A Season in Stats: Part 4 – A case for the defence…or not…

Given the delay in the new Swindon manager announcement you can feast your eyes on some more statistics I’ve gathered over the course of the season.

This time I’ll be having a look at the defensive phase of play and the contribution of all players with a defensive role, in particular, these stats reveal how many goals have been conceded whilst each player has been on the pitch, how many per game played and the frequency arising from total minutes per player.

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A Season in Stats: Part 3 – Who is the better goalkeeper?

David Lucas

A bull... no it's Phil Smith

A position where the players divide opinion around The County Ground like no other. Who is the better goalkeeper? Is it the Town no.1 David Lucas or no.13 Phil Smith?

2009/2010 was a year of domination for David Lucas, Smith could only make 7 league apppearances and was truely the backup.

That’s in contrast to this season as Phil Smith featured in the majority of games, making 26 starts compared to Lucas’ 20, mostly due to Lucas suffering a back injury, but also because the goalkeeper position like all of the Town team has suffered from managerial indecision and tinkering.

Fortunately as both have played a fair share of the season each the statistics collated on them both provides a fair assessment of their ability.

Oh…and before anyone asks, these stats to take into account the Peterborough and Sheffield Wednesday games when the starting keeper was substituted, so Lucas has made 21 appearances to Smith’s 27.

Contribution to result: 

Keeper Apps Won Drawn Lost Points Won P/G
Lucas 20(>1) 4 (19%) 7 (33%) 10 (48%) 0.90
Smith 26(>1) 6 (22%) 7 (26%) 14 (52%) 0.93

Very little difference between the two keepers in their overall contribution to the match result. Phil Smith made a marginally better contribution to points won per game this season, however Smith still contributed more to a losing side.

Goals conceded:

Keeper Minutes Played Conceded Con P/G Mins per conceding Clean Sheets Clean Sheets P/G
Lucas 1718 32 1.52 53.69 4 5.25
Smith 2422 40 1.48 60.55 5 5.4

Phil Smith wins this round, again marginally, with less goals conceded per game, keeping the ball out of the net for an additional 7 minutes per opposition goal and has a better likelihood of keeping a clean sheet.

Shots faced and saved:

Keeper Shots on target Faced Shots OT Faced  P/G Mins per shots OT Faced  Shots Saved Shots Saved % Shots Saved P/G Mins per shot saved 
Lucas 95 4.52 18.08 63 66% 3 27.27
Smith 114 4.22 21.25 74 65% 2.7 32.73

David Lucas has faced more shots (defined as opponent shots on target) at a rate of every 18.08 minutes, compared to every 21.25 minutes for Smith. This could be because Smith organises his defence better to close down the opposition attacks. When faced with a shot on target Lucas is more likely to save, achieving an average of 3 shots saved per game compared to Smith’s 2.7, also reflected in the minutes per shot saved.

Conclusion:

Does Lucas catch the ball...?

The contribution of each keeper to match results is very marginal, Smith will go for longer without conceding, however Lucas performed better in terms of the overall number of shots on target he has faced and saved.

The closeness between the two in nearly all statistics highlights why we’ve had no outstanding no.1 goalkeeper all season who deserves an unbroken run in the side. No wonder the managers have tinkered and given both their fair share of opportunities to impress.

So who is the better keeper?…Perhaps Phil Smith may just nudge it judging by these statistics, however he still doesn’t fill me with confidence, although come to think about it… do either of them? It’s a shame both have contracts for 2011/2012 as a new senior face could do wonders for our rebuilding towards a promotion at the first attempt.

A Season in Stats:

Part 1 – Relegation

Part 2 – Slow out of the blocks

One Town goal, two huddles and three points lost

I didn’t travel to Essex to watch Town at Colchester, so a big thanks to regular Washbag contributor STFC007 for his thoughts and reflections on the game.

After last year’s 3-0 away defeat at the hands of Colchester in their dreary stadium, I vowed that I would not return here for this season’s encounter. However, I felt quite positive all week that we could get a result despite all the negativity and decided that Town could do with as much support as possible, so I made the journey after all.

The walk to the stadium from one of the business parks was just as long as last year’s, and the stadium still has this ‘nearly finished’ feel to it, not helped by the eternal building site surrounding the stadium. The four stand-alone stands make the stadium devoid of any atmosphere, made worse by a meagre 3,624 supporters, of which a couple of hundred supporting the Town sat in the only sunny spot in the stadium.

