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Post by Marc Monitor on Mon Dec 29, 2014 1:15 pm

As I am still on holiday and trying to put off going for a run, I thought I would look at our defensive record as we talk about the combinations upfront a lot. It will not come as any surprise, I am sure, that the most effective line-up starts with Mellor in goal and Ball and Gallingah at centre back. At right back, you can pretty much perm one of Simmo and Bowman. On the left hand side, however, it is a bit more difficult. It seems to be any one of Simmo, Keary and, if I am reading my team sheets correctly, Adelsbury that is best. To be honest, we seem to be able to chop and change any of those six across the back four without too much disaster. The only one that doesn't seem to do well, unfortunately, is Slocombe who seem to ship goals with. Walsh seems to able to slip back reasonably successfully as well (one 4 goal defeat notwithstanding). Outside of statistics

Indeed, our defence is pretty good this end of the season and we have only let in more than one goal 6 times in the league all season (I am just looking at the league to be honest). The only reason that I can think of for us letting in less goals per game in the second half of the season is Hemmings in front of the defence. Anyway, there has been a lot of talk about our attack and midfield, I thought it might be interesting to concentrate on the defence even if all this may be obvious for some of you.

Obviously, the one area where we could do with some strength in depth is in goal. Mellor is a good shot stopper and his confidence in coming for crosses is much better and this transfers to the defenders as well. However, his goal-kicking is still patchy at best and he is solely responsible for quite a few unnecessary goals. I would love to see that Wealdstone keeper North in to challenge Mellor for a place but he would never accept a squad place and no other keeper of that quality would so we can only attract lesser and/or younger players. Be good to have someone though.
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Post by Manchester Romans on Mon Dec 29, 2014 2:22 pm

Marc Monitor wrote:the most effective line-up starts with Mellor in goal and Ball and Gallingah at centre back.  

I disagree: Ball and Gallinagh have insufficient height to be an effective centre back partnership, though I'd be happy with either of them alongside Walsh. As Ball's best position is probably centre back I'd go for him and Walsh in the middle, Gallinagh on the left and Simmo on the right.

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Post by Marc Monitor on Mon Dec 29, 2014 2:41 pm

Sorry, I should have made it clear. This is just from the team stats in the league games this season not my own particular opinion - apart from preferring Keary at left back. While stats don't show the whole story and your point is equally valid, this is what appears to be the most successful pairing especially for keeping clean sheets. Like I say, it doesn't seem to matter too much where we put them (although we appear to need either Ball or Gallinagh at centre-back), it looks like we need two of Simmo, Bowman, Keary or Adelsbury beside them. Walsh hasn't been put in that many times but his record isn't disastrous. Perhaps, Hemmings in front of Ball and Gallinagh negates the height issue.

For the record, I would go with Bowman, Ball, Gallinagh, Keary with Simmo as cover for either Bowman or Keary.
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Post by comrade powell on Mon Dec 29, 2014 3:46 pm

With his experience and the memory of how he was so influential in our end of season run last year, the defence should be built around Walsh. However, he has not reached those heights since, either before or after his injury, and it's good that Danny Ball is so quick and can cover for his mistakes. For me, the defence picks itself - Gallinagh, Ball, Keary, Simpson.

However the stats tell a different story...

Gallinagh, Keary, Simpson, Bowman - 3 points won out of a possible 3 (100%)
Bowman, Keary, Simpson, Walsh - 3 points won out of a possible 3 (100%)
Gallinagh, Ball, Simpson, Walsh - 4 points won out of a possible 6 (66%) + THE WIN AT ROVERS!
Gallinagh, Ball, Keary, Simpson - 14 points won out of a possible 36 (39%) + THE DEFEAT AT THURROCK!
Gallinagh, Ball, Bowman, Walsh - 0 points won out of a possible 3 (0%)

Obviously stats can tell any story you want and can be misleading. For example, the wins above may have been down to the attacking formations selected, standard of opposition etc.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Mon Dec 29, 2014 4:58 pm

Bloody hell, you're worse than me. Those are interesting stats as far as wins are concerned but I think, if we are discussing defences only, you have to look at goals conceded. If a particular back four formation keeps more clean sheets, then you have more of a chance of a draw at least.
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Post by comrade powell on Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:15 pm

I think I may have got a bit muddled with some of the defensive line ups above! Anyway, here's a revised list with goals conceded....

