The Imps festive period has been mixed, with two wins and a draw from four matches seemingly enough to open up a gap at the top of the table.
With Mansfield Town failing to capitalise on our weekend of cup action, it seems our seven points from 12 was actually a good haul. It’s going to be easy to forget some average performances after the heroics against Everton which saw us narrowly beaten.
One of the most striking aspects pf the last few matches has been the resurgence of winger Harry Anderson. It’s easy to forget Harry is still only a young lad, 21 years old and learning all the time. This is the third season we’ve had him in one form or another and as such he feels like an established professional.
With the other signings we’ve made since his arrival, he’s become part of the furniture rather than the exciting capture he was when we brought him from Peterborough. It might even be fair to say he went off the boil a little, struggling after his red card at Luton on new Year’s Day 2018.
As we pressed on towards a play-off place last season, the bullish wide man played his part but wasn’t outstanding. Those who remembered his tenacity from Forest Green away last season were perhaps spoiled, hoping to see that enthusiasm and dedication every week. whilst he didn’t lose any of that positive attitude, I think teams learned to defend against him.
For a while, Harry looked lost when teams came to us with little space in behind the full backs. If a team defended deep, it neutralised the threat of the former Posh player. Instead of having grass to charge into, he had other players and his game has never been fancy flicks or tricks. Bruno Andrade is an obvious talent, always ready to drop the shoulder or roll a foot over the ball, but Harry is raw pace and power, dogged and single-minded when pressing forward.
Even in the early parts of this season he was outshone, to a degree, by Bruno Andrade. Our left side seemed to pose a huge threat, whereas on the right we fizzled out time and again. It even led to quite a lot of social media criticism for Harry, some asking whether he should be dropped. Rumours of a January bid for his services from Doncaster might not have helped, more social media guff that unsettled him and the fans.
In just a few short weeks though, Harry has shown us what he can do. Bruno’s injury and the heavy pitches have combined to make our left side look tepid, but on the other flank we’ve had the same threat as always. A heavy pitch doesn’t bother Harry, nor does a tough full back. He’s not like normal wingers, he’s got the strength of a central midfielder combined with the pace of a proper winger. it’s served him well over the last few weeks, as it has us.
He kicked off his Christmas with a goal against Morecambe and another against Newport, both what I’d term as classic Harry Anderson. One saw him striding in from the right to meet a ball in the area like a proper centre forward, the other saw him rage down the flank before angling a fine shot into the net. His confidence clearly grew and in both games he had a good shout as a potential Man of the Match.
Forgetting Crewe, as is probably best, he then ran the show against Cambridge. We weren’t great but he was exceptional, the only player in a weak first half to have any credit and then again the shining light in the second. His booking was harsh but it typified his desire, launching into an aerial collision determined to win the ball. With a bang on the head to contend with he then surged forward to win the free kick that set us on our way to victory.
I thought he did well on New Year’s Day, despite the poor result, but then against Everton he put in another typical ‘Harry Anderson’ shift. He’s playing with that confidence once more, never a swagger like other wingers, but just a dogged desire. He bundles forward, never glides. He battles for balls and never lets the game pass him by. Even during his so-called off spell he was effective, the goal that opened the scoring against Forest Green came from an Anderson tackle. Remember, this is a winger, a position not usually associated with toughness.
It’s important to remember that he’s only 21 (22 in two days time) and that he has so much more to learn. it’s actually frightening to think he’s almost taken for granted now, he’s been with us so long his attributes can often be lost. He’s scored more goals from open play than anyone in our side this season from out wide.
I think Harry is a player who can get easily affected by things like the Luton red card or criticism on social media, but likewise I think he grows in stature with goals, assists and when the fans are clearly behind him. When cries of “Ooh, ‘arry, ‘arry…. ‘arry, ‘arry, ‘arry, ‘arry, Anderson’ rang out across Goodison Park on Saturday, we might just have been fuelling the tank for a couple weeks of him in red-hot form.
When that is the case, anything can happen.