- Caretaker player-manager Ryan Lowe certainly wasn’t lying when he stated that he would at least try to set out beleaguered Bury in an attacking shape. The teamsheet immediately indicated as I predicted a reversion to a flat four in defence but otherwise, only Andrew Tutte’s inclusion could be said to be paying any heed whatsoever to a need to strike a balance between the two. Target man Michael Smith was deployed up top on his own with a ridiculous array of talent behind him… but from the second minute onwards, it really didn’t go to plan.
- Yet again, Phil Edwards was asked to play as a centre-back. In the post-match interview, he intimated he has good experience of doing so but he predictably struggled aerially against the bustle and power of Inih Effiong and didn’t even track Jamie Philpot’s threat from Regan Charles-Cook’s expertly angled cross-field pass. That aside, I don’t think he actually performed too badly, throwing himself in the way of several openings for the Surrey outfit. His lack of pace and height however are not good bedfellows for a two-man partnership with Tom Aldred in the long run and it will be interesting to see if he is shifted out to the right with Nathan Cameron’s return from injury looming and Eoghan O’Connell’s suspension now served.
- Jordan Williams had a torrid opening period up against Joe Ward, who in contrast to recent outings, started out on the left wing. The Huddersfield Town loanee looked precisely all of his 17 years, rusty from a lack of playing time but also without sufficient support from Chris Humphrey when he was clearing struggling against the ex-Brighton & Hove Albion U23 man’s box of tricks. He did stand up to his opponent a little more in the second half but any link down the Shakers’ right flank was practically non-existent from the get-go.
- On yesterday’s evidence, Smith does not suit being asked to carry the striking burden all by himself. Granted, he was in the right place to tap home into an empty net from Joey Jones’ misfortune of heading it against his own crossbar. After that, it was all downhill from there. He was the recipient of a combination of 30 to 50 -yard hopeful punts and good balls in behind that looked bad because he doesn’t (yet) have the nous to read them nor the speed to chase down defenders in the channels (which he never will). A certain Jermaine Beckford, had he been risked, might’ve been a much better fit for that strategy. Even Nicky Ajose, back on the subs’ bench at last, could’ve profited more than the ex-Portsmouth man.
- Compare and contrast his performance to that of Effiong in the red, white and black. Lowe previously stated that Woking had been carefully watched but there was utterly scant evidence of that in the flesh. Short on goals he might be this season but he still had by far the better of Edwards and Aldred, using his physicality both fairly and effectively to shield the ball and bring teammates into the fray to no small effect. It was at times difficult to see which side were playing in the third tier of English football.
- Danny Mayor was the one small positive from the travelling supporters’ perspective. His calmness on the ball was at odds with the frenetic work of Chris Maguire and Jay O’Shea, both of whom got lost in the shuffle by either looking for the ball in deep areas or being bypassed altogether due to rushed clearances under pressure or the hit and hope to Smith. It was pleasing that he lasted as long into the game as he did and offered a reminder of what he could do if he stays injury-free for a sustained period of time.
- Tutte’s task was never going to be an easy one given that he had only O’Shea for ‘support’ in central midfield and thought the latter’s position was a costly mistake by Lowe, only rectified by Rohan Ince’s introduction Humphrey’s injury around the hour mark. The Cards were able to work the ball well in the middle of the pitch up until that juncture because there wasn’t any sustained pressure on them. Callum Reilly might have been a better choice to be alongside Tutte as it would’ve offered the side a better balance with his left foot and not played as much into Anthony Limbrick’s hands as was unfortunately the case.
- That the Shakers are still in the hat is very fortunate indeed. Their hosts were on top for vast swathes of the encounter, Nathan Baxter was assured in goal and the the men in front of him looked defensively solid; the sitting midfielders won most of the 50-50 challenges (Chez Isaac was particularly impressive in that regard) and the attacking midfield trio found space down the sides of the centre-backs and in behind the full-backs thanks in part to Effiong’s work rate. A favourable second round draw tonight will provide a big boost to both clubs but it is Woking I would currently have more confidence in progressing; they looked completely at ease with the ‘occasion’ and in players like Charles-Cook and Ward, they have effective outlets if Limbrick does decide to instruct his charges to sit on the counter.
- There is still plenty of work for Lowe to do to marry his philosophy of attack with a coherent gameplan to score goals and create chances. How he uses the game against Stoke City U23s in the EFL Trophy on Wednesday could be indicative of his thoughts for Saturday’s crucial league match at Gillingham. His reputation has not been damaged by the limp 1-1 draw and no-one expected a miraculous turnaround in one game despite the wealth of talented players available to him. Management is nevertheless an unforgiving, ephemeral career in most cases and we need to start seeing why the likes of O’Shea and Maguire were so sought-after if there aren’t to be more pointed questions and outbursts targeted at the individuals themselves rather than who is giving out the tasks in the training ground and on the pitch.