“Here we are, then – one third of the Conference season gone, and, at the time of writing, United are sitting in third place in the Conference table.
“Most Edgar Street die-hards would have cheerfully settled for that on the opening day of the season… and yet, in the back of your mind, there is still the thought it could have been better. If this seems churlish, it is a fact of life that United have drawn too many too many games at home. Unbeaten they might be, but, with just one win, this is the main area of concern. Realistically, if they are to challenge for the title, they can now no longer afford dropped points at home.
“Having said this, some of those sides who have been to Edgar Street this season have deserved to get something from the game. By all accounts, the Dale Belford game was a good battle, and I thought Leigh RMI defended in numbers when they had to, and looked half-decent on the break. If the away team gets an early goal at Edgar Street, they are now far better equipped to defend it than they were in seasons gone by at this level. Perhaps Northwich at home was the major disappointment – especially looking at their current League position. Paradoxically, the best opposition I have seen this season was probably Telford United, and The Bulls beat them with a little bit to spare!
“Away from home – well, what a difference! Last week, I was down at Kingstonian when the Bulls ripped apart the home side, whom they made look like relegation fodder throughout the ninety minutes. True, K’s fans will point to some extremely suspect refereeing decisions, but, by the time they had the first player sent off, Conference league clubs were already two-nil to the good, and there was going to be no way back for Kingstonian. This is just one of a number of good showings away from Edgar Street. So far, just two defeats on the road – what is it about United at Doncaster? We have never got anything from Belle Vue except a half-decent pasty, while the defeat Dagenham and Redbridge was disappointing, although, to their credit, D&R have made a very acceptable start to life back at this level, and this was never going to be an easy trip.
“As for the side itself, it does look a better outfit than last season. Taking nothing away from the likes of Dale Belford, midfield, for me is the area in which The Bulls look better. Michael McIndoe has been a very useful acquisition – Man of the Match for me at Kingstonian, and, with the absence of Paul Parry, he has slotted in very well on the left hand side. Ian Rodgerson is playing out of his skin, while Phil Robinson has proved it is very possible to combine playing and coaching. John Snape will battle all day in there, and there does seem to be more balance to this area of the field than in recent seasons.
“Defensively, the clean sheets at the start provided the foundation, and, while this was never going to last, it is difficult to see any side at this level ripping apart the United back division. Ian Wright and Tony James look solid at the heart of the back four, while it was good to see Matt Gardiner open his goal-scoring account on his debut. Chris Lane and Matt Clarke continue to do a decent job on the flanks, while Paul Sturgess is close to a return after his operation.
“I have frequently mentioned my main area of concern was where the goals were going to come from, and this is still the case. I am sure I am not the only United fan shaking his head at the continued absence of Steve Piearce. The player seems to be troubled by every injury known to man, and yet, when he is available, he has shown enough to suggest he could be the answer. Rob Elmes is the kind of player who will never let the side down, and Gavin Williams is playing well. He is clearly physically stronger than he was last season, and so he takes a lot more knocking off the ball. The options, though, are limited in this area, although GT’s recent decision to bring in both James Quiggin and David Castro-Pearson suggests he is well aware of this.
“All in all, it has been a very decent start – let’s get the home form right, and United could be right up there at the end of the season. Close on thirty years of watching United tells me that, as soon as the side “clicks” at Edgar Street, they will then lose their way when away from home… Let’s hope this bitter and twisted United fan is completely wrong on this account!”
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