Craig Priest speaks of how the Reserve Team could help solve the first team issues...
After an indifferent start for the first team Paul Cox will undoubtedly be mulling over changes ahead of Saturday’s match with Woking, but the thing is those who haven’t played and could be in the managers mind lack fitness and sharpness – step forward the reserve team, game one for the reserves could well be the most important game for the club as a whole so far this season.
Personally I don’t think it’s important for Cox in terms of watching and forming idea’s, I think the importance factor lies in the dressing room as those on show can go out and say to Cox and his backroom staff ‘Here I am, this is what I can do – play me!’
A lot of the talk recently has been about the size of the squad, is the fact its high a negative – I’ve been saying since day one ‘No’ as with the reserve team we’ve a platform to keep player’s happy, get them minutes and most importantly, prepare those waiting in the wings for first team football with regular competitive action which is to a similar standard to what the first team play – The reserve league is just that.
After the full time whistle yesterday questions were being asked over the selection, why have John Thompson, Lee Stevenson and Jamie Hand etc not been picked? Not for a second is it because there ‘Reserve Team’ players, but by playing in that side tomorrow night – they put themselves in the shop window and have competitive football under their belts – this time around with the second string side we won’t be filling it with trial players like the McEwan/ Holdsworth days of 2008-09 when we finished bottom of the Central League Central Division, we have an abundance of quality to pick from and in truth, the side we could potentially field tomorrow against Port Vale could be a tough play-off challenging side in the BSBP.
Before you all take out your Craig Priest voodoo dolls again, let me stress I am a huge fan of Alan Marriott, however after five games conceding 15 goals should the keeper take some of the questions like the four in front of him and would a change between the sticks be a help or hindrance to first team affairs. Shane Redmond is probably one of the forgotten names at the minute and whilst a lot don’t seem to rate him, I am of the opinion he is a very good shot stopper and should be given the chance to prove what he can do. Last season he played just the one game against Kidderminster and kept a clean sheet, despite the now infamous and rather legendary spider-crawl, all was solid and the promise of what could be was there. I’ve been privileged enough to watch the Irish Glovesman in various friendly’s and can say his shot stopping is to a fine standard, with his command of the box at a good standard too.
I don’t know if it’s the amount of competitive football he’s played over the past few seasons which devalues him in the minds of some supporters or if it’s the high regard we have for Marriott – whatever it is doesn’t hide the fact he’s a good keeper and, with minutes under his belt in the Reserves, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be battling for a start. Nobody’s place in the first eleven is safe, this should include Marriott and if Redmond has a strong game for Andy Todd’s reserves tomorrow I see no reason why he shouldn’t be considered to face Woking.
Moving onto the back four John Thompson and George Pilkington, our two marquee signings from the past two summers are likely to get a run out – however it’s the other too I express interest in, tomorrow could see a first look at new addition Ryan Tafazolli and another look at youngster Jake Green. The former comes with a good report, tall and strong – likes a tackle and is, if reports are true, a commanding player whilst the latter, brother of Matt, has bags of pace and can play in either full back role – attributes which we may have lacked in recent games.
With Gary Roberts suspended for Saturday’s home match with Woking they’ll be an extra midfield slot up for grabs, for me it’s a three horse race between Godfrey Poku and the two Jamie’s, Hand and Tolley, all three offer different options for Cox and will most probably be the midfield tomorrow night. What about Lee Stevenson I hear you bellow at your screen, I consider him more of an attacking option and agree with the comments that he should have been involved by now, what is the point of going all pre-season with him as the lynch pin of our attack in that dominant 4-2-3-1 formation only to switch it for the season? A good performance from him tomorrow night could remind Cox of the player who was so prolific in Eastwood’s good fortune two seasons ago and be the remedy he is looking for.
In attack there’s bound to be another run out for Ben Hutchinson, another forgotten, over looked and underrated member of our squad. I hear a lot of folk saying he should have been released in the summer, however in pre-season I think he looked sharp and was beginning to get that glint in his eye of a comfortable, confident, in form player – all he needs is games. Nick Wright too could get some minutes under his belt, a platform for him to show why Kidderminster were so desperate to keep hold of him in the summer.
No matter how you look at it, the Stags have so many strong options who haven’t featured regularly this term for the first team – I look forward to seeing what in pact tomorrow’s game will have going into Saturday’s home encounter with Woking and then Tuesday night’s match with Tamworth.
The Reserve league is a funny one this term to say the least with two leagues in one, with 17 scheduled fixtures in total – Nine will be played under the divisional tag, kicking off tomorrow night against Port Vale. We have now been confirmed as a Division 2 side, a selection of the sides from Division 1 are in our Regional Group, where there are eight fixtures starting with a trip to Rotherham United on October 31st. There will be two league tables, everyone plays each other the once with the venue determined on a luck of the draw basis. The winners from Division 1 and 2 play each other at the end of the season to determine the overall winner, the same happens in the ‘West’ section with the two winners (east and west) playing a final to determine an overall winner.
To further explain the divisional splitting in the East and West section, teams are put together by the respective clubs first team league placing the previous season – therefore ‘Division One’ comprises of Championship and League One teams, with ‘Division Two’ containing clubs from the League Two and the conference. The regional aspect of the entire thing is, as previously mentioned, aimed at reducing clubs travelling time and expense.
The set up is brand new and has scrapped the three division format of Central, East and West in an attempt to create a higher standard of football, reduce travelling time and costs as well as placing teams in the same league as those in their first teams division – in retrospect a good idea.
Our opponents tomorrow night are the second string of League Two Port Vale, who last term we’re a ‘Central Division’ side finishing in 4th place with four victories, three draws and five defeats – a tough test for Andy Todd’s boys. Kick off tomorrow night is 7pm, prices are £3 Adults and £1 for Concessions – those not going can join myself and hopefully Scott, for full and exclusive match commentary on StagsPlayer.
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