It’s just as well that our squad is extremely familiar with synthetic pitches after having played on them so often over the past couple of seasons because tonight’s visit to Westfield to face Falkirk in the third round of the League Cup will require them to play on one of those supposedly dreaded high tech surfaces again. Can someone please send a memo to Murray Park to let Ally and the lads know?
The last time we played on a synthetic pitch was way back on Saturday against Alloa at Recreation Park when our team put up a monumental struggle to play football. We struggled almost from start to finish, but after going a goal behind on 35 minutes our players huffed and puffed their way through another 50 minutes before David Templeton eventually leveled the scoring to a goal a piece to rescue a point and stave off a shock defeat.
Strangely enough, on Saturday you wouldn’t have thought that our players were as familiar with these artificial surfaces as they actually are because they looked like some sort of football equivalent of 11 fish out of water, flapping about in a panic. The Alloa team’s resilient opposition to our desire for goals and to take 3 points didn’t help matters either right enough.
By standing in front of us when we were in possession, directly between our players and their goalkeeper, they literally forced our players into having absolutely no choice but to repeatedly punt the ball up the pitch almost as if it were a rugby ball. Seriously though, I thought it was a cunning game plan on our part because if you fire punt after punt in the direction of the highly mobile duo of Boyd & Daly the ball is bound to go in the net at some point.
All joking aside and some credit where it’s due though, Alloa were clearly a very well drilled team and they gave us an extremely tough match. Their dogged defending, closing down of space when off the ball coupled with their neat & tidy passing when on it caused us a lot more problems than the synthetic pitch did, although yet again we seem to have gotten multiple injuries partially due to the surface.
Losing both Lewis Macleod and Nicky Clark to injuries in the first half on Saturday certainly didn’t help us, that’s for sure and it’s not going to help us tonight against Falkirk either because Macleod and Clark have been two of our best players recently. They’ll be badly missed, but it is what it is and the manager and the rest of the squad will just need to get on with it because they've got the important job of winning a cup tie to do.
Ally has assembled a large enough and experienced enough squad that they should still be able to deal with and see off Falkirk without the players we currently have missing to injuries. I do think it would maybe be prudent of the manager to ponder whether a striking partnership of Boyd and Daly up front is a good idea or not though because to put it politely, it’s not a particularly mobile pairing by any stretch of the imagination.
It might be wiser to opt for the likes of Dean Shiels playing in behind just one of the two big strikers (Boyd or Daly) and trying to create chances on the ground as opposed to virtually nothing but high balls into a packed box. I’d also like to see the manager giving Arnold Peralta another opportunity on the right because he’s clearly got a far better cross on him than young Aird does, so at least some of the balls in from the right might have a degree of accuracy on them to create chances for the striker/s.
Falkirk haven’t had a great start to their Championship campaign this season because they haven’t won a game in the league since they beat Hibs 0-1 at Easter Road on 23 August. They were also put out of the Challenge Cup by Stranraer a couple of weeks ago, but form often goes out the window when it comes to Cup matches and I think we can safely say that despite their poor recent form, Falkirk are no mugs.
It’s likely to be another tough away game for us tonight, but so long as the memo gets through to Murray Park to tell Ally and the lads that we’re playing on a synthetic pitch again they should be well prepared with the right team selection, footwear and they should be well up for the fight. If they’re not, then they only have themselves to blame.