It’s been something that’s come up time and again this season and the bug keeping the Cobblers from really pushing on in all fronts this season is the frailties being shown at the back. The summer clear out of big players like Mark Hughes and Chris Doig meant suitable replacements had to be found…so far it’s not been good viewing and the defensive signings made by Stuart Gray to attempt to propel us back to League One are not working well.
Pace is the general theme of goals against with the odd individual mistake thrown in for good measure and it’s simple, it’s not working. To be fair to Sammo he can do nothing short of bringing himself on at the moment with no transfer window until January and he has to work with what he has.
This is where the Cobblers boss needs to be clever, think back to the “good old days” and remember the promotion campaigns of old. Was Sammo himself speedy? Could Razor catch the quickest of forwards? Not on your life. Did Sean Dyche have players in his pocket from sheer speed of his reactions? No chance. But one thing linking all of those was that the lack of pace was supplemented by two, yes TWO others.
Let’s go back to the Atkins era (go on, you know you want to!) and the back line that kept out Swansea City at Wembley, the defence that had steered us to many a victory through sheer doggedness. The line up that day in front of Woody was Clarkson, Frain, Sammo, Warbuton and Rennie. No pace whatsoever in the back three of Sammo, Razor and Rennie yet it worked because there were three of them. One mistake, one ball over the top was easier dealt with when we had three covering each others’ backs.
When Sean Dyche was brought in for 2006, Luke Chambers and Chris Doig covered for him whilst later on Mark Hughes would replace Chambers to help us to comfortable League One safety. Again, a case for three at the back.
This season we’re left bemoaning the back line. Chris McCready, Craig Hinton and Dean Beckwith all seem as muddled and dodgy as each other so why not bung them all in (replacing one with the giant Pat Kanyuka where available) and that means should any mishap occur they have cover, giving us all a bit more confidence in them. Paul Rodgers and Liam Davis are more than adequate wing backs whilst Andy Holt can also do a job on the left side of a five.
As for the rest, Luke Gutteridge would be pushed into the middle where he’s so sorely missed when put out wide and Gilligan and Curtis can use their individual talents in midfield (though i’m still in the Alex Dyer fan club and can’t see shy Curtis is being played in such a position that he’s seemingly never played).
And that my friends is how to do it. Of course, this is not Football Manager (or one of the other equally as good football manager simulation games out there)and what do I know?
I know the defence needs sorting before we get very found out.