WOAP writers Ian Sheard, David Lawrence, Damien Wilkinson and Phil Abbott don the pundits chair to assess the Rochdale talking points – from provocative goal celebrations to what to do with Steve Davies and Billy Knott.
What did you make of the team’s performance against Rochdale?
David: The team played just about okay for a draw and showed a bit of character to come back into the game twice against a team that were applying themselves better. I guess the result will look better or worse after the outcome of the upcoming Blackpool game and beyond. There were some standout players but they were mainly in the opposition team.
Unusually, the defence looked a bit slow to react to play, allowing easy crosses and free headers. Whilst uncommon for him, Reece Burke got caught slightly out of position for the first goal and Rory McArdle and Stephen Darby had some ‘iffy’ moments. Unfortunately, James Meredith had one of those games where he seems at times to become less cognizant than a steward, for example catching the ball whilst it was in play. Maybe it’s time to give Gregg Leigh another try before Mezza gains the nickname Merridrift.
There were some bright performances, however, in the City team. Wes Thomas deserves a mention as he looks to have the hold-up play that has been lacking since Stead departed but with more pace. Unfortunately, for the midfield this added pace seems to make defences stand off a little more, stretching play and making for a generally more open game. When Lee Evans is on his game, which he wasn’t, and Cullen is playing, which he wasn’t, there’s mobility, quick tackling and passing that can accommodate and exploit this extra space.
Damien: Overall I think a draw was a fair result, though to be brutally honest we could well have lost the game during the closing stages.
My main observation would be that we were slightly under par in comparison to the last couple of matches, and there were a few spells in the game where we gave the ball away frequently and put ourselves under a lot of unnecessary pressure. Whilst Ben Williams made at least a couple of key saves, there were a few instances where the communication between the back four and the keeper had clearly broken down and could have been costly.
The other thing, which has become a bit of a recurring theme, seems to be our protracted efforts at throw ins; we often seem to have a complete lack of movement/ options such that the throw becomes delayed, kills any momentum and risks yet another yellow card.
Phil: The performance was similar to Southend earlier in the week, but Rochdale posed far more threat going forward and we struggled. We seemed uncharacteristically unsure at the back and this let Rochdale dictate some of the play.
I agree with Damien in that, as far as entertainment goes, it was a good spectacle. My young son asked me with about 30 minutes left what I though the final score would be; it could have gone one of three ways and I couldn’t commit to an answer.
What did you make of Joe Bunney’s goal celebration. As a fan does this bother you?
Ian: Who? It was one of them where we looked at each other and then checked his name on Sky Sports app. If it makes him look tough and makes him think he is a good player, let him crack on. It was a shame, as both his goals were taken well and he spoils himself by doing that. I wasn’t impressed with their centre backs either as I think they got away with far too much!
David: No, his ‘celebration’ didn’t bother me at all. I thought it was an immature act, perhaps trying to emulate something he’d seen in the Champions League in the way children playing soccer in the park do. It was a bit unprofessional as one of his teammates appeared to tell him whilst running back after his ‘celebration’. I though the majority of the home fans showed a bit more maturity by not reacting to it.
Damien: From the main stand I didn’t really notice this at the time. Having seen the TV footage I can’t get too particularly bothered by this to be honest, and didn’t think it was that inflammatory either (unless you are a dentist).
It is really a consequence of having a full and vocal home support – if you can’t take it, don’t give it out springs to mind (especially those welcoming Tony Mc’s wind up antics!), and if you were the away side you would be doing all you could to antagonise a large home crowd.
Do you think we are starting to see the best of Steve Davies?
Phil: Steve Davies seems to have found his strength in cameo appearances off the bench. His fresh legs and imposing figure seem to cause a few problems for defenders and the way he muscled into a great position to score was a good example of this. He seems to be growing in confidence and getting into some good positions.
Ian: Great goal. He’s like a new player. I think he got a lot of stick early doors and, unfortunately, if you aren’t scoring – than it’s expected as a striker! I’m glad he’s scoring as he seems like a confidence player. It was also refreshing to have a player on the bench that we were excited to see come on as he may score. He looked strong, confident and brought others into play. Competition for Hanson is real now.
