My initial reaction after the final whistle on Saturday was one of disappointment that we couldn’t capitalise on a Leeds draw and Norwich’s rare defeat. Upon further reflection, I think a point away from home at an in-form Swindon may prove to be a decent result, especially taking in to account our own very average form. I wasn’t at the game, but from the reports I’ve read it appears we were lucky to have come away with anything especially with the matchday statistics unusually well against us. Scoring so late on - as was the case against Swindon at The Valley on Boxing Day - is a positive sign that despite their indifferent form the players are remaining spirited enough collectively throughout the game to overcome set-backs. As a positive, it may be clutching at straws a little, but although it’s a trait you’d hope not to have to rely on very often, it’s certainly a good trait to have and we’ve shown it a number of times recently. The ability to respond well to going behind in a game (as has been the case in recent times V’s Millwall, Swindon, Brentford and Walsall) should be noted: only against Leyton Orient was our response not good enough to gain something out of a game. But our form isn’t good enough overall, and most worryingly, shows no signs of improving fast. If we are to push for promotion, we will need to break out of this cycle of averageness quickly. What is encouraging is that Norwich and Leeds still haven’t pulled sufficiently away from us for me to completely give up on an automatic position (especially given both those teams have to come the The Valley later this season). The chasing pack are a constant concern, but again, I’m still looking up not down. How long that continues, we’ll have to keep our fingers crossed and hope! I'm trying to remember the many important factors that are not ideal in a promotion chasing season, with a serious lack of finance at the top of the list. We must also appreciate that there are 21 teams below us that would swap places in a flash.
Like others, I can’t quite work out what Parkinson’s team selection was all about on Saturday, although I suspect it was more to do with Swindon’s anticipated formation / playing style than our own. Was it 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1? Does it really matter? Clearly Parkinson felt Solly wasn’t the answer at left back, and I’d have to agree with him. Until Youga finally returns, Basey is the best option in the full back position. I does seem strange that if we was to play two deeper-lying midfielders that Semedo wouldn’t be amongst them. I guess in this regard Parkinson may have felt it would be tough to have dropped Racon a game after recalling him. Up top, I believe Burton has to play. His hold up play, experience and goal threat (albeit, not too threatening of late!) makes him the best option from those we have at the club. Mind you, a spell out of the team may help him refocus a little if he’s hit a rut. I’m not sure you’ll see this formation against Bristol Rovers, and from a continuity point of view, especially when the team is desperate to find it’s groove again, that's not ideal. My preference would be 4-4-2.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Norwich face a tricky, banana-skin looking game at Brighton, and Leeds travel to a resurgent Orient. If my predictions of two draws from those games come off, by the time we face Rovers we could rightly hope that a victory may close the gap at the top to just 4 points. Best case scenario, I do think a Brighton victory is not out of the question (they'll certainly need to go for a home win given their position), meaning it could be as little as 3 points. Worst case just isn’t worth thinking about!