Simon Says: Harrogate Town manager on Worcester defeat and Colwyn Bay win

Simon Weaver
Simon Weaver

We were pleased with the win away at Colwyn Bay. It’s always a difficult place to go, especially on a Tuesday night after the players have been at work.

Fortunately the journey was quite smooth going and we arrived in plenty of time. I named the team an hour before kick-off and we set up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, making a slight adjustment to the system used on Saturday which was an orthodox 4-4-2.

Last week in training we worked on the set up of our 4-4-2 and the roles of each player. As we were playing a confident Worcester team who play with a midfield three we concentrated in training on the positioning of the front two, ensuring they made it hard for the Worcester centre-halves and GK to find a pass through to their midfielders.

We wanted the front two to show their direct opponents into an area where our midfielders could press as a unit.

In the first half the players carried out their roles very well and Phil Barnes our GK didn’t have a shot to save. However in the second half our defensive line dropped and the gaps between the lines became bigger making it easier for Worcester’s three players ahead of the holding two to pick up the ball in pockets of space.

Too much space was allowed and it hurt us as they scored two fantastic goals from the edge of the area. We obviously look at reasons as to why the defensive unit drops and we lose the initiative in certain games. We have enough mobility now at the back to stop worrying as much about the ball over the top of our back-line and therefore we should be able to squeeze up and deny the opposition space. In my opinion it is not a fitness issue either as the lads had a very tough pre-season and they continue to work very hard in the training sessions.

I believe that we are tiring in games due to the fact that we are guilty of giving the ball away too cheaply when we are anxious and therefore we are continually trying to regain possession of the ball. We need to be in a position whereby we dictate on the ball more and this will give us a little breather as a team.

On Tuesday we played Lloyd Kerry on the attacking tip in midfield and it paid dividends, certainly in the first half an hour where he was very creative and influential. We scored the goal in this period too so things were looking good at half-time. After the interval we began to lose the ball too frequently again and it became a severe test of resolve and organisation in the latter stages of the game.

I was once told that whatever system you choose to use as a coach what you gain in one area of the pitch, you lose in another area. For example, in a 4-4-2 you at times have less possession against a 4-3-3 if they are allowed to dominate the game centrally.

However, what you do gain when you play the 4-4-2 is two strikers playing closer together.

As a player I enjoyed playing different systems as long as my role was clearly defined. When I played for Macclesfield Town under Brian Horton I played on the right of three at the back and we would be told to split wide and look to receive the ball from the GK and then to find either the wing-back, closest centre-midfielder or clip a ball into big John Parkin, the target man. It was a really effective way of playing and it suited us.

At Lincoln, as defenders we weren’t told to find feet at all, it was find the channel or play in the reserves!

At the elite level now there’s many variations of systems that are being operated. Chelsea look to have got it cracked in the Premiership as they have finely tuned athletes who are supremely talented players and they are capable of turning a rigid and compact defence into attacking with width and movement within a matter of seconds.

Hopefully we can improve upon Tuesday’s performance at Kings Lynn on Saturday and gain back-to-back away wins.

It will be another long difficult trip but if we can work as hard on retaining the ball as we do in regaining it then we show further signs of progression.

We will keep analysing our games and look at all facets of our play.

The biggest plus for me when I woke up on Wednesday morning was the character of the players on show the night before. To immediately recover from a 0-3 defeat at home and win the next game away from home a proves that we have the grit in the squad to dig in. This steel is necessary if we are build some momentum, regardless of the system of play that we choose to use.