Just about everything that hasn’t been working right now was exposed in a miserable second-half showing at Fleetwood Town. After a promising first-half, the more experienced Fleetwood stepped up through the gears to put a Sky Blues side lack in confidence and ideas to the sword via a clinical second-half showing.
The Problems A Lack Of Goals Causes
Three of the four wins we notched in a row last month came after scoring the first goal, our past six winless games have come after we conceded the game’s first goal. Our lack of goals has put the focus on our misfiring strikers, but it is a problem that impacts the whole team, which was what this defeat really became about.
Not scoring puts pressure on the team to keep clean sheets. Any error, any lapse in concentration, any slight misjudgement that puts the opposition throw on goal has the potential to cost us the game. It means that the shape and concentration of the side has to be perfect in order to take points from games – even the best defences in the world don’t keep clean sheets in every game.
That pressure then has a multiplying effect back on the strikers because they are under the spotlight to put away any chance that falls their way. Jordy Hiwula and Conor Chaplin had excellent chances to give us the lead in the first-half, but snatched at their chances and let Fleetwood off-the-hook.
It causes players to second-guess themselves when in promising positions. Even our star performers right now – Tom Bayliss and Luke Thomas – are losing conviction in their ability when they reach the time to pull the trigger or play through a team-mate. Overall, there seems to be a deferral in the responsibility of taking chances.
The three goals conceded came from panicky play around our penalty area. At the other end of the pitch, it was almost entirely unsurprising that we couldn’t even score from a late, meaningless, penalty.
Sometimes It Isn’t Enough To Try
It feels weird to commend the players’ efforts after a 3-0 loss, but the effort and commitment of this side cannot be doubted.
The problem is that the effort and commitment we’re seeing right now isn’t being used productively. We’re seeing Tom Bayliss and Luke Thomas constantly drive the team forward, without anyone trying to get on the end of things, we’re seeing Jonson Clarke-Harris run himself into the ground but struggling to link the attack, we’re seeing Lee Burge make fantastic saves but still leak goals.
There is a lack of intent and cohesion in our play at the moment, which is seeing honest efforts seep away into nothingness. The performance in this game wasn’t a million miles away from what we were seeing during that winning run, but this recent run of poor form has exposed some of the underlying issues with the set-up of this side.
Time For A Re-Think
Mark Robins needs to be careful not to throw everything good about this side out with what is bad, but the next 10 days are an opportunity to freshen things up and tweak things for the better. We are not far away from the half-way point of the season and are closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone, there is time to work on improving things before the season reaches a more decisive phase.
The first issue to resolve is obviously the goalscoring one. While it is going to be difficult to immediately rectify the lack of confidence our forwards are showing, working on creating better, and more, chances will at least boost our odds of scoring goals.
How we play the ball out from defence is becoming a more noticeable issue. Michael Doyle has set the tempo for the team effectively this season, but teams are starting to single him out to harried, which is making our play from the back either ponderously slow or aimlessly long. Either taking Doyle out of the side for Abu Ogogo or Liam Kelly may help, although neither offer a particularly impressive range of passing, bringing an extra man into midfield may help give us more control of possession but comes at the cost of taking a forward out of a side that is struggling to score.
Making radical wholesale changes could prove to be more detrimental than beneficial to our hopes of turning around this poor run of form. Mark Robins has plenty of time to consider his options, even if it doesn’t result in victory against Walsall next Saturday, we need to try doing things slightly differently otherwise this season could be set to become one long lesson in what happens when you don’t put chances away.