After a Town team huddle prior to kick-off, something I had not seen for a couple of seasons, they started very positive making their intentions known from the start and pinning Colchester back. Town were very unlucky not to have scored with a quickly taken shot from distance by Benyon, only tipped onto the bar by the finger tips of the stretching Cousins in the Colchester goal.

The only real danger that Colchester posed in the first half was mainly as a result of lack of pace at the back and some dangerous situations of our own making;  Cuthbert and Rose bumped into each other but we got away with that one, but whilst Frampton was struggling to hold off a Colchester player making a run into the box, the bouncing ball hit Frampton’s arm. Most Swindon supporters nor the linesman could not see the infringement, but the referee who was in a good position pointed at the spot. Mooney sent Lucas the wrong way and against the run of play we were 1-0 down.

For a period after the goal, some restlessness crept into Swindon’s game where the long ball up to the sometimes isolated front two was used rather than the midfield passing game.

Timlin’s excellent recent performances, which kept Ferry out of the team, were not matched during the first half. He looked out-of-sorts and struggled to keep up with the pace. But Town continued their domination with some very nice combinations but any quality of a final pass was preventing a break-through; either way, Town were unfortunate to go into the dressing room at half time a solitary goal behind.

After the break, Town stepped up a gear and for long periods were dominating the game. The equaliser, when it came, was well deserved.

Cuthbert reacted quickest after a corner was only partially dealt with by the keeper and headed the ball into the net. Cuthbert’s outburst of emotions with him beating the logo on his shirt running towards the Swindon supporters was only part of the story. All players ran towards him and joined the celebrations dispelling any rumors of a split dressing room, or the team not being up for it.

Not long after his goal, Cuthbert nearly scored again with a header only for man-of-the match Colchester keeper Cousins making a fully outstretched dive to keep the ball flying into the top corner.

Swindon continued to press, but the quality of the final pass continued to fail them; overshot free-kicks and wayward crosses adding to the frustration.

The referee, Mr Salisbury, played his part as well, as referees have done in so many of Town’s games this season. The inconsistency of his decisions and lack of vision to read the game makes it unlikely he ever played the game at any reasonable level. And supporters can’t always be wrong as both sets sung their disapproval of his decisions several times during the game; he was poor, very poor.

Bringing the play back to the centre circle after an infringement whilst Obika was off clear on goal was careless, but not giving a clear cut handball in the box after giving a penalty to the home team in the first half shows a level of poor decision making. Town are more likely to reach the play-offs than Mr Salisbury ever to referee a Premier League game.

Even though play became more open towards the end of the game, and Colchester had a few chances, Swindon’s domination deserved a winning goal. Instead a loose ball after a corner was mis-hit by Gillespie and flew into the back of the net, 2-1 Colchester. Dossevi came close to a late equaliser, but his shot went just wide.

There were many positives, especially during the second half; a robust and confident performance from a returning Lucas in goal, a great willingness to win from all players and a belief from both players and supporters that has been missing for quite some time. There was also an increased togetherness illustrated by a second huddle instigated by Lucas after a short break in play following an injury.

Despite the precarious position in he table and wayward form both home and away, I am confident that if the same work-rate and desire is displayed during the remaining games, Town will pick up enough points to secure our League One safety.

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If anyone else would be interested to contribute a match report or your reflections on the goings-on at the County Ground, then please feel free to contact me at thewashbag@gmail.com or @thewashbag

Town v Wednesday Match Preview

After the trip to Crawley….errr I mean round Iain’s to watch it in comfort on ESPN, attention turns back to the bread and butter of League One this Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday…. weather dependant.

With Town failing to hit any sort of consistency, other than consistently shipping goals in at the back, we’re all left wondering how and when our season will resemble anything near our expectations.

At 1.17 points per game won so far, if Town carried on at this rate we’d only secure a measly 54 points and in danger of the drop.

Our current position of 20th in League One after 18 played plainly isn’t good enough, although the crumb of comfort remains the unpredictability of the league this season with only an 8 point gap between us to Oldham in 6th. So there does remain a chance things could turn around.

Even though there is 8 points to make up this means we sorely need to put a run of wins together to make any sort of impression on the top half, let alone the play-off positions. However with 2 wins in 10 games and no successive victories since beating Southampton, Walsall then Huddersfield back in early Autumn something needs to change. When is a winning run like we enjoyed at this point last season going to start?

