|Posted by Bergen Blade on October 18, 2015 at 2:50 PM|
Nigel Adkins is learning things about his squad every week. All season he's been making tweaks, adjustments, changes in selections, roles and formations to try get the balance just right and to get the most out of his players. I'm still hopeful he'll get it right eventually.
Against Oldham he started with this line up:
Freeman McGahey Collins Wallace
Baxter - - -- - - Scougall
Adams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Done
There are a few good things about this team on paper. Basham has got a few decent defensive attributes, height, tackling, hard work. You'd think he'd be good at protecting the back four, making headers and tackles in front of the centre halves and making their jobs easier. On paper the 4-3-3, easily transformed to 4-5-1 should give us an extra man advantage in the middle of the park, compared to our 4-4-2 formation which Adkins played in his first couple of months.
Going forward the starting eleven also looks quite exciting. Full backs who both have something to offer going forward. The creativity of Baxter combined with Scougall's running on and off the ball in advanced midfield. Pace and goal-scoring ability out wide and an experienced poacher up front.
So why didn't it work?
We really struggled in midfield first half. Several times Oldham played straight through us. Adams and Done did not get back as much as required, and this meant Scougall and Baxter struggled to get close enough to the Oldham midfielders.
Basham also struggled to sweep up behind them. Despite his defensive attributes, he lacks experience in this position and didn't seem to know whether to get stuck in, or to hold a sweeping position. It takes a football brain to get these things right, as shown by Stuart McCall in his first season with us, and on occasions by Michael Doyle.
An example of us not getting close to Oldham:
Basham in the holding role was also a problem from an attacking perspective. He's not composed on the ball enough to come short, get the ball from the defenders and distribute with neat passes. Adkins knows this, so we don't use Basham in that manner. Instead we were more direct and our attacks were often chipped balls from defenders down the channels to our forward trio, neither of whom managed to get hold of it, or hold it up, and it soon came back.
We got the equaliser. A fine run by Scougall and superb shot by Done. It didn't come as a result of us playing particularly well though.
After 35 minutes Adkins made the change which did change the pattern of the game. Basham and Baxter swapped positions.
From that point we took over the midfield. Basham got closer to the Oldham midfielders who could no longer distribute forward without being closed down, we won more second balls, more tackles, more free kicks and got more situations in the box. Scougall's chasing became more effective too. Baxter showed on a couple of occasions that he is capable of reading the game well, and from a defensive point of view he's more suited to this role, rather than chasing around.
Oldham produced very little after this.
Consequently we got chances. Sharp hit the post first half, then in the second half:
With no reward we sort of ran out of steam after this, a powerful Adams shot the closest we got.
I think fans have been too harsh after the game. It was probably worse, and a lot more disappointing watching it live. Especially when they got down to ten men and we still fail to score, it can be extremely frustrating. Sammon came on and didn't do well. I've seen a few ridicule the fact that he came on to play on the left, ignoring that he came on and helped rescue the game from that role a few weeks ago at Bradford.
I'd like to see Adkins stick with the side that played from the 35th minute, as there is decent balance and good attacking potential in that XI. I don't expect us to suddenly turn into world beaters, but if those eleven can learn more about each other and develop a better understanding I think there's good reason to hope for improved performances both offensively and defensively.