In light of last night’s game against Casuals, the following seems very belated. Nevertheless, five thoughts on Canvey:
1. Canvey Island is a strange place. Entering the ground, you’re immediately confronted with a stark reminder that you’re actually about to watch a football game below sea level. While that fact is still sinking in, the game kicks off, and none of the locals seem at all perturbed when a gigantic ship looms over one end of the ground. In what should be the sky. How the locals can sleep soundly at night when they live in what essentially amounts to a gigantic man-made dry dock remains a mystery. Perhaps this is what makes the Islanders particularly chippy; despite there clearly being some great people involved with the football club, a trip to Canvey is always accompanied by a tedious number of comments from the locals which tend to go beyond ‘banter’ between rival fans.
2. Anyway, to football. Despite a promising opening spell, in which Andre McCollin bravely headed K’s into the lead, it was the away team who were all at sea during the first half. Dowse started with a 3-5-2 for (to my knowledge, anyway) the first time this season, a ploy which seemed sensible. Given that we’ve been hopelessly susceptible to balls over the top of our back four recently, having a spare centre half should have provided some insurance at the back; and in the absence of Tom Bird and a fully fit Dean Lodge, we don’t really have a left flank in a 4-4-2 anyway. Sadly, it worked about as well as a new Tesco carrier bag*, with K’s conceding an avoidable equaliser and then two further pathetic goals to go in 3-1 down at half time. The highlight of the half was the container ship in the sky.
3. Are the defensive problems systemic or down to personnel? The only possible conclusion can be that it’s a combination. Given that I wrote at length about the systemic issues in the squad last week, perhaps it’s about time – having conceded four goals for the third successive proper match – to bite the bullet and bring up the thorny issue of whether the players are good enough, full stop:
TOLFREY. Although perhaps not performing quite at his highest level of previous seasons, he is clearly not the weak link. On Saturday alone, he made two exceptional saves to keep Canvey down to three.
GOODE. Anyone who thinks he’s the problem either needs their head or their eyes testing.
MURPHY. Arrived with a big reputation, and a good record. Outstanding in pre-season. Despite occasional glimpses of class, has not been a consistently reliable centre half so far this season, with too many errors. Clearly not a reserve right-back.
HUTCHISON. Has developed a worrying tendency to switch off and find himself grossly out of position. Out of form.
MACDONALD. A leader, by all accounts a top bloke. Slow, but tends to get away with it via his positional sense and reading of the game. Has not been getting away with it this season. Out of form is an understatement.
NAPPER. Not good enough for Kingstonian. End of. (And as someone who used to play left-back, and was often the worst player in my team, I feel his pain. He must know he’s not good enough).
BIRD. Fitness problems have led to largely poor performances since his return.
SOMNER. Clearly not a left-back. Regrettable that he’s had to play there more than once this season.
4. But, despite all that, were there signs of a potential solution in the second half? K’s went 4-4-2 with Dean Lodge on the left wing and absolutely bossed the game. Under clear instructions from Dowse to go for it, and helped by a strengthening wind in their favour, K’s held a high line for the full 45 and trusted Matt Somner and new-boy Lewis Taylor to win the ball back in the Canvey half. It was kamikaze stuff, K’s sometimes launching attacks with 8 or even 9 players forward – but with the slightly quicker Jerome Sobers at centre half, it was perhaps less of a risk than with Gary Mac at the back, and with Taylor adding bite to the midfield, the ball spent 80% of the second period in Canvey’s half. If Dowse can somehow get a defender with genuine pace on the books – and it can happen even at our level, as the loan signing of Ian Gayle showed – then this high-line approach might be the way forward.
5. But after all the Hansen-esque talk of diabolical defending, there’s something glaring which hasn’t been said about Saturday’s game – it was bloody brilliant. Seven goals including a last minute winner, missed chances, the woodwork struck three times, some great attacking football and some spirited (if dreadful) defending. Worth every penny of £10, and it’s not often anybody leaves a Ryman League game thinking that. Well done to all involved, even if it was Canvey who got an underserved winner rather than K’s securing a memorable comeback.
*If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, consider yourself lucky. And expect to drop a bottle of wine all over the pavement at some point soon.