I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps the preview is old hat, after all Tom does a superb stats based preview in the week, but for now I’ll keep it up.
City travel to the bottom placed side tomorrow knowing the in reality, a win is a must. We’re promotion candidates and losing two on the bounce is not an option, not when one of those sides is Macclesfield Town who, with the greatest of respect, are floundering.
Macc are likely to line up 4-3-3, with an emphasis on getting the ball forward relatively quick. Their star man has been Koby Arthur, a young man we know well. He had a six-game loan spell at City back in 2014 and showed plenty of promise then. Whether he’s fulfilled it or not is up for debate, but he’s certainly one we might need to watch.
The same can be said for Jordan Ponticelli and Peter Vincenti. a pair of players with League Two experience with Coventry. Neither are thought to be certain to start but, if they do, it might facilitate a switch to 4-4-2.
If Macc do start 4-3-3 that brings the usual problems regarding width and I think there’s an advantage there for us. We have some very exciting wide players and if they’re not as stretched going backwards, they could be devastating going forward. Macc will look to force the ball through the middle of the park, perhaps sensing with Freck out there’s an advantage to be found be narrowing the play.
They’ll want to keep players like Andrade and Anderson out of the game, if they start. I have a sneaky suspicion that Bernard Mensah might get a first start this weekend, maybe at the expense of Harry. Of our two wide players he was the weaker against Crawley and I think Danny will want to shake things up a bit.
At the back there’s a big question mark over the defensive pairing. Jason Shackell’s arrival has cast serious doubt on the role of Scott Wharton, both are left-sided defenders which poses the question how effective they might be as a pair in a flat back four. Bozzy could step into the middle of the park, but that raises questions at the back. If Bozzy is moved up the field, don’t be entirely surprised to see James Wilson return to the starting line up, if he’s fit.
I often focus on the opposition in these previews, but tomorrow is all about how we approach the game. That isn’t meant to be complacent, nor underestimate the opposition, but the game is ours to lose. Danny will want a response and one or two players might be looking to redeem themselves after last week.
One such player has to be John Akinde. He lashed out at a golden chance with the wrong foot which, had it gone in, would probably have set us on our way to three points last weekend. His lumbering, languid style hasn’t endeared him to Imps’ fans, but we’ve seen him when he’s on form. He destroyed Exeter and I think he’ll be better when we get the right player in and around him.
There’s two candidates from my point of view, one being Matt Green. Green is a super striker, no matter what you might believe and if he is fit and firing he would walk into any side in this division, bar none. 17 goals last season and three this season are testament to what he can bring.
Crucially, if he can spark up the partnership with Akinde they’ll be so suited to each other. Green is the runner, busy and eager to get in the channels or get behind the big man. Akinde isn’t Matt Rhead, he won’t be winning flick ons as much, but he’s more mobile and if the ball gets to him and moves on, he’ll be back in the phase of play before you know it.
I would love to see him and Green get a run in a flat 4-4-2, but that does leave Shay McCartan out in the cold, another exciting player who offers something as a potential partner for Akinde. McCartan is more of a deep-lying forward, I’ve likened him to Gazza in terms of style, but he’s suited to a 4-4-1-1. I know that is splitting hairs, essentially being a 4-4-2, but the emphasis is for him to carry the ball forward and feed Akinde, rather than getting ahead of him and posing a problem.
Tomorrow isn’t an easy game, if anything it is tougher than Exeter away. When you’re going somewhere and are not expected to get anything, the pressure isn’t as strong as when you’re expected to cruise to victory. Look at Swindon and Port Vale, two games in which perhaps we could have taken a draw and been happy. Okay, drawing at home wouldn’t have been great against Phil brown’s side, but it wouldn’t have been a disaster, whereas not winning tomorrow would be viewed as a failure. Draw tomorrow and it is two points lost, whereas a draw at Exeter would have been one gained.
Tomorrow, it is all about us and how we go about the game. Mark Yates has a big job to do at Moss Rose, one which will be judged as successful simply by finishing 22nd or higher. That is the harsh reality for them. We both won the National League, but the similarities end there. We have the resources to kick on, we had the desire for a football club in our city. Macclesfield have always been struggling to get fans through the turnstiles, with so many bigger clubs in close proximity. What they’ve achieved in the past has been exceptional, especially when they made it to the third-tier with us in 1998.
They’re not expecting that this season, but we are looking at challenging throughout. By 5pm tomorrow, that difference in aspirations should have manifested itself into three points. It won’t happen by default though, it’ll happen by hard work and setting up the right way.
Betting tips – is there any point? the bookies took a bashing last weekend with a host of surprise results, three of which came in games I’d tipped!! You’d still be in profit if you’d stuck a fiver on each week with me though, so for one more week I’ll throw a tip or two out there. I’m tempted to drop it though because I reckon many of you are better than me at this!
I’ll be taking Preston against Reading this weekend, Reading have had a horrible start to the season, whilst Preston do make short work of struggling sides at home. I strongly suspect Luton will turn over Bristol Rovers in League One, capped off with a draw between MK Dons and Forest Green. £5 would pay out around £60 on Betway at the moment, leaving you in a nice profit for the season despite last week’s nightmare!