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U's 1 Carlisle 1 - Noah's View
U's 1 Carlisle 1 - Noah's View
Saturday, 24th Aug 2013 20:20 by Noah4x4

You only need look at the statistics to understand why Carlisle have a goal difference of minus 12 and the U's (perhaps briefly) have a top four place - now unbeaten in four games, but having scored only four goals.

U's Vs Carlisle
22 Shots 11
8 Shots on target 5
14 Corners 5

I don't think I have ever seen the U's so dominant at WHCS, but why can't we translate the wonderful fluent football that we are now playing into more venomous shots on target and goals? 8 on target from a phenomenal 22 shots isn't a bad ratio, but in truth, few troubled the visiting goalkeeper, and we could so easily have lost, against the run of play and natural justice.

Interestingly, the statistics suggest Carlisle had 49% possession. That can only indicate how much time was wasted with the ball in goalkeeper Gillespie's hands, or whilst a Carlisle defender feigned injury or some other misdemeanour. Given the flurry of U's bookings for time wasting last week, such inconsistent refereeing makes no sense. The U's were by far the better side and dominated possession and it was only the home side that captured the interest of any neutrals that may have been present.

We were un-Dunne by a defensive lapse in the fourth minute which led to an outstanding shot (why can't we hit strikes like that?) and throughout the match by a tactical issue that MUST be resolved. The pun is deliberate. Joe, the combination of Okuonghae and Wilson is becoming far too prone to errors. I am probably being far too harsh on Brian, but Magnus is becoming a definite liability, and attackers seem to escape too easily from him, notably at set pieces.

But on a positive defensive note, With Dickson absent ill, Tosin Olufemi switched flanks in John White style (but with far more skill and flair) and despite obvious attempts by the visitors to target and overwhelm his youth he stood firm. Tom Eastman was at his best too. Whilst retaining his no nonsense approach to defending, Tom has at last fully adapted to the fluent ‘on the deck' football we now favour, and is fast rising as arguably our most vital asset.

But the big tactical worry for me is that whilst the newspapers might suggest a formation like 4-2-3-1 (n.b. I am not quite sure what it is, against Peterborough I thought 4-2-2-2!), there is rarely the forward "1". We seem to be playing four defenders, one defensive midfielder (David Wright or Bean) and then five midfielders, with nobody actually leading the line, even after late game substitutions.

It is wonderful to watch our approach play with the front five swirling like a flock of starlings on an autumn evening. It's also good (in theory) to have any one of four playing the main striking role, but this is not leading to a flurry of goals. We always seem to end up in fine attacking positions with the ball under full control in the opposition corners, then nobody in the middle (hence rarely a ‘cross from the bye-line'), and the ball then has to go back towards the half way line whilst we probe again. It is tactically fast, fluent, then STOPS on the edge of the penalty area because most League One defences are too well organised.

This perhaps isn't anything to do with our personnel that are all very skilful. It is simply that nobody seems to be taking the responsibility as the primary front runner. Jabo runs his heart and legs off, but still plays as if a midfielder and more often as not ends up wide. Then, we are reliant on Massey and Watt to come inside, but instead they (albeit competently) remain available for the midfield pass. Sears also always seems to me to be too deep. I lost count of the number of times the U's were rampaging out of defence and one cutting through ball to a swift attacker right down the middle might have been decisive, but to whom? It is as thought we want to walk the ball into the net.

I would like to see Sears given a free, more traditional Jimmy Greaves or Gary Lineker (goal poacher) type role, or maybe we do need a new 20 a season striker? In theory, Morrison fits the bill, but not in practice.

Overall, my opinion is that this U's team, and its manager, is on the brink of greatness, subject to the resolving central defence (Magnus) and a tad more clarity in attack. The latter just needs one of our front four to say "keep feeding the ball to my feet and I aim to score" instead of dancing to the tune of "let's do a neat one-two and go round in neat circles to nowhere". Our fleet of foot cavalry down the flanks are superb, but we need one more bit of more artillery in the middle. That is more likely to be Sears than Jabo, but will Freddie take the responsibility if given to him? This is not to say that Jabo shouldn't play, simply that he is an excellent ball winner, and we need runners feeding off him, and not the reverse.

Photo: Action Images

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