After four wins from five, City have joined Luton at the top of the form table, as well as joining the Hatters and Notts County in the automatic promotion slots. There’s a long way to go and a lot of football to be played, but to have any time in the top three is an achievement.
On November 21st, just over a month ago, we were ten points adrift of Accrington Stanley in third place. Our recent run has been remarkable, a tough November was rounded off by a resounding 3-1 win against Port Vale and since then, City have looked every inch a top three side.
The return to form has had much to do with the marked improvement in our offering going forward. Anyone who watched Cambridge or Crawley at home will know we looked toothless, but the last few games we’ve been devastating. We’ve only failed to score once in the last six matches whereas the six prior to that we failed to register on three occasions.
Much of the praise has been laid at the feet of strikers Matt Green and Matt Rhead (pictured top). Both have looked excellent recently, the win against Stevenage merely underlined a fantastic month for the duo. Matt Green has bagged himself four goals, Matt Rhead two but Rheady has been instrumental in almost everything good we’ve done. It just seems to have ‘clicked’, although I’d wager it is down to incredible hard work and application behind the scenes.
With the pair looking as dangerous as any pairing in the division, will Danny have altered his January plans? I think even he was beginning to wonder if Matt Green would get through his drought, Green starting on the bench against Crewe and Colchester suggests he may have been. Green needed a goal for confidence, but now he has it would you risk bringing a new face in and upsetting that rhythm? Does his form change the type of player we’re looking for?
Matt Rhead appeared to have had his day too, he struggled early on in the season and lost his starting place a number of times. When he did pair Green they looked like strangers, those waxing lyrical about the pair will do well to remember it was them who started the Crawley game, a match we should have been able to bury in the first half. Instead, we laboured to a dire 0-0 draw, possibly our poorest home performance of the season.
Now, as they both strut around like peacocks flashing their plumes and netting for fun, does Danny need to look again at the names he brings in? Much has been said about Ricky Miller, but can we accommodate the three of them and keep all three happy? Would we do better to look at the ‘second half’ offering and find someone who compliments Ollie Palmer up top to ensure we have four for two positions?
It’s a tough call. Whilst it would be foolish to rule out a move for a player of Miller’s calibre, it would also be folly to bring a big name in when Plan A is working fine, at last. Rhead and Green look as though they’ve played together since the were five at the moment, Rheady mobility hasn’t caused an issue because we’ve got the speed from elsewhere on the field. On Saturday, twice Green broke into the flanks and the ball ended up loose in the six-yard area. Traditionally, his strike partner should have been there, but Rhead was never going to keep up with breaks at pace. Instead, Harry popped up to score in the first half and miss in the second. Has his recent performances had something to do with our strikers new-found prolificacy in front of goal?
Fans eagerly await news of who might join Danny Rowe as a new face this January, but with the side firing on all cylinders as it is, Danny’s recruitment will have to be measured and, of course, respectful to those he already has in the squad. I’ve been critical of our offering from the bench, at 2-0 on Saturday I had a little moan about Palmer, Whitehouse and Ginnelly coming on. I thought it meant game management, running into corners and bringing no goal threat. That wouldn’t be such an issue, but we need more if we’re going to be promoted.
Whitehouse then fed Palmer an exquisite ball, Palmer drew a save from the keeper and Ginnelly slammed home the rebound. Words eaten, I cheered as hard as the rest of them. Perhaps, just perhaps if we had a little more quality from the bench we could have rolled Newport over with ten men on Saturday, but overall even those fringe players are looking to improve and add value. When you’ve got a small squad, you need everyone working hard if you’re going to be a success. We’re third in December, so for all the criticism aimed at different players, they must be doing their bit otherwise we’d be down with Mansfield Town in 8th, or Grimsby in 13th, would we not?
Thanks to Graham Burrell for the photographs