Only Ipswich Away Next, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? - Notes for Stevenage
Monday, 10th Aug 2015 12:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Tuesday’s Capital One Cup first round tie at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“Patience is something we will need over the coming weeks”, “We need a win and we need some goals to give us a much needed confidence boost”, “I think we have a mid-table side and that’s pretty much it”, “I expect a slow start but think we will turn things around and be decent.”
It has been a summer of change at Stevenage. Despite reaching last season’s League Two play-offs the club did not renew manager Graham Westley’s contract, instead appointing Teddy Sheringham as his replacement. The ex-England international had been working as West Ham attacking coach.
A poor run of pre-season results and a 2-0 home defeat to Notts County in Saturday’s campaign opener has done little to settle the nerves of some fans. “I am frustrated about last season’s promotion pushing team being dismantled and fearful of relegation although that’s premature to say the least.”
“Take the long-term view and not the short-term one”, “Do people really believe that there are only two worse teams in the division than us? We will finish at least mid-table. I can see six weaker teams than us who will struggle and others who we can beat on any given day.”
“My frustration is not with Sheringham but with having to watch another rebuilding season at best, rather than the continuation of a team that was on its way to being decent”, “He is under pressure because of where we finished last season. None of this is Teddy’s fault but the situation is what it is.”
While some supporters have misgivings about the manner of his appointment, most have faith that Sheringham will be a success given time. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man”, “Teddy can do a good job”, “He will be under pressure but he will get time as long as we see that he is learning.”
“There is a difference between moaning and not giving him a chance. As a fanbase we are quite patient but we gave Gary Smith and Westley (his predecessors) more time and support than they deserved. We stuck with Westley despite some atrocious football, poor results and a relegation.”
Patience and some investment in the squad are seen as essential for him to succeed. “We need to give the side and the manager time and backing. I hope Teddy is able to sign the players we need otherwise I fear he is being asked to do the job with one hand behind his back.”
His lack of familiarity with lower league football has been flagged up. “I wonder if Teddy has learned anything today about how League Two works, the cheating, the refereeing and the unpleasant side of things. You have to master those as well as the football - he will learn over the next few weeks.”
Stevenage 0 – 2 Notts County
“A fast counter-attack, we were all at sea at the back and it was 1-0 to them.” Stevenage started brightly on Saturday and had a number of opportunities to take the lead before their visitors hit them on the break with a goal by Curtis Thompson 10 minutes before the interval.
County scored a late clinching goal when centre-back Mowina Amevor pounced on keeper Chris Day’s parry to seal the points. Many fans felt the team were disjointed in midfield but also felt that there were positives to be taken. “Watching it solely as a footballing performance it was poor.”
“We created some good chances in the first half and could have had two goals with some confidence and composure”, “Overall it was disappointing but the best I have seen us play. It wasn’t all bad and could have been 1-1 on another day, but work needs to be done and signings need to be made.”
“I could see improvements from pre-season and could see what the ideas were”, “It may be that the way we played meant that it didn’t work out as well as if should have, but we should have had at least two goals in the first half and that would have changed the whole game.”
The Midfield Diamond
“The whole shape of the midfield looks wrong”, “The diamond doesn’t work. On Saturday it meant we had no width which in turn left our full-backs exposed. When going forward, we had no support when someone went wide, leaving them up against two men on their own.”
Fans are very anxious about the manager’s introduction of the midfield diamond with all of its attendant risks. “The thing I am most disappointed with under the Teddy regime is the lack of spark and creativity”, “Until he learns more about the team we should stick to a simple formation.”
“Where was the Notts County game lost? In midfield, as we had no width and that lack of width put pressure on our full backs who were outnumbered”, “Our problems were down to the formation we were playing, especially the way we got done down the flanks. We played far too narrow.”
“We weren’t very good, but we weren’t very good in new and positionally interesting ways”, “We were too overcomplicated at times”, “Our pre-season performances were similar to the Notts County game where for large parts we lacked creativity and got over-run in midfield.”
The starting XI on Saturday
Sheringham did not alter the system with his substitutions on Saturday. “It was totally obvious that the diamond didn’t work but Teddy didn’t change it at all. He changed the personnel but they were all like-for-like swaps. We didn’t change from a Plan A that clearly wasn’t working.”
A Squad with Quality but Lacking Grit
Supporters have had some other interesting observations about the squad. “Last season it took ages for the players to work the system Westley wanted and the same players have to now learn a new manger’s system. I have seen from last season that the players are good enough.
“It is now just about finding a way to win as a team under the new system. This might take time but their quality will come through.” Fans believe they have the personnel to perform well but would like to see them show more tenacity in a division where scrapping for points is a necessary quality.
“Plenty of poor sides worse than us will know how to grind out draws, fight to win ugly and get the job done. My only slight worry is whether we have the guts or fight to get ugly points if we find ourselves in an unwelcome position.”
“The most concerning thing was the lack of urgency. It felt like an end-of-season game with nothing to play for.” Fans have also voiced concerns about the team’s lack of intensity. “When 1-0 down, we stood off County, giving them time and space to pick out passes without being put under pressure.”
“Our lack of width exposed the full-backs. There were occasions when both Okino and Franks had to deal with both the winger and opposition full-back on their own. That is not good enough.” Fans are happy enough with the quality of the back four but worried that the diamond is exposing them.
“Chris Day showed how great he is yet again with a few great saves on Saturday.” The 40-year-old former QPR keeper “is quality. On his own he could keep us up”, “Once again he has shown that age is just a number. He made some fine saves and was let down by the defence for both goals.”
