Waddock - I can't wait for BuryBy Charlie Oliver
January 22, 2009
Aldershot returned to training on Thursday, with Gary Waddock’s fiercely critical words still ringing in their ears.
The manager said, after keeping his players locked in the changing room for 45 minutes, that he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ with his side’s display in the 2-2 draw with Notts County on Tuesday.
Nor had his opinion cooled after a couple of nights sleeping on that game.
"Nothing has changed, I feel exactly the same about our performance," he said.
So, have the players responded as he has demanded? "I'll let you know the answer to that at 5pm on Saturday," was the reply.
But Waddock was quick to say that it is far from doom and gloom at Aldershot. It us easy to forget that, after two disappointing draws at home to teams below The Shots in the table (Macclesfield Town, as well as County) Waddock's side still have a recent League Two record of just one defeat in nine games.
"It is not very often at all that I have to criticise the players like that, especially at home," said Waddock. "Notts County were an extremely good side on the night too. And we still took the lead against them twice and took a point from the game.
"When you have two home games like that, people want and even expect two wins," Waddock continued.
"But to expect like that can never be the case - especially if you do not perform.
"But, one defeat in nine league games, that's a great record to have built up, especially when you consider that there have been a few injuries along the way too."
Goalkeeper Nikki Bull and striker Marvin Morgan both missed the County game with injuries. Waddock has worries still over both of them.
"Nikki Bull is having a scan and we will then know the extent of his groin problem," the manager said. Bull played through a leg problem last season and he may well come back in for Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, even if he is not 100% fit. With so many games ahead in a short period, however, there is little time to allow any problem to rest and ease.
Waddock described Morgan, who has a knee problem, as 'extremely doubtful' to make the Bury match. That's not to say Morgan won't be fit - Waddock keeps his cards close to his chest when it comes to player availability - and, should Morgan pass a fitness test, then he may start, alongside one of John Grant, Junior Mendes and Rob Elvins. Grant is probably the most likely.
Danny Hylton is suspended for one game, after five bookings, so, should Morgan be unavailable, Waddock will choose between Grant, Mendes and Elvins. Grant started brightly against Notts County but he and Mendes faded thereafter. Mendes, on his first start this season, was especially disappointing, although it is fair to say that he received little or no service from Aldershot's overrun midfield.
After waiting so long for a chance, it would be harsh on Mendes to be judged on one poor showing, when almost all his team-mates around him were just as mediocre.
A combination of Elvins and Grant is a possibility tomorrow, however. Elvins has already made an impact against Bury this season, coming on when The Shots were 3-0 down at the Rec with 20-odd minutes to go and scoring one and then winning a penalty, as Aldershot came back for a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Elvins, simply by winning a few headers and holding the ball up, gave County's defenders as much trouble in the five minutes he was on at the end on Tuesday as Aldershot has managed throughout that half.
"Rob has got a pretty good return this season, with two goals from just four or five starts," said Waddock. "One thing that didn't help us on Tuesday is that we weren't keeping the ball when we had it up front, when we were under the cosh. Rob is good at that."
Both Elvins and Mendes can also drop a bit deeper and it will be no surprise if Waddock reverts to a slightly more conservative formation away from home, with the second striker - perhaps Mendes or Elvins - dropping back into midfield when Bury have the ball.
"Whoever plays up front, we must soon find a combination that starts to bring us goals," said Waddock. "I keep saying it: strikers will be judged on their goal return."
Bury is the first of five away games in the next seven League Two matches, all of which will be played by February 17. Fifth-placed Bury are followed next Tuesday by Brentford away, with trips to two other teams in the top seven - Exeter City and Gillingham - in the offing too.
"You couldn't ask for two bigger away games than Bury and Brentford," said Waddock. "I for one can't wait for them, starting with Bury. It should be a good game."
Playing away in the league will also be something of a novelty for Aldershot and perhaps a refreshing change, after stuttering recently at home.
Remarkably, in what is nearly three months since losing 2-0 at Morecambe on November 1, The Shots have played just two away League Two matches, winning at Chester City and Barnet.
Bury, then the league leaders, showed what a good side they are for 70 minutes at Aldershot in October. Cruising into a 3-0 lead, with striker Andy Bishop to the fore, they lost concentration in allowing Elvins a free header and were then swamped as Aldershot swarmed towards the East Bank. A penalty from Scott Davies and Danny Hylton's first Football League goal completed Aldershot's comeback.
"Bury are possible the best side we have played this season," said Waddock. "Alan Knill has done a very good job there. But at the back of their minds they know that we came back from 3-0 down and that we have plenty of character."
The lack of character on Tuesday against Notts County was perhaps what disappointed - or surprised - Waddock the most.
"It was very unlike us, not to get headers and tackles in, when we were not going well," Waddock said. "It is part of our style that the players are brave, that once they have made a mistake, they are not afraid to want the ball and challenge for it.
"It's a sign of a good player if, irrespective as to whether you are having a good, indifferent or bad game, you don't hide. There is no place here for players who go into their shell."
So, Waddock will demand a vast difference from Tuesday, as much in desire as in display. With such a small squad and Lewis Chalmers and Dave Winfield out on loan, there are not too many options, should Waddock want to shake things up against The Shakers. But the likes of Louie Soares, fit-again Scott Donnelly and Ricky Newman, who is as brave and committed as they come, will come into consideration.
If Dean Howell features, he will be playing against the side he was on loan at just three weeks ago.
While Davies had a pretty good game against County and scored a stunning goal, his midfield partner, Ben Harding, while also on the scoresheet, was disappointing. He more than anyone needs to find top form as Aldershot are always a better side when Harding plays well.
Bury's midfield is strong, with Brian Barry-Murphy and Michael Jones particularly effective. Jones, down the left, and Elliott Bennett, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, on the right, are quite capable of giving Aldershot fullbacks Chris Blackburn and Anthony Straker as hard a time as they had up against County's Myles Weston and Matt Hamshaw on Tuesday.
Knill's side, four points head of Waddock's, after playing two more games, has been in among the promotion-chasing pack all season but have won just once in six League Two games, at home to struggling Barnet. While they have won six times at Gigg Lane, they have also lost on four occasions, including unexpected setbacks against Luton Town and Grimsby Town.
Bury were, by all accounts, back to their best in last weekend's 0-0 draw at home to Exeter, however, in which visiting 'keeper Paul Jones excelled.
Defender Efe Sodje is available again after suspension but may well fail to oust Ryan Cresswell, who was excellent against Exeter. Striker Glynn Hurst has recovered more quickly than expected from injury and may be available. With first-choice 'keeper Wayne Brown injured, Mark Tyler, on loan from Peterborough United, will play in goal for Knill's side.
Bury have certainly not forgotten the shock to the system they received late on in Aldershot. Captain Paul Scott told the Bury Times this week that, where Aldershot are concerned, his side 'owe them one'.
All in all, if that 3-3 draw is anything to go by, then tomorrow's match offers plenty to look forward to. Waddock will be looking for plenty of improvement from his side, that's for sure.