While we are winning, fans will be happy regardless of how we play, but for those fans who come to watch the odd game, they won’t be entertained regardless of the result. I’m sure this won’t bother Martin Gray though.
On the plus side
However, despite all of my comments above, there are still a lot of positives. We are now fifth, level on points with third-placed Halifax and fourth placed Salford. I’d of taken this at the start of the season and for our first year at this level being where we are is a great achievement.
With six games left, we have a great chance of finishing in the play-offs. Yes, we have some tough matches, including trips to Fylde and Salford, but we have a chance.
Despite my earlier gripes about our defence, we have now kept three clean sheets in four games, our best run of the season. Adam Bartlett looked shaky at times on Wednesday, but made a great save and gathered a dangerous cross late on.
Without doubt one of the true highlights of the season is seeing Saunders emergence and the future looks very bright for him. His hunger, determination and raw pace all will endure him to the fans, he could play a crucial part in the run in.
Next up is Fylde in what is a huge game on Saturday with Kidderminster also meeting Halifax. If we wanted a time to play Fylde it is now, but with Kiddy suddenly breathing down their necks for the title they may come back to life. Regardless of other results a point would be good and would us up well for the final run in.