I write this mini review as the half time score between Walsall and Port Vale is 0-0. Hopefully, it will remain that way after the match is over…
- Northampton had a number of players in unfamiliar roles, not least of which was Brendan Moloney in an advanced position off the front two when he has made his career as a right back. Sometimes, this works out but it was representative of a disjointed performance from the Cobblers on this occasion, with Joe Murphy rarely troubled in the Bury goal.
- Speaking of a lack of familiarity, Ryan Lowe was also played in a similar role to Moloney for the visitors. However, he had much more joy and turned in a man of the match performance, acting as a third forward with the ball with licence to move into the channels and between the lines to occupy the deep-lying midfielders in claret. If he does continue in a playing capacity next season, Lee Clark might have found a new option for him but as always, a note of caution should be applied to one-off stints in new positions.
- James Vaughan showed just why he is much more than just a poacher as some perceive him to be (due to a lack of assists and chances created for teammates principally) with a brace of real quality. For the first, he maintained his balance and held off his man marker superbly to finish in the far corner after Murphy’s goal kick had bounced over everyone else. It is not the first time the custodian has had a big hand in a goal at the opposite end of the field and the distance and accuracy he can sometimes achieve with his distribution is an asset to the side.
- For his second, he lashed in with his weaker left foot from the edge of the area. A lot has been made on Bury’s largest unofficial forum recently about how much of an ‘upgrade’ he has been on Leon Clarke last season but such talk misses the mark for me. The former Evertonian does have a more rounded game and a higher work rate but Clarke was often asked to play as a mobile target man with little support and his languid style, coupled with his reputation before signing in the summer of 2015, certainly helps to colour people’s views.
- The 24-goal hitman has been able to lean heavily on the groundwork Tom Pope has laid in many of their matches up front together. I subscribe to the opinion that whilst the latter hasn’t been at this most effective recently (Saturday excepted), he has helped create space in behind an opposition’s backline by dragging them out of position. With sufficient support, Pope remains one of the best at this level holding up the ball and facing his own compatriots.
- It would be harsh to exclude George Miller even from a mini review of the encounter, given his crucial header to help calm the collective nerves for the second Shakers goal of the game. He too has come in for criticism recently but can most certainly hold his head high with at least eight to his name in his first senior campaign. It is his anticipation that is his biggest weapon and leads me to believe that he can still improve considerably in seasons to come.
- On this evidence and even whilst taking into account the absentees and lack of anything realistically riding on the game, the performance from Northampton was quite limited. Only Matty Taylor stung the palms of Murphy from a free kick, the midfielders struggled to gain much of a foothold on the game with both Paul Caddis and Andrew Tutte turning in energetic shifts in white shirts; the makeshift defence came off distinctly second best, too. It was little wonder that manager Justin Edinburgh lamented a gutless display and apologised to the considerable number of travelling fans.
- It was very good to see Nathan Cameron make a cameo after spending almost the entirety of 2016/2017 on the sidelines. He is obviously still not fully fit but it would’ve been a huge mental lift for him just to even come on as a last minute substitute and get a crunching tackle in in front of the home supporters.
Friday’s mini preview for the final match of the season will have of course be largely driven by events tonight. One thing is for certain: Southend will be going all out for victory…