A Little Break From League Football Will Do Us All Good - Notes for Accrington Stanley
Friday, 4th Jan 2019 11:36 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup third round tie at the Wham Stadium by delving into their forums.
“I am so proud of this team right now. It’s the same formula as last season, great defending with a never-say-die attitude and enough magic going forward to get the goals”, “As long as we can get to 55 points initially we can forget about off-days and move on”, “A tough few weeks now lie ahead.”
Stanley head into this FA Cup game sitting comfortably in mid-table in their first season in the third tier after winning last season’s League Two title.
A league run of two wins and seven losses in 11 games since mid-October has seen them slip from fourth in the table and fans are keen to arrest this slide.
“We have to find a way to start consistently winning.” Wins over Plymouth and Shrewsbury either side of Christmas left fans hoping the team had turned a corner but Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat to Peterborough and a 3-0 New Year’s Day loss at Bradford rekindled fears that they may struggle.
“Don’t panic! We were under par in the last two games and well beaten. If someone had offered me being in this position over halfway through the season, I’d gladly have taken it. That said, we need to get out of this sticky period quickly as the danger of getting sucked into a relegation battle is a risk.”
“Not long ago, we were fourth and we haven’t turned into a bad side overnight. Other teams may have worked us out, but remember we’re a league up from last season and against better teams”, “It will be an interesting January with cup games, team improvements and more wins in the bag.”
“At last Stanley have a proper football ground. I am impressed with the new stand”, “In comparison with previous years, home attendances are up and the Clayton End party atmosphere is improving. If we keep winning and embedding ourselves in the local community, it is sure to keep on growing.”
“John Coleman was praised as a football genius last season for achieving the impossible. We will see how good a manager he really is over the coming weeks now the going is tough. Over to you, John”, “We all know that Coley likes his teams to play in a certain way. Last season it won us the league.”
John Coleman (Accrington Stanley)
Coleman originally joined the club when they were in the Northern Premier League First Division in 1999. His 12-year spell in charge included three promotions including Stanley entering the Football League in 2006. After spells at Rochdale, Southport and Sligo Rovers he returned to the club in 2014.
The 56-year-old reached the landmark of managing 1,000 games when Accrington beat Cheltenham in the FA Cup second round last month. He is widely praised for his squad building and a keen eye for spotting talented lower-league players. His positive man-management has also been lauded.
“’The more you enjoy football the better you will be’, ‘Enjoy everything you do and you will quickly forget about the nerves’.” He developed a “fast-flowing passing game” in last season’s promotion campaign but supporters don’t see him as being primarily wedded to a specific football philosophy.
“His man-management is superb. The lads all look up to him and he has great experience”, “He talks about having a common cause with the players and believing in each other. Players must see a value in what you are trying to achieve. His approach is basically about whether you can or can’t play.”
“Coley needs to be a little more ruthless in his team selections and a little less loyal.” He has been criticised for sticking with the same team and a reluctance to use substitutes. “I can’t understand why it takes him so long to make changes. He simply won’t alter things unless he absolutely has to.”
January Loanee Recalls
Accrington’s small squad has been unbalanced by the return of several first-team regulars to their parent clubs at the start of the January window. Left-back Nick Anderton has gone back to Blackpool and two centre-halves, Michael Ihiekwe (to Rotherham) and Matty Platt (to Blackburn), have also departed.
The midfield is one area which has been left unscathed, with Dan Barlaser (from Newcastle) having had his deal extended to the end of the season. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Connor Ripley is on a season-long spell from Middlesbrough.
The departure of two strikers has left the club very thin up front. Connor Hall is not expected to return to the Reds with parent club Bolton anxious for the striker to get more playing time if he goes out on loan again, while Newcastle loanee Luke Charman also looks set to return to the North-East.
Formation and Tactics
“We have a great squad, that’s for sure, and we have been competitive at this level”, “There have been many games where we have been the better side by far but could not finish”, “We could have been two or three goals ahead early on in a few matches and we could have taken more points.”
“We are very predictable and lack a Plan B.” Stanley fans are happy that they can compete in League One, but worry about a lack of flexibility and an inability to convert dominance into goals. “We have a Plan B. It’s making substitutions after 85 minutes and pushing players forward to get a point back.”
