The Sky Blues remain top of the league after a second come-from-behind win at St Andrew’s in a row, overcoming a nervy opening period which saw us fall behind to secure victory just when the game looked to be slipping away from us. It was far from a perfect performance, but this team again found a way to win.
Passing It Out From The Back
This was a game that provided the starkest lesson we have experienced thus far of the pros and cons of passing the ball out from the back in the deliberate manner we have been attempting to do.
A lot of focus will inevitably be on the penalty that we conceded in the first 10 minutes that came directly from passing the ball out of defence while under pressure. AFC Wimbledon were immediately upon Kyle McFadzean and Marko Maroši after a throw-in from Fankaty Dabo, resulting in a hasty pass to Liam Walsh, who took a poor touch and had to decide between fouling AFC Wimbledon’s Michael Folivi or allowing him a tap-in.
Throughout the game, particularly in the first-half, we continued to pass the ball out in a considered manner while our opponents often committed as many as four players (with their right wing-back at times pushing up alongside their strikers) to the press. There were more hairy moments to come, most notably when Liam Walsh was caught in possession mid-way through the first-half to allow another one-on-one which Dominic Hyam managed to block, but the back four remained impressively composed with the ball at their feet.
Inviting the press onto us meant that once we got past that initial pressure, there was space to be exploited in midfield and in behind the opposing defence. During the first-half especially, we were quick and purposeful in our passing and movement through midfield, which meant AFC Wimbledon struggled to get back in their defensive shape and lead to several good opportunities.
Although we retained the desire to play out from the back, the second-half saw AFC Wimbledon drop off in their pressing and Marko Maroši go longer more often. It meant that we were less exposed at the back, but resulted in us creating relatively little until Liam Walsh’s stoppage time winner.
The criticism of playing the ball out from defence at this level is that it invites pressure and leads to avoidable goals being conceded, but without that pressure being invited, we would have created little during this game.
The Wide Threat
It was an interesting night for both Jordy Hiwula and Wesley Jobello, who’ll both feel like they could have impacted the game more than they did.
Hiwula had three one-on-ones during the first-half, fluffing two of them and seeming to score the other in spite of himself. It is easy to judge a striker on the chances they miss, but in getting into the positions he did to miss those three chances, he did exactly what was expected of him as a wide-forward.
Jobello didn’t have those kind of chances to spurn, although that is largely because he is there to fulfil a different function in the team. As the outlet on the right of the pitch, Jobello is there to stretch the play and get crosses into the box, which makes him fairly predictable for opponents to deal with – especially as he seems to struggle to beat defenders for skill or pace and can lack quality with his final ball.
On this occasion, not much seemed to come off for Jobello but he kept to his role nonetheless, which is all that can be asked of him on a bad night. There may be the temptation to see what the less predictable Gervane Kastaneer could do in his place, but right now, it feels as if Jobello consistency in being an available outlet helps wear teams down and may be at least a very marginal factor in the number of late goals we have scored this season.
Between having the wide-forward in Jordy Hiwula on the left and the winger in Wesley Jobello on the right, there is a nice balance between our wide options and this game was a demonstration of how it can be effective even if neither are playing at their very best. While there needs to be pressure on their places to ensure consistency, there doesn’t feel an overwhelming need at this moment in time to change things up in search of something better.
A Spread of Goals
Liam Walsh became our 10th different goalscorer in the league this season, which is the most in the division. Furthermore, only one team – Peterborough United – have scored more goals than we have.
It underlines a point at this stage in the season that it is hard to identify who the most crucial performers in the side are. At a guess, possibly Matt Godden and Callum O’Hare, but we managed to find a way to win this game with neither being particularly influential.
From the aforementioned wide players to Jordan Shipley, Zain Westbrooke, and now Liam Walsh, being able to step up from midfield, the set-piece threat from our centre-backs, to some of the enterprising runs our full-backs make, there are plenty of sources of goals and inspiration to call upon. Should Jamie Allen and Jodi Jones overcome their injury issues, there is even more strength in depth to call upon.
That being said, the team that had the highest number of goalscorers last season – Scunthorpe United – were relegated, so there is also something to be said for having that one proven and reliable threat in the side that can deliver on a consistent basis.