The last week has been a little topsy-turvy with Town not quite getting the results that might have been expected. On Monday, most supporters would have been expecting a win at home to Gillingham and hoping for a draw on Saturday against Sunderland. What happened was exactly the opposite, giving us four points from a possible six.
Gillingham came to the Montgomery Waters Meadow with just three wins this season, so Town were favourites to take all three points. However, a team in a poor run of form is usually fighting hard to change their fortunes so often they can provide a stiffer test than might be anticipated. The game, particularly the first half was a bit on the grim side but we did have chances to take the lead. Whenever your team doesn't take its early chances, there is that sneaking feeling that they'll eventually be punished and that's what happened with the Gills winning and converting a first-half penalty, awarded after a foul from Ryan Giles.
Thankfully, Omar Beckles helped us avoid defeat with a neat finish in an improved second half. Giles found Sean Goss in space on the left side, Goss crossed and found Omar, who found the net. An equaliser was what we deserved after an improved second half but Sam Ricketts was far from impressed with his team’s performance.
Sunderland had only won once on the road before Saturday's game, however, they had won their last game against Micky Mellon's Tran mere Rovers 5-0 and looked a real threat in doing so. Consequently, expectations weren't high, despite our six clean sheets up to that point.
Sam Ricketts' formation looked a little different to usual with what looked like a 3-4-3 with Shaun Whalley, Dave Edwards and Jason Cummings occupying the three forward positions. Ryan Giles had a late injury so Scott Golbourne was drafted in, in his stead.
Initially, Sunderland tried to work their way down the right side, doubling up to try and overwhelm us. They found some success but also found a solid defence that were able to keep the ball out, however, close it came. At times all eleven Town players were back defending and although I'd prefer to see Jason Cummings left in an attacking position to give us the option of threatening goal straight from a defensive position. Having said that, I do understand the need for extra bodies to combat Sunderland's pressure. Speaking of Jason Cummings, his winning goal is his fourth since arriving and his third in seven league games. This is a player that has yet to reach full fitness, imagine what he'll be like fully fit!
At the other end of the pitch, Max O'Leary performed a few minor miracles to keep the ball out of the net, the one he tipped on to the bar was probably the pick of the bunch. Josh Laurent won the man of the match award and he was as good a choice as any of the excellent performances. It was, after all, his run and low cross that found Jason Cummings in the right place and time to score.
In the post-game interview, Sam Ricketts was reluctant to discuss formations, not really wanting to tip future opponents off on how we play. Keeping his cards close to his chest about his formation makes perfect sense but I did notice him say that you can work slightly differently with or without the ball which suggests that formations are fluid dependant upon the situation within a game. This is, of course, quite obvious but with so much emphasis placed upon a 3-5-2 formation this season, it's good to see that we have a little flexibility. I wonder if too much emphasis is placed on the formation, it only really dictates starting positions and gives no real insight into how the players have been asked to play. For example, we had three forward positions on Saturday but only one of them actually played as an out and out striker. There is so much we don't know about what has been said to the players, the formation doesn't tell us if we're going to play on the counter-attack or if one of our players has been asked to stay tight to a particular opponent. Obviously, as fans, we can only talk about the things we know about like the formation and those impacts the way we view the players and the management team.
The coming week brings us just the one game, away against Wycombe Wanderers, the surprise package of the season after a similar finish to Town in League One last season. They've yet to taste defeat at home and have only been held to a draw twice, so it's yet another difficult game. But confidence should be relatively high after the win on Saturday and I'm hopeful that we can gather a point or maybe more on Saturday.