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Youth Team
Sep 22, 2006
I was impressed with a much improved display this week.  The lads fought and battled hard, and had more desire than they showed in the Cardiff game.  If they pull up their socks and continue to play like that, results will come. Didn't think much of Coventry and don't expect them to be challenging on the basis of that performance. Felt we outplayed them in large chunks of the game and the only worse team I've seen this season home or away is Stoke.

Now to break it down.  Going forward, I thought we looked superb.  The short passing style was on show tonight and it looked quite tasty.  There was excellent movement and we always seemed to look dangerous.  Harrold was brilliant, causing nuisance, winning free kicks (rather than conceding them), flicking the ball on with his head and holding it up to wait for support.  Freddy looked very dangerous and his movement, especially for our second goal, was fantastic.  Special mention to Gower too, who bombed forward, beat his man regularly and got some good crosses in, as well as switching to the other wing and cutting inside to spray out some low passes.

However, it's well and good looking good going forward, but it ain't going to work until we stop conceding at the back.  Although we looked better today, there were a few too many occasions when we let McKenzie and Adebola get in behind us and if it weren't for a superb save from Flavs in the first half, we would have been a goal down.  Who knows what could have happened from there?  The right side of defence, for me, is a particular problem.

So here goes my first attempt at ratings:
Flavs - 7 - SUPERB save and follow-up smother in the first half from a McKenzie header after Cameron was afforded too much room on the right to get a cross in.  Made a few good blocks at feet and commanded his area well.  Couldn't have done much for their goals.  Looked like his vision was blocked for Hughes' goal, as was it in the melee in our defence for Adebola's.

Francis - I'm going to give two ratings here - defensive 5 - attacking 7 - I think he looked superb going forward.  Took their full back and wide midfielder on, bombed forward quickly and whipped in some superb crosses from deep positions. His defending was a different matter.  Gave away the penalty out of desperation after he got skinned by Cameron, who kept switching over from the right wing, and got skinned by him again in the build up to their third.  I would give serious consideration to keeping him and Hunt in the team but swapping them over as I think Francis, after his attacking display tonight, would be great out wide in midfield.

Hammell - 7 - Solid.  Made some good tackles (surprisingly) and did not see too many stray balls from him tonight.  Looked great again going forward, sprayed some good passes and supported Gower well.

Barrett - 7 - Looked better tonight than against Cardiff.  Dealt reasonably well with McKenzie, got in some good clearing headers and made a good few forages forward too.  I fear that his lack of height is a problem for us against teams with big forwards, as was shown when he marked Adebola sometimes. Also deflected the ball into the path of Adebola for his goal. Bad mistake there. Unlucky to get wicked deflection on Hughes' shot for the first Coventry goal.

Prior - 7 - Pleasantly surprised.  I didn't see him put a foot wrong.  Solid but not spectacular, got in some good interceptions and headers.  Great flying header from a corner in the second half that smashed against the upright. Massive improvement.

Hunt - 6 - For me, quite ineffective going forward as he isn't adventurous enough, but he looked good when coming back to support the defence and, in particular, Francis.  Hence the reason why I'd swap them.

Maher - 9 (MOM) - Superb tonight.  Very commanding and imposing performance.  Looked busy, passing was great, especially for Eastwood's goal (great vision and judgment before providing the defence splitting pass).  Also looked helping out the defence, made one especially good block and tackle in the second half from McKenzie before setting up an attack.  Also, great shot in second half, never seen him hit a ball so hard.  One of the goals of the season had it gone in.

Guttridge - 7 - Nothing spectacular. Solid enough, sprayed some good passes.  Felt he got caught in possession too much and dalleyed on the ball a little.  Needs to think on his feet more quickly and look for the movement of others.

Gower - 8 - Ran Maher close.  I don't know where the guy gets his energy from.  He is ALWAYS running, closing down and hassling the opposition.  Great passing and looked good with ball at feet going forward, successfully beating his opposite number and whipping in some dangerous crosses.

Harrold - 8 - I've been impressed with this guy.  Wasn't sure how effective he'd be starting, but I was impressed.  He was a huge nuisance tonight.  Getting in some great headed flick-ons, which Freddy could have been more alert too.  Also held the ball up superbly well before looking up and passing to an oncoming man in a good position.  Seems to have a good footballing brain, and certainly ruffle some feathers.

Eastwood - 8 - Only criticism is that I feel he needs to be alert to Harrold's flick ons.  Should drop off a bit and wait rather than going for the same ball, as he often did tonight.  But the understanding will come with time and I think this partnership is the way forward.  Fantastic defence splitting run to score his second goal, beat the offside trap, full of running and closing down and looked good with the ball at his feet.


Campbell-Ryce - 7 - Looked good when he came on in place of Hunt.  Surprisingly saw him beat a man ONCE and attempt a cross, only to have it blocked.  Looked busy and dropped deep often to fight for repossession of the ball.

Hooper - 6 - Not enough time to shine when replacing Harrold.  Chased balls to no avail, and only got hold of ball once out wide right only to get slide tackled.  Our attack looked weak when he came off, as he is two similar to Freddy and we had no height and nuisance like we did with Harold.  Needs to be deployed out wide right or just behind a front two.

Feel free to criticise/agree and be constructive!