Just when it looked like we might have turned a corner…
The most damning statistic from yesterday was mentioned early on by the stand-in radio commentators (once they’d figured out how to use the right frequency and turn off Phil Collins). Stevenage have won four times in 2020, scoring just 22 goals (that’s three more than Paul Mullin has since September). Two of those wins, and five of those goals have come against us. Between us and Macclesfield’s dodgy accountants we’re conspiring to keep Stevenage in the league.
Watching yesterday you wouldn’t think it was our near neighbours who were rock bottom of the league and us just outside the playoffs. You wouldn’t think they were much better, as in all honesty they were pretty shite, but to see us still in the mix would be the biggest surprise. Yet again United were sluggish to start, and offered next to nothing in the way of attacks. If you want more details, read the Bradford match report – the performance was much the same, and we called that unacceptable.
To try and pick apart this defeat we should probably look at the players one-by-one, to try and make sense of what’s been happening.
Burton – Did little wrong, but it’s clear he doesn’t instill much confidence in his defence. Made a couple of decent saves but his kicking was woeful at times.
Knoyle – The only player to come out of yesterday with any real credit. A threat going forward.
Darling – Again, didn’t do much wrong but was identified as a weak spot by Stevenage who attacked him constantly.
Taylor – He’s been a good servant to the club, but his distribution is awful and rarely finds another United player. Defending isn’t awful, but a tendency to stand-off players for too long.
Iredale – An off day for him yesterday.
Hannant – It’s been an off-month for Hannant recently. Started the season in electric form, lately he seems pre-occupied with going to ground at any opportunity instead of trying to make chances. Shooting from distance is something that needs to be drilled out of him, and quickly. Rightly bollocked by Kyle Knoyle at the end of the game.
Digby – Hasn’t been the same since the injury, not at his best these last few games but still a strong influence on the pitch. Always second to every ball yesterday.
May – Anonymous in every game he’s played, the referee should have done us a favour and sent him off yesterday.
Dunk – When Iredale plays well, Dunk plays well. Back in the team after a short while out, he wasn’t the player we know he is capable of being.
Ironside – Challenges for everything, but when closely man marked there’s not a lot he can do. United’s tactic seemed to be lump it up to Ironside but we need to be able to change that up when it’s clear it’s not working.
Mullin – If he doesn’t get the service there’s not much he can do.
Davies – At least realised we had to attack if we wanted to get something from the game.
Knibbs – Some nice touches but never really got into the game. Can’t play the Ironside role, so don’t make him.
El Mizouni – Nothing he could have done in ten minutes really. He’ll go back to Ipswich if we don’t use him.
So here’s the some New Years resolutions for Bonner: make changes. Be brave and drop those players who aren’t performing well (Hannant, Taylor, May). Change formation if you have to. 4-4-2 isn’t the only way to play. Stop showing respect to clubs based on their past glories. Bradford, Bolton etc are at the same level as us and deserve to be here and can be beaten. Pin this up in the changing room if you have to and try to inspire the players. We were great at the start of the season. Get us back to that level and we’ll go up. Demand the board back you in January. We’re only one or two signings away from challenging.
We were lucky in that results went our way yesterday – we’re still in the playoff mix, but only just, and automatic promotion isn’t fully out of reach, but will be if we continue to play like that. Like Bradford, that was unacceptable. Stevenage are the whipping boys of the League, and we need to whip them. All our rivals will beat them, so this was three points dropped, no two ways about it. Stevenage deserve no credit, they were absolutely dreadful. But they wanted it more than we did, and that was clear to see. Listening to Bonner’s post match interview he knows it. But what will he do about it is what will define our season.
Man of the Match: No-one.
Soundtrack of the Match (bought to you by BBC 3 Counties Radio): Genesis – Turn It On Again
United: Burton, Knoyle, Darling, Taylor, Iredale (Davies), Hannant, May (El Mizouni), Digby, Dunk, Ironside (Knibbs), Mullin