I was going to call this something like ‘things I learned’, but I think the genre gets covered well enough by John Pakey in the Echo, so I guess I’ll just furnish you with a few of my thoughts from yesterdays game against Chester.
As some of you probably know I used to be Poacher and on the odd occasion I get to do it, and yesterday was one of those days. I think recently I’ve found myself becoming more attached to our club again and it felt like my journey was complete when I pulled the suit on yesterday. I moved away to Cambridge you see, that is why I hung up the fur and stopped in the first place. Truth be told I’d become disillusioned with Gary Simpson and the direction the club was taking under him and my love of Poacher was my last real link to the club. However since I’ve become a fully fledged yellow belly again it seems my dormant passion has begun to flourish, and yesterday it came out in bloom once again. The exact moment it flowered again was five or ten minutes before the teams came out. I trotted over towards the Chester faithful to be met with a round of ‘What the f*cking hell is that’. It felt amazing to hear that barrage of abuse once again, and when the chants of ‘paedo’ begun as well I was smiling from ear to ear. As a mascot if the away fans give you stick they’ve noticed you, and therefore you’re doing your job. The 617 boys even replied with a round of ‘who the f*cking hell are you’ back at Chester. Pre match banter prompted. Job done.
I think I also enjoyed the game because my good friend Pete had come over from Sheffield to watch a game. Pete and I used to watch the likes of Colin Alcide and Lee Thorpe labour away on the hallowed turf, so we’ve both unduly suffered watching Lincoln. He’s now a Man Utd season ticket holder but remarked how refreshing it was going to be watching a team of players who were actually trying to win rather than not get beat.
Onto the game and once again CM tried a few different things. Given that he’s on his way and a new guy is coming in it did surprise me a little that the likes of Eliot Hodge got a run out. Is there a signal that the next manager of the club was in the ground? Given the amount of camera phones people carry there wasn’t anyone in particular caught out on social media, but David Preece revealing he is interested in management might be a teaser for us. Who knows? Mind you some of the names mentioned will have had games yesterday won’t they? Billy Heath and Dennis Greene were both winning matches in the league below us. I was quite happy when I heard Preece was interested in managing after the game as a part of me feels internal is the best way to go in order to achieve continuity.
Going back to young Eliot Hodge, he really impressed me yesterday. He looked quick with a good eye for a ball, but most of all he looks like a strong little bugger who won’t be knocked about easily. I think one of my issues with Connor Robinson is that he can look lightweight, but Hodge reminded me of a Jack Russell, diminutive but not one to be bullied. Of all of the youngsters I’ve seen this season he has stood out the most. His ball into the box often lacked height, but they were always whipped into a dangerous area, and he clearly wanted to impress as he covered every blade of grass, swapping wings with Caton when he wanted to.
I’m not as impressed with George Maris despite his goal. He came on at half time and for me he’s deceptively slow. He looks like he’s running quick but I don’t think he has that turn of pace that a couple of the other guys have. He also had a tendency to hang on to the ball long after it should have been delivered. I have a theory on that though, these players perhaps want to stand out in order to try and gain a new deal, and who ever stood out by playing the easy ball? I’m not the manager and I won’t be at any time in the future, but if I were I’d let George Maris go back to Barnsley at the seasons end. That isn’t a criticism of the lad, but I think we already have better in the area he would be adding to.
The game itself was interesting if not scintillating. Chester clearly came for a draw and at times in the first half had ten men behind the ball which made them difficult to break down. It wasn’t a classic, although Robbie McDaid’s header before half time made Chester change things up at the break. I thought once they brought the big lad Alabi on they began to look threatening, although it may have been his physical presence or it may have been that Lee Beevers wasn’t having a good game at all. He got in a real mess for the goal, although Echo Man of the Match Terry Hawkridge lost the ball just prior to the move and didn’t chase it back. I had to chuckle because had that been Alan Power a section of our support would have highlighted it all over the internet before the Chester fans had stopped singing! I disagreed with John Pakey this week, I think the sponsors got the MOM spot on in picking Jack Muldoon. He didn’t have any joy in front of goal but he worked hard and was always available. He’s another important player that will be crucial next season.
CM showed that the criticism of not changing and reacting to situations is wrong when he brought big Matt Rhead on and I’m concerned about rumours he’s going next season. He is immobile, he doesn’t put himself about nearly enough and he is built like a bouncer but there’s no doubt he scares teams. We had our best spell once he came on, and although some of his lay offs went awry I have a suspicion if he leaves next season for Barrow we will really live to regret it. Him and Muldoon look capable of forming a decent partnership over time, it’d be a shame to see a twenty a season man going out of the door. Pete did notice after the goals that as everyone ran to congratulate Maris, Rhead was looking for someone to come and pat him on the back for the flick on. Some might see that as arrogance, but perhaps as a striker you need a bit of that? Perhaps he was just happy with yet another assist.
I thought Bradley Wood had a cracking game again. He seemed to sit in front of the back three in a role his combative style really suits, and although he didn’t produce anything outstanding he looked capable of providing that workaholic midfielder service that few recognise (think David Batty or Scott Kerr). It’s hard to tempt any MOM awards doing the dirty work, but I didn’t see him play many passes wrong or miss too many tackles. I also noticed we were very quick to the second balls in midfield when Wood was challenging. He never knows he’s beaten and I suspect when his lottery numbers don’t come up he keeps checking the same ticket over and over refusing to accept he’s lost.
There was lots of comments about Alan Powers absence and as I understand it there was a slight injury concern and with nothing really riding on the game it wasn’t sensible to risk him. However there’s no doubt we did miss his industry, and I feel him and Wood could make a good midfield duo. Power is creative and he could be freed up a little more knowing the engine behind him isn’t going to let him down.
The fact is whatever happened yesterday is largely irrelevant. CM was looking at the squad but it won’t be his decision in May who stays and who doesn’t. If the new manager was in the ground then maybe it holds more relevance, and I suppose for those paying best part of £20 every game and every win holds some form of relevance.
For me of course it wasn’t anything during the 90 minutes that will stand out, but finally hearing that oh so sweet abuse from the visiting faithful. It’s why I really want to end todays blog not with words or some heartfelt and genuine sentiment about players / managers / match day announcer etc, but just a photo. It’s a photo of the Chester fans approx. 10 seconds after George Maris had put us 2-1 up, and it’s a photo of the same people who an hour and a half earlier had been calling me a paedophile because I wear a mascot costume. Enjoy your trip home lads, and thanks for reminding me why I bloody love it when I can be Poacher!