Home Grown?

Yesterday the Football League AGM ratified rules for the 2010/2011 season. From next season clubs are required to name 10 “home-grown” players in a squad, with a maximum squad size of 25 players aged over 21. There are no to be restrictions on players under 21.

To be “home-grown” players must be registered in domestic (English) football for three seasons before their 21st birthday.

So which players in the current Town squad over 21 at the start of next season will qualify as “home grown”?

  • David Lucas – Youth at Preston North End
  • Phil Smith – Youth at Millwall
  • Kevin Amankhaah – Youth at Bristol City
  • Jonathan Douglas – Youth at Blackburn Rovers
  • Michael Timlin – Youth at Fulham
  • Alan O’Brien – Youth at Newcastle United

There are seven first team players over 21 that are not “home grown”; Scott Cuthbert, Gordon Greer, JP McGovern, Craig Easton, Lescinel Jean-Francois, Jakub Jesionkowski and Vincent Pericard. Gordon Greer spent time at Blackburn before he was 21 but was not registered for three seasons.

On the basis Easton and Timlin sign their new contracts for 2010/2011, Town already have 6 first team players over 21 who fulfil the League criteria. Younger players are needed to fill the remaining 4 slots. There are five Town players who have been registered for at least three seasons; Charlie Austin, Sean Morrison, Callum Kennedy, Mark Scott and Nathan Thompson. New professionals Billy Bodin and Will Evans have been registered for 2 seasons.

So at the moment, Town can just about meet the minimum 10 “home grown” player squad requirement.

The League’s intention to improve domestic football and youth player development is certainly a good idea. In recent years Town have been successful in developing youth players and given them first team opportunities. So with David Byrne and Paul Bodin in charge of youth affairs, we can be confident that the club itself can produce “home grown” players meeting the League rule, as well as taking this a step further by developing local Swindon and Wiltshire talent.

Town v Colchester

This afternoon Town were away at Colchester United in our first of two matches against fellow promotion contenders. Colchester had failed to win in eight games (since February) and have slipped out of the play-off places following Huddersfield’s mid-week win against Oldham.

Wilson fielded a full strength and unchanged team following the Easter Monday comfortable 3-0 win over Tranmere Rovers. Importantly Town were able to rely on an experienced bench featuring Kevin Amankwaah, Jean-Francois, Timlin, Easton, Nouble and Pericard who returns from his hamstring injury.

Wilson made much of the potential difficulty of the Colchester game this week, singling out the match as the toughest game of the month. Of course this is a month which had seen games against Leeds and Norwich. Colchester’s game at the County Ground earlier this season had certainly shown they are a force to be reckoned with, although that game was Aidy Boothroyd’s second game in charge. Only Leeds, Norwich and Millwall had won a league game at The Weston Homes Community Stadium this season so Town were indeed in for a tough task.

As for the match, Town were dominant throughout large periods but lacked the cutting edge to make chances pay. Colchester took the lead in the 24th minute when Ashley Vincent was put through on goal and scored on his third shot after Lucas saved but couldn’t keep hold of the ball. Town’s players were incensed as they believed Sheehan had been fouled in the build up to the goal.

Going behind was the last thing we wanted in such a crucial game as Town have failed to win this season after conceding first.

Just before the break, a Gordon Greer shot hit the crossbar after running unchallenged and exchanging passes with Ward.

The second half was much of the same. Town had chances but the Colchester keeper Williams was up to the mark with saves from Sheehan and Ward. Then against the run of play, sloppy defending by Town allows Wordsworth to shot from 20 yards past Lucas to make it 2-0. Wordsworth’s second and Colchester’s third was confirmed in the dying minutes.

In the end a lucky and relieved Colchester take the 3 points, but questions must be asked of Town’s strike pairing of Paynter and Austin, who were later supplemented with Pericard, with a failure to convert key chances.

