A win without ever really getting beyond third gear at the weekend. Now attention shifts to everyone’s favourite competition, hopefully spiced up a bit by some local bragging rights. Here are some things to look out for:
1) Some changes
Scunthorpe may be local rivals but let’s be honest, it’s the Checkatrade. I’d like a win and so would the Cowleys but I’d rather get some minutes in some other options and have the big guns raring to go on Saturday (partially because I’m going then). The last Checkatrade matchup may even have meant more to our management duo given that we’ve spent more time with the Stags of late. Nevertheless, we still saw 8 changes and 5 of those hadn’t started a League game and still haven’t. Whisper it so the FA can’t hear but we have played and will play a rotated team.
It’s a big opportunity for some too, especially the likes of Gordon and Mensah. Harry Anderson has still featured in every game but has now slipped below Bostwick in the minutes totals and his effectiveness has been erratic. His place in the starting lineup currently looks like the most likely opportunity for a squad player to break in.
2) Some attacking intent
We make no secret of or apology for the fact that we build from a solid defence. It would take something exceptional for a defender rotated in for the Cup games to crack the League side, particularly if there’s a repeat of the leaky back line against Mansfield. As alluded to above, therefore, I feel the most likely squad players to break into the side will be attackers. They will be looking to take this chance and show they offer something our current choices going forward don’t, whether that be in our current system or an alternative.
3) The midfield
The midfield will also be interesting. Firstly as it indicates who will start on Saturday. More immediately important though, it is always interesting to see which dynamics work. We’ve been playing without a traditional shielding midfielder thus far, something unthinkable 12 months ago, with defensive solidity instead coming from more numbers in the middle and better ball retention – in 12 of our 15 games so far, we’ve had at least 50% possession.
This point about possession as a defensive measure is something being picked up more and more throughout the pyramid, perhaps popularised by Manchester City as coaches up and down the land notice that teams chasing the ball for 90 minutes don’t score too many past them. This is supported by the fact that, Wharton and goalkeepers aside, our defensive record is best when the likes of McCartan (1 conceded every 143 minutes, Pett (142 minutes), and Frecklington (140 minutes) play. These are arguably are most comfortable ball-players and, crucially, are players that tend to drive us forward into the opposition half (you tend not to concede many there either).
Due to Rhead’s lack of minute,s it’s important not to write him off completely but, thus far, the direct approach he embodies hasn’t worked well offensively or defensively. With the big man on the pitch, we’ve scored an average of 1 goal every 96 minutes and conceded 1 every 64. So far, keeping the ball better has worked.