Bowman, Gallinagh, Keary, Simpson 0
Bowman, Keary, Simpson, Walsh 0
Ball, Gallinagh, Simpson, Walsh 0
Ball, Gallinagh, Keary, Simpson 2 1 4 1 0 1 1 0 0 3 2 1
Ball, Bowman, Gallinagh, Walsh 0 1
Ball, Bowman, Gallinagh, Simpson 1

(I haven't included those games in which Slocombe appeared)
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Post by Dusty Lynfield on Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:55 pm

I feel sorry for Keary, as overall he hasn't done much wrong in his time with us, and he came with great references from a few mates I know close to the Rovers set-up. I think a lot of it is to do with the perception that bigger defenders are always better....particularly at this level. We've seen some goliaths recently (take the no. 5 for 'Wood yesterday....) and I think the perceived need for height in our back line has worked against Keary on Walsh's return to fitness. Having said this, I would agree with Simpson, Ball, Walsh, Gallinagh being first choice line-up at present, but I think Keary and Walsh are pretty interchangeable at the moment for me.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Mon Dec 29, 2014 9:27 pm

Keary's 21 and Walsh is 30 so he has plenty of time and opportunity. I didn't realise he played for the students.

The good thing is that, with Walsh and Simmo over 30 now, we have Bowman and Keary at the start of their career and getting well established.
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Post by Dave on Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:35 am

I've never felt our defence (bar the few total collapses throughout the season) has been anything other than pretty decent for this division, my finger is usually pointed at the lack of adventure from our usually static midfield and our inability to take our chances to score.
So I did some research too:
I've calculated for each team in the division the number of clean sheets, and also the number of times they've failed to score in a match. Unsurprisingly (to me anyway) they back up my feelings. We've kept 7 league clean sheets this season in 20 matches, an average of one clean sheet every 2.86 matches, that ranks us as the 5th best in the division for 'shut-outs'. We've also failed to score in 7 matches, again an average of 2.86 matches for every time we fail to find the net. That's the SECOND WORST in the division, behind only Hayes & Yeading and level with Weston Super Mare. THIS IS WHY WE ARE NOT WINNING ENOUGH MATCHES.
Boreham Wood have only failed to score ONCE all season, at Twerton Park...
Anyway, my full findings...

CLEAN SHEETS: (First figure is total CSs, second figure is average # of matches per CS)
Ebbsfleet 11 2
Gosport 9 2.22
Boreham Wood 9 2.56
Basingstoke 7 2.71
Bath City 7 2.86
Havant 7 2.86
Wealdstone 7 3.14
Whitehawk 7 3.14
St Albans 6 3.67
Concord 5 4
Hemel 4 5
Bromley 4 5.25
Chelmsford 4 5.5
Eastbourne 4 5.5
Sutton 3 6.67
Bishops Stortford 3 7
Farnborough 3 7
Maidenhead 3 7
Weston 2 10
Staines 1 21
Hayes 1 22

FAIL TO SCORE: (First figure is the # of times team hasn't scored in a match, second figure is the average # of matches for each failure to score in a match)
Hayes 8 2.75
Bath City 7 2.86
Weston 7 2.86
Farnborough 7 3
Ebbsfleet 7 3.14
Hemel 6 3.33
Maidenhead 6 3.5
Chelmsford 6 3.67
Gosport 5 4
Havant 5 4
Staines 5 4.2
Eastbourne 5 4.4
St Albans 5 4.4
Wealdstone 5 4.4
Whitehawk 5 4.4
Basingstoke 4 4.75
Bromley 4 5.25
Concord 3 6.67
Bishops Stortford 3 7
Sutton 2 10
Boreham Wood 1 23
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Post by Dusty Lynfield on Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:14 am

Thanks for this Palms....really interesting to see our and other teams broken down like this. I think many of us gave credit to Wealdstone's solid defending last week, and despite their poor start to the season, to see them 7th position re clean sheet, shows your analysis seems pretty accurate too.
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Post by comrade powell on Tue Dec 30, 2014 9:16 am

Excellent stats, Palmer, keep them coming!

