Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Not Pretty But Nice

For the most part it wasn’t pretty, but at this stage of the season in our position if you can chalk off another fixture with no closing of the gap on second place, extend the gap on third, keep a clean sheet, and win at home after two defeats, you’d be a hard taskmaster not to take it with open arms and a contented grin. We just don’t want anything to go wrong now and tonight, with the breaks, it did.

The team provided a couple of surprises. With Clarke having already departed, Jackson and Haynes injured, and Green and Stevens left on the bench, new arrival Dany N’Guessan was in from the start on the left, with Wagstaff on the right and Kermorgant and Wright-Phillips up front. Hollands and Russell continued in central midfield, but in defence Taylor was given a break and Cort came in, whether or not to combat their threat in the air or just to shake things up I don’t know. The set-up was fine, but it did throw up some problems as presumably Wiggins and N’Guessan hadn’t had much time to get acquainted and it had to be doubtful whether our second Frenchman would be able to last the 90 minutes. But then Sir Chris know that he always scores on his debut.

The opening exchanges – in fact the first half as a whole – were scrappy and if anything Yeovil passed the ball and retained possession better than we did. Hollands and Russell were finding it hard to establish any control of midfield and balls tended to be lofted forward rather too often, with the front two feeding off scraps and not doing much with them either. Competitive for sure, but we weren’t creating much and neither were Yeovil, aside from a few long range efforts. But it mattered not for N’Guessan was to deliver a perfectly mishit cross to someone which left their giant of a keeper completely wrong-footed. Nobody in the ground considered it might have been intended, but the records will show the important fact. He scored, we’re ahead, and goals dictate games.

We were treated before the break by the opposition to a master-class in how to waste free kicks. Their first was a bit far out, but still offered hope for them. But the ball was played square so slowly that Wagstaff had the opportunity to simply run in and nick it from them without a shot materialising. The second was closer and in that nasty area where their guy could go either side, with plenty of space to get it over the wall and down. Instead he planted it somewhere in the upper reaches of the North Stand. There were dangerous crosses from them and a couple of scrambles, but those two efforts were what stood out.

That was about it for the first half, except shortly before the break, for a minute or two, we managed to retain possession and work the ball around with intent. It was a nice contrast to much of what had gone on before and a reminder of what we are capable of.

The two key moments of the game came not long into the second half. First, it seemed that Morrison misplaced a header out into the path of their guy but his shot was superbly parried by an instinctive block from Hamer. They equalise then and the game takes on a very different hue. After the Notts County game it seems he rescued a point for us at Scunthorpe and this save was equally important. Following that, and one moment of farce when their keeper this time allowed a throw in to bounce over his head, our second effectively killed off the game.

After a subdued first half, Kermorgant was coming more into things and he was instrumental. It wasn’t rocket science, but Yeovil had no answer. Our free kick was just too far out for our Breton to have a strike, especially after the ref moved it back to where the offence was committed, so he peeled off to the far side of the area and when it was lofted in his direction he planted a header back across to which any one of three could have provided the finish. It proved to be BWP.

At 2-0 Yeovil started to wilt, having already made a couple of substitutions either side of half-time. As long as we avoided silly mistakes the game was pretty much done. And with Cort nodding away everything in his vicinity and the central midfield pair providing better protection moments of alarm were few and far between. One chip of their did come back off the bar, but I’m guessing the guy who planted it wasn’t a Frenchman making his debut. N’Guessan was replaced by Green and as the clock ran down we were able to round things off courtesy of another excellent piece of work by Kermorgant. He has enough nous to know when to flick on, when to just get in the way of a defender, and when to play someone in. This time he took a difficult ball and managed to turn it into the path of the onrushing Wiggins (I think), who squared it for Russell to slide home.

It wasn’t a big crowd, but after that we were able to enjoy the final moments and Sir Chris’ post-match leap, which has been sadly missed of late. When we win, who cares what the others do? We know it’s not done, that Carlisle isn’t yet on the horizon, and that Huddersfield away will be another big test. The team has risen to all the games against those around us this season and they’ll have to do it again on Saturday. Top of the league since September, five wins and two draws out of seven games against our main opposition with only two goals conceded. Let’s keep that standard going for a bit longer.

Player Ratings:

Hamer – 8/10. Most of what he did tonight was routine, but the point-blank save at 1-0 was a key moment of the game.

Solly – 8/10. Can’t fault the guy tonight (or for the season).

Wiggins – 7/10. Nothing wrong, but with a new guy working with him down the left wasn’t often able to get forward in the same fashion as when he works with Jackson.

Morrison – 7/10. Another good game overall, but may have been his faulty header which let their guy in for their one real chance.

Cort – 9/10. My man of the match tonight. He’s waited patiently for opportunities and was outstanding. Pity he couldn’t round off the performance with the late shot he put over the bar, but spent the night stopping everything thrown in his direction.

N’Guessan – 7/10. Can’t in all honesty give him the extra mark for the goal, but loved it all the same. Showed more than enough to justify the signing.

Hollands – 7/10. Came much more into it in the second half, but in the first period both he and Russell were a touch subdued and we struggled to control midfield and to provide much of a service to the front two.

Russell – 7/10. Gets the extra mark for his goal, but the same thoughts about midfield control. We didn’t pass the ball well enough tonight to make it easier.

Wagstaff – 7/10. Made enough of a nuisance of himself and like others featured more as the game progressed.

Kermorgant – 8/10. After a tough first half he just wore down their defenders through effort and intelligence. Was instrumental in two of the three goals and deserved one himself.

Wright-Phillips – 7/10. Happy that the scoring run continues; otherwise struggled as little was put his way, but no shortage of effort.

Sub – Green (7/10 – game effectively won by the time he came on).

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