Last Saturday's spin up to The Hague provided a good opportunity to see where we are at. Our travelling team included around 5 regular A team players, a few more who have flirted between both panels and some more looking to stake a claim to step up. At this early stage, its not clear who we will have and how long we will have them so its important that our entire playing pool gets up to speed.
Last year there was no hiding the fact that our mindset was defensive in nature. We found a style that suited us in August and stuck with it through the Championship. In the end we fell short and we are aware that this year we need to find alternate ways to play so we can be more adaptable to situations in games and to the players at our disposal.
With that in mind, Saturday was used to test a few new things out. In our opening two games, we played a more traditional man to man style, not looking to defend so deeply. The first game against Hague B was a sluggish affair and there was little to be taken from a 3-5 to 0-3 win except an acceptance that the early season rust needed to be knocked off.
Next up was Hague A and again we decided not to retreat into our own half so much. The opening exchanges were characterised by needless fouls and poor tracking of runners, leaving us 0-6 to 0-1 behind at the break. However, a good half-time chat helped change things around and we at least won the second half dual. We may have claimed a draw if Timmy was awarded what looked like a cast iron penalty in the final minute when he was sandwiched by two Hague defenders.
Duneaden Gaels were next up and we needed a win to get back on track. This was our best performance of the day, against a team with some dangerous forwards. We reverted to a more defensive approach and Crusher was in his element, carrying his good form through the day. Having trailed at half-time we regrouped well and won a tight game by a point.
Amsterdam came next. The way the group had panned out, they needed to beat us to draw level with Duneaden and ourselves for second place and a shot at the final. The opening minutes were a horror show as the 'Dam split our defence at will to race away into a 1-2 to 0-0 lead. We recovered well and started to play some of our better football of the day, retaking the lead in the second half before a late burst from them put us on the back foot again. We had a free at the death to draw level but couldn't convert.
In the end it wasn't enough for Amsterdam to make the final as a scoring blitz by Duneadon propelled them above both of us to take the spot..
All in all, it was a useful exercise. At the back, I'd put some pressure on our defence to be able to mind their own patch and not need guys filtering back to support. The lads did well and their main problem was dealing with runners coming through.
That highlights the need to get a balance between attacking minded midfielders and more defensive ones in the panel. On Saturday it was only when Ger went in there that we had someone holding that area. Our forward play continues to improve but has a bit to go yet. We bunched in the scoring areas and have a tendency to just think one pass ahead rather than anticpate how a play will unfold further down the line. With that said, the forwards suffered from the lack of quick ball in and our habit of carrying the ball forward into their space.
They say you learn more in defeat than victory and in that sense, we got a lot out of Saturday. We saw good improvements but were also reminded of our shortcomings. The attitude is currently good and the committment also so hopefully we come progress in the coming month.