I agree with your opening sentence - there have been matches when we have looked totally confident at the back. Yet there have been other games, or parts of games, where we have looked all at sea. What is leading to the successful phases and what has been behind the collapses? How can a group who were run ragged for an hour by a team like Thurrock, who are nowhere near the best team in the Ryman, look so imposing against a team who will possibly be back in the league next year? I suppose it sums up the beauty of football...
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Post by Twerton Parker on Tue Dec 30, 2014 10:01 am

Palms' "Fail to score" table makes for interesting reading.  Back in our Conference days Adie did an on-line question and answer session and was asked (by me) if he thought attack was the best form of defence.  His reply was along the lines of "not always, it depends on who we're playing" which I guess makes sense if you are playing a higher league team in a cup match but for our usual bread-and-butter league games does seem a bit overly negative.

Palms' table seems to suggest that this approach is still with us and whilst there is no way we can go gung-ho mad up front in every game it nevertheless seems to me that if we are keeping the opposition busy at their end things are going to be a lot safer at our end.

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Post by Eddie Hitler on Tue Dec 30, 2014 10:08 am

That's a very telling stat Palms.
I think it's also worth remembering that a lack of clean sheets is not always the defence or goalkeepers fault. A poor midfield and/or bad tactics can also result in shipping goals.
As an ex-defender (and not a good one!), I always get annoyed when a the defence take the blame for a poor midfield. There's only so much the final line of defence can do against a continual onslaught.
This is not a comment specific to City this season necessarily, but just a general observation.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Tue Dec 30, 2014 10:49 am

Yes, excellent work, Palms. We are all either a bunch of dweebs or bored after Christmas. I am not sure I made it clear how impressive I thought our defence is - hence the thread - but your and Powell's stats certainly back it up.

Of course that does lead us to what is going on in front of this but I think we are having a Christmas ceasefire on that. By the way, I don't know if anyone wants to do the stats but, while we have a lot of games with only one goal difference, I don't think we have had many 0-0s or, indeed, 1-0s comparatively. My unscientific way of knowing this is that if there has been a early goal that I have missed, usually through being in the Royal Oak still, I am fairly confident that I will see another goal at least. Actually, that is another stat to check - whether more early goals happen in our matches. Palms? Comrade?

By the way, comrade, I kept away from cup matches as I think they are outliers as a rule. 9 times out of 10, we probably wouldn't beat Rovers away, Thurrock wouldn't thrash us and a whole host of lower league teams wouldn't hold us to draws
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Post by BenE on Tue Dec 30, 2014 11:11 am

I am not a great fan of statistical analysis except to show trends and in this respect Palms figures are interesting.

However for me the defence was shocking at the start of the season and I put that down to key players being unfit.

Keary came in and steadied the ship and with Simmo putting in some awesome performances we looked back to ourselves.

I was a little disappointed that Walsh came streaight back in as soon as he was fit at the expense of Keary who had been consistently good. Walsh has played a part in us dropping six points in two games.

Fortunately for him Ball has been fantastic sweeping up at the back.

Gallinagh has been slowly recovering the sort of form we know he is capable of and he was instrumental in Sunday's win.

Alongside this Walsh had easily his best game for us this season dealing pretty well with a very dangerous number nine.

We thus now have, at the turn of the year, four rock solid defenders, with some very able back up in Keary and Bowman. We haven't even really been undone by height this season as we have been previously.
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Post by Marc Monitor on Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:27 pm

I wouldn't disagree with most of that, Ben. I would say that, after the first 6 games, we went on a great unbeaten run and Keary was playing for half of those first six. I would still instinctively go with Keary, however.