David: Yes and no. I think I see a good third division player but have yet to see the Championship player. He appears to have more work to get game fit but certainly has the nouse and the determination. His superb headed goal was a great example of this.
Unfortunately, as with too many of the squad who could bring the quality of the league above, his injury has cost him and City. Time will tell whether City can continue to get key players fit and keep them that way or if they were all along clutching at straws and the play offs were blighted by injuries way back in the autumn. Come on Morais, the time is nye.
How would you use Billy Knott if you were Phil Parkinson?
Damien: You can’t help feeling that Billy Knott’s chance to stake a regular place in the side has almost now evaporated. Whatever happened during the latter part of last year for him to be sidelined for a while seems to have adversely impacted him, and the recent addition of Josh Cullen is now requiring ‘do or die’ performances when he gets the odd chance.
As Saturday illustrated, he seems to struggle in that environment – perhaps trying too hard or the opting for the glory pass rather than simplicity, and his confidence looks fragile to say the least.
To compound the confidence issue, there was probably more focus on Knott’s performance from the fans during the game (perhaps seeking a new scapegoat in a City side sans-Routis). Indeed, there was an incident in the first half where Knott misplaced a ball forward and Parkinson actually turned around to the crowd in the main stand and shouted “give him a chance”.
To his credit, after his loss of possession led to Rochdale pressing forward and scoring a well taken goal, whilst his head clearly dropped for a while, he did the pick himself up and battled back well, though he did look a very dejected figure at the end as the players walked around to clap the crowd.
The conundrum Parkinson faces to get the best out of him would be to try to give him a run of matches and play him into a run of form and consistency, something that you can’t really see at this stage of the season with so much at stake.
Phil: Billy Knott is an interesting one. He is a passionate, hard-working professional with bags of skill and potential. Unfortunately, his on the field performances of late have been disappointing. There were many screaming for his inclusion during the recent lean spell, but I just don’t think he is suited to the flat midfield four.
I think Parkinson probably envisaged the Diamond formation being much more successful than it was last year and Knott is, in my opinion, most suited to sitting behind the front two. He has given far too much ball away in recent games and this has been costly.
Ian: Does knott himself know? He’s like popping candy. One minute he’s fizzing about and fighting for every ball and the next you wonder if he’s even there. I am a fan of his, but he is too inconsistent. I don’t know where I would play him and I don’t think he knows himself.
If I were Parkinson, I’d sit down and have a good conversation with him about where he wants to play and if it’s behind the front two then give him objectives and a set role there for an extended period. He reminds me a bit of Eddie Johnson.
Is Tony McMahon a contender for player of the season?
David: It’s been brilliant to see McMahon playing at the top of his game over the last few weeks. He’s become a real asset to the team on the right midfield, appears to positively influence the younger players and he is a character. This latter point could be seen on Saturday when he over-dramatically threw himself to the floor after being caught trying to block the opposition keeper with his arms.
Ten out of ten for the pantomime dive but six and half out of ten for a season where he started so slow they measured his pace with a calendar but has now become a driving force, particularly when the younger heads are starting to drop.
Ian: Yes. His play acting alone won it for me! Seriously that was a bit silly but I like him. He can cross, he oozes passion and fights for the ball. I think he’s better out wide as he went quiet when Marshall came on.
Damien: I think he has got to be in the reckoning, as you can’t overlook his goals and assists, not to forget his passion, but it possibly says a lot about City’s season (and injuries) so far that a player that we thought might not be a regular is in such a position, but fair play to him.
We have struggled over past season or so for someone with a bit of ‘nastiness’ and whilst the wind up stuff is not for the purists and often teeters on the brink of a sending off, we have had it done to us many times and it is good to see us not being a soft touch anymore.
Phil: Tony McMahon has to be a current contender for Player of the Year with his huge number of assists and important set-piece skills. However, my personal view is that he is still some way behind Rory McArdle, who has been incredible for most of the season.
Categories: The Verdict