By Nathan BeesThe trip back from Barnet on Tuesday night was awful - like most other return journeys from an away game in the past four years.
All my pre-season optimism drained away after our poor first half display and whilst we improved in the second period the damage had already been done. ‘Has anything actually changed?’, I asked myself.
A few days on, however, and I’ve had time to put things into perspective. I’m certainly not going to try and sugarcoat things because our deficiencies have been clear for all to see in our opening two matches, but the season isn’t over one week into August like some will have you believe.
There are still 44 league games left to play and two seemingly winnable ones lie ahead of us, so panicking at this stage is premature to say the least.
I personally took encouragement from the Grimsby Town performance last week. Our defence looked solid and they nullified the threat of Alan Connell with relative ease, which was pleasing given his pedigree at this level for the Mariners a few years ago.
We looked to keep the ball on the ground and whilst there were times when some of the lads weren’t quite on the same wavelength, it was pleasing to see us try and play the right way.
The obvious disappointment was that we lacked flair and pace going forward when we got the ball in a positive position around the penalty area. Our end product was poor from out wide and we couldn’t break down a well-organised Grimsby defence with a killer pass through the middle.
Considering that we have lacked creativity and good wingers for a few years it is frustrating that we haven’t yet addressed the issue.
Darrell Clarke is fully aware of what is required though and he has been trying to add a winger for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately finances have prevented any deals from happening thus far but thankfully that sounds like it is about to change.
An experienced winger is set to sign this morning and hopefully he will be registered in time to play at Altrincham tomorrow afternoon. It will add another dimension to our play and will hopefully mean we create more opportunities for our strikers - something I’m sure Matty Taylor and Jamie White are hoping for.
An out-and-out winger would have given us a better chance of causing Barnet problems on Tuesday night because we wasted so many opportunities to counter attack as we were too slow on the ball in wide areas.
I have no complaint with the defeat as the Bees were dominant for large periods of the game and had a fluid style of play that suited their players perfectly.
Martin Allen only has a small squad to choose from at The Hive but each and every one of his players brings something to the team when they are on the pitch.
Lee Cook in particular was a constant menace on one of the flanks whilst the little and large combination of John Akinde and Charlie MacDonald caused us plenty of problems at the back.
Both strikers scored, capitalising on individual errors for the first goal, scored by Akinde, and by debutant goalkeeper Will Puddy for the second.
That was the most frustrating thing for me because if we hadn’t made such sloppy mistakes we’d have drawn the game despite not playing that well. It would have been an undeserved draw but earning points when you are playing well below par is the difference between a good side and an average side.
Lessons have to be learnt quickly because games are coming thick and fast at the moment. It’s a good thing because when you do suffer a defeat you can put it to bed quickly and move on, which is exactly what we have to do at Altrincham tomorrow.
This fixture is our first real taste of non-league football and it’s something we’re going to have to get used to.
It will be a culture shock for us all but as soon as the game gets underway it will be the same as any other 90 minutes of football. All that matters is coming away with three points.
It’s frustrating that things haven’t clicked for us straight away because getting off to a good start would have given the whole club a huge lift, but we have to remain patient as the new players settle in.
Most have never played in front of 7000 supporters before and it was inevitable that it would take some time for them to acclimatise and get used to their new surroundings. As we play a few more games they will begin to find their feet and show us what they are all about.
So far the changing of formations during matches has not helped matters, but in the long run it will be of benefit to us that we are able to play two or three different systems.
Clarke is keen for us to be versatile and whilst that may see us suffer a few teething problems at first, it will definitely be a positive thing over the course of the season.
I have no idea how we will set up at Altrincham but I’m sure their management won’t either and that is something we have to ensure works in our favour. The element of surprise is going to be a key weapon for us this season and hopefully we can use it to good effect at the J Davidson Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Come on Gas, let’s get that first win under our belts.