Post match, Wilson stressed he  never expected it to be easy and that Town need to concentrate on each game.  I can’t help but think Danny needs to remember his comments in the Swindon Advertiser on Friday, where he set his sights on catching Norwich at the top of the table. I certainly never thought this was possible given the remaining games and would rather Wilson not focus on winning the league and raising expectations even further before first securing the 2nd place

I had expected Town be on 77 points by now, but they are 1 points below. With five games remaining, this loss and our poor goal difference makes it even more important to take a maximum 12 points from the next four games, before we travel to the New Den on the 8th May.

Elsewhere, both Millwall (4-0 v Gillingham) and Leeds (2-0 v Southend) won as expected to overtake Town who drop to 4th place, 2 points behind Millwall.  I expected Charlton to lose at Southampton and this proved right as they went down 1-0. It has been a good day for Colchester as they go level on points with 6th place Huddersfield who were beaten 3-0 at Brentford. At the bottom Stockport’s relegation is confirmed following a 3-1 home loss to Yeovil.

Sick as a… Canary?

This afternoon Swindon took on a top of the table Norwich City, who came into the match 7 points clear at the top and unbeaten in 4 games.  City also boast two of the top players in League One this season, Holt and Hoolahan.

Swindon started the game at a gloomy County Ground with 3 changes from the midweek win away at Southampton.  Jean-Francois came in for the injured Cuthbert in the centre of defence, Easton in for the suspended Ferry in the centre of midfield and new loan signing Frank Nouble partnering Austin up-front with Town reverting back to a 4-4-2.

Town dominated much of the first half as Norwich sat back content to play the waiting game to counter attack.  Swindon were unjustly not given a penalty for a foul in the box on new boy Nouble who was under a strong  challenge from Michael Nelson.  Nouble was on a great run down the left and got the advantage over Nelson who clearly brought him down, but the referee waved away the protests and Norwich cleared to Holt up-front who had his shot blocked.  As I see it the referee had two choices, to either give an obvious penalty, or to book Nouble for a dive, but he did neither.  This was a sign of things to come as other poor refereeing decisions were made throughout the game against Town and to some extent Norwich.

The teams went in 0-0 at half time.  It was a good and entertaining first half with several chances for both teams and exciting end-to-end football.

Not long into the second half Norwich capitalised on some lax play with our right-back Darby caught in possession, enabling Rose to deliver an excellent cross into the box, which was met perfectly by Holt who just got in-front of Jean-Francois.  This goal came out of nothing and made it an even harder task for Town to get anything from the game.

Wilson was slow to regain the initiative after going a goal down.  It wasn’t for another 14 minutes until Timlin replaced Easton and Marshall replaced Nouble.  Then 10 minutes later Pericard came on for Austin.

Austin’s replacement was met with fairly widespread boos from the County Ground crowd who were unhappy with the new found talisman being substituted.  Wilson’s reaction to the crowd’s view was startling, standing hands on hips, turned around to face the crowd, with a steely look of disbelief on hearing the boos.  Austin had, as ever, never given up and was constantly chasing the ball down and dropping deep to regain possession.  The problem wasn’t necessarily Austin coming off, rather it was the quality of his replacement Vincent Pericard, who has yet to score for Town and has been ineffective to say the least.  Pericard is a complete contrast to Austin and I know who I’d want on the pitch whilst trying to get the equaliser in normal circumstances.  However Austin was clearly tiring and suffering from the 3 games played this week.  Wilson was therefore totally right to substitute him.

Town pushed forward in the final 15 minutes looking for the equaliser.  Two further penalty appeals in 5 minutes from challenges on Douglas and Marshall in the box which were waved away by the referee.  Sheeham then saw his well taken free kick pushed away by Forster in the Norwich goal, but there was no Town player available to capitalise on the rebound.  Ward then was able to shoot, but again turned away for a corner by Forster.  From further pressure and another corner taken by Sheeham, Gordon Greer was able to escape his marker and tower above to head the ball into the net deep in time added on, giving Forster no chance, sending the County Ground into raptures.  1-1!  Greer shows what a magnificent leader he is by his performance today, also by his and his teammates reactions at the end of the game.

