A Tiger Aspect

Last updated : 16 February 2002 By Matt Wales
I have been somewhat restricted to a diet of 'webcast listening' and distant away games so far this season, due to work commitments and the like - so my view of the Tigers this season could be described as somewhat tainted. But, for what it's worth, my thoughts on our season so far - I hope will make interesting reading.

Well, what a start! We won our first game of the season - for the first time since 1996. After all the new faces that came in over the summer months, we were off to a great start - and to be honest, anything else would have been a disappointment. The bookies had us favourites for the league, and things were looking very rosy indeed. Normally, we have appalling starts to the season, but not this year.

We were playing some very good football at home. Away form was a bit patchy, but generally we were picking up points against the better teams in the division, which would surely hold us in good stead later in the season. Cup runs were materialising, after all the early exits of last season this was a bonus. You couldn't see this team getting knocked out by Conference opposition - indeed, one of the first games I saw this season was a very good away performance at Wrexham.

As well as playing well, we had spirit - something that was so prevalent in the team last season, I was worried we wouldn't have it this season. But another game I saw, the away draw at Rushden (or was it Diamonds?) - Alexander's brilliant early strike, resulted in a barrage of 3 goals from Rushden before half time! In the second half, I wouldn't say City played well, but we certainly never stopped running, and trying to win every loose ball, and we fought back to a very credible 3-3 result, against a useful R&D side.

The one 'blip' I remember was the away match at Mansfield. Looking forward to going to the new stadium, and hopefully another 3 points. Alas, it was not to be... Mansfield on the night looked a very accomplished side indeed - and City were making them look good. Nothing against Mansfield, the Stags were just beginning a great charge up the league at the time, and they fully deserved to win, but something was missing in that one City performance that night - it came back to haunt us a couple of months later, away at Lincoln, and to date, it hasn't returned.

We had problems in all areas, defenders were not picking up men running through onto loose balls, basic man-marking tactics seemed to desert us. Also, balls over the top resulted in the same thing - our defence just turned round and ran back towards goal, but watching the ball - not picking up strikers, As a result of this - if a shot came in and Glennon parried it, opposition strikers were always there, unmarked - to prod the ball home. This is still happening.

Midfield - last season we worked tirelessly. Actually going out to try and get the ball, rather than wait for it, there is a huge difference. We have some very skilful players at the club now, but they're only skilful when we are in possession - so let's go and win the ball. Currently we have no-one who inspires players to go and do this, and it is costing us dearly. Opposition midfielders are finding they can run at our midfield - and we should be tighter to them, marking them as soon as they receive the ball to close these spaces down. The wingers you can forgive for not being ball-winners to a degree, and generally they are doing a good job when they get the ball - but other midfielders need to give them more options. In Bezza, Williams, Matthews (and Philpott when fully fit), we have arguably the best wingers in the division.

Strikers, from what I've seen this season, Alexander can work tirelessly, and when he does - it gets results. But when his head goes down he can look very tired, and unfit. Thankfully, he's beginning to look much fitter now, and he will be a great asset later in the season. The Dude is undoubtedly a very skilful player who links up well with most players in the team. There was a period between late November and late January - where we were very predictable up front... every charge forward resulted in us trying to 'walk' the ball into the net. We lacked the confidence to hit balls first time, or from outside the 6-yard box even. Again, this confidence seems to be returning slowly, and our strikers are beginning to look like they did earlier in the season.

Answers? I don't have them, I think the only people who do are the players.

I won't deny, I have seen probably all the most dire games this season, and missed the best ones! I have not seen City win since Darlington away !! I have suffered Kidderminster (A), Southend (H), York (A), Plymouth (A), Mansfield (A), Derby (A) and Hartlepool (H) - not in chronological order, these are in 'nightmare' order (worst first)!

However, I will keep cheering (not boo-ing) the Tigers all the way. I have faith in Brian - I was a student in Leicester whilst he was manager there, so I know they regarded him very highly there. So let's get behind the manager and the team, and enjoy the rest of the season - hard to believe it's our last full season at Boothferry Park, I'll miss the place.