Sunday, 4 November 2012

Job done

Thank goodness that's over...
That was my abiding emotion after yesterday's game, as, when all is said and done, getting into the second round was all that mattered.
It wasn't about winning 6 or 7-0, or playing like Barcelona, it was about getting into the second round.
However, I must admit that having just watched the second round draw and seen us paired with Hereford United, our perennial bogey team. More of that later.
The Yate tie was a no-win situation for us - scrape through 1-0 and it would be deemed an embarrassment by some, win 8-0 and it would be 'so what, it was only Yate'. It was a day to win the game and move on.
That's what we did, and it gave Yatesy the opportunity to give one or two players a breather and allow others to stretch their legs after sitting on the bench or in the stand over recent weeks.
We got the perfect start in comical manner with Scott Thomas' second-minute own goal, and in games like this they say the early goal is what every team is looking for.
But you have to give credit to Yate for the way they responded to it - Tom Knighton hit the post and the full-back Jake Cox the bar with a free-kick which Scott Brown got a hand to.
I have seen a number of League v non-League ties, and on some occasions the non-Leaguers have come to spoil, and stop the pros in some 'agricultural' ways - but there was none of that yesterday.
Yate have some tidy players, left two up front all afternoon and passed the ball around nicely - no long-ball stuff, and battled away all afternoon.
The winger Matt Groves, Knighton up front and Danny Wring in midfield stood out for me, and their goalkeeper made some decent saves.
Yes, we could have scored more goals. Yes, some players were better than others, but winning the game was all that really mattered.
If we did have a problem during the game, it was over complication in the final third.
Especially in the first half, we got into good positions and players had worked a shooting chance, then chose a cross or a pull-back - or the opposite, shooting when team-mates were free.
Also, again, our quality in wide areas was found wanting - poor crosses, either under hit or over hit, letting us down on a few occasions.
In the end, 3-0 was about the right result. Yate's efforts didn't deserve a heavier defeat, and our performance didn't merit it either.
So what did we learn from our performance?
Defensively, not much. It was good to see Keith Lowe have another game, and a chance for Steve Elliott to sit out and come back fresh for Gillingham on Tuesday, and he has been ill anyway so no point in risking him.
In midfield, yesterday showed the importance of Marlon Pack to our team.
In the first half, we tried to play 4-4-2 with Lawson D'Ath and Russ Penn in the centre, Sam Deering and Kaid Mohamed out wide.
It didn't have the right balance for me, and we looked much happier when Marlon came on at half-time - but I do hope Lawson's knee injury isn't too bad, although he did tweet that he is unlikely to be fit for Tuesday.
Many fans have commented that Marlon hasn't been at his best this season. That may be true, but we don't have another player like him who can control a game.
He got a lot more space than he would in a League Two game, true. But he controls the tempo of our game and everything goes through him - he truly is our quarterback.
Up front is where we learnt the most.
We got to see all four of our strikers, but only one, Chris Zebroski, can came out of the game with credit.
Darryl Duffy looks a player badly shorn of confidence. He tries so hard, and I was willing him to get a goal or two yesterday.
But it is not happening for him, and the same has to be said for Jeff Goulding. He came on and played the central role, and had a golden chance to score.
That seemed to affect him, and there were a couple of crosses which flashed across the goal and were begging to be put away by him, and he failed to convert either. The second was a glaring chance.
Shaun Harrad hasn't scored since the Oxford game on September 18, and it looked like it yesterday. He has had an injury and been in and out of the side, but looked a bit off the pace yesterday.
Zebroski was the only one to hit his straps and seemed to feed off the Gasheads among the Yate fans giving him the bird - maybe we should tell him we are playing his old club, or that the ground is full of Gasheads every week...!
He looked sharp, direct and dangerous, getting the third goal after he hit the bar, and seems to be the only one of our four strikers to be in any sort of form, which is a slight worry.
We had 24 shots, 13 on target and only scored three goals - those stats show a slight lack of ruthlessness.
Then an hour ago I sat down for the draw, and wanted a non-League side at home, but expected Carlisle, Southend or Gillingham away.
Happily they came out early, and then Cyrille Regis pulled out our home tie, and out came Hereford courtesy of John Wark.
What a belting tie. I know I wanted a non-League side, but have to admit I didn't want Hereford - we never beat them!
Not since 1999, the 'David Norton match' at Edgar Street have we done so. At home, it's 1969 since we saw them off.
Add the presence in their ranks of Andy Gallinagh, Junior Smikle, Michael Townsend and Marley Watkins, and it makes it a real cracker.
Let's hope this time we can do it. I am fed up with losing to them, or playing badly and drawing.
But that can wait - first we have Mr Allen's league leaders at Priestfield on Tuesday night, and yesterday has helped to sort out what team Yatesy should play
Steve Elliott will be back alongside Benno, Darren Carter is fit to come back in, Jermaine will slot in again, and Zeb has booked himself the lone striker role - no one who came in yesterday did enough to demand keeping their place.
My team would be Brown; Jombati, Elliott, Bennett, Jones; Pack, Carter; McGlashan, Penn, Mo; Zebroski.
It starts a big month which will also take in a meeting with the equally lovely Mr Evans in a couple of weeks, the potential chance to see Edgar Davids play at Whaddon, and will end with s crunch Cup tie with Hereford.
Life is never boring at Cheltenham Town...