Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Case for the defence

Pre-season attention turns inevitably to the changes likely to be made to our squad as we prepare for season two in the Championship and what we will optimistically expect to be progress on our 9th place finish. I will start today with the defence as that is easiest in my mind.

As first choice keeper, I am satisfied with Ben Hamer. He had a cavalier approach to kicking out and a tendency to leave it to the last second which has resulted in him being in caught in possession on several occasions, one of which lead to an embarrassing goal but he appears to have learnt from that. His shot-stopping is very good but he needs to work on his judgement to balls deep into the penalty area because he has been at fault too often this season coming for crosses and missing them altogether leading to goals. Whilst keepers must focus on the ball, they should also be aware of where the intended targets are when balls come in. At 25 he still has plenty of time to mature into a top class keeper and to represent us in the Premier League. I am happy with Button and Pope given their ages and what little I have seen of them.

In Rhoys Wiggins and Chris Solly, I believe we have two full-backs capable of playing Premier League football. The challenge will be to hang onto Solly during the close season. If he moves on, we must be prepared to spend sll or most of the money on a quality replacement. Wiggins missed most of the season but his return to the side and particularly his return to full fitness coincided with our 8 game unbeaten finish. Andy Hughes has been acknowledged for making the difference in midfield during this spell but we shouldn't overlook Wiggins' contribution. We have cover for both with Cedric Evina and Lawrie Wilson and a few emergency options such as the centre-halves. Again, satisfied at full-back.

At the heart of the defence Michael Morrison has been a monster again this season. No player takes more responsibility and he reminds me so much of Simon Webster which is about as big a compliment as I can pay him. I am surprised no-one has come in for Morro but let's be content with that and watching him lead our rearguard again next season. Leon Cort played alongside Morro for much of the season and I was happy with him. He gets criticised for the odd faux pas but no defender is perfect and against really quick and experienced strikers, the best centre-halves will be exposed from time-to-time. Cort is good in the air and is worth the odd goal, although our big defenders managed only five this season which could be improved upon next year. 

Dorien Dervite has broken into the team for the last eight games and given our form during those deserves to be considered first-choice alongside Morro. He scored twice as well and clearly has more to show us. In a small squad, three centre-halves is probably enough although I was sorry to see Matt Taylor's contract not extended as he was ideal cover.

So, in summary, I don't see any need to spend in defence. We have options from the promising youth teams although there is always more concern about pressing young players into first team duty in defence but that's always an option in an emergency if we couldn't get a loan.

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