“I have noticed our determination to play out from the back. This is laudable and I’m not suggesting we should resort to lumping long balls every time, but progress can be slow when forwards press our backline and opponents are well set up defensively by the time the ball gets near their goalmouth.”
Coleman has used a back four behind a four or five-man midfield this season. There will be at least three alterations to the starting XI (above) at Bradford. Anderton and Ihiekwe are with their parent clubs while striker Offrande Zanzala is suspended after being red-carded against the Bantams.
Keeper Ripley has been a consistent performer this season, while teenager Ross Sykes will rely on the experience of Mark Hughes in the heart of the defence. The left-back slot should be filled by converted centre-half Ben Richards-Everton while Callum Johnson is a solid attacking right back.
“Midfield remains a work in progress”, “Seamus Conneely and Scott Brown are experienced but they can be robbed when in possession.” Brown and Conneely are seen as solid midfielders who are more adept at breaking up play. Sam Finley and Daniel Barlaser are forward-thinking and creative outlets.
Coleman may repeat the shape of the starting line-up (above) for the defeat at Peterborough against us on Saturday. “Finley and Barlaser are a good midfield pair and give our forwards quick and incisive service”, “They are good offensively but we look very short in midfield if their moves break down.”
Jordan Clark is a lively right winger who links well with full-back Johnson on the overlap, while Sean McConville on the left can be dangerous when cutting in and guiding his shots in from the corner of the penalty box. Back-ups Erico Sousa and Piero Mingola have rarely featured in recent league games.
“When we have started with two in attack, we have played some of the best football I have seen this season”, “We are great down the wings provided there is movement up front”, “League One teams with tall and slow defenders have their work cut out when Clark and Kee are buzzing around them.”
With Zanzala suspended and Connor Hall having returned to parent club Bolton, Coleman only has Billy Kee as an established frontman. “We desperately need a striker, we’re badly lacking up top at the moment”, “It seems that all opponents have to do is neutralise Billy Kee and we are toothless.”
“If we look at teams in our league doing well, they all have pace in attack. Selling Kayden Jackson robbed us of this and we are obviously missing that element of what made last season successful. If I recall, Jackson signed for Ipswich on deadline day. It gave Coleman no time to get a replacement in.”
Bradford City 3 – 0 Accrington
“Three down and playing with 10 men, it’s not looking good”, “Our lack of a Plan B is made all the worse when Plan A has been totally found out. Bradford pressed us high up the pitch and we could not get out”, “We are conceding too many goals of late and it’s something that must be addressed.”
Lewis O'Brien opened the scoring for the Bantams with a good shot after being left unmarked on the edge of the area from a short corner on 21. Zanzala was sent off for a poor challenge on O'Brien five minutes later which resulted in the 19-year-old midfielder having to be taken off with a foot injury.
Eoin Doyle hammered the ball into the net through a crowded goalmouth after 30 minutes to give City a 2-0 half-time lead and they added a third on 49 minutes when substitute Connor Wood fired home a superb left-foot strike into the top corner from 20 yards. “A great start to the New Year!”
“Bradford deserved their win, but there’s not too much to read into it when you are down to 10 men and chasing the game away from home on 25 minutes”, “Zanzala was kicked from pillar to post and he flipped”, “I hope the referee can control his bladder better than he can control a football match.”
Accrington 0 – 4 Peterborough
“Back to the drawing board”, “Peterborough played long balls to two quick forwards. Against this tactic you must keep the ball on the floor and not lose possession and we managed to do neither”, “We have developed a bad habit of conceding from set-pieces, something we didn’t do last season.”
Ivan Toney scored a hat-trick as Posh cruised to a comfortable win last Saturday. He opened the scoring after 19 minutes when he headed home a freekick and made it two on 41 latching onto a ball over the top. With keeper Ripley rushing out he had an easy task to fire into the empty net.
The visitors made the game safe on 67 when Marcus Maddison's freekick hit the crossbar and Rhys Bennett headed it over the line. Toney completed his hat-trick after 85 as Stanley failed to clear their lines and the striker stooped to head home from close range to record his 16th goal of the season.
“You can’t expect Kee to be a lone striker against a team like Peterborough.” Fans felt that the shape of the team played into the visitors’ hands and gave them licence to press forward. “We were totally outplayed and our distribution was very poor”, “Maybe I’m still in bed and this is all a bad dream.”
