Weekend Round-Up: Rejuvenated Cowley, Bentley bites back, and trouble for Bowyer

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 13 November 2017, 11:06

The international fixtures tried to hog all the headlines, but League One and Two rejused to let this happen. Below Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) rounds-up all the action from the Football League.

Mixed fortunes for Blackpool

We have seen some good news for Blackpool off the field recently: the Oyston family have finally put the club up for sale after they lost a high court battle to Valeri Belokon.

On the field though, there’s room for improvement, with the Seasiders are bottom of the six-game form table.

Manager Gary Bowyer described his side’s performance in a 1-0 defeat at Northampton at the end of October as their worst under his tenure. A week later, they crashed out of the FA Cup in a 2-1 loss at National League side Boreham Wood, despite dominating most of that First Round clash.

A week later, they suffered yet another setback, going down 3-2 to Portsmouth at Bloomfield Road. Bizarrely, they managed to score twice despite having just one shot on target, with the second goal put in by a visiting player.

The first was scored by Viv Soloman-Otabor and set up by recent addition Dolly Menga, who won the official man-of-the-match award despite being on the pitch for just 19 minutes - not the greatest appraisal of those who started.

The club’s budgetary limitations means they cannot afford the most durable squad, so while they have a first eleven that can match most teams, three or four absentees have weakened them significantly.

They are currently missing the organizational qualities of centre-back Clark Robertson, the deep playmaking of midfielder Jimmy Ryan and the direct running of striker Kyle Vassell. Bowyer himself though is not immune to mild criticism: he left last season’s Player of the Year Kelvin Mellor and early season stunner-specialist Sean Longstaff on the bench.

Blackpool need two or three wins before Christmas to avoid a nervy second half of the season, but many fans feel the real battle is being won.

Moore remains Millers main man

Kieffer Moore’s importance to Rotherham United was conveyed by Paul Warne’s reaction to the striker’s 96th minute equaliser at Doncaster.

After a bad three games, which had seen Warne’s men gain just one point and concede nine goals, another defeat in the South Yorkshire Derby would have been tough to take.

The point was deserved having created the better chances in the early kick-off, but they can go up another gear once Lee Frecklington comes back. The long-serving midfielder not only has leadership qualities, he is also more selective with his passing than other midfielders and can set the tempo.

Currently, there is a temptation for the likes of Will Vaulks to look for the earliest possible ball to Moore. Not only does that directness risk making them easy to read, it also means they bypass creative talents such as Ryan Williams and Joe Newell, 5’8” and 5’11” respectively.

Moore’s leveller extends the target man’s league tally to 13, meaning that he has scored more goals than any player in the top five divisions of English football. Given that this time last year, he was loaned out by National League outfit Forest Green Rovers to Torquay United, we can see he has made huge strides over the last 12 months.

Warne though will be hoping his side can find another dimension to their attacking play.

The best and worst of Maddison

Peterborough United’s 2-2 draw at Kingsmeadow represented perhaps a missed opportunity. Though AFC Wimbledon put them under the cosh for much of the first half, when all four goals were scored, their hosts were hanging on in the second.

Gwion Edwards posed a constant threat down the left side and put many quality balls into the box, though the Posh suffered from the absence of a target man. Striker Jack Marriott is better suited to pressing in wide open spaces than getting on the end of high crosses and he couldn’t get the right connection on a couple of occasions, under pressure from Deji Oshilaja.

Marcus Maddison, having scored a penalty in the first half, also posed a threat on the right with his fine left foot, which he used to force a good save from George Long from long-range. As well as seeing why Maddison is one of the most technically gifted players in League One though, we also saw a glimpse of why he hasn’t yet pushed onto a higher level.

He often goes down too easily for the liking of many and reacted petulantly to try to get Liam Trotter sent off, despite minimal contact in his opponent’s alleged ‘headbutt’. If that behaviour continues, he will gain a bad reputation, referee’s won’t trust him - and nor will clubs higher up the pyramid, where a player of his ability belongs.

Anderson key for the Imps

When Lincoln drew 0-0 with Crawley at the end of October, they looked one-dimensional, hitting Matt Rhead with high balls all game whilst lacking alternative sources of creativity.

Head coach Danny Cowley freshened things up for the trip to Crewe two weeks later. He left three of the attacking players who had started their last league match on the bench to make way for Ollie Palmer, Elliott Whitehouse and Harry Anderson. The latter was the star of the show at Gresty Road, netting twice in a dominant second period that saw the Imps overturn a half-time deficit to win 4-1.

Anderson looked full of energy while Ollie Palmer was a selfless runner up top, after coming in for target man Rhead. Michael Bostwick battled superbly in midfield to allow Alex Woodyard to drive forward and play his trademark reverse passes through the gaps in defence, as we saw for Elliott Whitehouse’s injury-time goal that rounded off the scoring.

Not only did Lincoln net four away goals in the Football League for the first time since October 2006, they also moved level on points with the play-off places, with just one of the top seven winning. A good weekend then, for the rejuvenated Imps.

Bentley's boys bite back

After Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Wycombe Wanderers, Morecambe have achieved three victories on the bounce in all competitions for the first time since August 2016.

Not only have Morecambe climbed from 23rd to 19th thanks to their league win, they also beat Hartlepool to move just one FA Cup tie, albeit at high-flying Shrewsbury, away from the Third Round.

Granted, the other win came in a penalty shootout to decide a clash with Leicester in the less than glamorous EFL Trophy, but their recent form isn’t to be dismissed.

They deserved their victory against the Chairboys on Saturday, having outplayed them in the first half with Aaron Wildig a key creative influence. He put in an excellent delivery for Steven Old to head in the opener, before the energetic midfielder assisted again for Adam McGurk to fire home.

The forward, who has won promotion from this division with Burton, grabbed his fourth goal in 10 league starts to go level in the league goalscoring charts with the evergreen Kevin Ellison.

Morecambe had to dig in more in the second half and endured a nervy finale after Adebayo Akinfenwa pulled one back, but centre-backs Old and young – the latter being 21-year-old Sam Lavelle – held firm.

These are worrying times for the Shrimps, who are suffering from a lack of off-field transparency, but three straight wins at least makes the Globe Arena feel like a brighter place.

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Graham Westley
Graham Westley
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