Well to start this run on Saturday isn’t going to be easy. Wednesday come to The County Ground on the back of 6 wins on the bounce in league and cup, scoring 21 goals and conceding 6, until their 3-1 defeat in the JP Trophy at Carlisle on Tuesday night. Also, with the match being the first league game under the helm of serial club owner Milan Mandaric, Wednesday will no doubt be out to impress now the cloud of administration over the team has been finally lifted.

For Wednesday their 12 goal top scorer Neil Mellor will be sorely missed, out with a serious ankle injury suffered on Tuesday night. At least there are players returning to the squad for Town with Ferry back in the squad, Lucas available, Douglas recovering fast, Andy Frampton is back on loan for another month after recovering from injury, plus Matt Ritchie’s loan has also been extended and is available until the Charlton game on 3rd January.

Wilson played his cards and went ‘back to basics’ for the FA Cup First Round tie at Plymouth. Whilst the team have improved and only the late defeat at Notts County a truly disappointing result.. there is hope. His ‘back to basics’ team need to start delivering and deliver quickly otherwise we can forget another trip to Wembley and I can forget my winnings from a £30 bet that Town would finish 3rd….. I know… I was rather optimistic.

As for a score…for what it’s worth…my prediction is a 2-1 victory for Town to kick-start our season.

Charlton Avenge Play-Off Defeat Against A Fading Town

I’ve now had the chance to reflect on Town’s 3-0 defeat at the hand of Charlton Athletic last night… Town played desperately poorly and like a team of strangers in a match that only Charlie Austin and David Prutton came out of with any sort of credit.

It was always going to be tough against a well organised Charlton side that was seeking and deserved revenge for the play-off semi-final defeat on penalties. Charlton knew exactly how to dominate the game facing a Town team that was low on confidence, suffering a lack of consistency without the figureheads of Douglas, Ferry, Greer, Paynter and Ward whom they faced earlier this year.

Charlton were far bigger as well as stronger, constantly restricting the space and putting pressure on Town. This worked as Town became rushed and more and more disjointed with nearly every pass going astray, particularly from the normally accurate JP McGovern, our midfield might have well as not turned up. Later in the game the change Wilson made was to bring on the ineffective Alan O’Brien who is hardly known to turn things around.

Upfront, did Vincent Pericard actually win an aerial challenge? What is the point of playing the big man if he can’t be strong and put pressure on our opposing defence to provide Charlie with the flick-ons he needs. I certainly believe Charlie is much more of an aerial threat than Pericard.

Then our defence. 3 of them couldn’t stop Joe Anyinsah who made the first Charlton goal. They provided Charlton which so much space in the final third throughout the first half and we were lucky to go in behind only a single goal down. Without pressure Joe Anyinsah found space in the box to head home a second. A similar story for the third as Paul Benson rises first to head the ball past a static Phil Smith.

As the match wore on our confidence took a hammering. The defence, too scared to concede another, pumped the ball up field where it would fall straight at the feet of a Charlton player ready for another attack, or simply clear the ball out into touch to Charlton’s advantage. We lost any rhythm and Charlton secured a dominant 59% possession and of course the victory.

So Town after last season’s heroics Town are fading way, now sitting 17th and staring at relegation rather than upwards. 7 points now separate us and the resurgent Southampton who’ve risen to 6th place. 27 goals have been conceded and 13 of those have been put past Lucas and Smith within the last 4 games… this isn’t the start we were expecting.

On Monday I looked back 2 years ago to the end of Maurice Malpas’ tenure at Swindon, pointing out the similarities to our current run of results and games we now face. I considered Charlton was a must win game for us to provide confidence going into the 2 cup games. Now that has fallen by the wayside the pressure is really on for a result against Plymouth Argyle this Saturday, otherwise my normally supportive tune for Wilson may need to be reconsidered.

Last Minute Plymouth Winner Shocks Town in 3-2 Defeat

from swindontownfc.co.uk

Town lost 2-3 in what was a pulsating and watchable League One tie against Plymouth Argyle at the County Ground last night. Our first defeat in 6 games in all competitions.

Earlier on Tuesday The Adver reported on Peter Reid’s plan to exploit the flanks and cause the narrow Town midfield plenty of problems. This seems an obvious approach to provide our midfield diamond with problems, and the opening half hour was dominated by our inability to respond to their wide threat. So much so, this tactical advantage contributed to Plymouth’s early goalrush and plenty of other real chances… they could have scored 4 or 5.

