Play-off talk on hold as Rovers hit the buf­fers

Accrington Observer - - WILDLIFE -


THE col­umn is writ­ten pre-Box­ing Day this week so you will ei­ther be buoyed by a great or de­cent re­sult at El­land Road or de­flated post­fes­tiv­i­ties by an­other dis­ap­point­ment.

So much of my fo­cus is on the Nor­wich game in which we com­peted vig­or­ously and gamely, had chances – but not nearly enough in a home game – and were even­tu­ally un­picked by the con­fi­dent and slick pro­mo­tion seek­ers with a smartly-con­structed goal which looked more and more in­evitable and pre­dictable as the clock wound down.

It was the clas­sic kind of away per­for­mance a team high on con­fi­dence, self-be­lief and a lit­tle bit of luck to go with steely re­silience reg­u­larly reels off as they steadily stack up points.

The kind we churned out reg­u­larly a year ago and once or twice this sea­son but which seems to have dropped off our set-list of late.

But be­fore the tough dou­ble at Leeds and Bram­mall Lane we have gone five away games with­out a win, tak­ing just two points on the road, and won one of our last four home games, below par even with our over­all Ewood record of four wins in 12.

Put sim­ply, we’ve hit the wall a bit after the ex­u­ber­ance of post­pro­mo­tion car­ried over into the Au­tumn. Play-off talk is on hold and with games thick and fast, the lit­tle three/four point gap to the bot­tom 10 isn’t look­ing as cav­ernous.

If our big three of Mul­grew, Dack and Gra­ham don’t de­liver it’s some­times hard to imag­ine where goals will come from. None of our three full-backs has one, Leni­han has one, eter­nally-pre­ferred mid­field duo Evans and Small­wood have failed to trou­ble the scor­ers (Ben­nett and Con­way nei­ther) and Arm­strong has de­liv­ered just two in half a cam­paign, a poor re­turn from some­one who looked a nat­u­ral fin­isher in League One but has strug­gled at this level be­fore.

Palmer has shown an eye for an op­por­tu­nity but his in­ces­sant prat­ting about on the ball in ar­eas in which we can ill af­ford to sur­ren­der pos­ses­sion is be­gin­ning to ir­ri­tate the most pa­tient fans and giv­ing some in­di­ca­tion why pre­vi­ous loan fos­ter­ers Hud­der­s­field and Derby utilised him spar­ingly.

And with £7m or a good pro­por­tion thereof due to For­est in Jan­uary, the ele­phant in the room that is Ben Br­ere­ton’s wor­ry­ing form – and on Satur­day he gave his most be­wil­der­ingly poor cameo thus far – can­not be ig­nored.

It smacked of an odd deal from day one and de­spite some slight mit­i­ga­tion in the roles he has been asked to briefly per­form, not to men­tion his youth, it seems no less odd now.

Put it this way. If the lad was an­other kid on loan from, say, a Premier League club, most would surely be say­ing he needs to go back and we need to find some­one who can bet­ter im­pact games. If a £7m bid was men­tioned, quite frankly, you’d want some­one sec­tioned.

With seem­ingly no in­ten­tion of giv­ing him Un­der-23 game time, he has to be, how­ever young, con­sid­ered a first team squad mem­ber. But he has shown no like­li­hood of con­tribut­ing. Yes he’s plonked out wide but, lis­ten, this is what a truly pre­co­cious young foot­baller (which I take it he is con­sid­ered to be at the price) would do: he’d find a goal, a run in­side and shot, a header from a set piece, an in­nate dash into the box to an­tic­i­pate a fall­ing ball – Gra­ham laid on one such header late on Satur­day, no­body near – and show some­thing.

Young­sters of yes­ter­year like Garner, Duff, Dunn, Pat­ter­son all gave off some kind of pre­mo­ni­tionary air that though they were boys they weren’t out of place, with a touch of that kind of swagger and im­pu­dence Rooney and Shearer showed as kids, and it was ob­vi­ous see­ing their early games that they would soon be men in men’s foot­ball . Paul Round, aged 18 scored on his de­but.

No­body’s ex­pect­ing a Rooney or Shearer. But a hint of a Garner would be nice. A divi­sion down, he’s shown less so far than lads like James Beat­tie, Ben Burgess and James Thomas showed in the Premier League.

I’d ar­gue cur­rently that we couldn’t get less off the bench from Joe Nut­tall who has ac­cord­ing to those who watch Damien John­son’s side re­dis­cov­ered his hunger and goal touch after a pe­riod of drift­ing fol­lowed by stern words from Mow­bray. We know he has an odd goal in him. Br­ere­ton ob­vi­ously had at one point in his fledg­ling For­est de­vel­op­ment but he looks psy­cho­log­i­cally af­fected by the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion now.

Were he our player from the ju­niors, it would be un­think­able that we weren’t look­ing to loan him out to a league one club.

All that of course, will be dated hog­wash should he have popped a win­ner in at Leeds but I sus­pect he needs tak­ing out of the fir­ing line for his own good for a time, at least in the form of a more ex­pe­ri­enced striker in Jan­uary. Sam Gal­lagher at 23 on loan with 100 se­nior games un­der his belt would do for me de­spite his mod­est goal record. We once took an­other lad from Saints with about one in five from 120 games and he didn’t do so badly.

I see Rovers are of­fer­ing stay-aways-from-Ewood who’ve been to an away game this sea­son a free ticket for a home game if they fill in a sur­vey and say whether they don’t like Venkys or the con­course beer or why ever they choose not to as a rule.

I’m greatly look­ing for­ward to hear­ing what they’ll be do­ing as re­ward for those who have re­newed sea­son tick­ets re­peat­edly in the af­ter­math of Kean, Coyle, rel­e­ga­tion and, most re­cently, sig­nif­i­cant price in­creases. Can’t be­lieve they don’t have some­thing nice planned for those loyal sup­port­ers.

A cou­ple of free­bies for an away game and coach travel would be nice, Rovers? I’ll look for­ward to hear­ing.

A Happy 2019 to one and all.

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