Accrington 2 – 1 Shrewsbury
“The taming of the Shrews”, “That was an absolutely awful hour of football after a very decent first 30 minutes”, “Shrewsbury looked like the worst team we had faced in the first half but they pulled themselves together”, “We saw out the game with relative few scares but could have scored more.”
Stanley had a perfect start when Jordan Clark fired into the bottom corner after 30 seconds and they doubled the lead on 21 when Clark ran and crossed for Kee to finish. Oliver Norburn pulled one back via the penalty spot for the Shrews on 52 when Callum Johnson had fouled Fejiri Okenabirhie.
The starting line-up (above) saw Bolton loanee Hall partner Kee in attack with the two more creative central midfielders operating behind the front pair. Fans welcomed the attacking balance it gave the side. “We were shooting on sight for the first half-hour and then chose to sit on the lead”,
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Connor Ripley has kept us in games with fingertip saves.” The 25-year-old loan signing from Boro “is a good signing. He instils confidence in the team as they feel he’s a safe pair of hands”, “He’s a fine, competent keeper who makes the defence look more solid. He’s calm, consistent and very reliable.”
Kieffer Moore (Barnsley) has his shot saved by Connor Ripley (Accrington Stanley)
“Peterborough asked Ripley a few questions. Two of their freekicks were played straight at him with real pace and he couldn’t deal with them”, “He was stranded in no-man’s land for their second goal”, “He has a few iffy moments, but he is consistent and isn’t afraid to play long balls to the wingers.”
“Callum Johnson is a dynamic right-back who is close to being as good as Donacien was last season.” The 22-year-old Middlesbrough youth product “is very composed for someone so young and has the look of a player who will only improve”, “A versatile player who has matured and is rarely flustered.”
“Some of the interplay between Johnson and Clark on our right is a joy to watch”, “He’s great going forward but not the best defensively. He has been skinned by pacy left wingers”, “He makes some threatening runs and has created good goals. He’s a great signing and the perfect foil for a winger.”
“Ben Richards-Everton puts in a great effort but I’m not sure about his quality at this level.” The 27-year-old former Dunfermline man “is a better fit at centre-back against physical teams. I don’t like him at left-back”, “He rarely loses a header but can and up on the wrong side of his man at times.”
“Big Ben is a wholehearted and committed player but he doesn’t use the ball well and gives it away too often in unpressured situations”, “Partick fans said that his one-footedness let him down and he was just short of what they were looking for”, “He’s a natural defender who is always dependable.”
“Ross Sykes is a prospect with real quality.” The 19-year-old Burnley and Accrington youth product “has played well at centre-half lately in cup games. He gets rolled and plays the odd wayward pass but these are inexperienced blemishes. He’s played consistently well with good skill and awareness.”
“All Sykes needs is more experience. He wins the majority of high balls and goes close with headers from attacking set pieces”, “He’s a decent threat from McConville’s corners and has the advantage of extra height, “He has conducted himself well despite being targeted by some robust challenges.”
“Hughes is a towering influence in this Stanley squad. His experience always shows through and he is effectively our captain.” The 32-year-old ex-Stevenage centre-half “is a fine defender but his passing is not great”, “He was an unsung hero who kept us alive in many games in both this and last season.”
Jimmy Dunne and Mark Hughes (Accrington Stanley) celebrate
“Hughes is a complete rock and makes some fantastic blocks but I wonder if he’s quick enough when up against better forwards”, “He needs a partner with decent pace to cover for him”, “Although he makes errors and lacks pace, Coleman sees him as a calming influence and a leader of the backline.”
“Seamus Conneely needs to be playing better if he is in the team.” The 30-year-old ex-Sligo Rovers man “isn’t blessed with awesome talent but he will never go hiding. He’s a solid unflashy player who will get criticised for passing sideways or to centre-halves too often, but his passing range is limited.”
“We need Conneely defensively especially away from home. He brings a calming ball-control ability in midfield and makes great tackles”, “He will never be a League One player in my eyes”, “He is often left with too much workload and too much ground to cover in midfield, but he never goes hiding.”
“Scott Brown is an all-action midfield battler who is dropped in to cover the more creative players.” The 33-year-old ex-Grimsby man “is a player who does all the graft and pops up everywhere. He will give the ball away a lot but makes up for it with excellent defending, winning all his midfield battles.”
