Well that was very much welcome after heartbreak last match and utter dross the matches before that. I’ll happily take a point after not getting one for so long, even if we had a case that we should’ve taken all 3. But I’m not upset about that. That was much closer to the performances in September/October that made me proud of the team. Performances like this on a more consistent basis are exactly what we need to carry some momentum into next season if we want to proper challenge for the top of L2 like FV and Hill have aimed for. I’m a man who believes in crediting when it’s due and criticising when in justified but thankfully, I won’t have to do too much of the latter. Let’s get into those Player Ratings:
Remi Matthews - 8.0
2 absolutely terrific saves from Clark and Finley helped spare our blushes and Remi himself commanded his box much more effectively than we’ve seen previously. He constantly looked to play the ball out quickly for counter-attacks and even his kicking wasn’t too bad. He certainly earned and deserved his clean sheet.
Jason Lowe - 7.5
Our Mr. Consistent this season once again led by example and proved himself a tough opponent to tackle for ex-wanderer Joe Pritchard. Though my foot is firmly in the camp of “He shouldn’t be playing there if we have fit Right Backs available”, he put himself about well in that position and didn’t let anything past him. Going forward, he made solid runs too, even if his end product, A.K.A crossing, was woeful. I like him and I hope he stays next season.
Aristote Nsiala - 7.0
In my opinion, Nsiala has very much flattered to deceive so far in his spell here but he was quite solid today. He impressed me in the 2nd half, commanding his backline and marshaling the tough Bishop and tricky running of Dion Charles. His heading was strong and his positioning was quite solid. Did let them get past a bit too easily once or twice but recovered well from those errors and his overall game was strong enough than I can forgive that.
Jack Hobbs - 6.5
Didn’t really have too much to do in the half he was in. Kept control of Bishop in the air and always seemed to be in the right place to win the ball when he needed to. I hope whatever he was substituted for isn’t serious, because he’s definitely the best defender we have when he’s fit.
Brandon Fleming - 7.0
It proved 50/50 in the results of the battles against a very tough opponent in Jordan Clark but I think Fleming’s return to the side was a successful one overall. Similarly to Nsiala, I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed so far by Fleming, especially since I was quite taken with his predecessor Chicksen. However, the Hull loanee showed some strong character in his challenges and made some penetrating runs down the wing to boot. Did get beatenby Clark a bit too often and his crossing needs some work but considering how tough his opponent was today and his good work going forward, I’d say he came out well.
Luke Murphy - 5.5
In the first half, I was fairly impressed by Murphy going forward. His passes rarely missed their mark and he found his teammates in some dangerous positions. He fell apart though when it came to defending. His poor positioning meant he was second to every ball and nowhere near his markers, meaning they turned him easily. He was weak in the tackle and despite having some good attacking runs in the 2nd half, his poor defensive work meant inviting more pressure that was easily avoidable if he was stronger. Mixed day for Luke.
Kean Bryan - 7.0
Started off a bit slow with some poor passes and losing the ball cheaply in the first 15 minutes or so but grew in the game in a significant way, especially in the 2nd half. Found some good passes and was very physical in the challenge both aerially and when grounded. Always looking for space as well which helps our attack. He’s much more suited to DM than CB for me. Good day at the office.
Dennis Politic - 5.5
It just didn’t happen today for Dennis but there was certainly no lack of effort on his part. Started off well, showing great link-up play with the likes of Lowe and Crawford but struggled to beat Maguire in the runs and kept drifting into unusual positions which deceived our own passers and gave away possession unnecessarily. He put in the graft defensively though and didn’t give up going forward. He was marshaled well though by Stanley so not much came off for him.
Ali Crawford - 7.0
His creativity in the 1st half was absolutely inspiring and near enough every pass he made in their final third came off. His corners also provided some nervy moments for Stanley. While he didn’t have near as many opportunities in the 2nd half, he still demonstrated some of that knack for finding a teammate in tight spaces when given the chance. His defensive work in the 2nd half was infuriating though at times. I’m not asking him to run his bollocks off up and down the pitch but I’d expect him to at least make some sort of effort to tackle or hold off a player 2 yards away gunning forward near him. You can cry exhaustion but if that’s the case, he should’ve been substituted. While he’s on though, I expect him to put in a bit more of a shift defensively as it happened too often for my liking. His clever attacking play though demonstrated though why we’ve missed him and overall, he did have a good game.
Joe Dodoo - 8.0
He was outright unplayable in the 1st half. He had Johnson begging for mercy whenever he had the ball out wide. His runs and pace were utterly lethal and he was demanding and ruthless in attack, pulling some good blocks and a great save out of Bursik. This was coupled with some strong defensive support too for Fleming. They had to double mark in the 2nd half because he was tearing them to shreds and it did work to some degree, as he was stifled a fair bit in the 2nd half. He still provided a couple chances though with his passing and work going forward though. Only thing his game was missing was the goal he deserved. One of, if not his best game for us in his time here.
Daryl Murphy - 6.0
Only really had one opportunity in the game from a corner and ended up heading towards Bursik. He put himself about more though as the first line of defence this match and as per usual, held the ball well in position. We know he’s not a runner but he did run well enough, especially in the first half, to provide to some good link-up play with those around him. He did lose the aerial battle though more often as Rodgers and Sykes regularly ganged up on him to keep him grounded. He was forced into limited opportunities but he took most of those limited opportunities decently enough. Needs a goal though. The rest of his game bar his hold-up play is quite limited itself and needs a goal to bring back up his confidence around the box again.
Yoan Zouma - 6.5
I’m glad to see Yoan back. He has mistakes in him but I think he’s slowly but surely learning from them the more he plays and I think he’ll be a great defender for next season if he’s up for it. Regarding this game though, he put in some strong tackles and handled a tough opponent in Charles fairly well. The few times he did get past Zouma, Yoan’s pace meant he could recover swiftly to correct any errors. There was one more serious error that let Charles through that Bryan’s yellow card challenge put a stop to but I thought his return was good overall. Glad to see him back.
Keith Hill - 7.0
I, like many other fans, have made no secret that I don’t think he’s the man to help us progress in our rebuilding project when it comes to on-the-field matters. The majority of his performances have been poor, to put it politely and in my opinion can’t be entirely excused by lack of personnel or officiating injustices. However, I’m also a guy who calls it as I see it and from what I saw today, there is little to criticise him for. He set us up in the correct formation, kept them organised from the touchline and largely chose the correct personnel (I still bang on the drum Lowe should not be playing Right Back). There’s definitely an argument that he should’ve substituted Crawford for Hamilton or Mellis but otherwise, he did quite well with his team today. He had them playing some good football, especially in the 1st half and got them to defend resolutely to the end, which has been one of our biggest Achilles Heel’s this season.
Since points don’t entirely matter anymore, (though I would like us to not finish rock bottom if we can), it’s all about putting in some positive performances and establishing a grafting, organised and spirited setup for L2 next season. Saturday was a good platform to start that. While I’m still yet to be convinced he’s who we need for the long term, if he wants to break through that stubbornness, we need performances like this one more consistently for the rest of the season. It’ll give fans something to cling onto that there is merit in his pleas for time to implement his long term strategy, regardless of what you think of the bloke himself. What I’m basically saying is that now’s the time Keith to start proving your doubters, including me, wrong. Let’s see if you’re up to it.