The first three games of Leam Richardson’s reign at Accrington have brought one win, one draw and one loss. The players have shown peaks of performance while revealing inconsistencies which require work for the new boss. Saturday’s game against Northampton was more of a ninety-minute lesson than a football match, giving Stanley players a clear example their own strengths and shortcomings.
The Cobblers –strong, direct, physical and organised – were regimented in their approach. Each bout of possession had one inevitable outlet in their towering forward Adebayo Akinfenwa. Much has been said (and sang) about Akinfenwa’s larger than life presence on the football field but one can only marvel at how effective he is at his role. The striker has re-written the role of the lone front man, or at least amplified it into something unrecognisable.
Each time Stanley conceded a set-piece, anxiety spread across the back line. The opening goal came as Akinfenwa made himself five yards of space to nod a cross home while simultaneously blocking the goalkeeper’s view, all in one thunderous action.
The reds responded positively, putting together impressive plays and operating comfortably inside Northampton’s half. A move straight from the training ground levelled matters; a smart corner routine found George Miller who struck home with a precise shot from twenty yards. Stanley stretched the game and found space enough for Rommy Boco to dance through and put his team ahead with a perfect left-footed effort. The reds showed a superior quality in possession and it seemed that this would win the game.
Two long-balls forward and one long-throw later however and Stanley were two goals behind. Richardson described it as a ‘mad five minutes’ which lost the game but in truth the common thread in each of the goals conceded was lacklustre marking against the brute strength put forward. Stanley needed to defend as a group but forwards failed to retreat when possession was lost and the one-man-unit in the opposing team lapped up the chances offered.
If we are to put such emphasis on our play in the final third, the same attention should be brought in our own box. If not we may undo all the good work done at the other end.
Tomorrow’s game takes us to Barnet where our own star forward James Beattie may make his debut against Dutch superstar Edgar Davids. A battle of top pedigree may make the headlines but a solid all-round effort will be required to get back to winning ways.
On, Stanley, On.