“Brown looks far more effective as one cog in the machine. His limited skills mean that nothing will happen creatively for us and wider men are never brought into the game, but with a creative partner beside him things start to happen”, “He doesn’t create enough but is excellent at what he does.”
“Is Daniel Barlaser here for the season? I certainly hope so.” The 21-year-old Newcastle loanee “has improved our central midfield creative play. He’s pretty good with his long-range passes to the wings and looks like he has modelled his play on Jonjo Shelvey”, “He’s tidy and picks out some fine passes.”
“The more I see Barlaser he looks a different class”, “He adds that but of attacking nous and tries to make threatening forward runs”, “His style of football is in the Steven Gerrard mould and he is great offensively”, “Crewe last season felt he was lightweight and naïve when he joined them on loan.”
“I love Finley, me.” The 26-year-old summer acquisition from Fylde “seems to have stepped up from non-league football to League One seamlessly”, “He has taken our central midfield play up a notch and is in the thick of the action. He’s all over the field playing with industry, creativity and control.”
“It might not be obvious but Finley does make a on happen on the pitch, particularly winning the ball in the opponents’ half”, “He wasn’t fully fit in November with a hernia problem but he’s one of our best players and has had some great games lately”, “He still looks class even in his quieter displays.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Jordan Clark buzzes around and moves the ball well.” The 25-year-old ex-Shrewsbury man “is a skilful winger capable of getting in behind defences and putting balls into the box”, “He can tear teams to shreds flying down the wing or making clever mazy runs”, “He always looks a threat.”
“Clark was world class against Shrewsbury but was ineffective against Peterborough. He beats his man and puts in good final balls but he can go missing for periods during games”, “He’s much less effective when he gets the ball with his back to the play, but he has been a diamond in the rough.”
“McConville was once loathed by most but is now celebrated by many.” The 29-year-old ex-Chester man “chases down the ball with sheer determination to keep possession”, “Wearing the armband brings out the best in him”, “He comes short and safe instead of running ahead to receive the pass.”
“McConville’s strength is the angled shot from about 25 yards from the corner of the penalty area. Any opponent worth their salt will prevent it as it nullifies our left-sided threat”, “The right-footed curler with the emphasis on placement rather than power is now becoming his trademark finish.”
Strikers - Billy Kee
“Billy causes defences problems when he looks sharp. He plays quick passes out to the wings which helps keep the momentum of our attacks high”, “He’s at his best passing instinctively to willing frontrunners but he will always struggle when playing on his own up against big and burly centre-backs.”
“Billy needs another striker beside him without a doubt.” The 28-year-old former Scunthorpe man “is not a Roy of the Rovers who can beat an entire defence single-handed. He receives, controls and lays the ball off to his onrushing colleagues, but he subsequently doesn’t get on the end of moves.”
“Last season’s success was built on a fast-flowing passing game with Billy Kee in the hole and Kayden Jackson’s ‘to die for’ pace, so why Kee is persistently played in an ineffective lone striker role baffles me”, “He has linked up well with the midfield but his eight-goal tally must be a cause for concern.”
Stanley Supporters’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“It’s time for another bit of light relief with two cup games against Ipswich and Bury [in the Football League Trophy next Tuesday] to come before the serious stuff resumes when Bristol Rovers roll up on Saturday week”, “I wouldn't say we’re favourites but we have a good 50/50 chance of progress.”
“We’re at home to Ipswich, Kayden Jackson’s lot.” There were customary groans when Town’s name came out of the hat instead of more glamorous opposition when the draw was made in December. “Another poor tie in my view”, “It could have been much worse. It could have been Ipswich away.”
“Give me a struggling Championship side any day to a team from League One or Two”, “It’s a great draw. They are poor and focused on avoiding relegation. I would say we are favourites for round four. It would take a big slice of fortune but we could make the last eight with the luck of the draw.”
“An Ipswich fan posted on Facebook, congratulating us on reaching the fourth round. There is not much confidence in their camp then”, “Not so long ago we'd have thought this a plum tie, now some are disappointed”, “This is an excellent, winnable and, more importantly, a home tie.”
“The bigger they come, the harder they fall!”, “Slow down everyone, we’re not there yet. Let’s not count our chickens. Yes, this is do-able, but it will be all on the day.”
The busiest Accrington message board is the friendly Accrington Web. Accrington Stanley highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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