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|Woods: Last Act|
Failure to Fell Forest Green gets Woods the Axe
By: Dan Humphrey
EVENTS have overtaken us, Neil Woods has left, but what happened last night to lead to his departure? Town lined up in the predictable 4-4-2 (what else?), with 4 changes. Contract rebels Bore and Atkinson dropped to the bench with Makofo, and Cummins's latest ban began.
Incoming: Watt (as captain), Sinclair, Eagle and Wood. Bradley Wood vs Forest Green, there's a joke there, but Town fans ain't in a laughing mood.
Forest Green brought more players than fans to Blundell Park. 9 fans by most counts, with Town shooting towards them in the first half. In fact Town actually had a (tame) shot on target after about 20 seconds, and followed it up immediately with an offside Connell goal from Eagle's cross. 2 chances in a minute, is it Christmas again? Both sides started lively-ish; Captain Watt headed clear from Forest Green's first attack.
Town looked more dominant in the first part of the game but mistakes started early too - Sinclair's sloppy pass leading to the first proper FG chance; luckily the shot was straight at Arthur.
Eight minutes in we scored as COULSON shot high to the goalie's right. All is well!
So how come Woods is without a job?
Well FG looked dangerous down our left, Kempson clearing a cross. Arthur had to tip an on target FG effort over after 10mins and the opponents were starting to test us more regularly. A hoofed clearance after a corner fell kindly to their busy no9 Styche who volleyed over after a smart turn.
Somehow, all too similar to the Cambridge game, the home side drifted out of control and contention. The FG half chances became more and more frequent, more and more dangerous, more often a quick ball forward or a quick passing move saw Town reliant on Arthur. A Sinclair cross was easy for Bittner the FG keeper. Connell turned, span, fell over, no foul. (repeat this phrase again and again to yourself) Wood made a chance-saving key back header from a cross from Town's left. The visitors were having much joy against our left side and just in front of our back four. And just behind our back four for that matter.
Eagle crossed; keeper collected. Then a dull spell, both teams looking casual, perhaps exhausted from a frantic start. On the half hour, Watt intervened to break up a FG move. nothing happened for a few minutes, Coulson raced through, shot high.
Forest Green had some ex-Cheltenham players, veterans of THAT day at Cardiff. Sob.
After 35 mins, an equaliser. STYCHE raced through, evading a couple of Town challenges, Arthur came out, went to ground and was cleverly chipped. Almost immediately after the re-start Ridley was dispossessed deep in his own half and FG threatened again, but it came to nothing.
Styche's strike partner Dyer shot then wide. A couple of mins before half time a FG player was able to run half the length of the pitch unchallenged. Arthur was forced to race out, clear the loose ball, and was hacked on the edge of the area by a FG striker, who rightly got a yellow card for his trouble.
So 1-1 half time, and but for Arthur in particular, we could easily be losing.
Half time changes; Leary and Bore to replace Sinclair and Ridley. Ridley; outnumbered and perhaps still not fully fit? Sinclair; peripheral. Wood to left back, Bore to right back.
Second half? Who cares, it costs Woods his job. The referee had a shocking second half. But it wasn't his fault overall, he didn't disallow goals, he just wound up Duffy especially. Bittner took the ball out of his area, but wasn't booked , let alone sent off (didn't the Crawley keeper get a straight red on day 1 for an identical offence?). Before that, Bittner was already the Pontoon villain for some horrendous play acting on a succession of 50-50s with Duffy. Firstly, no foul, Duffy booked and a drop-ball. Secondly, Bittner misses a cross, rolls around, free kick given, yet no apparent foul.
Town did have some early enthusiasm. Eagle shot just wide, Eagle couldn't reach a cross. Kempson headed over a corner.The introduction of Bore helped us do some overlapping on the right, we looked almost threatening. Just before the hour Watt headed into the ground from a corner, with enough power for the ball to bounce back up agonisingly over.
A quiet spell followed, Leary had a shot well saved, then Town woke up for a second spell of pressure with 15 mins remaining. Well 21 mins including the 6 mins Bittner treatment time added on. I noticed Hudson playing closer to the front two, and almost as soon as I did, Serge replaced him. Arthur made a key stop on 82. On 89 Connell woke up, broke through, WAS actually fouled (shirt pulling), play on, missed. Into added time, Mariners pressure, FG counter attack offside, then Eagle cross Duffy hit post.
All over. There were 2401 of us watching this game. I wonder how many would argue that Town deserved a win. Not many, if any.
Coulson was announced man of the match, with Arthur the other obvious contender. We drew 3-3 with these lot on telly - we now have Arthur fully fit, we have Serge and Duffy to provide a physical attacking threat, and Hughes and Sinclair have failed to fill our vacuous midfield.
We lacked bite in centre midfield. One winger played well, one didn't, one centre forward played ok, one fell over a lot, and the opponents, without being much special, could have/should have won.
Overtaken by events, it transpires this was Neil Woods's last chance. The players or the tactics or the referee or whatever excuse; it simply wasn't good enough again. Question is: who next?
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