I know how much everyone will miss John Pakeys ‘five things’ reports, so I thought I’d wade in with one early doors myself.
I finally got to a friendly last night and had an opportunity to see the new look Imps in the flesh. There was plenty to take in, and with it being a meaningless friendly plenty to disregard. The actual score is irrelevant, the real interesting parts are team selection and how certain players look to be reacting to their surroundings. Here’s five things I learned from Peterborough.
1: James Caton probably won’t be an Imp next season. His omission from the squad gave a pretty strong message about his future, something that was confirmed after the game by DC. The deal isn’t completely dead, but it’s also no longer active business. It does come as a bit of a surprise as Caton has been virtually ever present in pre season. Their are rumours that he doesn’t track back enough but I suspect it’s more about the type of player he is. Caton is a wide player with the ability to cut inside as well. However it looks like Jack Muldoon will be deployed out wide, and Hawkridge too probably when he comes back from injury. I’m sure there’s also much hope being placed in Eliot Hodge stepping up this season as well. Maybe it’s just a case of too many players of a similar ilk.
2. Alan Power has found a decent barber. This one is self explanatory really. I have poor eyesight and without the hipster haircut he was a little harder to spot, especially when his usual trade mark twists and turns are being replicated by Taylor Miles as well. I’ll bring my glasses next time, cheers Alan.
3. Bradley Wood doesn’t change. He was up and down the line all night last night, and friendly or not he was in the thick of the action kicking whatever moved around him. He has a basic remit which is clear to see, win the ball, pass it and then get down the channel. His final ball in wasn’t always on the mark, but the sheer number of times he was able to overlap is encouraging. Full backs and wingers alike won’t want a player of his drive coming at them, and his style will surely leave him amongst the favourites of the fans. I haven’t ever seen him have a bad game.
4. The Braintree boys certainly bring something. The two we’ve seen enough of both look incredibly handy players, and look able to deliver on their billing as bright young stars. We’ve lacked that ball winner and distributor in the middle of the park for a few seasons now. Both Craig Stanley and Matt Sparrow tried it last year but didn’t mak it, and players like Gary Mills and Mo Fofana have failed to make it theirs. However in Alex Woodyard we do appear to have found a player with the ability to protect the back four and allow a creative man ahead of him to cause trouble. Usually that’s Power, but having seen Taylor Miles I suspect the freshly shorn Irishman will have to fight hard for his place. When I saw West Ham were his educators I thought he might have a bit about him, and he looks tricky with a wicked delivery. We haven’t had a free kick taker of note since Dean Keates (Sean Newton doesn’t count. Probably can’t count) and I suspect Miles might just thrive in the part time game. West Ham know their players, and he will have been brought up on a diet of passing and creativity.
Sam Habergham we haven’t seen enough of, but the performance of Lee Beevers did make me come home hoping he gets some minutes under his belt soon. I think Lee is better in the centre of defence as a back up for Jamie McCombe, his pace isn’t great and he simply doesn’t cause enough problems down the other flank. I’m sure when Sam is back we’ll pose a threat down both wings, a weapon crucial to us scoring plenty of goals.
5. Matt Rhead. Initially I’d planned this blog to be all about him, but I like to get plenty of words down, so I just saved the most striking thing I noticed until last. Matt Rhead has had his copybook blotted somewhat over the past few weeks. He didn’t win an award at the end of the season and after the campaign he had he was desperately unlucky not to. His transfer request tarnished his reputation a little, and nobody really expected him to still be here less than a fortnight before the big kick off: but here he is. I tell you what as well: he still looks the business.
I think his attitude has been spot on, and his work rate has picked up significantly. In those final games of the season he looked lethargic and lazy, but we now know he was carrying an injury and playing through the pain barrier. Now he’s looking sharper and moving much more freely than he was. If he stays on board, the signs are he could be a big player again, and I don’t mean that literally.
Last night his knock downs were intelligent and measured. He does more with his chest alone than some strikers do with their feet, he seems to have an ability to get power into a ball simply by sticking his chest out. He won a majority of his headers and I saw him at least once deliver the ball out wide and then make a thirty yard run to try and get on the end of it. So he missed a penalty, it isn’t a barometer of his overall performance.
It would have been easy for his head to drop, but I think he is aware he could now be here next season. There’s little doubt he was expecting a move to Barrow, and as a player in his early thirties he would have fancied a bit of a payday to help set him up. I wonder if his injury has made Paul Cox think twice about investing too much in him? £10k was derisory for our leading scorer, but more would have been a risky investment. It could be that Barrow are waiting for him to get fit before upping their bid, but with the recent signing of Byron Harrison it could also be that they’ve decided their money is better invested in a less risky player. If that’s the case then Matt needs another big season to keep his stock high for another year, as he’ll want a contract somewhere once he’s seen this one out.
There’s no doubting his talent. I thought his goal against Eastleigh was our goal of the season, his technique was superb and he twisted acutely to get in position to deftly flop the ball into the net. The fact that it is followed closely by his over head kick from outside the area shows there’s much more to the big man than just physicality. That said, he has physicality as well, and he must terrify goal keepers and defenders alike. Matt Rhead is a little bit different, he’s someone that can have the ball in the air and at his feet and have some method of getting it held up or moved on. If he got it right all the time he wouldn’t be here, but he has enough to change games, and we’ll need that next season.