Indeed, this is the thing about stats. They are very useful for an overview but nothing compared to seeing players regularly. Which is where, it has to be said, managers should be given some credit as they not only see the players in games but in training.
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Post by Beau Nash on Tue Dec 30, 2014 2:14 pm

In the games I have seen, the performance of Chas in front of the centre backs has been an important factor; have the statos taken that into account? Did Ben fill that role Sunday in the same way?
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Post by Marc Monitor on Tue Dec 30, 2014 2:28 pm

Yes, I mention about Chas in the opening post. In fact, taking into account that probably any out of six defenders work reasonably similarly, Chas is probably the main factor especially with the height factor. I can never remember when he moved back to that defensive midfield role but it wasn't at the start of that unbeaten run after the first 6 games. He is, however, definitely a major factor. You can see that in games. With Adelsbury and Walsh also able to fulfil that role, we are fairly well off for that position as well.
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Post by Eddie Hitler on Tue Dec 30, 2014 2:29 pm

....hence my point about midfield....
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Post by Marc Monitor on Tue Dec 30, 2014 4:24 pm

It wasn't really making a point against that. Indeed, my opening post wasn't proving or disproving anything through stats but seeing if the stats back up what I thought. What was interesting not only did it back how good our GA tally has been but that the defence has been somewhat changed around without making huge amounts of difference (outside of Ball and Gallinagh being ever-present). Hence, it may be the midfield that is contributing as much to the low amounts of goals scored against. However, I haven't checked but it appears to me that the midfield has been even more changeable.
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Post by BenE on Tue Dec 30, 2014 6:53 pm

My impression is that you can over analyse it Very Happy

The reality is that we are in the lower half of the table and were knocked out of the cup by East Thurrock.

If the statistics suggest that our defence is performing better than our strike force then either the balance of the side is not right, the tactics aren't right or we are just unlucky. Or maybe a bit of all three.

But it is something for our management trio to ponder.
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Post by thomasmaxbaer on Tue Dec 30, 2014 7:00 pm

Marc Monitor wrote:I can never remember when he moved back to that defensive midfield role

I think it was against Eastbourne on the 20th september if I remember correctly

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Post by Marc Monitor on Tue Dec 30, 2014 7:45 pm

Cheers for that.

BenE wrote:My impression is that you can over analyse it Very Happy

...or, you know, I've got time and was indulging in chore displacement.

The reality is that we are in the lower half of the table and were knocked out of the cup by East Thurrock.

Oh, don't mistake my praise for the defence as any sign that everything is hunky dory. It is just that we have a lot of players just coming back, a couple out and this means that temporarily the midfield and attack are in a state of limbo, one side effect being that what I have been asking for most of the season and we shall see where we go in the next couple of games. In short, I have nothing to moan about presently.

I wouldn't treat a cup exit to Thurrock as a sign of anything more than I would the victory against Rovers. In cups, funny things happen.

If the statistics suggest that our defence is performing better than our strike force then either the balance of the side is not right, the tactics aren't right or we are just unlucky. Or maybe a bit of all three.

Well, I think we have discussed this greatly elsewhere. What I would say is that we have been fairly lucky with injuries up front until now.

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Post by Dusty Lynfield on Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:00 pm

Whilst we are on the subject of our defence.....I note that Sekani is getting presented with a plaque fro BCIR prior to the Weston game. Hope there is a good turnout for someone who has been a great servant to the club and a fantastic role model to the kids (he is the one constant in my son's favourite city players, which is quite impressive seeing as he's six years old and changes his opinion on City players almost as often as some of us do on this forum!)
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Post by comrade powell on Tue Dec 30, 2014 8:02 pm

Marc Monitor wrote: In short, I have nothing to moan about presently.

cue an appalling performance on Thursday! Shocked
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