Frustration or enigma?

Cod Almighty | Article

by Alistair Wilkinson

5 October 2010

The one that almost got away, part five: in which I remember the value of loans and I hope for me, for us and for an aging protégé.

An interesting fortnight which started with an eye-opening trip to Gateshead; quite literally eye-opening for the players, with Radio Humberside reporting that the floodlights' illumination barely reached the corners of the pitch. A 0-0 draw in an uncomfortable atmosphere - it sounded like a morgue without the distraction of the corpses. A 0-0 result means that wonder boy Connell didn't score. Our expectations of the former Bournemouth striker mean it was a disappointing night for him and the team.

How long is it since we had a player we expected to score? Jones, unfairly, never lost that 'Lump' tag; Reddy doesn't count because we barely expected him to play; Boulding was always knackered by Christmas; Jevons flattered to deceive; Forrester never quite looked second division material (but wouldn't he have been nice when we started this slide?); and Livvo was, well, Livvo was Livvo, wasn't he. Connell may be the best thing since sliced Mendonca. A hard-working, skilful player who knows where the goal is and can link up play beautifully? Yes please.

When football's played well it should look easy. He makes it look easy: something the rest of the team labours to prove. A 90th-minute goal rescues a point for bottom club Altrincham in a disappointing 2-2 draw. Connell gets his goal and Bore gets off the mark for the season. After seeing Town 1-0 and 2-1 up, the moaners, me included, had a field day after another week of expected victories brought nothing.

Two points are hardly nothing, you might say, but it was Gateshead and Altrincham. I can understand Woods' comments - he claimed that none of Gateshead's players would have got into Town's starting eleven - and I can understand the frustration of other Conference fans and their opinion that he is another former Football League 'Billy Big Bollocks'. I know we're where we deserve to be. Doesn't mean I have to like it. And that nagging voice that insists that we shouldn't be here still won't shut up.

In an attempt to drown it out I told myself we were unbeaten in two and headed to BP for Wrexham. I was looking forward to it. The name alone made it seem like a proper game. Grimsby v Wrexham: that's a fixture you can rely on. But that nagging voice reminded me that they were unbeaten in eight and that they had a couple of years' Conference experience on us.

And then we loaned a player from Scunthorpe. That nagging voice points out that we're three divisions lower than our nearest rivals; I'm sure it's smirking. Andrew Wright is the midfield Alan Connell that we've been looking for for too many years. Only James Hunt has come close to such competence in recent years and Wright looks a better player. He makes it look easy: he reads the game, moves the ball when he has it and stands in the way when he hasn't - easy when you know how.

Wrexham were brushed aside, the 2-1 scoreline flattering them. There were two main worries from the game, firstly as soon as Wright and Carlton, our other loan player, a useful looking forward who'll contribute to the overall play rather than score goals, were substituted we returned to the abject side of the Histon and Fleetwood games. Secondly, a crowd of just 2,532 watched what was probably our most inspiring performance of the season. Such a low figure led to a round of applause for the Newport gate of 3,246. Expectations have lowered.

More and more the games are about Bore - a vanity project for a succession of managers stretching back to Graham Rodger

Newport were a tougher prospect than Wrexham, with only four defeats in 60, and coming to us on the back of five straight wins meant a backs-to-the-wall approach right from the outset. A confident, well-drilled outfit, they tore into us and had a small crowd very nervous very quickly. But again Wright led an improved display, calming teammates, creating and stymieing as needed. Connell took his two with an ease that made us all purr, his first a fitting end to a powerful length-of-the-pitch charge from Bore and the second a proper striker's goal as he made sure of a header from Kempson. We kept it tight 'til the end and it's no coincidence that Wright lasted the full 90.

So where's the hope among our own players? Eagle has impressed and looks a footballing winger; Cummins is improving but will almost certainly revert when Wright goes home; Watt and Kempson get better with every game and Garner has filled in well with strength and aggression that border on brutality - and how we've missed a bit of brutality; and Wood is making the right-back slot his own.

But more and more the games are about Peter Bore - a vanity project for a succession of managers stretching back to Graham Rodger. Woods has declared his intention to get the best out of a player who he believes, when he's playing well, no-one in this division can live with. And that run and cross against Newport go a long way toward proving Woods right. But not all the way. Bore has been in and around the first team for more than four years now (that explosive debut against Boston was way back in August 2006), and Rodger, Buckley, Watkiss and Newell have all tried to make an exhibit of his ostentatious talent. Can we believe there's going to be anything different about Woods' turn?

Looking back at Cod Almighty player profiles, there have only been two written about Bore. The first, penned for the '07-08 season by Michael Shelton, was full of hope and trepidation. He opined that "towards the back end of the ['06-07] season... Bore might not always have been as injured as he said he was - and, reading between the lines [of Buckley's interviews at the time], that Bore lacked the desire Buckley expects." Pretty much the see-saw opinion most of us have had for the last four years.

Fast forward to this season for the next player profile entry and not much has changed. Bore is described as "a lazy waste of talent who made ball-waiting an art form" before moving to right-back and becoming "a key asset to the club who proved himself many times in his 37 league starts last season" after the switch. The see-saw continues.

We could be generous and call him an enigma rather than a frustration but that frustration is still there nevertheless. With the ball at his feet and flying down the line, he looks every bit Woods' unliveable player, but the rest of time he makes it look like hard work. Once Wright returns to Scunthorpe, love becomes a labour once again - and that frustrating young man may be our only hope.

I hope it really is Woods' turn. The biggest plus for him becoming manager was his coaching skills and he talks his player up in interviews. It seems Woods is determined to keep Bore on the wing and determined that he makes it as an attacking player. I remain to be convinced and I think that he's a full-back now; but I do hope I'm wrong.

What do you reckon about Bore? Do you side with Al or Neil? Use the Cod Almighty feedback form to share your views.