Craig Priest looks ahead to tomorrow’s trip to Kidderminster....
A week ago I sat here looking forward to the season ahead, my head full of hopes and dreams of success after success, the truth is football isn’t like that at all and one week on and two games in, we still go in search of our first point of the season – heading for Kidderminster second from bottom in the league standings.
We are in a vicious cycle at the moment as defeat leads to frustration and frustration leads to defeat – it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, we are only one point worse off than this time last term and ended up in a comfortable third placed finish. To quote Jonesy from Dads Army: DON’T PANIC! We can and WILL turn around our “bad form” and progress to where we want to be, football is not all blue skies and sunshine – if you’re not prepared to be dragged through mud and thunderstorms then you’re following the wrong sport in my opinion.
It’s clear to me what, or more pacifically WHO, we are missing – Adam Murray. I said it in my match report on Wednesday and have had numerous conversations about him on my social networking pages this week – his desire, love, willingness and work rate to name a few things are what’s missing from our side, the unfortunate thing is he’s injured and very unlikely to feature at all this season and so we can’t have him on the pitch. The same kind of applies for Martin Riley and Exodus Geohaghon who we’re at the heart of our defence during the play-off run last term – I’ve heard no end of people saying we should try swap deals to get them back or saying ‘that wouldn’t happen if Ex and Riles we’re here’ fact is, they are now with Wrexham and Kidderminster respectively and not us – sorry to be harsh to a few of you but it’s time we dealt with the fact they are NOT our players any more, they are a thing of the past and we should not only accept, but support who and what we’ve got now.
I know I’m breaking my own rule by talking about forgetting last season’s players and then babbling on about the one point difference and I apologise for that but I hope you see that what I’m trying to say and remind everyone of is a lesson we keep forgetting to learn: If you’re constantly looking back as you try and walk forward, your destined for a fall – be grateful of what you’ve experienced, thrive on its memory and just what you’ve got in that moment to walk on to greater things.
Yes we have been making very silly mistakes and they have cost us eight goals so far but we have the individuals and the work ethic somewhere deep inside to put it right. Last term we we’re struck by devastating injuries and had to bring in new faces from elsewhere to shore things up – we can do that now from within, Paul Cox could name practically an entirely different eleven tomorrow afternoon and it would still ooze quality – yes we do have that in our ranks, it’s just about ripping up the page and starting again.
Kidderminster are a very strong side and like us will be disheartened by their start to the season following a 6th placed finished last term, losing out on a play-off spot on the final day of the season because of defeat to us and the Luton result. Their side last term included Luke Jones at the heart of one of the best defences in the division and Nick Wright leading the way for one of the best attacking teams in the league – both are now with us and both capable of producing the goods given the chance. Despite losing the aforementioned duo to us along with other key players such as keeper Tony Breeden (Tamworth) and defenders Michael Briscoe (AFC Telford) and Tom Marshall (Tamworth) they’ve added solid players such as Geohaghon, Keith Briggs and Ryan Austin to their side as they look for a play-off chasing campaign once more. An opening day defeat to Lincoln City and a midweek home loss to Luton has seen them in the same boat as us, asking questions and wondering ‘what if’ – I think tomorrow’s game will be like a new start for both teams and only the team prepared for a war will win the game but progress from it and despite all this negative vibe I’m annoyingly feeling, my heart tells me it will be us.
Paul Cox won’t be afraid to make changes and throw the odd curve ball, once again I’ve no clue about who will play and must stress that whoever is picked, and I’ll trust Cox’s judgement. That said I still have my opinions on who should be involved and I’ll be honest, the first name on the team sheet for me would be Ritchie Sutton. The 26 year old is in my opinion always over looked when it comes to praise, when ever people speak about last season’s defensive turn around post Christmas (which included a further seven appearances for John Dempster) they very rarely mention Sutton who, from New Years Day onwards, started in every game bar Kidderminster on the season’s final day where he was rested but used as a substitute for Luke O’Neill. Sutton was key to the tightness of that impressive back four for me; I’d go as far to say as that he may have even been more key than Geohaghon who now skippers Kidderminster. Playing out position at left back for the majority of that post Christmas run he tightened up a problematic area and commended the box defending set pieces – he is a player that puts his body on the line, playing with guts and guile, there’s an assertiveness about his play and his demeanour within the squad – something I personally feel we’ve missed so far, I spoke about missing Murray’s influence on the pitch I think Sutton can not only be spoken off in the same way but could be the one to fill the role, not as skipper I grant you, but certainly to replicate the vibe I’ve spoken of.
Another name I’ve half mentioned is John Dempster, for me he’d be in alongside Jones with Pilkington the unfortunate one to miss out – a tough call considering he’s captain but I personally feel that Jones offer’s more dimensionally that what Pilkington does if it was a balancing act of replacing either Pilks of Jonah with Dempster. Lee Beevers is obviously suspended so right back is an area that will see a change, Sutton would be ideal although I’d like to see him at left back and the steadiness of Thompson in the right back role with him taking the captaincy. Yes we’d lose the long throw of Owens and wouldn’t be able to fight fire with fire as we know Geohaghon’s going to be launching them in all afternoon long – the beauty of that is we not only know what to expect and how to deal with it, but we also know how to counter from it and be a more flexible unit. In the middle it’s clear a 4-3-3 hasn’t worked and it would be a straight tossup between a flat 4-4-2 and an attacking 4-2-3-1 to incorporate Lee Stevenson – I’d be in favour of the latter as we did this in pre-season and it worked wonders, why we changed to a 4-3-3 in the first place and lost Stevenson in the first place is beyond me!
Last Time We Met:
When Kick off arrives tomorrow it will have been three months and thirteen days since these two last locked horns on the final day of the 2011-12 season, with Kidderminster needing a victory and a Luton slip up to get the final play-off space. Despite the Stags making seven changes ahead of the play-off showdown between either Luton or York, depending on the afternoon’s outcomes, they put in a classy performance running out comfortable 3-0 winners. A red card for Lee Vaughn, serving the last of his three match ban tomorrow, seconds into the second half saw the start of Kidderminster’s stumble before the Stags netted through Lee Stevenson, Louis Briscoe and substitute Matt Green whose strike was his 30th of the season.
The reverse fixture at the One Call Stadium or Field Mill as was back in September saw them running out 3-0 winners ending an eight game unbeaten run which ironically began after a heavy defeat at Gateshead in our second fixture of the season!
The sides first met on Boxing Day 2000 at Aggborough, the Harrier’s running out 1-0 victors. In total tomorrow’s hosts have grabbed a further five wins against the Stags who edge the wins column 7-6 with only three draws occurring over the course of 16 meetings so far. At Aggborough it’s tight however it’s the hosts with the slightly better fortune with 4 wins to our three, only one draw has been played out, the 1-1 meeting in September 2001.
Paul Cox will be without the services of Lee Beevers who serves his one game ban for his midweek dismissal at Gateshead, crunching midfielder Jamie Hand also serves the final match of a four game ban for a straight red card picked up during the penultimate game of last season whilst playing for Hayes and Yeading United.
Ross Dyer and player-assistant Adam Murray are the two on the injury list, with everyone else bar youth graduates Adam Somes (knee) and Scott Rogers (commentary duty! / knock in training) available for selection. As mentioned above the contenders for right back will be Sutton and Thompson, however I wouldn’t be ruling out a start for player-coach Andy Todd either.
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