This season isn't going to be a precession, it never was. We have brought in some good players for this level, but having lost the players with the greater natural ability like Butron, Sam, Shelvey and Bailey we were always going to have more games where we would have to ground out results rather than brush teams aside.
Last season we beat MK Dons 5-1 at The Valley in a game that came after a run of one win in six. However, the result gives the impression that it was an easy victory. In the end we could have scored ten, but they did score first, and at 1-0 (or was it 1-1) we cleared the ball off the line (with a hand - it should have been a penalty) then preceded to go straight up the other end and score ourselves.
Thus that game could well have gone the other way, which could have had a huge effect on our season. Including that MK Dons game we won seven and drew four before we lost to Orient at The Valley in January. Maybe I'm giving it too much importance, but that game could well have been a turning point.
I believe that last night's game could also be a turning point. We have now won three of out five home games 1-0 with a 1-1 and a 2-2 draw. There are only four teams that have conceded fewer goals than us this season. We are looking difficult to score against (Dagenham and Redbridge were given a very dubious penalty) which means that we don't need to be scoring for fun to win games.
I know it's a little childish to make excuses, but I believe that we have deserved three of our four wins this season, Notts County being the only game that we got more than we deserved. I also think that with a proper Referee we would have won at Tranmere and at home to Dagenham and Redbridge, and the penalty at Exeter was a little debatable. Thus, even if we'd lost the Notts County game we probably deserve to have two points more than we have now. You could also make the point that Notts County didn't have any unfair decisions go against them, sure they had a few chances, but we just defended them well, including the penalty that was saved. It wasn't even missed, it was saved. There is no law that you have to dominate a game and give the opposition no chances to win games, you just have to keep them out and grab a goal.
This all makes for very positive reading. Sure we haven't played very attractive football much this season, but none of the teams in this division play like we got used to seeing during the Premier League years. We have managed to get through the first nine games, and with a little more consistent referring we would be on the same number of points as Brighton, and the team is starting to look like they know each other.
The game last night was hardly a classic, but from my perspective we didn't look like conceding, and we had a few half chances before Benson scored the goal that broke his duck. In fact I was very impressed with him last night. His running off the ball was both industrious and intelligent, and he does hold the ball up well. It would seem that he has more to offer than he showed at Dagenham and Redbridge, according to their Manager, who suggested that we needed to change the way we play to benefit him.
Following on from the goal against Notts County and his performance against Dagenham and Redbridge Anyinsah has shown that he will be a very good acquisition, and I have already discussed my appreciation of what Abbot has to offer. I think we have an embarrassment of riches up front for this level. Sure there is no Darren Bent or Clive Mendonca in there, but for the teams we are going to be playing this season we have at least three strikers that are capable of doing a really good job, and I think there is more to Sodje than being a battering ram, although he is very good at coming on to do just that.
With Fortune coming through a full 90 minutes, and looking like he still has some pace we have options at the back. If you assume that Dailly and Fortune can cope with pacey forwards that leaves us several options based on what is required. My own personal view is that unlike last season Llera is now probably going to have to settle for being 4th choice, but I am more than happy for him to play when the need arises. Despite his lack of pace I think he is very capable. He was clearly significantly at fault at Colchester last season, but that is the only game that I would say he has had a stinker. For those (and I guess I'm talking about on Charlton Life) that blamed him for the Dagenham and Redbridge result I would point out that he scored a goal, wasn't responsible for giving away the penalty (irrespective as to your view of the Ref's decision), and it wasn't his man that scored the second equaliser. He does get done for pace, but that doesn't always lead to a goal.
Midfield is probably the one area where we have some doubts. Mainly over the reliability of Racon. He can be a very good player, but he can also go missing in games. Semedo is a shoe-in for me, so it comes down to McCormack (who I think is probably cover for Semedo) Racon, Jackson and Martin with two up front. The options on the wing encourage me - even if I might start with different players that Parkinson chooses. Last night Wagstaff was hardly in the game, yet he has been really good this season. I think we have to accept (as do the players) that if we are going to have the strength in depth that I think we both need and have, some of the players are going to have to be rested when they (and us fans) believe they should play.
One last note - We have Lee Martin on a season's long loan which is, in effect, the same situation as the players that signed a one year contract (Reid, Jackson, Dailly) and he has shown as much commitment as any other player so far. In fact his attitude with regard to effort is exemplary. I'm sure that has something to do with the players and especially the Manager at Man Utd.
So, overall a good win, a performance that suggests that we are going in the right direction, a clean sheet and a goal for our expensive signing.
A good night's work.
Up the addicks!