Wilson only changed the midfield 4 to a flatter formation, with JP McGovern switched to the left side, after 30 minutes of the first half gone. Fortunately, it was after this tactical change that Town started to deal with Plymouth and create a few chances, however the damage had already been done.

Despite the initial Plymouth width advantage, Town’s early defending looked much to be desired and should have dealt with both Plymouth opportunities that resulted in goals.

First it was goalkeeper David Lucas who was squarely at fault as he failed miserably to meet a long throw from Kari Arnason and Reda Johnson rose above to head the ball with little challenge into an empty net. Those Town fans who’ve seen Lucas’ recent poor composure, decision making and control of his penalty area as displayed at Walsall would be very concerned about the erratic form of the Town no.1 which has directly resulted in 2 goals conceded in 3 games.

Of course I can and should blame Lucas for his error, but rightly I must also point out the many excellent saves he made from close-up and long range throughout the match which kept the scoreline semi-decent and us in the match. Like I said, it could have been 4 or 5 to Plymouth.

Plymouth’s second came shortly afterwards with only 4 minutes between the goals. It came from the first of two pinpoint crosses from the left side – the second would turn the game completely later in the game – where Lucas was beaten and the covering Douglas was caught in two minds and couldn’t clear, Bradley Wright-Phillips pinched a second.

David Prutton has been rightfully singled out this season by myself and others as a weak link in the Town midfield, however I’ve come to realise this has been as much the fault of Wilson who had failed to get Prutton and Douglas to work together in a 2 man central pairing. Last night was perhaps Prutton’s best performance in a Town shirt, albeit later his game was tarnished with a second deserved booking with 14 minutes left to play.

When you are trailing 2 goals behind you need some magic, a goal from out of nowhere to turn the game. It was Prutton who provided this goal and the impetus to spur us forward in the 37rd minute when a full 25 yards out he tried his luck and found the far corner of Romain Larrieu’s net.

From then on the game  swung in Town’s favour with chances either side of half time for Pericard, Dossevi and Rose, who got the deserved equaliser to curl in a well placed free kick at the Town End from 25 yards. I can’t remember when I’ve seen 2 Town goals from 25 yards in one game!

With the game standing at 2-2 it was anyone’s, but perhaps a draw was the ‘deserved’ result for both teams.

No team can account for the the outstanding pinpoint cross from Noone, again from the left, and well-placed header that secured the third goal and the 3 points for Plymouth.

The irony in the Plymouth winner was that it arrived in the 96th minute. The fourth official had only indicated a minimum of 5 minutes added time, concurrent with the decision to give Reda Johnson his marching orders for his second booking. To say Johnson left the pitch slowly is an understatement! The referee didn’t rush him and indicated by looking and pointing at his watch that he would be adding on additional time to compensate for the wastage…that was ultimately profitable for Plymouth in the time added on at the end. But clearly the more pressing question is why we could build on our obvious advantage going into those last 6 minutes?

Captain Douglas?

from swindontownfc.co.uk

Has anyone else started to have concerns over Jonathan Douglas being club captain? Or is it just me that I’m now starting to look for a scapegoat following our more than disappointing start to the season?

Have we won a game where Douglas has been captain?

Don’t get me wrong, I really admire what he has brought to the team since joining from Leeds United last summer. He was a worthy winner of our Player of the Year and is a much valued holding midfielder, giving the team a strong central spine we haven’t seen  for many years. However, I can’t help but wonder whether he has too much to deal with as he combines the roles of a holding playmaker and enforcer as well as captain. I just want him to concentrate on his game, the way he did last season.

The players know where to find Douglas on the pitch so that he can orchestrate the play, however it seems to me for Douglas to lead through his passing and dictating the tempo alone just isn’t enough.

Does Douglas give the team the verbal direction and organisation on the pitch? I’m not convinced. The only time I noticed Douglas on Saturday was his pointless tirade at the referee, resulting in a inevitable caution.

Would David Lucas have been a more fitting choice? Perhaps, yes, David is more than vocal between the posts. Although whether or not adding to his responsibilities would have averted any or our poor defensive displays over the past 4 matches I don’t know.

Other than Lucas, I’m struggling to find another candidate for the role previously vacated by Gordon Greer. I know this moan isn’t going to change anything and to be honest I don’t really expect Wilson would ever strip Douglas of the captaincy. So, it’s all down to Jonathan, how will he react and lead by example.

I willing to give him the chance to prove me wrong. Starting at the Stadium:MK this Saturday, in what is now, as far as I’m concerned, a must win game.