A sign of a good team is winning ugly, and thankfully we were able to achieve that today.
A number of factors played into the overall performance, the fairly atrocious conditions which meant we had to rotate as often as possible, the fact it’s been almost a month since we last played in Walsall, and perhaps a bit of complacency following the comprehensive performance of last week.
We started slowly and looked lethargic all across the pitch. Our game management needed work with the midfield not quite cottoning on to their long ball restarts. Despite this, we still tested their keeper who pulled off some smart saves. The first third ended without anyone troubling the score board.
We asked for a response, and whilst it was better, we went behind following some defensive indecision. To the boys credit we responded immediately and saw signs of our passing game return and we scored the equaliser through an own goal after a strong strike from Ryan.
The start of the final third saw Stoke retake the lead after some excellent skill from their player and we were facing a defeat having only faced only a few shots.
Again it seemed that conceding brought some energy and passion into our game and suddenly we were first to the ball, wining individual battles and making full use of the width of the pitch. Our football seemed to return and quick passes set up Isaac to equalise with an excellent finish from the left.
A typically tenacious Tom effort put us in front and another own goal (following a shot from Caleb on his JPL debut) put the game beyond doubt.
The positives of coming from behind (twice) and the way in which we played in parts, especially in the final period of the game, are the key takeaways on a miserable day. We can, and will need to, play better in weeks to come.
A well taken goal, playing on the left, the right and at the heart of defence Isaac embodied everything we are trying to achieve with the boys. He played the simple pass well and was dangerous throughout.
Ben sets himself quite high standards and in the first third he wasn’t necessarily reaching them. However he responded superbly and played some excellent passes (especially in the final third) and went on to dominate his midfield battle.
We have been asking Ryan to play heads up football for a few weeks and it was great to see him playing the pass and demanding it back. He’s always strong on the ball but today he managed to use his strength and play the simple pass more often than not.