The equaliser was the last action of the game and it is Town who snatch a deserved equaliser, a great point and an important point in the push for the play-offs.  Town achieved exactly what we hoped they would.  Norwich must be sick they couldn’t hold on for the win, but surely they can’t argue as 1-1 was the fair result.

Other results were positive, Charlton could only draw 2-2 in the local derby with Gillingham and Colchester lost at Walsall.  Leeds are set to play Millwall in a key game on Monday night.  Outside of the play-offs MK Dons hopes took a big dent with a 3-0 defeat by Southampton and Huddersfield gained ground winning 2-0 at Leyton Orient.

Town v Brighton

Town won their first match in three this afternoon with a 1-0 victory over Brighton.  Charlie Austin scored the winner in the 71st minute, slotting in a low shot from 10 yards.  This goal took his tally to 14 for the season and will hopefully restore his confidence in front of goal, as he had failed to score since the home win against Carlisle on the 20th February.

It will be interesting to see the full extent of the hamstring injuries to Lucas and Perciard who were both replaced before half time.  Also whether Danny Ward will recover from his concussion before Tuesday’s game at Southampton.  The squad lacks depth and although Marshall, Smith and Easton did well after coming off the bench today, Southampton will present much stronger opponents. I’ve yet to be convinced by Marshall and Smith this season, albeit they have only had limited chances to impress.

In addition to the welcomed win, we were fortunate other results went our way today.  MK Dons could only draw 3-3 at Brentford, Norwich beat Huddersfield 3-1 at The Galpharm and taking Hudderfield’s unbeaten home record, also Colchester surprisingly lost 2-1 at Carlisle.  Town therefore stay in the play-off positions in 6th place, with a 5 point gap to 7th place Huddersfield.  A very helpful gap considering our next two games which I’d be more than happy with 2 points.

Every team goes through a rough patch.  Therefore let’s hope the recent winless run won’t be repeated and we can push on for the play-off position we deserve.

Charlton – 2 points dropped (again)

Whilst the talk this morning is of a lack of fitness against Charlton, which resulted in Town surrendering their single goal lead on Staurday.  There was more to this defeat than fitness, exposing an awful lot about Wilson and the squad.

Austin looked very tired and despite working hard as usual, couldn’t be his typical attacking threat.  Wilson was too late to substitute him in the 82nd minute.  Perhaps the substitution was left late as Pericard, the obvious and only real replacement, wasn’t on the bench due to injury.  As a result, Wilson had a lack of attacking options and opted to bring on the enigma Macklin.

Making the substitution that late, let alone sending Macklin on, was a bizzare decision considering Charlton had brought on Burton as an extra attacking player about 15 minutes previous.  From that point onwards they looked a completely different team and were dominating play.  Their dominance forced Town to slow down the tempo, drop deeper and deeper to cope with the pressure.  Only to then send aimless long balls for the front two to tirelessly chase.

Macklin, who was as ineffective and wasteful as ever, was unable to provide any meaningful link up play with Paynter, JP, Ward and Ferry.  He made runs straight into crowded spaces with no hope of breaking past, ignoring the channels and failing to pass to his team mates.  The fact that our supporting players were pushing forward to help Macklin only allowed Charlton to exploit the swift counter attack.

With Timlin and Easton warming the bench, one of these experienced players would have been a much better choice to bring on than the young Macklin.  This would have allowed 5 across the midfield to serve to help to counter the extra attacking player, but will also allow Town to keep possession with more options for a shorter passing game without recourse to the searching long balls, often over-hit, into space.

In the end it was a counter attack that did it for Town.  Deon Burton controlled the ball well for the in-running Bailey who had the time to control and place his shot past Lucas.

So many times this season, I recall 6 times, that Town have conceded in added time surely must make Wilson rethink his use of substitutes.  But most importantly he needs to add depth to a predominately young and inexperienced bench to give us any chance of finishing in the top six.