Little has been said about the Stevenage centre-backs. Mark Hughes is “Mr Consistency.” The 28-year-old former Morecambe player arrived this summer. “He is good at marshalling the back four and ensuring that we hold the line”, “Has been very even in the games he has played since arriving.”
Former Braintree centre-back Dean Wells “is a brave defender, not afraid to put his body on the line”. The 30-year-old “is good at clearing his lines and he prevented some dangerous shots and through balls on Saturday with good blocking”.
“People will knock Okimo but he had nothing in front of him at times.” Left-back Jerome Okimo “needed cover to help him at the back and wasn’t to blame for either of Notts County’s goals”, “He is a decent header of the ball and sticks to is defensive duties diligently.”
The 27-year-old ex-Wealdstone man’s “positioning has always been questionable”, but fans have defended him. “How will he be helped defensively with nobody protecting him? Okimo was the only player wide left which was just ridiculous because he gets sucked into the middle so frequently.”
“The second Notts County goal was Fraser Franks’s fault for not following the ball when the keeper parried it.” Several fans criticised the 24-year-old former Luton right-back for a lack of defensive alertness. “He was exposed from a quick counter-attack for County’s first goal.”
“I like Franks though, he’s looking good, but would rather he played at centre-back”, “He looks a tidy player but is not a right-back”, “He is more suited to a centre-back role which comes more naturally to him”, “He is not afraid to get stuck in and doesn’t compromise in challenges.”
“We desperately need some wide reinforcements”, “We need a couple of pacey wingers”, “We have no width. The lack of signings in that area will prove costly as we are trying to fit square pegs into round holes.” The lack of width is the squad has been consistently raised as an issue.
“Steven Schumacher didn’t look fit but played okay.” The 31-year-old former Fleetwood Town man “was playing so deep at the base of the diamond that he left the two in front of him exposed in the middle”, “He used his experience to keep things simple in the crowded middle of the park.”
“Schumacher said on the website that the diamond worked well”, “He did nothing all game! At least when David McAllister replaced him he brought the game forward for us.” Several commented that Schumacher played within himself and could have stamped his authority more firmly on the game.
“For all the plaudits Dean Parrett gets, how often does he take the game by the scruff of the neck? I barely noticed him for long periods on Saturday”, “It was Parrett’s least impressive performance in a Stevenage shirt”, “He has the ability to dictate and control the game and leaves it all on the pitch.”
“The diamond doesn’t suit Parrett. He was forced to drop deep to link up the play.” The 23-year-old ex-Spurs man’s “ineffectiveness is the fault of the tactics and formation rather than the player. When your best player can hardly get a touch, there’s something wrong with the way we’re playing”.
With Parrett ineffective on the right of the diamond, fans expressed similar concerns about ex-Gillingham man Charlie Lee on the left. The 28-year-old “doesn’t seem right”, “He struggled to impose his authority but tried his best on Saturday and did set up our two best opportunities.”
“Lee needs to take a look at the standard of his performances. I would drop him ASAP.” Some were more critical. “He only seems to move when he is on the ball or the ball is near him and spends the rest of the time wandering around”, “Can make things happen if we can involve him in the game.”
“Tom Conlon works his backside off whenever he plays.” The 19-year-old ex-Peterborough man has been used at the tip of the diamond but is seen as the one player who can offer both creativity and width. “He has a good engine, is relatively quick both with the ball at his feet and at delivering it.”
“At least Conlon started, even if it was out of position”, “He looked good at what he does best. He was putting pressure on the Notts County players when they had the ball. Everyone else gave them too much time and space”, “He is one hell of a workhorse and has talent but needs more strength.”
“It’s a concern where the goals are coming from”, “We were always going to sacrifice some defensive stability to play this supposedly new entertaining attacking beautiful football. We just need some goals to compensate.”
Supporters are as concerned about the midfield’s inability to supply chances as they are about their lack of strength in depth in attack. This was not helped by the late red card shown to Milton Keynes loan striker Tom Hitchcock for a tussle late-on in Saturday’s defeat.
“Dipo Akinyemi isn’t ready to start. He lacks composure and is way too obvious. I think he would have more of an impact off the bench and he needs to work on his left foot.” The 18-year-old youth product “looked lively on Saturday but struggled to impose himself on the County defence.”
“I’m not a fan of Dipo, but with Hitchcock’s red card I suspect he is now our only second striker”, “He has a lot of potential but never looked like beating his man whenever he got in a wide position”, “It was apparent how inexperienced Akinyemi was, coming up against proper experienced defenders.”
“I felt for Brett Williams today against Notts County. He tried to work as hard as he could with limited service.” The 27-year-old ex-Aldershot man “ran his socks off but struggled to get into the game”, “We did not look like scoring at all today and just lacked a creative edge.”
Stevenage Fans’ Thoughts on ITFC and the Game
“We need width desperately at Ipswich or we could be humiliated.” With Stevenage fans still digesting Saturday’s defeat, there has been little comment about our Cup game. The fear of getting well beaten is mixed with the excitement of seeing their team playing on a bigger stage.
Many are seeing the game as an opportunity to give their team a good run-out. “Looking forward to Tuesday night”, “All the pressure and expectation will be on Ipswich so we can just go out and give it a go. They will rest players so it is more winnable and it is a new ground to visit to boot – cracking.”
I will post a thread on our forum on Tuesday afternoon if there is sufficient comment from Stevenage supporters specifically about the game and will also link this on my Twitter feed.
The busiest Stevenage forum is the polite and well informed BoroChat.
Photo: Action Images
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