5 Things We Learnt From Town v Bristol Rovers
Alex Cooke drops another list, but this time all about the abandoned match against the other lot from Bristol
1. Nathan Delfonso offers something different
It was the first time I’ve seen the former Villa man in a Town shirt and I was impressed. While clearly lacking in physical sharpness, his superior speed of thought was clear.
Delfonso was happy to spin off the shoulder of his marker for through balls or to drop wide to create crossing opportunities into the box. And with his impressive upper body strength, Town were happy to hit him earlier and work off him. His relationship with Luke Norris might take a while, especially since Norris seems to also be struggling for fitness.
The only question about Delfonso is clearly in his goal scoring record (0.267 per 90) compared to Nicky Ajose’s (0.447 per 90) but in many other areas he looks to be a significant upgrade.
2. Impressed by pressing (again)
Town closed Rovers down rather well (despite the front pair’s obvious lack of fitness).
Now, pressing is a complicated subject, not to be dealt with quickly or easy to see without video clips so I’m hoping to do something on it after Peterborough. If that game happens, and if I can get hold of the footage.
However, what was noticeable was how the players pressed as a group, and followed the forward’s lead about when to drop off and hold their shape. Most teams allow an initial press to last around five seconds – any more and you risk losing defensive shape – and Town did this well.
But what a good shape Town had! Not too much space between the lines of defence, midfield and attack. But with the wings covered, no part of the field was yielded.
In the drier first half, it reduced the conservative Rovers to moving the ball across the backline from full-back to full-back in search of an outlet. It was what Arsene Wenger christened ‘sterile domination’, and hints at how little they were able to create.
3. This is an ageing team (relatively)
For all of the previous complaints about the age and inexperience of Town’s team, this one is (almost) getting on a bit. With four players now 25 or over and the likes of Norris and Conor Thomas having numerous League One games under their belts, the average age of the XI has climbed to nearly 23. Add Rafa Branco to the team and the average age will go higher still.
The one position in which Town’s team is younger is at right wing-back where Darnell Furlong has replaced Brad Barry. While Barry improved markedly over last season, Furlong’s physical prowess, touch and positivity off the ball is distinctly an improvement. With his excellent third-man runs, he’ll score a few this season.
4. Town used width well
Town overloaded the deep defending Rovers on the flanks time and again. With Micheal Doughty and Anton Rodgers pushed wide with the wing-backs, Rovers midfield had no choice but to cover the full width of the pitch. This meant that their central midfield cover was thin already. Yet, they also had one of their midfielders frequently dropping into the back line to provide a spare man to cope with Town’s front four-man attack of Delfonso, Norris, Furlong and James Brophy.
This in turn created gaps in the middle which the excellent Yaser Kasim was able to exploit, and he did, getting numerous shots away.Especially as Rover’s second striker wasn’t that keen to follow Kasim as he moved freely across the box, turning those wide 2v2s into 3v2s.
5. It rained
I don’t know if you noticed, but it rained on Saturday. It rained on Stratton Bank, it poured down the Don Rogers, it filled that perma-puddle by the club shop to make it almost impassable. But that is the kind of thing that other lists might go on about.
So here is a picture of soggy Rovers fans in their wet Reg Grundies. That might put you off lunch a bit…