Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Sol Campbell made a positive instant impact at Macclesfield Town, with 14 points from his first nine games in charge.
The former Arsenal defender though has spoken of his frustration that, when his side came very close to climbing out of the relegation zone for the first time since August after January’s 2-1 win over Oldham, form subsequently dipped with one point from a possible nine.
Brentford loanee Reece Cole was the hero in last week’s 3-3 home Cheshire Derby draw with Crewe, scoring their third equalizer as late as the 97th-minute.
The euphoria that followed that goal however, meant that a performance in which the Silkmen were largely second-best was almost forgotten about, with the spirit in the camp being the prominent story.
They had less than half as many shots as their opponents, eight to 17, four efforts on target to eight and four corners to 13, with only a man-of-the-match goalkeeping display from Manchester United loanee Kieran O’Hara making second half salvation possible.
1-2 | ⏱ 37' | KIERAN O'HARA! 😱
The Silkmen stopper has made two tremendous saves, first a full-stretch parry to deny Kirk. Then he clawed a header off the line from the resulting corner. Wow!#SilkmenLive
— Macclesfield Town (@thesilkmen) February 9, 2019
Campbell is trying to get them playing out from the back more than they did under Mark Yates and then Danny Whitaker, but they need to so with more care and it is important that January acquisitions like midfielder Brice Ntambwe get up to full sharpness as soon as possible.
They do have a quick, tireless striker in Scott Wilson, who has scored eight goals in 11 since Campbell’s appointment was announced; the 26-year-old loves to chase balls down the channels, so it might be that playing forward early is their best bet for a League Two relegation battle.
Credit should be given to Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling.
For much of January, it looked as though the board’s perceived reluctance to invest might cost them in the hunt for promotion, but at the end of the window, Cowling sanctioned crucial deals for Ben Stevenson from Wolves and Abo Eisa on loan from Shrewsbury.
Cowling & Humes deserve credit for brilliant signings this season they take alot of shit of fans but can Knock business they've done #colu
— Nathan Tansley (@nathanTansley1) January 30, 2019
Stevenson has given the U’s a volume of care and class in possession, which a midfield duo of ball-winner Tom Lapslie and enigmatic talent Harry Pell had not necessarily provided to quite the same extent.
Eisa, meanwhile, has offered some much-needed pace up top as well as goalscoring nous, having bagged twice in his first two appearances, with the team collectively scoring seven goals in his 111 minutes on the pitch.
Ironically, his second goal for Colchester came against Cheltenham, who had earlier decided against a move for the energetic forward.
Luke Norris had topped the scoring charts earlier in the campaign but his season has been disrupted by injury; while stand-in Mikael Mandron can be a selfless runner as well as an aerial reference point, he’s sometimes too selfless to pose a direct threat to opposing defence and in that sense Eisa has offered something different.
Plus, credit should be given to players like Courtney Senior, whose game has been lifted by the new arrivals and the prodigious young talent went on a wonderful solo run to set up Eisa’s third.
This re-energized U’s side could have some joy at Moss Rose.